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Golden Goose Award Goes to Local Physicist for Contribution

Honk if you love science. There is such a thing as the Golden Goose Award, and rest assured, winning it is a good thing.

Larry Smarr of the University of California, San Diego will receive the award in September.

The award, given by a coalition of scientific research groups, recognizes people whose federally funded projects may have seemed impractical at the time, but as the years passed resulted in major benefits to society.

When Smarr was a physicist exploring the cosmos — and the concept of black holes — during the 1980s, he led a movement to create a supercomputer for the academic community to use, eventually pulling in federal funds. Today, high-power computers are a staple of business and everyday life.

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Two people working under Smarr created a graphical Web browser called Mosaic. That was a foundation for widely used browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.

The name Golden Goose Award is a nod, and a counterpoint, to the Golden Fleece Award. U.S. Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin gave the Golden Fleece to projects he felt were wasteful. Proxmire frequently gave his awards to federally funded research.

Smarr directs Calit2, or the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He did his work on black holes and supercomputing as a professor in Illinois.

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Net Gain: MaintenanceNet of Carlsbad closed a $12 million funding round led by Kayne Partners, the companies announced Feb. 19.

MaintenanceNet is a 10-year-old firm that provides warranty and maintenance contract management services. The business counts Cisco Systems Inc., Ingram Micro Inc. and Panasonic Corp. among its customers. Scott Herron is CEO of MaintenanceNet.

Kayne Partners is part of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP, a $25 billion alternative investment management firm.

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Second Thoughts: Qualcomm Inc. is canceling its Snapdragon 802 chip, meant for smart TVs, saying demand for the processor was smaller than anticipated. Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) made the announcement in a blog post dated Feb. 14.

The Snapdragon 802 had been one of Qualcomm’s new product announcements at the Las Vegas consumer electronics show in January. Qualcomm said the decision relates only to the Snapdragon 802 chip and does not affect other products that the company is shipping in the segment.

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Kicked Into Gear: Playdek Inc., a Carlsbad company mentioned a few weeks ago in this space, was successful in its Kickstarter campaign to fund its fantasy role-playing computer game, “Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians.” The company received $660,000 in pledges — slightly exceeding its goal — from 15,800 backers. … Speaking of exceeding your goal, San Diego-based StrongVolt plans to market a solar-powered charger for smartphones. Some 900 backers pledged $68,500 in a Kickstarter campaign that ended Feb. 11. The company sought $10,000.

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Grand Old Party-Tape? This week I wrote about the Internet music world, including Rancho Bernardo’s Slacker Inc. (see article on Page 1).There is a report circulating that Pandora Media Inc., one of the dominant Internet music providers and a San Francisco Bay Area business, is able to target political advertising depending on a handful of demographics — including their listeners’ musical preferences. American Public Media’s “Marketplace” show recently reported that Pandora is leaning on research similar to that from The Echo Nest Corp. Massachusetts-based Echo Nest has found that if you like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, you might be more of a Democrat. If you like Kenny Chesney or Elvis, you might be more of a Republican. Some of this seems blatantly obvious. Some isn’t. Liking Pink Floyd means you might swing Republican. Huh? The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have lots of fans but are bad indicators of party preference. OK, so what music defines a Pete Wilson Republican? Or … let me update this a few decades, for a 2014 congressional race … a Carl DeMaio Republican and a Scott Peters Democrat?

Send San Diego technology news to bradg@sdbj.com.

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