Innovation

Was Herbert Simon the 20th Century’s Galileo?

In the mid-1980s a journalist visiting Carnegie Mellon from France suggested that a statue of Herbert Simon should join those of Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Galileo and Bach in front of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute. At the time, I considered this a bit of Gallic hyperbole, but now I don’t. Simon came to Carnegie Tech in 1949 along …

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Girl on the Move

I arrived at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in the fall of 1959 as a 16-year-old first year student in the architecture department in the College of Fine Arts. I had chosen architecture because I loved art and math ever since I was a kid, and architecture seemed like the perfect combination. Besides, I lived …

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Herbert Simon: 20th Century Galileo

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. Although he was less approachable …

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Raj Reddy: Modern Circumnavigator

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. Raj Reddy began life in …

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Allen Newell: The Lone Ranger

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. After succumbing to Alan Perlis’s …

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Robert Taylor: Demanding Coach

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the West Coast campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. As I struggled with the rigors of being an assistant professor at University …

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Alan Perlis: The First Computer Scientist

I was a teenager in 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik. In the national reaction to it I was inspired to pursue science. I was all set to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology to become a physicist, when the Carnegie Institute of Technology offered me a full …

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Work Disrupted

The past and future of work collide on a 178-acre graded-flat stretch of brownfield in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. There, on what is known as Hazelwood Green, the skeletal remains of Mill 19 stand as one of the last reminders of the Jones and Laughlin steel works that spanned the Monongahela River to the …

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What Drives Red Whittaker?

In January, Carnegie Mellon University professor Red Whittaker set a goal that had nothing to do with robotics: to best a field of competitors in an indoor rowing race. The ergometer competition, a 2,000-meter battle on stationary machines, marked the first time the 69-year-old Whittaker had rowed since his college days at Princeton. Since then …

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Exploring Millennial Romance and the Brave New World of Dating Apps

You can find articles, video clips and nearly every type of media content deriding dating apps as the death of romance and the downfall of traditional dating. For some, that translates and escalates to a belief that millennials—the primary users of dating apps—have killed romance. A hefty claim, to be sure, but not entirely unfounded. …

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Silicon Valley—and the Rest of Us

Last week I was in northern California’s Bay Area for a few days and, as I prefer to do when traveling even to familiar places, I make sure to read and watch the local media rather than “the usual” array of nationally available sources. I caught a TV report on a meeting of Silicon Valley …

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The Internet of Things

We carry our smartphones everywhere, and they connect us to everything. We feel comfortable talking to them and having them talk back. We call them phones, but they’re pocket computers, as powerful as the supercomputers of a decade ago. We use them as calculators, cameras, memory aids, executive assistants, voice recorders, word processors, road maps, …

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Beyond difference

Even before the performance of “Land of Oz” begins, it’s obvious that different rules apply here. Eyes dart around the auditorium and settle down in focused “listening”—sight is the primary way people here share information. To get someone’s attention, wave a hand in the air. To ignore someone, at which the high schoolers are particularly …

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Wanted: More Workers (Part III)

With baby boomers poised to retire and far fewer younger, skilled people available to replace them, the region faces a potentially crippling workforce gap that could be especially damaging in sectors that require STEM (science, technology, engineering math) skills. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development estimates that the gap could reach 144,000 workers, although that’s …

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Kissing My Privacy Goodbye

I first became aware that my online privacy wasn’t nearly as confidential as I thought while shopping online with my sister who lives in Florida. Separated by 1,000 miles, phones pressed to our ears, eyes glued to computer screens, my price for a particular web cam was a bargain at $3.37; hers was $4.66, over …

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Robotics has Changed Surgery Forever

During the first 8,500-year history of surgery, surgeons stood at the patient’s side using tools that evolved from knapped flints to tiny, high-tech cameras. But, in 2000, when the da Vinci Surgical System was cleared by the FDA, surgery changed forever. Surgeons could now sit several feet away from their patients, controlling robotic arms doing …

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Quantum Couple

He grew up in Manhattan; she, in Patna, India. Both were taken with the way physics accounts for the world around them. After completing undergraduate studies at Harvard and the Indian Technology Institute, respectively, they met as first-year physics doctoral students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Upon arrival she found herself the sole …

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The Genius of Pitt

Kevin Guskiewicz has been called a genius for discovering the link between on-field head hits to football players and damage to their brains; findings that once put him at odds with the mighty National Football League. But here’s the thing about the Latrobe native, who recently won a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship, commonly called a “genius” …

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Breakthrough

On a hot afternoon in late summer 2010, a man in his 30s drove an all-terrain vehicle on an unpaved path. He was doing nearly 40 miles per hour on rough terrain. And though he was strong—a construction worker by trade—his ATV hit a bump for which he wasn’t prepared. He drove off the road. …

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Uncharted Territory

Science and technology march along, year after year, making gradual progress in transforming our lives. Every now and again, however, a public event is staged—the moon landing, a computer playing a chess champion, decoding the human genome—that gives the public the appearance of a breakthrough. Just such an event happened in October, when a group …

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Finding New Ways

It’s around noon, and the winter sun shines on Fanny Edel Falk Elementary School at the top of the hilly University of Pittsburgh campus. Through a window facing southeast from one of Falk’s language arts classrooms, it looks as if you can see forever—toward Pittsburgh’s east suburbs and beyond. Many of the students seem keenly …

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Found in Translation

Come on, Ima, vamanos! That was the exhortation from my 3-year-old recently when she wanted me to hurry up and get out the play dough. Like now, Mommy—before I scream… Interesting, I noticed (after gritting my teeth), that a little girl still grappling with the complexities and pitfalls of English has begun to integrate words …

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