Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist A new book on Felix Candela’s architecture, by Princeton Engineering professors David Billington and Maria Garlock, has been named one of the top ten architecture books of 2008.

The beautifully wrought book, published by Yale University Press, features photographs, working drawings, and essays. Its publication coincides with an exhibit at the Princeton Art Museum, which displays models made by Princeton students under the supervision of Garlock and Billington.

Candela’s thin-shelled concrete structures are both delicately sculptural and structurally robust. Billington and Garlock refer to Candela’s work as "structural art" and say that Candela’s work illustrates three important tenets: "the first is the true ethos of engineering, namely the drive to conserve natural resources; the second is the ethic of engineering, to resist wasting money; and third, the aesthetic of engineering, to avoid the ugly."

In this 2004 video, Billington discusses the role of engineering in the liberal arts while talking about his previous exhibit at the museum, "The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy." This year Billington gave the Morison Prize Lecture in Science, Technology and Society at MIT.

The exhibit will be in Princeton through through Feb. 22 and then will travel to other museums in the United States and Mexico.



Princeton Engineering alumna Lisa Jackson — whom New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine recently appointed as his new chief of staff beginning December 1 — has been tapped to serve on President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team on energy and natural resources.

Jackson, who earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton, has served as New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Commissioner since 2006. The Princeton Alumni Weekly profiled Jackson earlier this year.


Princeton Engineering alumnus and Google CEO Eric Schmidt is always in the news — but of late he seems to be even more in the news than usual. In October, Schmidt spoke at Bloomberg Headquarters about how information is changing the world and about the rise of the “digital native” generation. During the talk (see the Youtube video above) Schmidt makes the fairly astounding prediction that within his lifetime all the world’s population will be able to access all of the world’s information.

Last week, Schmidt — who is a member of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition economic advisory board — spoke with The New York Times about Google, the economy, and why he thinks the government should be investing in clean energy technology. He also denied persistent rumors that he might be appointed the nation’s first chief technology officer.

Like Schmidt, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — also a Princeton Engineering alum — has been rumored to be on Obama’s short list for a cabinet-level CTO position. But the technoscenti consistently dismiss the idea that either of these titans of Internet commerce would be tempted to take such a position. “As CEO of Google, [Schmidt] already is technology czar of the United States of America,” quipped Jason Young, CEO of Ziff Davis Media, in a recent discussion on crankygeeks.com.

Today’s lead story in The Daily Princetonian points out that Princeton Engineering’s Ed Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, is yet a third Princetonian who has been cited as having the heavyweight credentials necessary to serve as a national technology czar. Felten told Raymond Brusca of The Prince that such a position would be “hard to say no to on some level.” Felten noted that while the job has not been defined yet by the new administration, the point of this position would be to connect advances in technology to the things that matter to people’s lives, such as health care and the economy.

On Nov. 18, the New America Foundation is hosting a public lecture by Schmidt, who will talk about the intersection between technology and the economy. If you will be in Washington, D.C., and want to attend in person, register here. Otherwise, plan on watching the webcast at 1 p.m. eastern U.S. time.

For more national tech czar speculation see PC World, Obamacto.org, the San Francisco Chronicle, Digital Media Wire, Reuters, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and Businessweek.


SMule: Ocarina [Zeldarian] from SonicMule, Inc. on Vimeo.

Perhaps the smartest iPhone app maker out there is Smule — a new startup whose founders include Princeton alumni Ge Wang and Spencer Salazar along with computer science professor Perry Cook.

Smule’s digital lighter is today’s number one iPhone app. And iPhoneNess reports that the Ocarina — another Smule app that turns the iPhone into a modern version of an ancient flute-like instrument — has taken the top spot at the iTunes store. The app also allows you to hear other Ocarina iPhone users currently playing elsewhere on planet Earth. As the company’s CEO explained recently at the Under the Radar conference, Smule is a pioneer in the new product category of sonic media.

Ocarina, which Mamk.net calls “brilliant,” is apparently becoming popular among Zelda players. Jason Rappaport offers an in-depth tutorial on zeldauniverse.net. (By the way, that is Ge Wang in the video above.)

Let’s see — what digital media outlet hasn’t written about Smule yet? Find more at Gizmodo, The Girl Gamer, Wireless Week, iphonehacks, Techcrunch, Cnet, and Wired.

In more serious news, the current Princeton Alumni Weekly features Perry Cook’s work on the Aphasia Project with computer science graduate students Xiaojuan Ma and Sonya Nikolova. The project seeks to use computers to aid those who because of brain injury have difficulties with language.

Cook, by the way, is cofounder, with Dan Trueman, of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, or PLOrk. PLOrk is the subject of several short, masterful videos by documentary filmmaker Jeremy Robins. Lance Herrington of the Princeton Broadcast Center also recently produced a fabulous video about PLOrk.

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The Scientist magazine has just published its 2008 list of “Best Places to Work” in academia, with Princeton University ranked number 2 on the list. An article accompanying the rankings leads with the example of Ron Weiss, an associate professor of electrical engineering and a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology. Weiss talks about the importance of mentorship, specifically acknowledging the guidance and support given him by James Sturm, the director of the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials and the William and Edna Macaleer Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.

When Weiss first came to Princeton, the department chair appointed Sturm as his “big brother.” “I could turn to him for questions about grants, managing the lab, trying to think about research directions,” Weiss tells Megan Scudellari of The Scientist. “It was wonderful.”

Weiss also spoke to MSNBC recently about the future of synthetic biology. And here is a video about Weiss’s student team in the iGEM competition.

By the way, the National Science Foundation in its multimedia gallery features a photo of the sculpture that Jim Sturm and Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman created with artist Nancy Cohen for Quark Park.

Photo (of Ron Weiss) courtesy Zennen Clifton.



Princeton Engineering has a number of surprising election connections — most recently, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, alumnus Dan Barry has signed up as one of the “Obamanauts,” a group of former astronauts who has endorsed the candidacy of Barack Obama.

Computer science professor Andrew Appel — who this fall is teaching a freshman seminar on election technology — has been in the media spotlight for the past couple of weeks following his report to the New Jersey Superior Court on vulnerability of voting machines to nefarious hacking. Appel’s work has been featured by CNN, Newjersey.com, ABC Eyewitness News, and the New York Times.

Speaking of electronic voting, Mother Jones featured the Hack-a-Vote project at Rice University, which is masterminded by alumnus Dan Wallach, a protege of Ed Felten, director of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Felten is rumored by BusinessWeek and Washingtonian magazine to be on Barack Obama’s short list of candidates for national technology tsar. Yesterday PCWorld published a Q&A with Felten on the security of E-voting.

In other news, Robert Vanderbei, chairman of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, is mashing 2008 election data with his famous purple America map. And Juan Melli, who in September finished his dissertation on “A Hierarchy of Models for the Control of Fish-Like Locomotion,” has been named associate editor of politicker.com.




As part of a summer program run by the International Rescue Committee, children who once lived in refugee camps came to Princeton University to learn about science and engineering by designing clay water filters and solar ovens.

“We want the students to see that science and engineering are not intimidating, but areas of endeavor where, if you’re motivated, you can do things that not only help you learn, but also make an impact,” explains Wole Soboyejo, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, in this story by Hilary Parker. “At the same time, I think we can inspire them to achieve their academic dreams and life goals without feeling constrained by their refugee status or financial resources.”

Earlier this summer, Soboyejo gave an address to the New Media Consortium on “New Frontiers in Nanotechnology” — the talk is available by vodcast. Soboyejo’s research on off-grid solar for rural development was highlighted recently in the Materials Research Society’s Bulletin.

Photo by Frank Wojciechowski



Three Princeton ’08 engineering graduates have been in residence for the past six weeks as part of a “young filmmakers” program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Tomorrow they will show six short videos they have produced on different aspects of engineering – ranging from the re-construction of ancient Greek frescoes to a summer program for students doing lab research in synthetic biology. The screening starts at 3 p.m., Thursday, July 17, in Bowen Hall Auditorium. So if you happen to be on campus, please stop by. Free popcorn and atomic fireballs.

The three filmmakers — Zennen Clifton, Taofik Kolade and Michael E. Wood — will be on hand to talk about their projects.

Download an 11″ by 17″ copy of the poster here.



NOVA recently broadcast an exciting episode on the mathematical/computer wizardry that researchers are developing to smoke out art forgeries.

Princeton wavelet pioneer Ingrid Daubechies is featured in the segment along with two electrical engineering students — Shannon Hughes and Eugene Brevdo.

NOVA challenged Daubechies’ team and two other teams (one based at Penn State and the other at Maastricht University) to train their algorithmic prowess on two seemingly identical paintings. One painting was a genuine Van Gogh and the other a highly skilled forgery. The teams were not told which was which. Each team used digital image analysis models they had developed to try to determine which was the fake. Then the teams gathered together and, while the cameras were rolling, each team announced which painting it had identified as the forgery. Did the Princeton team correctly identify the fake? You will have to watch the show to find out. J.F. Hannan interviewed the Princeton team for the Times of Trenton.

You can see some wavelet detective work in action in this visualization showing a rotating, three-dimensional arrangement of 73 paintings. The paintings are arranged according to “dissimilarity distances,” which distinguish paintings by Van Gogh from those by other painters. The red dots mark the paintings that are not by Van Gogh. Visit Daubechies’ website for more detailed information and to download the Proceedings of the May 2007 First International Workshop on Image Processing for Artist Identification.



In the current issue of Washingtonian magazine, editor Garrett Graff speculates that, if elected, Barak Obama might appoint a Cabinet-level chief technology officer. Among those on Graff’s short list? Princeton’s own Ed Felten (testifying before Congress in the photo to the right).

Also on Graff’s tech czar short list is Amazon.com CEO and Princeton Engineering alumnus Jeff Bezos.

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