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Robert Kahn, one of the architects of the internet, will have what promises to be a fascinating conversation with artificial intelligence guru Ed Feigenbaum Jan. 9 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Kahn is CEO and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Kahn and Vinton Cerf invented the TCP/IP protocol, the technology that underpins the transmission of information on the Internet.

Kahn, who received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1964, is part of Princeton’s luminous legacy in the field of computer science and in the development of the Internet. Alan Turing, Alonzo Church and John von Neumann all spent time at Princeton. Recent Internet innovators who are Princeton Engineering undergraduates include Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google, who was just named CEO of the Year by Investors Business Daily.

You can find more about the Jan. 9 event here.

 

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Princeton Engineering’s Jason Fleischer is using lasers to shed light on the behavior of superfluids — strange, frictionless liquids that are difficult to create and study. Their technique allows them to simulate experiments that are difficult or impossible to conduct with superfluids.

The odd behavior of particles in superfluids, which move together instead of at random, has been observed in light waves that pass through certain materials known as nonlinear crystals. Fleischer’s team relied on this underappreciated correlation to use laser light as a substitute, or model, for superfluids in experiments. Their results will be published in the January 2007 issue of Nature Physics.

Read more on EurekAlert! or in the Research Highlights section of the journal Nature. Earlier this year, Fleischer was a part of a team who demonstrated that defective photonic quasicrystal could heal itself by interacting with light. The researchers published their report in the April 27 issue of Nature. Read more in this release from Technion University.

 

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For the December 29 issue of Nature, computer scientist Bernard Chazelle has penned a News & Views piece on a tantalizing idea known as the PCP theorem, which proposes that any mathematical proof can be immediately verified through randomization.

“To appreciate fully the significance of PCP,” writes Chazelle in his characteristically spirited style, “imagine you wake up one morning with your head full of a complete proof of the Riemann hypothesis. (This is arguably the greatest open problem in mathematics, and is a deep statement about the distribution of the prime numbers, the atoms of arithmetic.)” . . .

At last year’s annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Chazelle predicted that we will see an Einstein of algorithms in the near future. Ever since his AAAS talk, Chazelle’s ideas have been ricocheting through the cybersphere, mentioned most recently in HPC Wire.

In his reportedly very amusing AAAS talk, as well as in a piece he wrote for Math Horizons, Chazelle expressed bemusement over the recent precipitous decline in undergraduates majoring in computer science. Apparently, the decline has swiftly reversed itself. Computer science chair Larry Peterson reports that CS enrollment, at least at Princeton, is up by more than 20 percent.

You can find Chazelle’s original algorithm essay here. Or, if you are fluent in Greek, you might want to read this recent profile of him in Greece’s version of Time magazine.

 

Ed Felten, professor of computer science at Princeton and the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, has been named to the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the legendary advocacy organization dedicated to preserving civil liberties in the digital age.

Felten also is quoted in the current issue of SC Magazine on Sony BMG’s recent $4.25 million settlement over controversial software that the company installed on its music CDs. Felten and graduate student Alex Halderman played a crucial role in bringing the software flaws to public attention.

Read more at ars technica and SC Magazine.

 

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Robert F. Service, writing in the Dec. 22 issue of Science explores the role that nanotechnology will play in the future of disk-drive technology. In the piece, he cites the nanoimprint technology developed by Stephen Chou at Princeton as being promising in the never-ending quest to increase disk drives’ capacity while shrinking their size. Chou invented a technique for using e-beam lithography to create master stamps with tiny features that are imprinted into a malleable plastic.

Princeton Engineering just acquired a new e-beam writer, which will be used by Chou and his graduate students and many others at Princeton Engineering. Helena Gleskova, director of micro-nanfabrication, oversees the e-beam writer.

You can read the entire Science piece here.

 

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Eli Harari, the CEO of SanDisk was recently profiled by Electronic Business. Harari, who received his Ph.D. from Princeton’s joint program in materials science and mechanical and aerospace engineering, is a pioneer in non-volatile semiconductor information storage.

Barrie Royce, who supervised Harari’s doctoral work, told Electronic Business that he remembered thinking that the electrical charges that built up in the MOS insulators Harari was studying as a graduate student were a nuisance. But, said Royce, “Eli had the vision and intuition that this could really be quite a useful thing if he could use the phenomenon as an information-storage system.”

In the profile Harari reflects on what he has learned about leadership in the world of business, “including the importance of having a tightly focused strategic plan, having a cohesive board of directors and hiring the right people.” Read the profile here.

Harari, who holds more than 100 patents, was most recently issued a patent Dec. 26 for re-programmable non-volatile memory cards.

 

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The current edition of Science quotes Sigurd Wagner, professor of electrical engineering. The article is titled “Inorganic Electronics Begin to Flex Their Muscle.”

“Like a desert mirage, the promise of organic electronics seems to shimmer always on the horizon,” writes Robert F. Service.

Service observes that when organic electronics first came on the scene 30 years ago, the new technology captured the imagination of researchers hoping to make electronics that could bend and curve.

“In the late 1990s, there was a notion by materials and chemical companies that it would be easiest to go with all organics,” explains Wagner in the Science story. But it has been tough trying to manufacture organics reliably. “There are so many problems, [people] are returning to an inorganic transistor technology used in industry,” he reports.

Read the full article here.

Photo: I-Chung Cheng, Princeton University

 

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Ron Weiss, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton, is the co-author of Scientific American’s June cover story, “Engineering Life: Building a FAB for Biology.”

Weiss and his colleagues write that fundamental principles in engineering, when applied to biology, will transform biotechnology into a mature industry. They envision that the advent of flexible, reliable fabrication technology will give rise to the type of manufacturing, or “fab,” system that revolutionized the semiconductor industry.

“Although the term ‘genetic engineering’ has been in use for at least three decades, and recombinant DNA methods are now mainstays of modern research, most biotechnologists’ work with living things has little in common with engineering,” the scientists write.

“One reason is that the tools available for building with biological ‘parts’ have yet to reach a level of standardization and utility equal to that in other engineering fields. Another has to do with methods and mind-sets in biology, although these, too, can be powerfully influenced by technology….”

“Standardization of methods and components in biological engineering could give rise to design libraries of compatible parts and make outsourcing of fabrication possible. That uncoupling of concept and manufacture would free biological engineers to imagine increasingly complex devices and to use powerful engineering tools, such as computer-aided design, to manage that complexity.”

Full article can be purchased at Scientific American Digital, http://www.sciam.com.

 
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