The current issue of The Economist magazine features a story on a fascinating plan by Princeton’s Martin Wikelski to outfit birds and insects with radio transmitters and track them by satellite.
The project — called ICARUS for the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space — “would revolutionise the way animal behaviour is studied, by allowing pests and disease carriers to be followed as well as by providing the answers to some important conservation questions,” The Economist writes.
Jeremy Kasdin, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton who leads the satellite-design team, told The Economist that he is hopeful this ambitious effort can be achieved by modifying off-the-shelf equipment.
Last spring, undergraduate students in a class taught by Kasdin and Edgar Choueiri designed exactly such a satellite system. Kasdin and some of the students recently demonstrated a computer simulation of the idea to researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Read the complete Economist article online.
Wired News writes about a new underwater glider at the University of Washington that can dive three times deeper than existing gliders.
“Reaching a depth of 2,700 meters [nearly 9,000 feet] is quite a feat and promises to extend the nature and type of missions that can be carried out by gliders,” Wired News quotes Naomi Ehrich Leonard as saying. “You could even imagine a heterogeneous fleet of gliders working in tandem at different depths to explore this otherwise impenetrable undersea.”
Leonard, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, just completed a field experiment in Monterey Bay, Calif. in August during which an entire fleet of undersea robots for the first time worked together without the aid of humans to carefully observe the ocean.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Eriksen, University of Washington
Researchers have bioengineered an implantable scaffold that may one day help a certain kind of knee ligament, commonly torn during sports injuries, repair itself.
The scaffold, seeded with ligament cells, has been shown to regenerate new tissue in the damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of rabbits.
“It is my hope that these studies will lead to a revolutionary new treatment strategy for patients suffering from ACL tears,” Cato Laurencin, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, told Agence France-Presse.
Laurencin, who received his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton, is the lead author of a paper describing the technique in the Feb 20–23 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Washington Post also covered the story.
For those who prefer to read about this innovation in French, here is a piece from 20 minutes.fr.
Mark Twain once said that “an inventor is a poet–a true poet–and nothing in any degree less than a high order of poet.”
Michele Alperin, writing in the business newspaper US 1, gives us a glimpse into the poetic mind of the inventor with her profile of Michael Hecht in the current issue.
Hecht, a professor of chemistry at Princeton who has developed a novel way to screen for potential Alzheimer’s drugs, will join other innovators Tuesday, Feb. 27, at an innovation forum that is sponsored by Princeton’s Center for Innovation in Engineering Education.
What kind of mindset best suits an innovator? “You have to be prepared to see the unexpected,” Hecht told Alperin. “You have to have an educated and trained mind, but have to be open-minded enough that when something bizarre comes up, you can see it.”
In addition to explaining Hecht’s research in protein design, the US 1 profile offers some interesting biographical background. Before going to MIT for graduate school, for example, Hecht drove a taxi around New York City for several months. Who knew?
The public is invited to the Tuesday event, which will feature about a dozen emerging technologies from the laboratories of Princeton, including CoBlitz, which promises to revolutionize the distribution of rich media (videos, sofware, etc.) on the web.
You can read the entire Hecht profile here.
A panel of distinguished researchers debated the future of the peer-reviewed journal recently on a lively panel organized by Calit2’s Information Theory and Applications Center.
One of the panelists was H. Vincent Poor, dean of the school of engineering at Princeton and editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. According to Poor, reports of the demise of the peer-review process are premature. “I don’t think we want to ever completely dispense with careful peer review,” said Poor, remarking that there is no substitute for deliberate and thoughtful review by respected experts.
As for archiving, Poor advises that we make a distinction between what is eternal and what is ephemeral. “If If we think what we are doing is eternal we should put it in a hard copy,” he said. “If we think it is ephemeral, electronic is probably good enough.”
It may seem surprising to hear a digital maven come down on the side of paper but Poor makes a compelling argument, noting that ever-evolving operating systems mean that computer files just a few decades old are already inscrutable. “It’s hard to beat the archival nature of high-quality hard copy,” Poor said. “Just look at the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are 2,000 years old and we can still read them.” He noted, however, that technological innovation might one day bring us a trustworthy electronic archive system.
You can contemplate the archivability of webcasts while viewing the entire conversation of the Calit2 panel here (it is the first video on the page).
Electronic voting machines are back in the news again, and not in a good way.
Last month Appel bought five Sequoia machines for a total of $82 from a government auction Web site — www.GovDeals.com, where one can also bid on surplus coffins, locomotives and WWI-era cannons, according to Star-Ledger reporter Kevin Coughlin.
Appel says that the machines are almost identical to machines that New Jersey’s Essex County bought for $8,000 apiece two years ago. Alex Halderman and Ariel Feldman — the same graduate students at Princeton who helped demonstrate that Diebold’s electronic voting machines could be infected with malicious software — have begun to analyze the Sequoia code.
“We can take a version of Sequoia’s software program and modify it to do something different — like appear to count votes, but really move them from one candidate to another,” Appel told Coughlin. “And it can be programmed to do that only on Tuesdays in November.” At any other time, he said, it couldn’t be detected.
Today’s Star-Ledger features a follow-up story on a legal notice filed Friday claiming that 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines were never certified by the state of New Jersey, as required by law. Appel filed an affadavit in the case. For more follow-ups on Appel’s adventures with the Sequoias, stay tuned to Ed Felten’s blog, Freedom to Tinker. Felten will be giving a talk next week, Feb. 20, at the Princeton Public Library on his research on computer security and privacy.
Photo by Alex Halderman
Our computers and digital devices keep getting smaller even while growing increasingly more robust. By comparison, the batteries that power them remain stubbornly unwieldy (and in some cases even prone to exploding).
This is one reason that Craig Arnold’s research is especially fascinating. One of the aims of Arnold’s research is to create tiny batteries and other energy storage devices that can be implanted in the body or used to power featherweight sensors.
Arnold, an assistant professor in Princeton’s department of mechanical and aerospace engineering (which, in case you missed the news, was recently ranked No. 1 in the nation in a scholarly index), uses a laser direct-write printer to lay down energy-storing patterns with a lithium “ink.”
But that is not all Arnold can do with laser direct-write printing. Check out the image on this blog entry. It is a little faint, but you should be able to see that Arnold printed the Princeton University shield, using fluorescent E. coli bacteria as “ink,” onto a glass slide. How cool is that?
The current issue of the Materials Research Society Bulletin, which Arnold guest-edited with Alberto Piqué, notes
that laser direct-write printing can be used to make semiconductors, to engineer tissue, to create cell-based sensors, or to develop pharmaceuticals.
In the biology arena, Arnold is collaborating with synthetic biology pioneer Ron Weiss, who is working to create “bio-bricks” — bits of DNA-powered circuits — that are modular and that could one day be fitted together to manufacture such miracles as new pancreatic cells for people with diabetes or special patches that mend broken spinal cords.
The story of how Princeton’s undergraduate team made it to the fiercely competitive DARPA Grand Challenge finals in 2005 is worthy of a Hollywood screenplay. Princeton’s self-driving truck didn’t win (a software glitch did them in) but their heroic efforts drew media coverage and acclaim.
Now the underdog team is back at it again, preparing to compete in DARPA’s newest challenge, which will play out in an urban landscape as opposed to last year’s course through the desert.
The team has just taken delivery of a 2005 Escape donated by Ford and is busy experimenting with stereo vision, automotive radar, and binocular image techniques to help the vehicle self-navigate through a tricky urban course. More than a half-dozen students worked nonstop over intersession break, getting started making the electrical and mechanical modifications that will allow the car to drive itself. “Since the car is a hybrid it is already ‘drive-by-wire,’” team member Gordon Franken told EQN. “This means that the primary systems — steering, brakes and throttle — are all electronically controlled, making it easy for us to fast-track the necessary modifications.”
Today’s Daily Princetonian has a front-page piece on PAVE (short for Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering) and you can follow the team’s exploits on their website. Be sure to check out their hilarious (and informative) videos. Princeton alums in town for Alumni Day Feb. 24 will get an in-depth look at the celebrated 2005 competition and the challenges that lie ahead for the PAVE team.
Internet content-delivery services powerhouse Akamai has just paid $177 million in stock to acquire Netli, which produces a custom protocol that smooths out communications between Internet servers.
“We discovered that they had some really cool stuff, and it’s very complementary to what we’re doing,” Akamai’s chief scientist Tom Leighton told Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe.
Leighton, who graduated from Princeton Engineering in 1978 and who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, told Bray that combining the two technologies will allow Akamai to improve network performance. (Another Princeton Engineering graduate, Beatriz Infante, sits on the board of Netli.)
Leighton recently made some interesting observations about the recent Tawain earthquake and how Akamai works around communications bottlenecks that occur during the wake of a disaster. You can read those comments here.
On Friday, an international panel representing more than 1,000 scientists pronounced as “unequivocal” the evidence that humans have contributed to global warming.
The odds are great that greenhouse pollution has caused much of the warming over the past 50 years, according to the scientists’ report, and temperature increases are very likely to accelerate in the future.
But what should be done? In a recent report, Greenwire highlights the work of Princeton professors Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala. The duo, you may recall, played a supporting role in Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, with Gore hailing their work as an important way to address climate change.
Socolow and Pacala first introduced their “wedges” concept — essentially a toolkit of energy technologies and lifestyle changes that can be mixed and matched to collectively reduce carbon emissions — in the journal Science back in 2004.
“Critics of the wedges warn they are an over-simplified academic exercise unconstrained by price tags or real-world politics,” writes Greenwire senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn. “But a growing number of politicians, teachers, lawyers, industry lobbyists and environmentalists consider the concept a great way to identify and articulate their climate strategies.”
You can add “energy executives” to Samuelsohn’s list of wedge admirers. David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, applauded the wedge concept in a
About this blog
EQN is a blog from Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science that highlights faculty, students and alumni who, through innovation and leadership, are changing the world.
- Technology Review: mining cellphone data without violating privacy
- Dean H. Vincent Poor elected fellow of Royal Society of Edinburgh
- Bob Kahn wins Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
- Saving lives, gathering data: Laura Ray’s ‘cool robot’
- Optics & Photonics highlights Branko Glisic’s structural sensing research
- Pi Day comedy mashup to feature Princeton faculty
- Princeton chapter wins national EWB award
- Princeton faculty are part of $194 million STARnet initiative
- Mike McAlpine named one of ’20 mightiest minds’
- Princeton Fung Global Forum contemplates the future of the city
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