The Quantum Pontiff

New DARPA Director

DARPA, you know the people who invented the internet (“100 geniuses connected by a travel agent”), has a new director:

The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the appointment of Regina E. Dugan as the 19th director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA is the principal agency within the DoD for research, development, and demonstration of concepts, devices, and systems that provide highly advanced military capabilities for the current and future combat force. In this role of developing high-risk, high-payoff projects, DARPA compliments and balances the overall science and technology program of the DoD.

Go MechE’s from Caltech! DARPA’s last director Tony Tether ruffled a lot of feathers as it was widely perceived that the agency was shifting to short term research at the expense of the kind of groundbreaking work that had been funded in the past (See Peter Lee for details and recommendations for changes at DARPA.) Hopefully Dr. Dugan will take a different tack. That would certainly make a lot of computer science researchers a lot happier.

Comments

  1. #1 Rod
    July 2, 2009

    I think the expression is “take a different tack,” as in “sail in a different direction,” or more precisely, “take a different path toward the same goal.” But, in this case, if he ruffled feathers and she doesn’t, that might indeed be “taking a different tact.” :-)

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    July 3, 2009

    Doh.

  3. #3 Gray Gaffer
    July 9, 2009

    I trust you were being snarky with “DARPA, you know the people who invented the internet”? Didn’t start that way. They wanted a battle-field hardened communications protocol. It was the “long haired hippy weirdo” programmers at the Universities and research institutions (and some corporations) who turned it into the Internet for their own use. (Note: I used that description for myself back in those days. Did some work on auto-routing packets around broken links). I’d also bet that whatever DARPA and DOD use these days bears little resemblance to what we use.

    That being said, DARPA did fund many very interesting technologies, not all of which got swept immediately under the black rug. Some made it out into public view, at least eventually. HUD technologies, for example. Real Virtuality, which was being worked on in the 70′s. Head-mounted displays and eye-trackers. All with obvious military implications (hence the DARPA funding), but also all of which turn out to be useful in the more geeky everyday ways. I believe DARPA’s focus lately was narrowing down to things that are more engineering problems than the pure research they used to fund. I hope this guy resuscitates the wider tradition.

  4. #4 MikeB
    July 13, 2009

    Gray,

    I think your commentary inappropriately suggests that DARPA has a tendency to sweep things into the black. It’s just not true. Aside from ARPANET and the technologies you mention, how about GaAs MMICs which pretty much enabled all cell-phone technology? Stealth? The M16? MEMS? Militarily focused, to be sure, but they’ve had serious impacts on our entire technology base. For a wider view on what DARPA has funded that is and has been out in the open, look at http://www.darpa.mil

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