Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

News Clips - April 30, 2010

From April 23 to April 29, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 324 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Congress rejected grant, but free online courses growing
USA Today | April 28
President Obama's original plan for community colleges included $500 million to create free online courses that individual institutions could then customize for their students. That money never materialized — it was left out of the student aid legislation in last month's health care bill. [...] The most famous members of this family of "open-access" course materials — such as MIT's OpenCourseware, Yale Open Courses, and Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative — provide syllabuses, video lectures, worksheets, and other course materials completely free of charge, to anyone no strings attached.


Bioengineers turn trees into tires
Popular Mechanics | April 28
The field of transportation is ripe for green tech: It accounts for two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption and generates one-third of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Most research has focused on alternatives to gasoline-powered internal-combustion engines, but multinational biotechnology company Genencor is working on a more plebian car component: tires. [...] "There are three things we must do to move toward a sustainable technology base," says Terry Collins, professor of chemistry and director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University. "Go solar for energy, move from fossilized to recently dead plant matter for the source materials of our products and reduce and eliminate toxic substances from our technologies." Because oil refining generates high levels of air and water pollution and hazardous wastes, reducing the need for petroleum-based inputs would be reason to call BioIsoprene a green product.


Natural gas supply, jobs and technique debate booming
USA Today | April 28
Energy companies increasingly are drilling into the Marcellus Shale, a mile-or-so-deep layer of methane-rich black rock stretching from Tennessee  to New York. The layers of shale are being tapped for natural-gas deposits, which in turn has led to a boost in U.S. natural-gas supplies, lower energy prices for consumers and jobs in areas hit hard by unemployment. [...] "It's a boom," says environmental engineer Jeanne Van-Briesen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "That means a lot of choices, a lot of consequences good and bad."


Tinkering to avert disaster
The New York Times – Green Blog | April 27
Geoengineering – the large-scale, deliberate manipulation of the climate to counteract the effects of global warming – has more than a couple of ideas that sound like something a Bond villain might cook up in his spare time. [...] Indeed, one of the perils associated with geoengineering is the projected low cost of some of its solutions for counteracting global warming. Granger Morgan, head of the department of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, who testified at the final hearing in March, said the relatively low cost of injecting light-blocking aerosols into the atmosphere, for instance, might tempt individual nations or extremely wealthy private parties (a Dr. Evil, perhaps), to unilaterally deploy such techniques with or without the world’s consent.


Spammers pay others to answer security tests
The New York Times | April 25
Faced with stricter Internet security measures, some spammers have begun borrowing a page from corporate America’s playbook: they are outsourcing. [...] Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who was a pioneer in devising captchas, estimates that thousands of people in developing countries, primarily in Asia, are solving these puzzles for pay. Some operations appear fairly sophisticated and involve brokers and middlemen, he added. “There are a few sites that are coordinated,” he said. “They create the awareness. Their friends tell their friends, who tell their friends."

Education for Leadership

Internet sensation Chatroulette gets a FaceFlip
Pop City | April 28
Carnegie Mellon freshman Maxwell Hawkins has created an oddly twisted new app that takes faces on a bender. The computer sciences and art student developed FaceFlip as a high-tech prank among code writers, creative geeks who are always looking for ways to flip each other out. FaceFlip works with Chatroulette, an online, worldwide sensation developed by a teen in Russia that connects random strangers from around the world for quick, webcam conversations in rapid-fire succession.

Arts and Humanities

Déjà vu
The New Yorker | May 3
A major Wall Street firm is accused of misleading clients by concealing key conflicts of interest. E-mails suggest that an employee touted its wares in public while slamming them in private. The scandal is front-page news, and observers anticipate severe damage to the firm’s reputation. [...] The flipbook for the deal at the heart of the current Goldman Sachs scandal warned that it might not contain all material information, offered no guarantee that the information was accurate, and said that there were “potential conflicts of interest” in the deal. It might as well have said “Don’t trust us.” The problem, as George Loewenstein, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon, has shown, is that we tend to discount disclosed conflicts of interest and, in general, underestimate their importance.


A Carnegie Mellon professor's new book tackles some of the whys and hows of science
Pittsburgh City Paper | April 29
For someone whose job title is "professor of philosophy," Carnegie Mellon University's Clark Glymour deals heavily in the nuts and bolts of the material world. Glymour specializes in the philosophy of science, a field that he says asks "the big questions about how scientific inquiry works, why it should succeed, what makes it reliable [and] the best way to carry it out." He's spent decades evaluating procedures for everything from wildfire prediction to the space program.


Review: CMU's 'Richard III' thoughtfully conceived
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | April 27
Carnegie Mellon School of Drama's production of "Richard III" would fit easily into the season of almost any regional professional theater in the U.S. Thoughtfully conceived and stylishly attractive, it's a very up-to-date, yet timeless retelling of Shakespeare's drama. Director Matt Gray and actor Gabriel King make Richard neither the national villain or savior but a crafty, unstoppable force who will plot, threaten, murder, reason and cajole to become king because he can.

Information Technology

iPhone app translates Iraqi to English
Discovery News | April 28
For the first time, researchers have developed an iPhone app that translates the Iraqi dialect of Arabic to English and vice versa. The app, which was developed by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies (interACT) and the CMU spinoff Jibbigo, produces either a speech-to-speech or speech-to-text translation. It could help military personnel, humanitarian aid workers and engineers to communicate more effectively with Iraqi peoples.


Cybersecurity: How safe are your data? | April 28
Protecting research data presents particular challenges. Most information-technology (IT) professionals suggest ensuring that large or sensitive data stores are managed by a centralized IT team that can monitor and administer systems, keeping a close watch over traffic and limiting access. But this can conflict with the ethos of researchers who need such systems to be accessed by a wide variety of students, postdocs and collaborators. [...] As Marty Lindner, a principal engineer in the computer emergency response team (CERT) at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute programme in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says: "The best way to secure a computer is to remove the keyboard, because then the human cannot make a mistake."


Insituvue's Sonic Flashlight helps insert needles on the first stick
Pop City | April 28
Insituvue, a new Pittsburgh medical device startup, is preparing to commercialize a device developed at University of Pittsburgh that gives medical professionals a better view during procedures, such as inserting catheters and IVs. [...] The device was developed several years ago by Dr. George Stetten, professor of bioengineering at Pitt and research professor of robotics, Carnegie Mellon. The company, funded by several Pittsburgh investors, hopes to raise $2.5 million. There will be hiring down the road, says Rosensteel.


Pet food sucking up U.S. water
National Geographic | April 26
U.S. industry—from pet food production to growing wheat—is a huge drain on freshwater resources, a new study says. Researchers investigated the hidden costs of water use by estimating the amount of H2O consumed per U.S. dollar of end product by different industrial sectors, including agriculture. [...] Despite these inconsistencies, population growth and more frequent droughts are making water scarcer, and putting more of an emphasis on water conservation, said Blackhurst, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. (Get the facts on conserving water.)

Regional Impact

Make room Austin, Pittsburgh gaming companies are gaining momentum
Pop City | April 28
A cottage industry of nearly a dozen gaming companies is flourishing in the region. [...] Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center's unique two year Masters of Entertainment Technology helps to keep game developers in supply, along with the Art Institute's media arts curriculum. "Pittsburgh has a chance to be the next Austin," Witherell adds. "With CMU's Entertainment Technology Center and companies like Schell Games, Pittsburgh can be a force in the entertainment technology industry. There's incredible talent, people, artists and a low cost of living. Those are the perfect ingredients."


Pittsburgh-area census participation matches 2000 level
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 29
The easy part is over for the U.S. Census Bureau. The hard work starts Saturday. Census officials reported with satisfaction Wednesday that Americans this year matched the voluntary mail participation rate of 72 percent from the 2000 census. Pennsylvanians also matched their 2000 rate of 76 percent, and Allegheny County residents their 78 percent. Pittsburghers mailed back their forms at a 71 percent rate, two points higher than a decade ago. [...] Stephen Fienberg, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of statistics and social science who has studied the census for decades, agreed that the voluntary participation rate has been surprising in defying survey trends. It does not assure a complete and accurate count in the end, he noted. "We're still missing a lot of people, and getting an accurate count on households that haven't returned their questionnaires is a really difficult task," Dr. Fienberg said.


Researchers make mice of gadgets
Times of India | April 29
Scientists have found that by installing a pair of optical sensors on the back of a phone or a mp3 player,it can work like a mouse. The same inexpensive,but high-quality optical sensors employed in the common computer mouse can enable small mobile phones and digital music players to be used as their own pointing and gestural input devices,say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). The device could be used on any surface including a piece of clothing or the palm of a hand.This new input method,called Minput,responds to up-down,and side-to-side motions,like a computer mouse,but also to twisting and flicking motions.


Models for scaling up green chemistry design
Reuters | April 28
Part 1 of this series contrasted the decade-long $12 billion federal government investment in development of nanomaterials with Congress's repeated failure to enact a relatively miniscule Green Chemistry Research and Development Act authorizing expenditures of roughly $165 million over three years. [...] Warner's and Benyus's nonprofit organizations are but two of several developers of education and training materials. Others include the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute, the University of California at Berkeley's green chemistry program, and academic centers of green chemistry excellence, such as those at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Oregon. The National Academy of Sciences has also published a workshop on green chemistry and education needs.


Traffic planning project wins award
The Peninsula | April 28
A promising project aimed at reducing travel time of emergency vehicles swept all awards at the fourth annual Carnegie Mellon University Qatar (CMUQ) ‘Meeting of the Minds’ Undergraduate Symposium held yesterday. ‘Dynamic Path Planning and Traffic Light Coordination for Emergency Vehicle Routing’ by Computer Science students Yi Luen Tessa and Hend Geddawi won the Best Project for Computer Science category, Best Poster Design and Best Overall Project.