Jeff Bezos_Kindle.jpg

 Time magazine named Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who graduated from Princeton Engineering in 1986, one of its top 100 people of 2009, putting him in the company of Tiger Woods, George Clooney,  and Michelle Obama.

The magazine enlisted Bill Gates, the chair of Microsoft, to write the tribute to Bezos:

"Lately, Jeff’s pioneering spirit has taken him in some new directions," writes Gates. "He would like nothing more than to be the first to provide a cheap and safe way for anyone to fly into space and started a company called Blue Origin to devise the technology. That’s pretty cool, but his biggest legacy of all might be more down to earth — a modest-looking white-and-silver digital device called the Kindle. This electronic book is Jeff’s brainchild and may well revolutionize not only how we acquire books and periodicals but also how bookworms like me actually read them. That would put him in the same ranks as Johannes Gutenberg."

By the way, Princeton University recently announced that beginning in the fall it (along with five other colleges) will deploy the Kindle DX among students in an effort to save paper. Find out more from Slashdot.


Students taking "Theory of Games" — a k a MAT308/ECO308 — recently enjoyed a seminar led by two legends in the field of game theory — John Nash and Harold Kuhn. Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, you too can hear first-hand from Nash and Kuhn about the origins and evolution of the field that they played a central role in introducing some 50 years ago. Nash (the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind) and Kuhn are introduced by wavelet pioneer Ingrid Daubechies. (The audio when Nash first speaks is a little sketchy but clears up right away.)

The seminar was sponsored by Princeton’s Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics, whose director is Rob Calderbank. If you haven’t seen Calderbank’s Youtube videos created as part of the Open Source Teaching Project, be sure to check them out. In one, Calderbank talks about the connection between mathematics and CDs and in another he explains his innovative work at AT&T on signal processing and its importance to the development of high-speed modems. Fun stuff.


Cory Doctorow writing for boingboing calls an Intellectual Property Colloquium podcast featuring Ed Felten "fascinating listening that makes a good stab at unpicking the tech and the law of DRM." DRM is shorthand for "digital rights management," a term that broadly speaking refers to the deployment of technologies intended to control access to digital content and devices.

Felten is the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, a hotbed of innovative thought on all things digital. Among the events that CITP is hosting this week: Paul Ohm speaking on anonymity and privacy, Jorge Schement talking about Latinos and the challenges of information policy, and Danielle Citron explaining technological due process.

Starting on Thursday, CITP is also hosting a three-day summit on City Planning, Civic Engagement and the Internet which is bringing together a who’s who of city planners, policymakers, technologists, and citizen advocates. The summit will address how to use the Internet to bring about fundamental community change. CITP’s events are always packed but at the moment there is still room for a few more participants. Registration is free.

On a more playful note, Felten’s research on electronic voting got a mention recently on Harry Shearer’s Le Show. You can hear the episode here. (Felten is mentioned at about eleven and a half minutes into the program).


Ghana Initiative_Princeton EWB.jpg

Tomorrow Princeton’s Engineers Without Borders chapter will be at the Princeton Public Library to  collect books for their ambitious Ghana School Library Initiative. The EWB students aim to build environmentally and ecologically sustainable libraries in Ghana to promote English language skills and education.

The daylong drive will feature live music and dance, including a performance by Princeton University’s breakdance group Sympoh. By the way, here is a terrific dance video of Sympoh made last year by mechanical and aerospace engineering student Taofik Kolade, who graduated in May; Taofik is the last dancer in the video.

The Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education has been a steadfast sponsor of Engineers Without Borders projects. Yesterday the School of Engineering hosted a daylong program as part of a dedication ceremony in honor of Dennis and Connie Keller, who recently made an  extraordinary $20 million gift to the center.

The program featured a keynote address by Princeton Engineering alum Norman Augustine on the future of engineering. It also featured a panel discussion of engineering deans on the subject of  engineering and society. Princeton’s H. Vincent Poor moderated the deans panel, which included Linda Abriola of Tufts, David Munson of the University of Michigan, James Plummer of Stanford, Subra Suresh of MIT, and T. Kyle Vanderlick, of Yale.

The Keller Center’s latest annual report is hot off the presses. PMCrunchblog described the Keller Center’s annual report from last year in blushing terms. Photo courtesy Princeton EWB


Rob Socolow‘s comments at the National Academies summit on America’s Climate Choices have caught the attention of New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin, among others.

"The emissions of the future rich must eventually equal the emissions of today’s poor," Socolow said at the summit, Revkin reports in his Dot Earth blog. Duke University’s Bill Chameides gave a nod to this same Socolow comment on his Green Grok blog.

Socolow is the adviser to Princeton senior Michael Konialian, who just returned from a spring break trip to Germany, Sweden and Denmark to study the implications of a new technology called oxyfuel.

"The trip gave me a big-picture view," Konialian — a mechanical and aerospace engineering major who is a Scholar in the Nation’s Servicetold the Princeton Weekly Bulletin. "I went into it thinking that technical challenges were the biggest hurdles for oxyfuel technology, and I came away realizing that the political challenges will be much, much harder to navigate.


Princeton-Jumpstart Lecture Series on Technology Entrepreneurship: 4th Annual Innovation Forum The current issue of U.S. 1 has a fascinating interview with Mung Chiang on the subject of a new quantitative method for matching up Internet ads with potential consumers.

"Online advertising needs a workout," Chiang tells U.S. 1. "It needs to be innovatively re-engineered. It is not reaching the right people at the right time." The system that Chiang and colleagues H. Vincent Poor and Hazer Inaltekin have developed would better enable advertisers to target advertising based on user profiles — without, they say, compromising the privacy of those users.

Chiang’s entrepreneurial ideas spring from his pioneering work in the optimization of communications networks. In January Chiang received the Presidential Early Career Award in recognition of his pioneering work In 2007, Technology Review named Chiang to its elite list of Young Innovators, noting that Chiang’s "algorithms are revolutionizing the backbone of the Internet, the broadband connections that bring data and video to homes and offices, and wireless networks of every stripe."

If you happen to be in Princeton tomorrow you can catch Chiang and eleven other Princeton researchers pitching their ready-for-prime technologies to what likely will be a packed audience at tomorrow’s fourth annual Innovation Forum, sponsored by Princeton’s Keller Center. A panel of judges will be awarding $40,000 in prize money, which will be presented at a reception and poster session following the event. More details here.


The Art of Science

Princeton University is hosting a new "Art of Science" competition this spring with the theme of "found art."

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. April 21. The competition is open to members of the Princeton community (e.g., students, faculty, staff, alumni).

David Pescovitz of Boingboing in his review of the show now hanging in the Friend Center called electrical engineering grad student Qiangei Xia’s "Easter Bonnet" image "stunning." The Washington Post showcased mechanical and aerospace engineering grad student Melissa Green’s images in its widely-read Sunday "Outlook" section and also posted many images from the show in an online gallery at Previous Art of Science exhibits at Princeton also have been featured in Wired magazine, numerous blogs, and publications in Spain, Canada, Israel and Turkey.

Sponsors for the competition include the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Office of the Dean for Research.

The image above was part of the 2006 Art of Science competition and was created by professor of civil and environmental engineering George Scherer and his students.


In an editorial today, The New York Times sings the praises of Princeton Engineering alumna Lisa Jackson.

"Less than a month into the job, and with only a skeleton staff, Lisa Jackson, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has already engineered an astonishing turnaround," the Times writes.

Jackson, who earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton, became New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Commissioner in 2006. Read the full Times editorial here.


Vivek Pai

The latest issue of Technology Review, issued today, names HashCache one of this year’s top ten revolutionary emerging technologies.

"In most places, networking is more expensive–not only in relative terms but even in absolute terms–than it is in United States," Vivek Pai tells David Talbot of Technology Review. HashCache, a new method for storing Web content that could make Internet access more affordable and accessible worldwide, is currently being field-tested at the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.

You can hear about the technology straight from Pai in this video.


VSCEL water vapor latitudinal/vertical profile

A superfast research aircraft outfitted with cutting-edge air-monitoring instruments returned today from its inaugural mission in the quest to map the earth’s atmosphere for the first time in fine-grained, three-dimensional detail. The plane, known as HIAPER, collected data while zigzagging up and down through the atmosphere as it flew from the Arctic to the Antarctic. The airplane was flying as part of a National Science Foundation project called HIPPO Global to measure greenhouse gases on a global scale.

One of the instruments on the craft was invented by Princeton’s Mark Zondlo, who designed it to measure water vapor throughout the atmosphere. One half of the device — shaped much like the tail fin of a plane — juts out on top of the plane, probing the air as it rushes by the sensor. The bottom half rests inside the interior of the plane and houses a delicately calibrated laser that monitors and records water vapor levels in real time.

Although Zondlo is only beginning to analyze the data collected on this first mission, it seems to point to a surprising finding: plumes of very moist air occurring about every 20 degrees in latitude from the Earth’s surface up to nearly the stratosphere.

While it may sound innocuous, this moist air – a k a water vapor – is the strongest greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and human activities are likely changing how much of it makes to the upper atmosphere and how it gets distributed there.

"Surprisingly little is known about water vapor because it has been really hard to measure in the upper atmosphere," Zondlo told EQN. "The new data suggests that these plumes are happening at a scale we had not imagined."

Zondlo an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, is affiliated with Princeton’s MIRTHE center, which conducted air-quality research during the Beijing Olympics using new laser-based sensors. Patrick Regan of NJN News recently interviewed Claire Gmachl and Kale Franz about a new discovery coming out of MIRTHE that could "dramatically improve laser performance," according to Franz. At last count, a story on the discovery had more than a thousand Diggs.

HIPPO Global has four more missions to go and will examine the atmosphere in other seasons of the year. For more, see CBS News, Bloomberg, Redorbit, and Scientific American.