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News Clips - October 15, 2010

From October 8 to October 14, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 408 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Toyota probe on schedule, US car safety unit says
Reuters/ | October 13
Acceleration-related complaints have eased substantially from their early-year highs -- 15 reports for the best-selling Camry in September, according to NHTSA figures compiled by Carnegie Mellon University safety expert Paul Fischbeck. But the Japanese automaker faces an estimated $10 billion in potential U.S. civil liability, and U.S. business has been hit hard. Toyota sales are up only 2 percent in 2010 while the market as a whole has risen 11 percent. Lost market share has gone to Korea's Hyundai and Ford Motor Co. Toyota shares are off more than 16 percent this year, and closed 1.2 percent lower at $70.03 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The National Academy of Science panel, which is in the early stages of its 15-month industrywide review of unintended acceleration, acknowledged confusion over when the government planned to make the information from its investigations available.


Top ranking for Carnegie Mellon
Gulf Times | October 11
Carnegie Mellon has ranked first among US schools in Computer Science in a new education ranking series released by the Wall Street Journal. In the survey of nearly 500 top recruiters, Carnegie Mellon was selected as the university most likely to help students secure a job in the field of computer science, outranking all other strong computer science programmes, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a spokesperson for Carnegie Mellon Qatar said. The recruiters surveyed represented some of the largest public and private companies, non-profit organisations and federal agencies. G Richard Tucker, interim dean of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, welcomed the news, saying he was pleased that the university had been recognised for its excellence in the area of computer science education.


Google to unveil driverless cars
Al Jazeera | October 10
Google is planning to introduce driverless cars in an ambitious project that has already seen the cars secretly driving through busy California roads, clocking a total of 1,000 miles without any human intervention. The California-based company said on its website the cars have done more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. […] Self-driving cars have been around for over four decades, but a breakthrough came in 2004 when they were tested in a series of Grand Challenge events organised by the US government. Following the failure of the first contest, a Stanford team led by Thrun built the car that won a race against a vehicle built by a Carnegie Mellon University team. And within two years, another such event showed that self-driving vehicles can successfully negotiate busy urban roads.


The art of dreaming
The Financial Times | October 8
Regardless of religious beliefs – or the lack of them – dreams are seen as containing important hidden truths all over the world. Carey Morewedge, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, last year published the results of a survey that asked 1,100 people what their dreams meant to them. “Psychologists’ interpretations of dreams vary widely,” he says, “but our research shows that people believe their dreams provide meaningful insight into themselves and their world."


Survey shows decrease in crime
The Wall Street Journal | October 13
The government's most comprehensive crime survey shows violent and property crimes continued to decrease last year even as the economy slumped, confirming an earlier FBI report. […] Professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School of Public Policy, an expert on crime trends who often has advised the government on crime statistics, said the data on crime victims bolster the FBI's report, which seemed to buck historical trends of higher crime rates during periods of economic distress.


In higher education, a focus on technology
The New York Times | October 11
The education gap facing the nation’s work force is evident in the numbers. Most new jobs will require more than a high school education, yet fewer than half of Americans under 30 have a postsecondary degree of any kind. Recent state budget cuts, education experts agree, promise to make closing that gap even more difficult. […] Among the projects that have successfully used online technology is the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, which has adopted hybrid models of digital and classroom teaching to accelerate learning. In one project, a college statistics course was taught in two different ways using comparable groups of students: a traditional class lasted 15 weeks, with four class meetings a week, whereas a hybrid one of online course material held two classroom sessions a week.


Three share 2010 Nobel Economic Prize
Bloomberg | October 11
Peter A. Diamond, Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for research into the difficulties of matching supply and demand, particularly in the labor market. “This year’s three laureates have formulated a theoretical framework for search markets” such as ones where buyers look for sellers and applicants look for jobs, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which selects the winner, said today in Stockholm. […] Mortensen, 71, received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, in 1961 and a doctorate in economics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1967.


When glass touch screens feel like sandpaper | October 8
Glass screens that can feel the touch of your fingers are all the rage these days. You'll find them in all kinds of gadgets, from smartphones to tablet computers. But the way a team of Disney Researchers sees it, there's one huge problem with this technology: All glass screens feel exactly the same. […] "It's kind of like a buzzing or a vibration. It has the same effect as a buzz," said Chris Harrison, one of the Disney researchers and a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University. "But if you carefully tune the frequency and the vibration of the panel you can actually create things that feel like sandpaper or rubber or a wall."

Education for Leadership

Join in the First Robot Census
Yahoo! News | October 9
Have you ever wondered exactly how many robots we have these days between Roombas and Aibos and whatever other bots we have in our homes? Well one person’s not only wondered about it, they’re determined to find out with the first census meant exclusively for robots. Heather Knight is a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University studying robotics. She also runs, in this week’s best Futurama reference, Marilyn Monrobot Labs in NYC where she works on projects involving robot arts performances.

Arts and Humanities

CMU poet honored by award nomination
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 14
Even though his money is on another poet, Terrance Hayes "won't turn down" this year's National Book Award for Poetry if he wins it. The Carnegie Mellon University professor cleared the first hurdle for the prize when he was named one of five finalists in poetry Wednesday by the National Book Foundation. The prizes will be awarded Nov. 17 in New York and include fiction, nonfiction and children's literature. The biggest news from the nominations was the omission of Jonathan Franzen's novel, "Freedom," in the fiction category. The book is the most talked-about and praised novel of the year, but the fiction judges selected books that received far less attention and included ones by an Australian and a Briton. A complete list of nominees follows at the end of this story.


4 bold—and realistic—plans to fix our energy system
Discover Magazine | October 11
Residential and commercial energy consumption accounts for 72 percent of all electricity and 13 percent of all fossil fuels consumed in this country, says Vivian Loftness, an architect at Carnegie Mellon University. That means buildings offer huge potential for energy savings. Natural daylight can replace 30 to 60 percent of our current energy consumption for lighting, natural ventilation can reduce the energy used for air-conditioning by 20 to 40 percent, and better use of natural shading could cut another 10 percent. Passive solar heating eliminates 20 to 40 percent of heating costs.


The big letdown
Boston Globe | October 10
America is disappointed. The economic recovery, such as it is, has produced few jobs and little growth, the war in Afghanistan is going poorly, and Washington’s political culture, which President Obama took office promising to reform, is as vitriolic and paralyzed as ever. As a supporter put it to Obama at a Sept. 20 town hall meeting, ”I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people. And I’m waiting, sir. I’m waiting.” […] ”People forget over time what they expected, and their counterfactual tends to get rosier and rosier over time,” says George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University. ”Obama is being judged by a rising disappointment standard, so people are really disappointed, [even though] if right in the middle of the financial crisis they had been told how things were going to turn out they would have been thrilled."

Information Technology

Cybersecurity must go beyond Band-aid approach | October 13
To really move forward in cybersecurity, a solution that goes beyond a Band-aid approach is needed. Jeanette Wing, the chair of the Computer Sciences Department at Carnegie Mellon University, explained what's really needed is the development of a more open science of security. Wing is Tom Temin's guest on the Federal Security Spotlight at 10 a.m. on Thursday.


Computer learns language and facts by itself
Robotic Magazine | October 10
Carnegie Mellon University Researchers, under the funding of Google and DARPA, and benefitting from the internet database provided by Yahoo, are working on a self learning computer algorithm that is able to extract knowledge from the internet by itself, to learn language and facts. The system is called NELL, which stands for “Never Ending Language Learning System”, scans hundreds of millions of web pages everyday, and learns facts by itself, at an accuracy rate of 87 percent. So far, NELL learned 390,000 facts, which are grouped into symantec categories, such as universities, actors, cities etc… The number of categories so far is 274 and this number is growing. These facts are things like “Rose is a flower” or "New York is a city."


How to Clean Up Hungary's 16-Square-Mile Toxic Mess
Popular Science | October 13
Scenes of caustic red sludge surging through pastoral Hungarian villages last week evoked a familiar blend of human pathos and righteous anger that most of us had shelved shortly after the BP well was capped. Then the news cycle turned over and our attention moved elsewhere. But as emergency workers in western Hungary slog through ankle deep rivers of toxic red muck to clear roads and contain the growing mess, the hardest job hasn’t even started: the cleanup of an estimated 30 million cubic feet of alkaline mud covering some 16 square miles of Hungarian countryside. […] “The deposition salts and the high pH are going to render the land unproductive for agriculture,” says Dr. David Dzombak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s going to kill the plants that are there now, and even if you just want to re-plant grass or have a city park or landscaping, you won’t be able to until you do something to address those impacts."

Regional Impact

A Steel Tree: Return to Pittsburgh, Illinois | October 7
Travis Williams, the V.P. of Business and Legal Affairs for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, made a case for this reciprocity between corporations, councils, local companies, and the individuals who comprise them all, when showing off the Pens' brand new home, the LEED-certified CONSOL Energy Center. "Simply put, they are our fans. We want to work with our fans, as they support us," Williams said of the Penguins' partners in building the new arena. That back-and-forth is on display throughout the CONSOL, from the work of local design firm Fathom, to the interactive Yinz Cam displays (developed by Carnegie Mellon professors Priya Narasimhan and Rajeev Gandhi), to the collaboration with local tech start-up Electric Owl (itself a company spawned from Carnegie Mellon's ETC Lab, then fostered and grown with help from the Pittsburgh Technology Council) in building a Penguins-fantasy app called "Extra Attacker."


CMU, FBI team up to promote Internet safety
KDKA-TV News | October 12
Carnegie Mellon University and the FBI have announced a national competition for middle school and high school students to create computer animations that promote Internet safety. Top entries will be posted on the FBI website and they will recognize winning entries and their teachers. It is part of the FBI's Safe Online Surfing Program which currently provides Internet safety information to students in third through eighth grade.


Westinghouse CEO says nuclear cheapest
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 12
Westinghouse Electric Co., the Cranberry-based builder of nuclear power plants, will not be directly impacted by an energy giant's decision not to build a plant in Maryland, but the company's CEO said the move causes concern for the U.S. nuclear industry. Aris Candris, speaking at a news briefing Monday at Carnegie Mellon University, said Westinghouse's contracts to build six power plants in the United States and four in China would not be affected by Constellation Energy's decision last week to cancel the construction of a new plant in Calvert Cliffs, Md.


Pittsburgh on display in China
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 11
A few minutes later Mr. Ravenstahl and his delegation stood among the sea of dark suits and skirts awaiting transport from the Peninsula Hotel to the 22nd International Business Leaders Advisory Council. His tour bus convoy of global civic and business leaders snaked through the streets as Shanghai police blocked all other car traffic. "A high-rise forest," mused Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon, glancing from his bus at a neighborhood of stark gray apartment buildings.


CMU gets $2 million from Goldman Sachs unit
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | October 9
Carnegie Mellon University announced Friday that a charitable arm of Goldman Sachs has given the university $2 million to help students whose families were deeply affected by the recession. The $2 million gift will be used for scholarships based on financial need and academic performance beginning this semester. The contribution was made at the recommendation of Paul M. Russo, managing director at Goldman Sachs and a 1986 graduate of CMU.