Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

A National Medal of Science, a Marconi Prize, a new student center and many important research findings. It’s been a busy year at the Jacobs School of Engineering. We wanted to provide a look back on some of this year’s stories, in case you’ve missed some of the exciting news we had in 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011

von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center

From the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

"In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm.

In the real world all rests on perseverance."

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jacobs School Shake Table Puts Snowglobes to the Test

What would happen to your beloved Christmas decorations and family nick-knacks during an earthquake? A team of engineers at the Jacobs School helped answer this question during an episode of the TV show "Totally Unprepared."

The show was trying to help Los Angeles resident Heather Kram figure out what would happen to her unsecured collection of Nightmare Before Christmas snow globes and figurines during a temblor. The seismic testing team at the Jacobs School set up four curio cabinets filled with globes and other curios on one of the school's shake tables.

Two of the cabinets were secured to the wall with furniture straps, the doors were closed with child safety locks and the items on the shelves were glued with museum putty. Meanwhile, for the two other cabinets, the doors were just closed, without latches and their contents just sat on the shelves, unsecured. One of the two was attached to the wall with furniture straps; the other was not.

"That one cabinet doesn't look too good," said Andy Gunthardt, a senior development engineer who supervises the Jacobs School's shake tables.

All four cabinets held steady during a small simulated shaker. But during a major simulated quake, the unstrapped cabinet collapsed and snow globes and figurines flew all over the shake table. The cabinet that was strapped but didn't have museum putty or child locks was emptied of its contents too. Meanwhile, the two fully secured cabinets stood almost undisturbed.

After all the shaking was done, the show's host urged everyone to remember to get prepared. In this case, it means running to the store and getting some furniture straps, child safety locks and museum putty.

Read more about Totally Unprepared's snow globe episode here

The show is funded by the California Emergency Management Agency, the California Earthquake Authority and the California Seismic Safety Commission.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Spam Works

BusinessWeek has a great story and graphic explaining how spammers make their living, based on research by Jacobs School Computer Science Professor Stefan Savage and colleagues here at UC San Diego and at UC Berkeley.

"You pay the money, and you get a product," Savage told BusinessWeek

Researcher Damon McCoy, also in computer science and engineering, was instrumental in putting the graphic together.

Read the story here.

And make sure you take a closer look at the graphic here.

Rainbows as Media Stars

Earlier this week, we posted a news release titled "Computer Simulations Shed Light on the Physics of Rainbows," explaining how an international team of researchers led by a Jacobs School computer science graduate student and his professor, simulated rainbows and gained a better understanding of how real rainbows form in the process.
The story has now become quite a hit with news sites and blogs.
It was featured on the home page of, Discovery Channel news, the New Scientist and In case you missed all the coverage, here are links to some of the stories: Fake Rainbows Lead to Scientific Discovery

CNN Light Years blog: Seeing double: Researchers find rainbow connection

Discovery Channel: Secret of Twinned Rainbows Found in Simulations

MSNBC: Secret of 'Twinned Rainbows' Simulated on a Computer

Science:  "Burgeroids" Cause Double Rainbows "But What Does it Mean?" Computer-Generated Rainbows Reveal Some Answers

New Scientist: Rare twin rainbows simulated in 3D

CNET: CGI hackers discovery secret of rainbows

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Computer Simulations That Will Put You Over the Rainbow

Researchers at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, working with an international team of computer scientists and rainbow experts, used computer simulations to help explain how some rare forms of rainbows form.

Watch our narrated slide shows to learn more:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Shu Chien Lab in New Research Building to Investigate Best Environment to Grow Stem Cells

The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine recently opened its doors on the Torrey Pines Mesa and will be home to 24 principal investigators, including Bioengineering Professor Shu Chien.

Chien’s lab will be dedicated to further developing a technology that allows scientists to identify the best environments to grow stem cells. Creating these environments requires mixing many proteins in a wide range of combinations. The new technology allows researchers to test hundreds of them at once.
Scientists also will investigate the role these proteins, and other factors, including mechanical forces, play in stem cells’ fate. For example, a stiffer matrix can steer the cells toward becoming more like bone cells, while a softer matrix leads to brain-like ones.

Karl Willert, an assistant professor, and David Brafman, a postdoctoral researcher, both in the department of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego, will work with Chien on the project and move their labs to the consortium building.

The team also will work with Organovo, Inc., led by CEO Keith Murphy, on three-dimensional printing of tissues and organs such as blood vessels. Researchers also will work with Richard Rouse, who operates HTS Resources and will develop new printing and spotting technologies.

To learn more about the Sanford Consortium, read this story in This Week @ UC San Diego and this story in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Computer Science Professor Stefan Savage on Computer Security and Online Data

Stefan Savage, a professor in the computer science department, was invited to contribute a piece in the New York Times' feature "Essays on Computing," now online in the paper's Science section and out in hard copy tomorrow.

Some eye-opening excerpts from the essay are below. The full text can be found here.

"We can expect new threats to directly reflect each new technical innovation in how money is used, moved and stored. Emerging cellphone-based payment systems, automated banking transfers and the increasingly liquid markets for online goods in multiplayer games will all be ripe targets for online crooks."

"The ease with which we adopt online personas and relationships has created a collective blind spot that computer technology is well suited to exploit. Advances in natural-language processing and data mining make it entirely feasible to mint millions of “social bots,” each establishing online friendships with their targets like virtual con men, each building trust over time and delivering personalized messages designed to elicit information, sway opinion or call to action.
This idea, which one of my colleagues has called “social architecture,” completely upends traditional computer security concerns: The threat is not of humans controlling or monitoring our computers, but precisely the converse."

"The Stuxnet worm, designed to sabotage gas centrifuges in Iran, made it clear that computer attacks can have physical, real-world consequences — a particularly troubling precedent because computing capabilities are now embedded in virtually every aspect of our lives. The power we use, the water we drink, the cars, planes and trains we travel in, the elevators and air-conditioning in our buildings, even many of our children’s toys — all are controlled by computers.
A parallel trend, fueled by cheap wireless connectivity, is that these devices are increasingly networked. And while few of these systems have been attacked in anger, it is this very fact that leads most of them to be rife with vulnerabilities — a sheltered ecosystem with no immunity to attacks from an outside invader"

Also, Larry Smarr, director of Calit2 and a computer science professor here at the Jacobs School, wrote an essay for the same feature, titled "An Evolution Toward a Programmable Universe." Read it here.

Where in the United States are the Jacobs School's Zero-Pressure Balloons?

Three teams taking an introductory aerospace engineering course this quarter got a unique opportunity last week: they launched three balloons, for which they designed payload and instrumentation.
The students were hoping the balloons would make it to the East Coast. But the ferocious windstorm that blew through the Southwest derailed their plans.
One balloon landed about 50 miles east of Yuma, Ariz., and was recovered by local residents. Another landed 120 miles south of Ensenada, in Mexico, and was also at a local home. Finally, the third balloon touched down 40 miles east of Kingman, Ariz. It's in a remote mountain area, so Kosmatka plans to contact a local Boy Scout troop to help recover it.
The students' efforts were profiled in this San Diego Union-Tribune story.
Also, read our story on the Jacobs School website.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deadlin Extended: Fall Elevator Pitch Competition Entry Deadline

Deadline has been EXTENDED!!

If you've ever had an idea for a business here is your chance to showcase it--and maybe win some money!
1 Page (550 words), $1,000 awarded to the top idea.
The top 8 ideas as evaluated by our judging consortium will pitch their idea live to the audience at our 2011 Winter KickOff in January.
An audience vote will determine who walks away with $1,000.

Link for Submitting Entry:

Judging Criteria :
We all have ideas, submit yours!
Deadline: Tomorrow Friday, December 2, 2011 by 11:59pm

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nurture Affects Gender Differences in Math Abilities, Researcher Says

Nurture plays an important role in shaping math abilities for both men and women, says Moshe Hoffman, a postdoctoral researcher with a joint appointment at the Jacobs School of Engineering and Rady School of Management. That's the conclusion that Hoffman and his Rady School adviser, Uri Gneezy, reached after conducting an extensive study published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hoffman will present his findings during a talk at 2 p.m. today at the Qualcomm Conference Room at Jacobs Hall.

His study already has generated a wave of media coverage. Some examples below:
Time Magazine
The Wall Street Journal

Also, here is the abstract of the paper:
Women remain significantly underrepresented in the science, engineering, and technology workforce. Some have argued that spatial ability differences, which represent the most persistent gender differences in the cognitive literature, are partly responsible for this gap. The underlying forces at work shaping the observed spatial ability differences revolve naturally around the relative roles of nature and nurture. Although these forces remain among the most hotly debated in all of the sciences, the evidence for nurture is tenuous, because it is difficult to compare gender differences among biologically similar groups with distinct nurture. In this study, we use a large-scale incentivized experiment with nearly 1,300 participants to show that the gender gap in spatial abilities, measured by time to solve a puzzle, disappears when we move from a patrilineal society to an adjoining matrilineal society. We also show that about one-third of the effect can be explained by differences in education. Given that none of our participants have experience with puzzle solving and that villagers from both societies have the same means of subsistence and shared genetic background, we argue that these results show the role of nurture in the gender gap in cognitive abilities.

Here is the full text of the paper. 

Make sure to stop by and listen in!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jacobs School Photo Booth at UC San Diego Founders' Day Celebration

Here are some of our favorite photos from the Jacobs School of Engineering photo booth at the UC San Diego Founders' Day celebration. We asked people to draw or write down "What will be the next big innovation or invention?"

Renewable energy, health care and space travel / teleporting were popular, but answers spanned a wide range of topics. What will be the next big innovation or invention? How will it change the world? Your life? (Feel free to leave answers in the comments section, or on our Facebook page:

High resolution versions of these and more photos are on the Jacobs School of Engineering Flickr photostream. Even more photos from the photo booth are on our Facebook page.

A special thanks to Dr. Shu Chien for participating!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Join Us at Founders' Day

Founders' Day is tomorrow and we hope you'll come to see us at our affinity booth. We want you to tell us what will be the next big innovation or invention that will change the world--and your life. You can draw or write your answer at our booth. We'll take your picture and post it on Facebook.
We'll be on Town Square starting at 11:30 a.m. Food trucks offering free food--that's right, we said free food--will be on hand starting at 12:30 p.m. There also will be a short program from noon to 12:30 p.m., including remarks by Prof. Adam Engler, from the department of bioengineering. See you there!

Founders' Day Fun this Friday, Nov 18, 2011

Founders' Day fun tomorrow. Check out the Jacobs School of Engineering booth. (Details on Founders' Day in the Union Tribune.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

DARPA Challenge Comes to UC San Diego

Every few years the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) holds a public competition to stretch the outer limits of what technology can do. Two years ago they dispersed 10 large, red weather balloons at undisclosed locations across the U.S. The celebrated 2009 DARPA Network Challenge to find the balloons was solved in just nine hours by a team from MIT. Now, Manuel Cebrian, a member of that winning team, is aiming for a repeat win – only this time, the challenge is exponentially harder.
According to Dr. Cebrian – who is now a research scientist at the University of California, San Diego – instead of just looking for 10 balloons, the new DARPA Shredder Challenge’s ultimate puzzle involves piecing together roughly 10,000 pieces of different documents that have been shredded. “This is almost certainly the most challenging puzzle ever created,” said Cebrian. “A combinatorial number of possibilities makes the problem intractable by computer algorithms alone. A combination of crowd-sourcing and advanced computer-vision algorithms is necessary. This is exactly our approach.”
Interested in participating or to learn more? Visit the UCSD Shredder Challenge Team online at, or contact the UCSD team at

Fallen Star Hoist Videos

Learn more:

Also, check out a great view of Fallen Star from Octocopter. Learn about the Octocopter project on the Octocopter site at the National Geographic Society.

Untitled from Radley Angelo on Vimeo.

A great video montage from UCSD-TV

Here is another view of the Fallen Star hoist from Bucky.

And a great Fallen Star with shadow pic:

Baby blue siding

They seem to be getting close to hoisting this house clad in baby blue siding.

- Mobile Post

9:30 AM Fallen Star UC San Diego Stuart Collection

It looks like they are testing out the hoisting harness...but I'm no expert.

Learn more about the project:  Fallen Star to Land on Campus this Fall

Fallen Star 9 AM photos

Jacobs School Robot in the Headlines

iFling, a robot developed by Prof. Tom Bewley's Coordinated Robotics Lab, has been grabbing the spotlight this past week. It has been featured on MSNBC's Future of Technology blog, the popular website Gizmodo and the Automaton blog at IEEE Spectrum.
The robot is designed to pick up standard-size ping-pong balls off the floor and fling them across the room (hence the iFling name), all while standing upright and balancing on two wheels, Segway-style. It is currently going through its third design iteration. It could be automated to create teams of bots playing catch together. Or it could be built on a bigger scale and fling tennis balls, baseballs and volleyballs. It could even work without an operator. But bloggers seemed particularly excited by the possibility of iFling becoming dogs' best friend.
A video produced by Bewley's lab showing off iFling's moves had received more than 37,000 views as of Wednesday morning. Watch it for yourself to see what this little robot can do:

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Building: Structural & Materials Engineering Building / Panel Discussion Nov 8

Nov 08, 2011 7pm - 8:50pm - Special Event: SME Building Panel Discussion

Speaker: SME Building Panel 
Location: Center Hall, Room 101
Come learn about the future home for the Department of Structural Engineering, Department of Nanoengineering, Department of Visual Arts and Medical Devices Group. The Structural and Materials Engineering Building (SME) is nearing completion and many parties have been involved in the design-build process from start to finish. Hear about the the dynamic interaction of the various team members (designers, architects, owners, construction managers, and inspectors) required to successfully complete the project. The event will begin with presentations from Safdie Rabines (Architect's point of view), Englekirk Structural Engineering (Design Engineer's point of view), UCSD Facilities Design & Construction (Owner's and Inspector's points of view), and Mortenson Construction (Project Manager's point of view). A question and answer period will follow the presentations.

Don't miss out on this exciting opportunity to learn about your future home!

Contact for Event

Lindsay Walton
Phone: 858-822-3273
Email: lwalton@ucsd.ed

World Premier: Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan

What: World Premier: Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan at Calit2, UC San Diego.

A National Geographic Expedition Documentary featuring
Calit2 Research Scientist, Albert Yu‐Min Lin, PhDA National Geographic Expedition Documentary
featuring Calit2 Research Scientist, Albert Yu‐Min Lin, PhD (and a Jacobs School of Engineering

When: Wednesday, November 9, 2011. 7PM Documentary, 8PM Panel Discussion with the Expedition Team.

Where: Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall | University of California San Diego

Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan will also be featured on the National Geographic Channel
Wednesday, November 9 at the following times: at 9pm EST, 8pm CT, 7pm MT, 9pm PT, 8pm AK, 7pm HI

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jacobs School Alumna Named One of the Top 10 Women to Watch in Tech

Congratulations to CSE alumna Jennifer Arguello, who was recently named one of the Top 10 Women to Watch in Tech by the website Femmeonomics. Arguello landed in the number two spot and was labeled a "stereotype buster." According to the website, Arguello "is a product manager on the apps team at Mozilla, helping to define the next generation of apps and the future of the web. On the technical side, her project is about contributing to web standards by pushing the boundaries of what the web can do today."
See the Top 10 list here.
There's also a Top 50 list you can browse.
You can also visit Arguello's website here. She is a lifetime member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, where she serves on the organization's national board of directors. She also serves on the alumni advisory board for the CSE department at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Nanoengineer Runs the New York Marathon

Dan Kagan usually can be found crafting nano-scale rockets that can detect cancer cells, isolate proteins and provide targeted drug delivery in a lab here at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. But this Sunday, he'll face another challenge: he is running in the New York City Marathon.

Kagan grew up 20 miles outside the city and said he always wanted to run that race. He has run the San Diego and Austin marathon in past years. "I am very excited," he said. 
Kagan is a Ph.D. bioengineering student in professor Joseph Wang’s Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics in the department of nanoengineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering. His research focuses on nano-scale motors that can be propelled in a variety of ways. To develop some of the nanorockets in Wang’s lab, he exploited a relationship between a solution’s silver ion concentration and the speed of gold and platinum nanowires for sensing nucleic acids. He also found a way to make binding to biological targets, such as DNA and RNA, more effective by using microrockets propelled by oxygen bubbles. The motors and rockets are fairly cheap to manufacture – and their motion is visible with a strong magnifying glass. (For related work, Kagan won best NanoEngineering poster at Research Expo 2011.)
Kagan recently was one of five bioengineering Ph.D. students from UC San Diego to become a Siebel Scholar. The award comes with a $35,000 fellowship during the last year of the student's studies.  Kagan plans to use some of the funds to explore possible ideas for a startup company after he graduates in spring 2012. He also plans to use some of the award to help develop a guide to molecular biology protocols and troubleshooting in the lab. Proceeds from the guide’s sales would go to science materials for high school classrooms.
When he isn’t in the lab, Kagan is the cultural coordinator for UC San Diego’s Graduate Student Association. He plans field trips to museums, the symphony and Broadway San Diego shows, among other destinations. He also organized the first-ever graduate student art competition on campus in March. He also enjoys spending time with his fiance, and, of course, running.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Architectural Tours of UC San Diego / Coming in January 2012

Visitor’s Program Offers Special Architectural Tours of Campus
Unique look at noted buildings…Starting in January, UC San Diego will offer a special free "Architectural Tour" of the campus and Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the fourth Sunday of every month.  The hour-and-a-half tour will depart at 2 p.m. from the Gilman Information Pavilion, led by a Visitor’s Program volunteer guide. The tour is based on Dirk Sutro's book, "The Campus Guide, University of California San Diego -- An Architectural Tour.” A prior reading of the book, which is available in the campus bookstore and elsewhere, would provide visitors with an excellent preparation for the tour.  Reservations can be made by calling 858-534-4414 or

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center / CONNECT

CONNECT has a story about the recent "Innovation 101" series entitled "Technology and Innovation in Proof of Concept Centers: Accelerating the Commercialization of University Innovation".  The story includes Dr. Rosibel Ochoa, Director of the von Liebig Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

Read the story on the CONNECT Web site, in the Policy eNEWS archive.

When Robots Go to School

There comes a time in some robots' life when they have to leave the lab and go to elementary school. That time recently came for Switchblade and iFling, two robots developed by the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab led by Prof. Thomas Bewley (

The two robots put on quite a show at Curie Elementary School in the University City neighborhood during science night. They were there to get students excited about science. They successfully accomplished their mission, judging by this video recorded during the event:

 To explain how the high-tech robots move, Bewley and his graduate students, Nick Morozovsky and Saam Ostovari, had brought two low-tech accessories: a broom and a drumstick. They asked students to try and balance each on the palm of their hand. The students soon discovered that the broom was much easier to balance than the drumstick. The math that explains why this happens also helps explains how Switchblade and the much smaller iFling move.

"It was awesomely awesome," one student said, after watching the two robots show off their moves.

Monday, October 31, 2011

TDLC Renewal Grant / NSF $18M

How do humans learn, and how is the element of time critical for learning? The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC), headquartered at UC San Diego in the Institute for Neural Computation, is helping to answer that question, thanks in part to an $18 million renewal grant from the National Science Foundation.
Founded in 2006 with support from the NSF, TDLC is led by Gary Cottrell, professor of computer science and engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. The interdisciplinary team of scientists and educators includes over 40 principal investigators at 17 partner research institutions, including UC Berkeley, Rutgers University at Newark, and Vanderbilt University, in three countries, and in several local San Diego schools.

Better Education for Women in Science & Engineering program (BEWiSE) in Union Tribune

A nice and in-depth story about a science and engineering outreach program for young women in San Diego, in the Union Tribune. The program is Better Education for Women in Science & Engineering program (BEWiSE). Check out the story by Karen Kucher in the Oct 24 issue of the UT entitled "Program inspiring young women to discover science".

Also, some related links from the Jacobs School of Engineering.

IDEA Student Center

Women in Computing @UCSD

UC San Diego Society of Women Engineers

Seismic Outreach team from the Society of Civil and Structural Engineers


COSMOS at UC San Diego

 Saura Naderi / Calit2 MyLab @ Variability Expedition

I'm sure there are other projects, organizations to mention. If you have suggests, please let me know: dbkane at UCSD dot EDU


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

IEEE Pumpkin Carving Contest / Part 1

Out on Warren Mall, engineering students are carving away. I just overheard one student lament that he "can't write integrals in pumpkin". Perhaps, but he seems to have the exponent thing down no problem. More photos on the Jacobs School Flickr site.  (There are lots of students out there with cameras, so hopefully we'll get some more pictures from IEEE student org soon.)

2010 LED Pumkin Carving contest photos.

The event is put on by the UC San Diego student branch of the IEEE. (Read more about UC San Diego IEEE.)

ERA 51: What R U Doing? (Video Contest for Founder's Day) / $200 Prize!

This year the campus is hosting a video contest  “What R U Doing?”   to highlight the remarkable innovations of UC San Diego students, staff, faculty and alumni. The winning video will earn a premiere party at The Loft, with a $200 gift certificate to Zanzibar. Click the graphic above for details.

What are you doing that’s sustainable? How are you giving back to the community? What are you doing to advance technology or to express your creativity? From conducting cutting-edge research to producing original works of art, we know that our campus community is leading the way in innovation and making a positive impact at the university, and in the greater community. In honor of our newest tradition, Founders’ Celebration, the campus is hosting a video contest to showcase what students, staff, faculty and alumni are doing at UC San Diego. Create a video telling us your story and you could win a $200 gift certificate to Zanzibar at The Loft. The contest begins today, Oct. 25, and the winner will be announced Nov. 15—just in time for Founders’ Celebration.

Here’s how it works: create a short video that shows us what you are doing at UC San Diego. Show us through song, dance, performance or any creative method you choose—it can be just you, or recruit your colleagues and friends to be part of the fun! Upload your video to YouTube and post the link to UC San Diego’s new official Facebook page, All video submissions should begin with the sentence “What am I doing in (technology/community service/sustainability/other)…?” and should end by stating your name and relationship to UC San Diego (student/staff/faculty/alumni). The winning video will be chosen by the Founders’ Celebration committee and announced in the Nov. 15 issue of ThisWeek@UCSanDiego, as well as featured on View the complete contest rules.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Well-known Author Doles Out Career Advice During Talk at Jacobs School

Gayle Laakmann McDowell, author of "Cracking the Coding Interview," recently shared career advice for computer science majors at the Jacobs School of Engineering during a talk sponsored by the Women in Computing group at UC San Diego.
Laalmann has worked for Microsoft, Apple and Google. At the latter, she interviewed more than 150 candidates and served on Google's hiring committee for three years. She has a bachelor's and master's in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Wharton School. 
Missed the talk, but still want her advice? Here is the video of the event:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Images from National Medal of Science event / Shu Chien

Screen shots from the live web video feed of the National Medal of Science ceremony at the White House today are on the Jacobs School of Engineering Flickr stream. Congratulations to UC San Diego bioengineering professor Shu Chien. Check out the screen shots on the Jacobs School flickr feed. Read the story on the Jacobs School news site.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jacobs School Shake Table Puts Aquariums to the Test

What would happen to your aquarium during an earthquake? Engineers at the Powell Structural Laboratories here at the Jacobs School of Engineering recently helped the TV show "Totally Unprepared" to answer this question.
They placed two 60-gallon aquariums and two dummies on one of the laboratories' small shake tables. One tank was secured to the wall with $12 worth of furniture straps. The other was not. Engineers then put the whole set up through the lateral ground motion that took place during the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, which registered at 7.2 on the Richter scale. The unsecured aquarium shook and shattered, ultimately falling down on one of the dummies.
Morale of the story: secure your aquarium.
The episode marks the second collaboration between Powell Labs and "Totally Unprepared." Engineers helped put wine racks to the test in a previous episode, which you can watch here
"Totally Unprepared" is funded by the California Emergency Management Agency, the California Earthquake Authority and the California Seismic Safety Commission.

French Kids Magazine Highlights Smell-O-Vision

What better way to make science fun for children than to tell them about Smell-O-Vision? The French magazine "Science et Vie Decouvertes" (Life and Science Discoveries)is doing just that in its November 2011 issue.
The magazine ran a picture of Jacobs School of Engineering Professor Sungho Jin and two of his graduates students, who showed that it is possible to generate an odor, at will, in a compact device small enough to fit on the back of your TV.
The caption can be roughly translate to: "American scientists, well, they've invented a machine that emits smells that you can see on TV! Great!"
The photo is paired with a short story about the seven different families of odors.
You can read more about Jin's proof of concept work here.
Also, here is a link to excerpts from the current issue of Science et Vie Decouvertes.

Tesla Motors CEO Makes Bold Predictions at UC San Diego Event

Solar power will be the leading source of energy in the United States by mid-century. We will be sending men to Mars within the next 25 years. Within the next 20 years, the majority of cars manufactured around the world will be purely electric.
These were some of the predictions made by Elon Musk, CEO of the renowned electric car manufacturing firm Tesla Motors. Musk spoke during the first night of The Atlantic Meets the Pacific event at UC San Diego this week. The three-day conference is a joint venture between UC San Diego and The Atlantic magazine, a well-known, high-end publication.
Musk also is the CEO of SpaceX, which aims to design a rocket for inter-planetary exploration. On top of that, he is the chairman of Solar City, one of the leading providers of solar energy in the United States.
In case you missed it, here is our live Twitter feed from Musk’s talk, with more interesting tidbits from him.

 UCSD engineering 
This concludes our live tweet from The Atlantic Meets the Pacific event at UC San Diego. 
 UCSD engineering 
: SpaceX's focus is to transport many people at very low cost reliably to Mars, even when no one else wants to do it. 
 UCSD engineering 
: Mars is a fixer-upper of a planet. It will take a couple of 100 years to terraform. 
 UCSD engineering 
: We should spend about 1/4 of 1 percent of GDP on space exploration. Less than health care but more than lipstick. 
 UCSD engineering 
: The mood ought to improve. Life is really pretty good. 
 UCSD engineering 
: Daily news should be called "what's worst in the world today?" 
 UCSD engineering 
: What is the future of US as an arena for innovation? 
 UCSD engineering 
: the goal is to get the price of moving to Mars below the costs of a middle class home in California: $500,000 
 UCSD engineering 
: We should try to establish a self-sustaining growing civilization on another planet. Best shot is Mars. 
 UCSD engineering 
: what originally brought him to CA was the find a high-energy storage device for electricity. 
 UCSD engineering 
: In 20 years, majority of cars manufactured purely electric. 15 years after majority of cars on the road will be too.
 UCSD engineering 
: the biggest challenge is to provide solar power at competitive costs without subsidies. 
 UCSD engineering 
Correction: : Solar power will be biggest power source in US by mid-century. 
 UCSD engineering 
: Solar power will be biggest power source in US by turn of century. 
 UCSD engineering 
: How should people think about energy? What role does solar power play? 
 UCSD engineering 
: Interest in electric vehicles goes back to his college years. 
 UCSD engineering 
Musk: With Internet, more info than library of Congress on your iPhone. Wanted to add a brick to that edifice. 
 UCSD engineering 
: in college 3 fields most important: Internet, alternative energy and making life multi-planetary. 
 UCSD engineering 
: How can you be involved in so many fields: PayPal, Solar Power, Tesla, SpaceX, etc. 
 UCSD engineering 
: the theme of the event is confluence of various kinds.  maybe has unified field theory of it all. 
 UCSD engineering 
 and  are on stage. 
 UCSD engineering 
At  event, waiting for  and Fallows to take the stage.