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News Clips - January 4, 2008

From December 21 to January 3, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 859 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Not exactly the Jetsons, but getting closer
The New York Times | January 3
Robots are still far from being the chatty companions seen in science-fiction movies. But some toy robots are becoming more than just conversation pieces. According to the NPD Group, a market research firm, sales of robotic and interactive playmates in the United States were $284 million in the 12 months ended in October, up from $213 million in the previous 12 months. One recent entry is the i-Sobot from Tomy of Japan. Only 6.5 inches tall, the i-Sobot has a list price of $299, making it less expensive than other advanced robots on the market, which often cost more than $1,000. The i-Sobot has 17 motors to move its limbs, making it surprisingly fluid. According to James Kuffner, an assistant professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, robots that have 20 or more motors can replicate most human movement.


$100 oil may pinch but not faze consumer
Associated Press | January 2
With oil having briefly touched the once unfathomable price of $100 a barrel, consumers can expect the cost of filling their gas tanks, heating their homes — in fact, the price of most everything — to also keep rising. Still, analysts don't expect record-high prices by themselves to send the economy into recession, simply because expensive as oil is, energy doesn't consume as big a chunk of Americans' budget as it did decades ago. ... In 1981, 14 percent to 15 percent of the nation's gross domestic product was spent on energy, according to Lester Lave, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. That's fallen to 7 percent today. In part, that's because energy efficiency has increased. "It's just not (as) important to the economy anymore," Lave said. "Prices are not high enough so that they're going to get middle-income people to change their behavior."


The year in robots
Scientific American | December 28
Last week's announcement of Japan's "Robot of the Year" for 2007—a mechanical arm capable of grabbing 120 items-per-minute from a conveyor belt—marked an anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a good year in the advancement of artificial intelligence. The three Fanuc Ltd. assembly-line mechanical arms—which beat out competitors such as Fujitsu's 24-inch-tall (61-centimeter) dancing humanoid HOAP and Komatsu Ltd.'s tank-shaped, fire-extinguishing robot—won for their practicality; they are optimized to work efficiently and accurately on food and pharmaceutical manufacturing lines. Still, 2007 offered plenty of other significant, if less heralded (and immediately useful), developments and pushed robotic technology to new levels, or at least promised to in the near future. ... The U.S. Department of Defense continued its quest to develop autonomous robotic technology that will eventually take the place of human soldiers in battle. In November, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) hosted its  2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a competition that tested the driving prowess of experimental driverless autos. "Boss," an SUV put together by a team including gearheads from Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors Corporation, Caterpillar and Continental AG drove away with the $2 million grand prize.


Crack vs. powder disparity is questioned
Associated Press | December 24
During some of the bloodiest years of the drug wars of the 1980s, crack was seen as far more dangerous than powdered cocaine, and that perception was written into the sentencing laws. But now that notion is under attack like never before. Criminologists, doctors and other experts say the differences between the two forms of the drug were largely exaggerated and do not justify the way the law comes down 100 times harder on crack. ... Instead, most of that violence was typical for what happens when any illegal drug is introduced and drug dealers with guns compete for new markets, said Dr. Alfred Blumstein, a professor of urban systems and operations research at Carnegie Mellon University.


A warm and fuzzy web site
CNN | December 22
Jennifer Gooch's mission was to create a simple Web site where people could go to find their lost gloves. Even if no happy reunions ever took place, she was just content to spread a little good will. But just a month since went live, the Carnegie Mellon University art student is busier than ever. She's reunited four gloves with their owners, is working on similar sites for cities around the globe, and is planning a book to showcase her found gloves.

Education for Leadership

Robot's dancing speaks louder than words
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 27
Keepon is just a simple robot, with a yellow snowman shape, round eyes and button nose -- but no mouth. The little guy is mute, but oddly, this speechless "bot" is one great communicator. That's the point Marek Michalowski, a 27-year-old doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, is proving with two YouTube videos featuring Keepon's uncanny ability to dance. ... While making Keepon dance was important in Mr. Michalowski's research on social rhythms, making rock videos was a sidelight. But it proved Keepon's mass appeal. "It's a basic human trait to be attracted to rhythm," he said, noting how rhythm defines life. "We have a heartbeat and swing our legs when we walk. Many of our physical activities are rhythmic, so we look for patterns in our social behavior as well."

Arts and Humanities

Making, breaking of resolutions is only human
The Washington Post | January 1
What more is there to say about resolutions? All the how-to you need appears in the January issues of women's magazines. Reward your progress, they simper helpfully, as if self-reward hasn't been the problem all along. Only 10 percent of people who make resolutions actually succeed, according to surveys. The rest of us are stuck revolving, resolving, re-solving those problems whose slippery solutions have eluded us in the past. Once more unto the breach, and the breach is a nasty place to be, one that probably requires a Lucky Strike and a pint of Chubby Hubby. ... "People tend to make resolutions after periods of debauchery," says George Loewenstein, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. ... We make these New Year's pledges not because we forget that we've failed, but because we think we have outsmarted the failure -- that this time, we can do better. Tomorrow is another day! And so, resolutely, we resolve.


Best Play: 'The Oresteia Project'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 27
The choice came down to three revisionist interrogations of potent myths: the roots of justice in ancient Greece, homicidal celebrity in the American West and presidential power on the banks of the Potomac. Which powerful and bitterly funny triumph would win the Post-Gazette's nod as the best stage show of the year? ... 1. ' The Oresteia Project' Carnegie Mellon University. The great progenitor of Western drama, Aeschylus' famous trilogy of 458 B.C., is undertaking enough, "project" or otherwise. But under the leadership of Jed Harris, "The Oresteia" turned into a witty four-hour interrogation of the ascent from blood revenge through expiation to the establishment of law. It also became an artful history of the 20th-century theatrical avant garde -- Living Theater to Robert Wilson to Wooster Group, with forays into Grotowskian ritual and styles from Japan. Even the translated texts evolved from poetic to modern idioms of talk show confessional, courtroom farce and stand-up irreverence.

Information Technology

How can you protect passwords at public computers?
Post-Bulletin (The Orlando Sentinel) | December 29
Checking your e-mail or doing online banking on a computer in a hotel, library or other public location is convenient, but you want to be sure you aren't making it easy for someone to steal your passwords. ... The idea of typing random characters after each letter of your password comes from Carnegie Mellon University, and although there still might be ways for a thief to steal your passwords, it does a good job keeping you safe from "keylogging" programs that record keystrokes on public computers.


$25 million grant sparks action in Carnegie Mellon's life sciences initiatives
Pittsburgh Business Times (subscription) | December 28
Using a huge grant, Carnegie Mellon University hopes to fill in some gaps. In October, Carnegie Mellon received $25 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the largest private foundation grant in the university's history. The funding will help attract top faculty in areas such as computational biology, medical robotics and biomedical engineering.


Sunday forum: Putting off the cleanup
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 23
Roughly a third of America's emissions of the carbon dioxide that causes climate change comes from cars and trucks. The technology exists today to dramatically reduce these emissions and, with a little research, even greater reductions could be achieved. ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon professor and head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, M. Granger Morgan.

Regional Impact

Study recommends flexibility for Braddock
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 27
A Carnegie Mellon University study has led to recommendations to stave off property blight and abandonment in Braddock. The study, "Braddock Revitalization -- Vacant and Abandoned Properties in the Borough of Braddock," was released Dec.. 12 by Carnegie Mellon's H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Management. A team of students called the Braddock Systems Synthesis Team created the study, which features Geographic Information Systems maps that detail areas of blight and regions of potential growth within Braddock.


The thinkers: Playing fair, even when it hurts in the pocketbook
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 31
Christina Fong grew up near Purdue University, where she met many poor Indiana residents who believed strongly in the free enterprise system, even if it wasn't benefiting them very much. Then, every other summer, she would spend six weeks in her mother's native Sweden, meeting wealthy Swedes who happily supported the heavy taxes on the rich that financed that nation's expansive social welfare system. It gave the Carnegie Mellon University researcher a lifelong question to pursue: Why do people support economic systems that seem to be against their self-interest?


Brain may give us big hearts
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 24
Margaret Zamboni heard the jingling bells, reached into her purse and dropped a handful of coins into a Salvation Army donation bucket. It's that time. Americans donate about $50 billion to charities between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, roughly half of the cash donations that are made annually in the country, according to the monitor group Charity Navigator. ... George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, cited four main reasons we give. One is the euphoria -- or "warm glow" -- people get when they help others.


Machine capable of revealing our most private thoughts
The Economic Times | January 3
Scientists have developed a machine which is capable of reading our mind and revealing our most private thoughts. American researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that with the aid of a sophisticated scanner and computer programme, they were able to determine how the brain lights up when thinking about different subjects.


Campus clash of global brains
The Telegraph | January 1
Budding managers from across the world will pit their wits at Intaglio 2008, the flagship event on Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC)’s calendar. Nearly 4,000 students from 112 institutes across the globe have participated in the preliminary rounds of the event. The finals, presented in association with The Telegraph will be held on the Joka campus from January 4 to 7. The highlight this year is the participation of international institutes. Thirty-five institutes such as Washington University, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Toronto will take part in the fest.


Executive education module for Qatargas officials
The Peninsula | December 31
Qatargas has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, through its campus in Qatar and Tepper School of Business based in Pittsburgh, to hold the first of seven Executive education modules for senior leaders of Qatargas. The Qatargas program was specifically designed to support the realization and achievement of leadership excellence for the company, said John Lankford, Executive Director of Executive Education at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. "We built the program around the Qatargas leadership framework and high-growth business context according to the company's fast-changing business", he said.


Clean coal plants mired by cost and delays
United Press International | December 27
Clean coal-fired plants offer a cleaner fuel source but construction costs and increased greenhouse gas standards in the United States hamper their production. Regulators canceled, suspended or refused several plans to develop clean coal-fired plants citing construction costs, technological pitfalls and regulation regarding greenhouse gas emissions, USA Today said Thursday. Clean coal-fired plants cost 20 percent more to build than standard plants but long-term expenses are 20 percent less than standard plants, Ed Rubin, an environmental engineering scientist with Carnegie Mellon University, told USA Today.


E-slates for blind students
Daily News & Analysis | December 26
For 90 per cent of the 191 million blind in India, who so far could not afford education because of expensive software or slow methods of teaching, this could be good news. A cost-effective e-slate called Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) has been developed as part of an ongoing effort to disseminate the technology in developing countries like India. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with Mathru School for Blind in Bangalore, have successfully tested the feasibility of the e-slate that was presented at the second International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Development last week. “This particular e-slate costs around Rs1,500 whereas the devices available in developed countries cost between Rs15,000 and Rs1 lakh. And this is a low power and a robust device,” said Tom Stepleton, one of the researchers of the project.


Food for thought for financiers
Financial Times Deutschland | December 21
When executive education students go on field trips to India, they usually head to big corporate headquarters in cities such as Bangalore, where they can see the country's high-tech industry at work. They do not often find themselves walking the streets of Mumbai, following a group of delivery men dressed in white cotton kurtas and Gandhi caps and carrying tins of curry, rice and chapattis. But this is what a group of financiers found themselves doing as part of an executive education program designed by Duke Corporate Education. And Duke CE is not the only institution to have become interested in the work of these delivery men. ... As well as academic papers, insights into Mumbai's extraordinary lunch-delivery system are shown to business executives and students on screen. The film Dabbawallas, made by Paul Goodman, director of the Institute for Strategic Development at Carnegie Mellon University, is shown at business schools and sold for use in executive training programs. Prof. Goodman believes the dabbawallas can offer managers and students another way of looking at supply chain issues.