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News Clips - June 11, 2010

From June 4 to June 10, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 821 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Steel city project puts electric cars in charge of the commute
The New York Times | June 9
Chuck Wichrowski remembers the first car he ever worked on, when he was just a college graduate and knew nothing about cars: His wife's 1970 Chevy Nova. The second? A 1964 Studebaker Wagonaire. "I just sort of applied the college model, which is: You look the things up, you get a book, and then you do it," Wichrowski said. […] And for the team at Carnegie Mellon University, which is designing cars to get residents to work without burning a pint of gas or even wasting an electron, the future of electric cars is Pittsburgh. Designers of the ChargeCar project say that instead of selling pricey new vehicles, they want to create a kit that makes it easy for local auto shops like Wichrowski's to convert a gasoline car to run on electricity. "There's a bunch of machine shops running idle in Pittsburgh," said Illah Nourbakhsh, a robotics professor at CMU and a co-director of ChargeCar. "There's a ton of shops that can do that kind of thing. There's mechanical know-how in this town like no other that I've seen."


The cap-and-trade subterfuge
NPR | June 8
In the wake of the BP spill, Democrats face what might appear to be an intractable political dilemma. They are under enormous pressure to pass some kind of energy bill, yet the energy bill they want to pass — one that places onerous restrictions on the use of fossil fuels — lacks the requisite support in the Senate. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for the nation, the Democrats don't need to pass a cap-and-trade bill in order to implement cap-and-trade. […] In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University last week, President Obama called for repealing "billions of dollars in tax breaks" on oil companies. The tax breaks in question include deductions on costs incurred exploring for domestic sources of oil that are similar to tax deductions other industries enjoy. On the issue of encouraging commercially competitive domestic sources of energy, the new Senate legislation will be 180 degrees from the original Bingaman bill.


For innovation to occur, colleges need a big push, scholars say
The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 3
A diverse array of scholars gathered here on Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute for a conference on "Reinventing the American University: The Promise of Innovation in Higher Education." There is, of course, no  shortage  of  material on that theme, but the speakers at Thursday's meeting gamely tried to say something new. […] And Candace Thille, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, said the problem is not a lack of innovation but a failure to carefully study the experiments that do take place. Thousands of college instructors make good-faith efforts to improve their teaching, she said, but there are usually no resources for evaluating or replicating those innovations.


VA opens $80 million innovation competition
The Hill | June 8
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced an $80 million competition Monday that asks the private sector to address some of the department's biggest challenges. […] "Innovation is more than simply a collection of ideas," said Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University. "It requires close collaboration between academia, industry and government to produce solutions that make a meaningful impact on society. VAi2's programs bring about exactly that kind of fruitful collaboration."

Education for Leadership

Bam, wowza, boom!
Encore | June 10
The seven super villains in Justin Cioppa’s Guerilla Theatre production, “Catastropolis,” are bad. Not bad, as in Joker-style; they aren’t torching hospitals and killing off city officials. But they are simply awful at their day-to-day responsibilities, such as paying bills in a timely fashion. “Catastropolis” centers around the relationships the villains have with various people in their lives: their landlord, “the evil HR lady” and the “normal” they recruit to live with them when money is tight. Skilled penman Cioppa, a UNCW graduate, as well as playwright student from Carnegie Mellon, has become a regular contributor to Guerilla Theatre productions. He’s also the first playwright in the company’s six-year lifespan to have a show produced twice. “We just wanted to tip our hats to him and thank him,” Guerilla Theatre director Richard Davis says. The theatre company plans on reviving all four of Cioppa’s plays, starting with “Catastropolis."

Arts and Humanities

Inflatable Andrew Carnegie head invades Pittsburgh
The Wall Street Journal - Speakeasy Blog | June 9
Last week, as part of the 10-day Three Rivers Arts Festival held annually in downtown Pittsburgh, artist Stephen Antonson unveiled a unique gift to the city: a giant 20-foot inflatable sculpture of Andrew Carnegie’s head, to remain floating in the Allegheny River for the duration of the festival. The industrialist is pictured with snorkeling gear, and is kept afloat by a generator that blows cold air. Antonson got the go ahead for the floating sculpture last Thanksgiving, after he fortuitously met Three Rivers Arts Festival Advisory Board vice-chair Alice Snyder at a dinner party. He then spent the next few months brainstorming ways to create a cost-effective, but still lifelike bust of Carnegie to present to the festival. We asked Antonson via e-mail to describe his artistic process. [...] “I gave a fabricator images of Carnegie that I found online as well as photographs I took myself of a bust that is located in the library at Carnegie Mellon University, where I got a B.A. (many years ago!). In fact, when I was taking the photos, I had to move it around a bit, causing the alarm to go off. All of the information in the photos was then translated to a clay model, images of which were sent to me for tweaking/approval.


Deep in thought: What is a "law of physics," anyway?
Scientific American Blog | June 4
One thing that's both disconcerting and exhilarating about physics is how many seemingly simple questions remain unanswered. When you hear the questions that physicists struggle with, you sometimes say to yourself, Wait, you mean they don't even know that? Physics might be defined as the subject that tries to figure out why the world may look incomprehensibly complex at first, but on closer examination is governed by simple laws. Those laws, applied repeatedly, build up the complexity. From this definition, you'd presume that physicists have at least sorted out what they mean by "law". […] I found common ground between Smeenk's talk and a later one by Carnegie Mellon philosopher Kevin Kelly. Kelly sought to explain Occam's razor: the precept that the best law is the simplest one that fits the data.


Reducing risk | June
We have all seen examples of distracted drivers — reading the newspaper while driving, putting on makeup or talking on a cell phone. Carnegie Mellon University scientists, as reported in the journal “Brain Research” by Dr. Marcel Just and colleagues, have concluded that we cannot converse on cell phones without distracting our brains from the task of driving. Scientists determined that the amount of brain activity allocated to visual processing tasks decreases by nearly 30 percent when a person is listening on a cell phone. Other research suggests that driving while talking on a phone reduces situational awareness equivalent to driving while impaired.$11619


Antibacterial nanoparticles from bacteria
Chemistry World | June 4
Scientists have found that silver nanoparticles made using bacteria have better antibacterial properties than their chemically synthesised counterparts. […] Kelvin Gregory, an environmental microbiologist at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, US, thinks the team's findings will have great impact on future research. 'It's somewhat controversial in that prior work has shown that both natural and engineered polymer coatings on a range of nanoparticles greatly reduce growth inhibition and toxicity of nanoparticles in microorganisms,' he says. 'Taken with previous work, this research suggests there are means by which particles can be designed for reduced toxicity in the environment.'


How crazy can it get? Scientists propose sun block for the entire planet to save it | June 5
In an article published in the journal Nature, three scientists have called for governments to fund a massive research effort in ways to shield the planet from solar radiation as a way to stave off global warming. "The idea of deliberately manipulating Earth's energy balance to offset human-driven climate change strikes many as dangerous hubris," wrote David Keith of the University of Calgary, Canada, Edward Parson of the University of Michigan and Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University. "Many scientists have argued against research on solar radiation management, saying that developing the capability to perform such tasks will reduce the political will to lower greenhouse gas emissions. We think that the risks of not doing research outweigh the risks of doing it."

Regional Impact

America's best places to raise a family | June 4
Pittsburgh is ranked No. 7 on Forbes’ list of America’s top 10 places to raise a family.  The article states: “Once a fallen steel giant, the city has diversified its economy and boasts low crime and high educational attainment. Pittsburgh also has the highest home ownership rate in our 10.” It also quotes Wendy Hermann, director of student services for master's programs at Carnegie Mellon: “People know that Pittsburgh is a really great place for families because of safety, schools and the arts. I see students wanting that whether they're married or not. They see staying in Pittsburgh as way to say that's the kind of lifestyle they're looking forward to."


Pittsburgh shows Detroit how to get there from here
WWJ 950-AM Newsradio | June 3
Pittsburgh was once where Detroit is now -- 18.8 percent unemployment in its 10-county region, with some counties approaching 30 percent, and a legacy industry, steel, on the ropes against strong foreign competition. Today, Pittsburgh's unemployment rate is 8 percent. It still makes steel -- but in a smaller, cleaner, more specialized and more technically advanced context. And it's developed whole new industries to diversify its economy. How Pittsburgh got from there to here was the focus of a fascinating panel discussion Thursday morning at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference. […] But there are also more than 500 new health care companies and 1,500 IT and communications technology companies, and $1 billion a year in research spending at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


CMU to create business incubator, community cafe in Homewood
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 8
Carnegie Mellon University's Urban Design Build Studio has teamed up with Homewood stakeholders to create a business incubator and a community space called Cafe 524 at 524 N. Homewood Ave. Eleven architecture students will work this summer under the direction of Steve Lee, head of the CMU School of Architecture, and John Folan, director of the studio, to build the cafe. Prefabrication and site development is expected to begin in two weeks, Mr. Folan said. "Each year, we try to identify areas the [Urban Redevelopment Authority] or the city is targeting for development, and this year, there is a concerted effort in Homewood," Mr. Folan said.


Eating like [and with] the 'enemy' at world's first Conflict Kitchen
The Independent | June 10
Enter the "Conflict Kitchen," a waffle shop turned takeout restaurant  in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where cuisine from ‘axis of evil' nations food is cooked up along with foreign policy dialogue since June 1. Three artists collaborated on the ‘food for thought' project Jon Rubin, professor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Art and director of the Waffle Shop, John Peña, adjunct assistant professor of art and Dawn Weleski, assistant director of the Waffle Shop. The Conflict Kitchen will rotate foods from nations that the US has conflict with and in June opened as "Kubideh Kitchen" an Iranian takeout shop.


Six student entrepreneurs win acclaim, Injaz’s support
Qatar Tribune | June 8
One hundred and thirty high school students gathered recently to showcase their entrepreneurial talent at Carnegie Mellon University in the third annual Injaz Qatar’s Student Company of the Year competition. The students who were from six independent secondary schools were given five months, and budgeted capital, to develop and execute viable business plans for the ‘Best Company Award’. The ‘Best Company’ and ‘Best Product’ awards went to Fun Fever, an event organiser student company.


Summer workshops focus on Education City requirements
The Gulf Times | June 8
Qatar Foundation’s Education Division is engaging future students through summer workshops, focusing on criteria and standards expected of students at Education City. “Statistics show that a large proportion of university students still do not know what careers they want pursue even after they’ve chosen their specialisation,” student services head Arwa Ibnouf said. […] The students will visit the Carnegie Mellon Qatar campus and put their skills and abilities to the test within a community of other bright young scholars. Over a three-week period, the students work hard but also have fun and experience the excitement of campus life, challenging themselves to meet the standards of Carnegie Mellon University.