Ed Felten, Alex Halderman, and Ari Feldman last fall proved that Diebold’s electronic election machines were susceptible to being infected with malicious, vote-altering software. In their now-famous video, they also demonstrated that the lock to the machine’s memory card door was easily picked.

But why pick the lock when you can make a duplicate, asks Ross Kinard at SploitCast? Kinard sent Halderman three keys that he made at home with a drill, by following a photograph of the keys that Diebold featured on its website.

Halderman reports that two of the three homemade keys open the Diebold machine that the Princeton trio has in its possession.

Read more and see a video of Kinard’s key-manufacturing technique on Freedom to Tinker. Bradblog also offers a report.


A National Academies committee of distinguished scientists today recommended that the National Science Foundation sponsor prizes to spur innovation in strategic areas such as pollution sensors, self-assembly in nanotechnology and low-carbon energy technologies.

One of the committee members is Princeton’s Claire Gmachl, director of a multimillion-dollar NSF-funded Engineering Research Center known as MIRTHE whose goal is to revolutionize sensor technology.

You can download the committee’s full report from the National Academies home page.



Scientific American reports today on a super-efficient fuel cell invented Jay Benziger and his former undergraduate student Claire Woo.

One of the first possible applications of the fuel cell might be in lawnmowers, which surprisingly are big contributors to greenhouse gases. Benziger and Woo will publish their findings in the February issue of the journal Chemical Engineering News.

Read more on the National Science Foundation’s website or on Eurekalert.



Red Herring today reports on Stephen Chou’s latest improvement on a nanoimprinting technique he pioneered that promises to revolutionize the way computer chips are made.

Nanoimprinting greatly simplifies the production of computer microchips by creating molds that can emboss intricate patterns onto silicon chips. But air bubbles created during one type of nanoimprinting can distort the patterns in the molds. Now Chou has figured out a way to get rid of the bubbles.

Nanonex, the company founded by Chou to commercialize the technology, thusfar has sold primarily to laboratories. But Chou said that this latest development could make nanoimprinted chips feasible for the mass market. This has potentially huge implications, since nanoimprinting may accelerate Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every 18 months.

In 2003, MIT’s Technology Review identified nanoimprinting as one of “ten emerging technologies that will change the world.” Last month, Chou’s work was cited in a report in Science.

Chou’s latest breakthrough has been reported widely on the web. Best headline award goes to The Engineer Online for “Bursting the cheap-chip bubble barrier.” You can also read more on Eurekalert.


The School of Engineering at Princeton University has a long, august tradition of producing world-class leaders in industry and government. But liberal pundits?

Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured Juan Melli, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering whose political blog has “become a galvanizing force for New Jersey liberals and an increasingly influential must-read for the politically inclined.”

New Jersey Gov. Corzine invited Melli to his “state of the state” address last week. And last month the blog Politicsnj named Melli “politician of the year.”

Read the full Inquirer article here.



The three decades of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s at Bell Laboratories were to black scientists what the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was to black artists, according to William Massey, who was at Bell Labs during that era and who is now a professor at Princeton.

Today, as part of the University of Michigan’s Martin Luther King Symposium Massey is delivering an address on Bell Labs as an incubator for talented African-American scientists and innovators.

The address is in honor of Marjorie Lee Browne, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

Massey, Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton, specializes in queueing theory, a key mathematical tool used to solve many problems of providing communications services, from the old-fashioned telephone service to Internet phenomena like Napster and YouTube.

In November he was awarded the Blackwell-Tapia Prize, in recognition of his outstanding record of achievement in mathematical research and his mentoring of minorities and women in the field of mathematics. Also in November Massey and Robert Vanderbei were inducted as fellows of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences — an honor accorded to fewer than 1 percent of the institute’s membership and made in recognition of significant research contributions.”

Read a recent profile of Massey here.



Controversial stock options for company executives may be much less costly to shareholders than current mathematical models suggest, according to research presented Jan. 5 by Tim Leung of Princeton’s Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering.

At the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society, Leung demonstrated that, in one scenario, stock options were worth about half of what they would be valued if one were to calculate their worth using a conventional method.

Leung and Ronnie Sircar, also of ORFE, submitted a paper on this research to the journal Social Science Research Network, where an abstract and a downloadable copy of the paper can be found.

Read more on Eurekalert!



A just-released study of scholarly output gives high rankings to the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton.

The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, produced by Academic Analytics, ranked Princeton as number 1 in the category of aeronautical and aerospace engineering and number 2 in electrical engineering. In materials science, Princeton was ranked number 5, tied with the University of Texas at Austin. In mechanical engineering, Princeton was ranked number 8.

The index rates the scholarly output of faculty at 7,300 doctoral programs in the United States. You can read a story about the rankings in the Chronicle for Higher Education or download the engineering rankings here.

In November, IEEE Spectrum ranked Princeton University number 3 among universities for patent power.



The National Academy of Engineering has named Robert Socolow, Princeton professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to a prestigious international committee to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities for engineering in the 21st century.

Chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, the Grand Challenges for Engineering Committee will explore engineering solutions for the future drawing on its members’ own expertise and extensive public input to the project’s website.

Socolow, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1971, co-directs Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative with Stephen Pacala, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. In September, Socolow and Pacala coauthored an article in Scientific American outlining strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. In February at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, they will host a town hall meeting for teachers on how to explain climate change to students.

Two graduates of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science also have been appointed to the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges committee: Wesley Harris and Jackie Ying.



A paper by Mung Chiang, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton, has been cited as being one of the top 1 percent of scientific papers published in 2006. Chiang’s paper heralded a hot area of research called “Layering As Optimization Decomposition” which provides a new methodology for understanding and designing communication networks.

Chiang elaborates on the paper in this Q&A.