UC Berkeley Science News

Syndicate content
News from the University of California, Berkeley
Updated: 43 min 36 sec ago

Nobel laureate and laser inventor Charles Townes dies at 99

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 16:52
Charles Hard Townes, a professor emeritus of physics who built the first microwave amplifier -- the maser -- and designed the first laser, died Jan. 27 at the age of 99. After receiving the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics, he went on to pioneer the use of lasers in astronomy.

Long dry spell doomed Mexican city 1,000 years ago

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 09:58
The former city and now archaeological site called Cantona in the highlands east of Mexico City appears to have been abandoned nearly 1,000 years ago as a result of a prolonged dry spell that lasted about 650 years, according to a new study by geography graduate student Tripti Bhattacharya and professor Roger Byrne.

Edible Education 101 livestreams tonight

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 14:23
UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan kicks off the popular Edible Education 101 course tonight, and his lecture on the modern food system will be livestreamed starting at 6:30 p.m. Guest lecturers this semester include Mark Bittman and Eric Schlosser.

Lentils, a mighty force for improving the food system

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 17:00
“Lentil Underground,” a new book by a recent Ph.D. and ongoing researcher at UC Berkeley, makes the case that lentils could help restore American farmland and farmers whose soil and profits have been depleted by decades of industrial agriculture.

Opinion: Making a brain map we can use

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 17:00
What is the brain, and how can we better understand how it works? On the NPR website "13.7 cosmos & culture," UC Berkeley philosopher Alva Noë thinks out loud about an ambitious project to map the brain's system of connections, cell by cell.

Scientists set quantum speed limit

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:30
The flip side of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the energy time uncertainty principle, establishes a speed limit for transitions between two states. UC Berkeley physical chemists have now proved this principle for transitions between states that are not entirely distinct, allowing the calculation of speed limits for processes such as quantum computing and tunneling.

Warmer, drier climate altering forests statewide

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 13:04
Thanks to historical data preserved in UC Berkeley's libraries, campus botanists have been able to compare tree survey data from the 1920s and '30s with forest service data today. They find a decline in large trees and an increase in the density of small trees in forests throughout the state. The large tree decline seems to be caused by water stress.

Was first nuclear test the start of new human-dominated epoch, the Anthropocene?

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 13:57
Is Earth at the dawn of a new geological epoch dominated by human-influenced geologic and environmental change? Anthony Barnosky is part of a group that proposes that this new era, called the Anthropocene, indeed began at the start of the nuclear era with the 1945 Trinity nuclear bomb test in New Mexico.

Three nearly Earth-size planets found orbiting nearby star

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 06:00
A team of astronomers has found the closest star yet with cool, Earth-size planets that could have the characteristics - solid surface and lukewarm temperatures - conducive to life. The team includes grad student Erik Petigura, Geoff Marcy and colleagues at the universities of Arizona and Hawaii.

Historic plutonium sample traced to Seaborg, Manhattan Project

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 17:40
A tiny sliver of plutonium safely stored on the UC Berkeley campus is making news for its connection to a momentous point in history. Nuclear scientists have recently determined with near certainty that the plutonium was created by a team led by the late UC Berkeley chemist Glenn Seaborg as part of the Manhattan Project.

Q&A: Alivisatos, Kavli directors explore future of nanoscience

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:00
In advance of the inaugural symposium Jan. 15-16 of the new Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute, Kavli ENSI director Paul Alivisatos joins Paul McEuen, director of the Kavli institute at Cornell, and Nai-Chang Yeh, director of the Kavli institute at Caltech, to discuss the future of nanoscience.

World’s oldest butchery tools gave evolutionary edge to human communication

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 09:00
Two and a half million years ago, our hominin ancestors in the African savanna crafted rocks into shards that could slice apart a dead gazelle, zebra or other game animal. Over the next 700,000 years, this butchering technology spread throughout the continent and, it turns out, came to be a major evolutionary force, according to new research that combines the tools of psychology, evolutionary biology and archaeology.

Blocking hormone could eliminate stress-induced infertility

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 17:00
Berkeley scientists show that the effects of chronic stress on fertility persist long after the stress is gone. This is because a hormone that suppresses fertility, GnIH, remains high even after stress hormone levels return to normal. In rats, they successfully blocked the hormone gene and restored normal reproductive behavior, suggesting therapeutic potential for stressed humans and animals in captive breeding programs.

Rise in mass die-offs seen among birds, fish and marine invertebrates

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 13:00
An analysis of 727 studies reveals that there have been more instances of rapid, catastrophic animal die-offs over the past 75 years. These mass kills appear to have hit birds, fish and marine invertebrates harder than other species.

How songbirds may help build a better hearing aid

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 11:51
UC Berkeley psychologist Fred Theunissen's work on songbirds could help improve hearing aids to allow people to home in on specific sounds in noisy environments, a particular problem for the hard of hearing. He and his graduate students study zebra finches, which are especially adept at listening in crowded, noisy environments, and developed an algorithm for reducing distortion in hearing aids.

Unique Sulawesi frog gives birth to tadpoles

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 12:00
Amid the amazing biodiversity of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi lives a 5-gram frog that gives direct birth to tadpoles, without ever laying eggs. This unique reproductive strategy, found in a group of fanged frogs endemic to the island, is described for the first time by UC Berkeley herpetologist Jim McGuire and colleagues from Indonesia and Canada.

Berkeley gamma-ray experiment tests new balloon technology over Antarctica

Mon, 12/29/2014 - 12:07
Berkeley physicist Steve Boggs leads a new gamma-ray experiment launched over Antarctica on Dec. 28 aboard the first of NASA's new 'super pressure' balloons, which aim to keep experiments aloft for more than 100 days. The experiment, the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), searches for polarized gamma rays from exploding stars and other cosmic phenomena.

UC Berkeley 2014: The year in pictures

Tue, 12/23/2014 - 09:00
Marked by a monthlong celebration of the Free Speech Movement and the unveiling of plans for an ambitious new Berkeley Global Campus, 2014 at UC Berkeley was both a year to remember and a time to reimagine the future.

Berkeley researchers develop new standard for sharing neuroscience data

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 09:15
Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a computational framework for standardizing neuroscience data to assist data sharing among neuroscientists worldwide, much as the jpeg and TIFF standards have made sharing digital images easy. The researchers are part of the UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab and UCSF partnership called BRAINSeed.

Sensing distant tornadoes, birds flew the coop. What tipped them off?

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 10:00
A UC Berkeley-led research team found that golden-winged warblers in Tennessee fled the path of tornado-generating storms one to two days ahead, well before any local signs of troubling weather. Signs point to the use of infrasound as Mother Nature's early warning system.