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News Clips - June 25, 2010

From June 17 to June 24, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 492 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


6 things you should never reveal on Facebook
CBS Moneywatch | June 23
The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites.  But there are a handful of personal details that you should never say if you don’t want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind, according to Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. […] Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and where you were born too, you’ve just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life, said Givens. A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your Social Security number, she said.


In Gulf cleanup, toxic risks are uncertain
USA Today | June 22
There are multiple possible human health effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, experts told an Institute of Medicine workshop in New Orleans on Tuesday. The problem for now is that true danger levels aren't known. […] "I'd be concerned with the loss of community ... and purpose in life," says Sheldon Cohen, who studies social factors in health at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "There are a lot of cultural and community issues that have major implications for psychological distress and being able to cope."


Blogs and tweets could predict the future
New Scientist Magazine | June 21
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, more than a thousand tweets will have been twittered and dozens of blogs posted. Much of their content will be ephemeral fluff: personal gripes and tittle-tattle interesting to no one but the parties concerned. Yet despite this, it is possible to use that torrent of information to make predictions about social and economic trends that affect us all. […] Tweets may prove useful to political pollsters, for example. Bryan Routledge and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ran a sentiment analysis on tweets posted in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election relating to candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. They used the results to try to assess voting intentions as the election neared.


Q&A with Steve Schlossman and Adam Lazarus, authors of 'Chasing Greatness'
USA Today | June 18
Steve Schlossman, a professor of American social and cultural history at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, teaches a course on the history of golf. Living in western Pennsylvania, he naturally was attracted to Oakmont Country Club, a revered golf course north of Pittsburgh that abounds with significance in the history of the game.

Education for Leadership

MBA diary: Pittsburgh: more than just an old steel town
Financial Times | June 21
Matthew Lacy writes about his experience as an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. More than five hours from Philadelphia and almost seven hours from New York City is Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carnegie Mellon University. Most people think of Pittsburgh as an old steel town and know little about its revitalisation. President Obama called Pittsburgh a model for the future and selected it for the 2009 G20 meeting.

Arts and Humanities

Many suggest ways to save Mellon Arena
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 23
When I asked for ideas for reusing Mellon Arena on June 13, I hoped to get at least a handful of responses. But almost 60 of you e-mailed or called with suggestions or simply encouragement to find a way to save the arena. […] "The arena would make an excellent regional transit center in which the T (on its future way out to the East End, of course), Amtrak rail, bus services, and (hopefully at some point!) a high-speed line out to the airport, could meet," writes Carnegie Mellon public policy student Sam Lavery.


Jesse Schell on video games in education
Big Think | June 21
As quality information becomes more easily accessible to young people, the curious are going to become "hyper-educated" says Jesse Schell, professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center and CEO of Schell Games. Schell stopped by Big Think's offices early this morning to discuss the ways that games might help fill what he calls "the curiosity gap"—the difference in education between young people who are interested in leveraging the Internet to satisfy their curiosity and those who are not. "How do you instill curiosity?" Schell asked before ticking off a few examples of how people like recent Big Think interviewee Katie Salen are reworking traditional educational strategies using games.

Information Technology

Clive Thompson on how translation software saves mother tongue
Wired Magazine | June 22
Every day, on the Xiha Life homepage, there’s a playful poll designed to get members conversing. When I recently dropped by the social networking site, the questions were, How many pets do you have in your home? Would you like more or less? The survey sparked a lively thread: One member owned turtles and a dog, another wanted a rabbit, and a third argued she couldn’t have pets because she vacations so frequently. […] Some academics predict that auto-translation could even save minor languages from extinction. In Chile, for example, pressure to speak Spanish is eroding the indigenous language of the Mapuche people. Auto-translation might make it possible for the Mapuche to communicate with the outside world without abandoning their dialect. “It decreases the drive to consolidate into one dominant language if you can use your own,” says Jaime Carbonell, head of Carnegie Mellon’s Language Technologies Institute.


Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster
Boston Globe | June 20
On Monday, May 17, at 2 p.m., a breaking news article headlined “Obama’s aunt given OK to stay in United States” hits the home page of In a matter of seconds, the first anonymous online comment appears. A reader with the handle of Peregrinite writes, “of course she can . . . can someone appeal.” […] While news organizations debate scrapping anonymity, the ground may be shifting beneath them. With all of our identifying information getting sliced, diced, and sold, by everyone from credit card companies to Facebook, is there really such a thing as the anonymous Web anymore? Consider this demonstration from the late ’90s by Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Latanya Sweeney. She took three commonly available data points: sex (male), ZIP code (02138), and date of birth (July 31, 1945). Those seemingly anonymous attributes could have described lots of people, right? Actually, no. She proved they could belong to just one person: former governor William Weld. She tells me that 87 percent of Americans can now be identified with just these three data points.


Oil spill pushes carbon tax back into spotlight
San Francisco Chronicle | June 22
Ever since 1993, when President Bill Clinton's plan to tax fuels was demolished by energy industry lobbyists, farmers, aluminum makers, anti-tax groups, conservative Senate Democrats and Republicans, energy taxes have been Washington's shortcut to political suicide. […] Energy taxes already exist, however. Jay Apt, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, calculated that a toll increase last year on the Pennsylvania Turnpike amounted to about a $40-per-ton tax on carbon. "Presented that way, people would have been out with pitchforks against the Turnpike Authority," Apt said.

Regional Impact

Marcellus exploration drives river basin monitoring programs in Pa. | June 22
Pennsylvania’s two largest river basins — the Susquehanna and the Ohio — are not just irrigation and drinking-water sources for millions of people downstream. They also have become fountains of information channeling streams of water-quality data to researchers worldwide. […] “This is a challenge that permeates the environmental field,” added Jeanne VanBriesen, a professor of civil engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. VanBriesen is also the director of the Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems and performs research in conjunction with the River Alert Information Network, an early warning detection system on major rivers in southwestern Pennsylvania.


Ontario quake's rumble felt here, fraying nerves in nine states
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 24
Louise Sciannameo's glass of Diet Pepsi told the story as it sloshed violently on her desk Wednesday. It wasn't the afternoon traffic she was feeling. "All I saw was this dark liquid shifting back and forth, back and forth," said Sciannameo, who works in a sixth-floor office at Carlow University in Oakland. "I'd never seen anything like that before." […] This was not the first earthquake to be felt in Pittsburgh, said Jacobo Bielak, a computational science and engineering professor specializing in engineering seismology and earthquake engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Tremors from a magnitude 5.2 quake about 12 years ago near Sharon were felt as far north as Ontario and Detroit. Damage from that quake, on Sept. 25, 1998, primarily was confined to Mercer County, where items toppled from store shelves and ceiling tiles loosened.


ChargeCar Project opens its (garage) doors to the public on Friday nights
Pop City | June 23
Thanks to Carnegie Mellon's ChargeCar Project, being environmentally friendly just got a little cooler. Converting cars from gas to electric, those involved want to revolutionize short range, daily commutes. In addition to the already converted Scion xB, they are currently working to convert a Honda Civic. "The idea is to find a relatively low cost method or recipe for doing the conversion on this and similar vehicles, and giving that process to local garages so that they can actually perform these conversions," explains Ben Brown, one of the principal investigators for the ChargeCar Project. The Civic is expected to be operational by the end of this summer.


Dogs may get room to roam in section of Lawrenceville
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 21
A weed-choked lot beneath the 40th Street Bridge in Lawrenceville soon could become a place where dog lovers can enjoy time with their furry companions. […] In Lawrenceville's dense neighborhood, where many people have small backyards or none at all, a public park is a necessity, said resident Elise Gatti, who drafted the proposal. […] Gatti, a research associate at Carnegie Mellon University's Remaking Cities Institute, said she does not know how much it would cost to build the park or who would pay for it, but wants it to operate under the control of the city Parks and Recreation Department. She hopes to host fundraisers to raise money to build it.


Senior leaders becoming disconnected from security
SC Magazine UK | June 24
The boards and senior executives at many organizations are not adequately involved in enterprise privacy and security decisions, according to a report released by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab. In the survey of 66 board members and senior executives at Fortune 100 companies, released last week, none of the respondents said that improving computer and data security is a top board priority, even though 56 percent said improving risk management is, according to the report.


Looking for scapegoats
Winnipeg Free Press | June 23
Scapegoating is rampant in human endeavours. It is a mental gymnastic in which people attribute their successes to their personal intelligence, creativity and intuition, but their failures to bad luck or factors beyond their control. New research suggests it is linked to the human need to discover causes for events. […] New studies by Carey Morewedge at Carnegie Mellon University confirm that people infer "intent" in negative events. Happenstance is a difficult concept for the human brain to grasp, so people develop a mentality by which negative events seem to be caused by uncontrollable forces, sometimes omnipotent and impossible to counter. Sometimes, these failure-causing factors derive from superstition or mythology.


RoboCup: the future of football?
The Guardian | June 20
At corners, they pose as much threat as a Hobbit would against a team of Orcs. Their passing and shooting are laughable while their ability to keep the ball from reaching the back of the net is only mariginally better than that of an English goalkeeper. Robot footballers have a long way to go, it would seem. […] Improvements are constantly being made, however. For example, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have developed a program that lets robots predict where the ball will go, rather than merely reacting to its movement. Tests show that such robots outperform rivals, allowing them to bend it, not so much like Beckham, but like R2-D2. Indeed, Manuela Veloso, a computer science professor at CMU, is convinced this programme will bring success for his team at RoboCup. "I don't see any reason why we won't win," he says.


U.S. firms slam possible China policies
China Post | June 17
U.S. business groups on Tuesday criticized China's government for recent proposals that could discriminate against U.S. software, computer and clean energy companies. One proposal, first issued late last year, would encourage Chinese government agencies to purchase high-tech goods from companies that develop the technology in China. While not yet in place, the proposal is part of a raft of policies, known as “indigenous innovation,” that are intended to encourage more technological development within the country's borders. […] Still, Lee Branstetter, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said China's indigenous innovation policies may not turn out to be as harmful as U.S. companies allege. Some may even benefit foreign companies. To begin with, the government procurement policies aren't yet formally in place. After being modified in April, they “may prove to be less discriminatory than once feared,” Branstetter said before the ITC.