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Roboticist Killed in VA Tech Shooting

Posted 17 Apr 2007 at 14:06 UTC by steve Share This

Kevin P. Granata of the VA Tech Musculoskeletal Biomechanics lab was one of several faculty members killed in yesterday's shooting rampage by South Korean Cho Seung-Hui at the university. Granata's research was in biomechanics and biomimetric robotics. He also worked on robotic mobility aids for the elderly such as the MARC Robotic Walker, which can switch from a passive walker to an intelligent mobility aid that steers the user when needed. Granata was said to be one of the top five biomechanics researchers in the US working on the movement dynamics of cerebral palsy. At least two other professors, including engineer Liviu Librescu, were killed in the shooting, along with as many as 30 students. More news on the shooting.

Tragic and pointless, posted 17 Apr 2007 at 21:17 UTC by motters » (Master)

This is one tragic and pointless death amongst many talented young people.

The US seems very good at cultivating psychopaths, who commit acts which defy rational explanation. It seems that the killer did not make any demands or issue any political statements, but simply opened fire indiscriminately at random. If we can't find ways in which to identify and deal with people having these kind of psychopathic tendencies then I don't hold out much hope for the long term future of humans as a species. As every decade passes the potential destructive capacity of malevolent individuals will increase, amplified by new ever more powerful technologies.

US Psychopath Cultivation?, posted 17 Apr 2007 at 21:50 UTC by Rog-a-matic » (Master)

"Tragic" - agree.

"US seems very good at cultivating psychopaths" - disagree.

Responsibility for this act lies with the killer, not with the US not with S. Korea not with the machines he used not with the laws he violated.

I only wish there was an armed person nearby to save the lives of the innocent.

cultural divide, posted 19 Apr 2007 at 12:00 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

I dont want to create an argument and this will be my first and last word on this.

An outsider (non-american) may well turn around and say If Cho Seung-Hui could not have purchased a gun so easily he could not have killed those people.

Cultural Divide Rev 2.0, posted 19 Apr 2007 at 13:20 UTC by WhoPhlungPoo » (Journeyer)

An interesting concept, however inaccurate... Here in the US, a non-criminal that wants to purchase a firearm must 1) Take a firearm safety course (most states), 2) Pass a background check (most states) and 3) wait some period of time, usually 10 to 15 days (most states).

Criminals on the other hand may simply go "down town" and purchase a firearm on the street. The key word here is "Criminal". In other countries with stiffer regulations and even complete ban of firearms, the non-criminals may have limited or no access to firearms, however the Criminals can still simply go down town and buy one off the street. In addition, the non-criminal is completely prohibited from carrying his legally purchased and owned firearm wherever he/she goes with the exception of a few states like Vermont and Arizona. The criminals, being criminals, however don't really care about the law and freely carry their guns with them wherever they go.

It is a common misconception that the police are there to protect you and therefore you don't need a firearm with you at all times. It is beyond their capability and out side the scope of what they do. They are POLICE, not personal body guards; Police protect YOU by catching the perpetrators of criminal acts after the fact. Thus limiting the total number of victims, so when it comes down to it, you and only you are capable and responsible for protecting you.

With this in mind, it should be easy to see that yes, the firearm laws here in the US are broken. We make it difficult for non-criminals to obtain firearms, however, with few exceptions non-criminals are not permitted to go about their daily lives armed while the criminals do so freely.

If an incident like this where to take place in a "right to carry" state, I would be willing to bet that the police would be filling out a death certificate for the perpetrator instead of filling body bags with victims.

mental patients with hand guns, posted 19 Apr 2007 at 13:29 UTC by steve » (Master)

I think many Americans are probably wondering why someone who was a resident alien, a mental patient, a stalker, suicidal, and all round nut case was allowed to buy a gun. And a hand gun at that. The gun laws are definitely broken and need to be fixed. Whether or not better gun laws would have prevented this particular nut job from killing anyone, I doubt (after all, he violated all sorts of other laws by killing people and having a the gun on campus and that didn't stop him, so I doubt violating one more gun law against buying the gun would have bothered him). Still, making it slightly harder to get the weapon of choice can't hurt. (to put my comments in context, I'm a gun owner myself).

I think the more interesting questions are 1) how do we prevent these lunatics from carrying out their killing sprees in the future? and 2) how do we reduce the number of people going postal?

Answering those questions may even be relevant to robots.net - for example, would widespread use of cameras on campus combined with vision recognition have been able to detect what was happening sooner and alerted someone? Could some type of AI be used in pysch exams administered to people who want to buy guns? Could intelligent software correlate arrest records, mental institution records, and gun applications? Seems like there are ought to be something positive that we could draw from this experience to prevent future tradegies like this from unfolding the in the same way.

One question that popped into my mind when reading about this was whether or not the FBI or someone has been preserving DNA samples from people who have gone postal and committed these sorts of crimes. It would be interesting to run a comparison of them, looking for similar gene sequences that might indicate a common trait in the brain making these people susecptible to this particular form of insanity.

Genetic Profiling?!, posted 20 Apr 2007 at 11:57 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

Okay I changed my mind about posting again becuase this is an interesting topic. It is intersting to see how we all think and there are definate cultural differences.

I dont know what the answer is but in response to Steves Latest post, in the UK we do have cameras here there and everywhere. People frequently complain that we are currently living in a big Brother state. I dont know how much of it is automated though.

The Genetic Profiling thing is an interesting concept but leads to the question, form a moral standpoint would people eventually misuse that technology and use it for eugenics, eradicating a certain type of person?

In any case lets hope this sort of incident never occurs again.

Re: Genetic Profiling?!, posted 20 Apr 2007 at 17:21 UTC by steve » (Master)

I wasn't thinking of genetic profiling so much as identifying whether or not there is a physiological cause for the behavior that's genetic. It's entirely possible there is no physiological explanation for the VA Tech guy's behavior but it seems like it's worth investigating. There have been other cases of violent behavior with physiological causes such as brain tumors that have been corrected medically. I think Charles Whitman, the shooter in the 1966 University of Texas at Austin incident, was found to have a brain tumor that may have played a part in the otherwise unexplained behavioral changes he experienced. If you could identify some underlying physiological cause beforehand, perhaps it could be correctly medically, saving a few lives in the process.

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