UC Berkeley Science News
News from the University of California, Berkeley
Updated: 7 min 43 sec ago
An expert on supervolcano eruptions, UC Berkeley's Steve Self was the first modern-day scientist to visit Tambora in Indonesia, the site of the largest volcanic eruption in the past 1,000 years. On the 200th anniversary of its eruption in 1815, Self and others are warning of the ever-present dangers of volcanoes like Tambora.
Type Ia supernovae allow astronomers to measure the distances to galaxies and the ever-increasing rate at which our universe is expanding. UC Berkeley postdoc Patrick Kelly has now identified the best, top-of-the-line Type Ia supernovae for measuring cosmic distances, potentially making distance cosmic measurements twice as precise as before.
Lindsey Dougherty's love of the sea eventually led her to UC Berkeley, where she is now a graduate student focusing on one of the ocean's more unusual critters: a clam that flashes in the deep. In a recent interview with Discovery Canada’s science show “Daily Planet,” Dougherty talked about her love of diving and her first encounter with these unusual mollusks.
Ever since he was 5, Jasper Bagley’s idol has been E. O. Wilson, the renowned biologist, widely considered the world’s leading ant expert. On March 25, the 11-year-old insect enthusiast got to meet Wilson at UC Berkeley, where the entomologist was the keynote speaker at a conference on the national parks.
Without UC Berkeley and its alumni, the National Park Service would not be what it is today. In fact it might not even exist. The story of the NPS's founding is detailed in California Magazine as Berkeley, 100 years after gathering alumni, scientists and other influential people for a seminal conference on parks, opens a centennial conference on the future of the parks.
UC San Diego physicist Shelley Wright led a team that included UC Berkeley scientists Dan Werthimer and Geoff Marcy to build a sensitive infrared detector to look for laser signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. The instrument, now scanning the skies from Lick Observatory, was originally proposed by the late Charles Townes, inventor of the laser.
Jennifer Doudna and five other UC Berkeley scientists co-authored a commentary in the journal Science this week urging caution when using new precision DNA scissors to do gene therapy, and strongly discouraged their use to alter the human genome in ways that can be inherited. Doudna is one of the co-inventors of this technology, referred to as CRISPR-Cas9.
Many plants today, like maples and ashes, have seeds that whirl as they fall. But the first plants that made whirling seeds were the conifers 270 million years ago. UC Berkeley paleobotanist Cindy Looy now explains the surprising fact that while early conifers had several different whirling seed designs, only one design survives today.
Is the mysterious dark matter that makes up 26 percent of the universe composed of a hypothetical particle called an axion, instead of the formerly popular WIMP? The Heising-Simons Foundation gave UC Berkeley physicist Dmitry Budker and nuclear engineering Karl van Bibber funds to look for axions with two different experimental techniques.
Carolyn Porco, a veteran planetary scientist and leader of the imaging team on NASA's Cassini mission at Saturn, has accepted dual invitations to be a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and a Distinguished Scholar within UC Berkeley's Department of Astronomy. Porco is known for her work on the Voyager and Cassini missions and her award-winning efforts to engage the public in appreciation of the scientific enterprise.
Capturing carbon from power plants is likely in the future to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but current technologies are very expensive. A new material, a diamine-appended metal-organic framework, captures and releases CO2 with much reduced energy costs compared to today's technologies, potentially lowering the cost of capturing this greenhouse gas.
Astronomers now use massive galaxies and clusters of galaxies as magnifying lenses to study the early universe, but until now had never observed the brief flash of a supernova. UC Berkeley postdoc Patrick Kelly found such a supernova in images taken last year by the Hubble Space Telescope, split into a rare Einstein Cross.
Jennifer Doudna and James Nuñez are probing the CRISPR/Cas9-based immune system that bacteria have developed to prevent viruses from killing them, and have discovered how they “steal” genetic information from these foreign invaders to remember and attack them in the future. Doudna hopes this information will help to improve targeted gene editing in human and animal cells.
Highly anxious people have more trouble deciding how best to handle life’s uncertainties. They may even catastrophize, interpreting, say, a lover’s tiff as a doomed relationship or a workplace change as a career threat. Investigating this dynamic, scientists have found evidence of a glitch in the brain’s higher-order decision-making circuitry that could eventually be targeted in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab scientist Jill Banfield and colleagues have for the first time snapped detailed microscopic photos of what may be the smallest forms of life on Earth: common bacteria that appear to pack their DNA very tightly. The team also sequenced the genomes of these strange bacteria.