Campus news in brief

Carnegie Mellon study suggests married people have increased health benefits

A Carnegie Mellon study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, provides the first biological evidence that suggests married people are healthier than those who are single, divorced, or widowed.

During their study, the researchers collected samples of saliva from 572 healthy adults, aged 21 to 55, for three consecutive days. Multiple samples were taken daily and tested for cortisol, a stress hormone. The results showed that those who were married had lower cortisol levels than those who weren’t. Increased levels of cortisol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate inflammation and can promote the development of diseases.

The researchers also compared each person’s daily cortisol rhythm. Typically, cortisol levels peak when a person wakes up and decline during the day. Married people showed a faster decline, a pattern that has been associated with less heart disease and longer survival among cancer patients.

In a university press release, Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology and co-author of the article, said “these data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health.”

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health funded the preparation of the article.

Mimus, a robot at London’s Design Museum exhibit, showcases personality with visitors

Madeline Gannon, a Ph.D. candidate in computational design at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture, has created an industrial robot named Mimus who interacts with visitors at the Design Museum London’s exhibition. The exhibition is called “Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World” and will run until April 23.

Visitors interact with Mimus, an ABB IRB 6700 industrial robot, through its glass enclosure much like how they would interact with an animal at the zoo. Mimus’ unique name comes from the Latin root “mimic” and a genus of the mockingbird family.

According to a university press release, Gannon hopes that Mimus can reinforce the message that robots are not just things or replacements for human labor but are interactive creatures.

“Creating new ways to communicate with machines is my passion, and I’m so excited to share this experience with others through Mimus,” Gannon said in a university press release. “When something responds to us with lifelike movements — even when it is clearly an inanimate object — we, as humans, cannot help but project our emotions onto it.”

Justin McGuirk, the chief curator of the Design Museum, also shared his enthusiasm for Gannon’s creation. “What’s fascinating is the way Madeline has subverted the robot by reprogramming it, taking something designed for industrial repetition and making it seem alive and spontaneous. One starts to get the sense of how robots may behave in the future,” McGuirk said.