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News Clips - September 3, 2010

From August 27 to September 2, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 512 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Untangling the social web
The Economist | September 2
Country analyses have great potential in peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations, according to Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She is developing a societal model of Sudan with a team of about 40 researchers. Foreign aid workers and diplomats frequently stumble in Sudan because they fail to work out which tribal and political leaders they should work with, and how. Ms Carley’s model, known as ORA, analyses a decade of data on such things as weather, land and water disputes, cabinet reshuffles, reactions to corruption, court cases, economic activity and changes in tribal geographic maps. Within the information that emerges are lists of the locals most likely to co-operate with Westerners, with details of the role each would best play. This depth of insight, a demonstration of the power of network analysis today, will only grow.


Interview: Professor Lansine Kaba
Al Jazeera | September 2
Professor Lansiné Kaba is a distinguished scholar and writer, who was born and educated in Guinea, Senegal and France during French colonial rule. Winner of the prestigious Herskovits award given by the African Studies Association to scholarly work on Africa published in English, Kaba is the author of many works on Guinea, Islam and politics in Africa. At Carnegie Mellon, Qatar, Kaba teaches courses on Islam, Africa and the Arab world, and a course on history and literature of liberation.


Incoming stimuli behind neuronal diversity
Asian News International/Yahoo! News India | August 30
A new study has revealed that it's not the size or shape that but the way neuron responds to incoming stimuli that sets one neuron apart from another. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have said that this diversity is critical to overall brain function and essential in how neurons process complex stimuli and code information. "I think neuroscientists have, at an intuitive level, recognized the variability between neurons, but we swept it under the rug because we didn't consider that diversity could be a feature. Rather, we looked at it as a fundamental reflection of the imprecision of biology," Nature quoted Nathan N. Urban of CMU's Department of Biological Sciences as saying.


Data storage companies becoming Silicon Valley’s hottest properties
The Financial Chronicle | August 29
Storage companies tend to create tight links between software and hardware, which allows them to sell bundles rather than a stand-alone product to customers and to innovate at a quick pace, said Garth A. Gibson, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. These trends, along with the importance of data, have helped storage systems outflank computer servers in importance. ‘‘The computers are just providing cycles and have become rather inexpensive,’’ Mr. Gibson said.


Tax cuts weighed to spur economy
The Wall Street Journal | September 1
Some Republicans say an array of tax cuts is the best strategy to stimulate the economy. They include on their list reductions in the individual payroll tax used to fund entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as cuts in corporate income taxes. All the talk about taxes—whether to raise them to address the deficit or cut them to stimulate the economy—may be having its own effect on growth. Allan Meltzer, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said the economy wouldn't fully revive until Washington resolved uncertainty surrounding business costs, including taxes. "Companies are cutting their expenditures and not hiring because they're very uncertain" about these costs, he said.


Doing more while using less power
The New York Times | September 1
Efficiency is often confused, detrimentally, with conservation. Conservation connotes making do with less — turning down the heat or driving a smaller car. Efficiency means getting more bang per buck. For example, California’s 35 years of efficiency standards for appliances have created refrigerators that use 75 percent less electricity than models from the 1970s. Yet today’s refrigerators are larger, have more features and cost less in inflation-adjusted dollars. In transportation, “we could double fuel economy for light-duty vehicles by 2035 without changing the size or acceleration of vehicles,” said Lester B. Lave, an economics and engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the chairman of a 2010 report on efficiency potential from the National Academy of Sciences.


Hinting that it’s good to be bad
The New York Times | August 30
A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has found that people’s decisions to reveal information about themselves online can depend on unexpected and even irrational cues. In one experiment, college students filled out Web surveys about various questionable activities, like cocaine use and drunken driving.  […] “The little devil face sort of winks at you, suggesting that it’s O.K. to do bad stuff,” said George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon and one of the paper’s authors. “All of a sudden, people feel that it’s O.K. to divulge all kinds of personal and incriminating information."

Education for Leadership

FringeNYC Encore Series announces lineup and schedule, runs 9/9-26
Broadway World | August 30
Now in its fifth year, the FringeNYC Encore Series gives theatre lovers another chance at seeing some of the Festival's favorite shows. Beginning September 9th, the FringeNYC Encore Series will present nearly 20 works in rotating repertory at three downtown venues […] PigPen Presents The Nightmare Story PigPen Theatre Co. (Pittsburgh, PA) Writer: Alex Falberg, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Daniel Weschler, Matt Nuernberger, Ryan Melia A boy's beloved mother shows symptoms of the mythical "Nightmare Disease". Now he must journey into the unknown to find a cure... before it's too late. Actors from Carnegie Mellon University; PigPen combines storytelling, music, puppetry, and shadow-play.

Arts and Humanities

The art of Steeler fandom
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Staff Blogs | August 27
As previously mentioned in this space, the folks at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University have been at work since the spring putting together what quite possibly is the first art exhibit in the known universe dedicated to Steelers fans. Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals and Obsessions explores the passion of Steelers fans, and the mania, creativity and ritualistic behavior it inspires.


...and for the kids, here come the Cubelets by Modular Robotics
Pop City | September 1
Modular Robotics hopes to hit the stores this December with limited editions of a new robotic toy, colorful "Cubelets" that help kids connect with the scientific thinking and STEM concepts behind robotics. It's Lego on steroids," laughs Mark Gross, co-founder and research director of Modular Robotics, describing the blocks that encourage kids, ages seven and up, to wrap their heads around computation thinking. "We're in the creativity business. With our Cubelet toys, kids learn to create things that think." The company, a Carnegie Mellon spinoff, was founded in 2008 by Gross and a former doctorate student, Eric Schweikardt, based on Schweikardt's doctoral work. The toy will be sold in kits of 20 cubelets that contains an assortment of sensor, action and operator blocks. There is no central brain the controls the robot, Gross explains. When connected, larger robots are technically being created out of the smaller robots. The behaviors emerge based on the way they are constructed."

Information Technology

Re-thinking the Internet with security and mobility in mind
Scientific American | August 31
Another FIA project, led by Peter Steenkiste, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, poses the creation of a more secure eXpressive Internet Architecture. XIA is similar to the NDN architecture in that both propose to secure data itself rather than the network pathway that the data travel. XIA likewise promises to help users find content wherever it is most accessible, even if this isn't a host server, speeding information retrieval while cutting redundant network traffic.

Regional Impact

CMU moves beyond research to robotics manufacturing
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | August 31
Carnegie Mellon University's robotics engineers are known for their ability to create machines to solve problems. But one dilemma lingers at the end of many successful projects: a corporate or government client who wants a dozen or even 100 of the same robot has to find a manufacturer to build and service them. Startup company Carnegie Robotics LLC is meant to fill that niche. "We could say, 'Yeah, we'll build 10 of these and supply middle-of-the-night phone support service and spare parts,'" CEO John Bares said Monday as he strolled past robotic mining, agricultural and defense machines at the university's National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville.


CMU professor forged policies for peace in Africa
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | August 30
Condoleezza Rice joked that when Carnegie Mellon University professor Jendayi Frazer worked in the Bush administration, African leaders held her in such high esteem that they would take Frazer's calls before Rice's. "Jendayi could get them on the White House calendar faster than I could," the former secretary of State said. Frazer, 48, of Munhall has received one of the highest honors that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can bestow -- the Distinction of Dame Grand Commander in the Humane Order of African Redemption for her efforts on behalf of the U.S. government to end Liberia's civil war in 2003.


CMU joins federal study of human interaction
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 27
Carnegie Mellon University researchers have joined a five-year, $10 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation to study using computer science to develop tools for studying how people interact. The Computational Behavioral Science Project is expected to aid in evaluating social interactions and other behaviors that can be used in diagnosing or treating behavioral disorders such as autism. Part of the Expeditions in Computing program of the NSF's Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, it includes researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Southern California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the Georgia Institute of Technology serving as the lead institution.