UC Berkeley Science News
News from the University of California, Berkeley
Updated: 23 min 37 sec ago
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.
UC's first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1939 to Ernest Lawrence for the invention of the atom smasher, but the prize ceremony in Sweden was canceled because of looming war in Europe. So Sweden shipped the prize to San Francisco, and the Swedish consul general presented it to Lawrence on Feb. 29, 1940, during a special white-tie ceremony in Wheeler Hall.
A conference focusing on the science emphasis of the National Park Service’s centennial will take place March 25-27 at UC Berkeley, exactly a century after an historic conference on campus paved the way for the birth of the NPS. The conference is called "Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century."
A new UC Berkeley-led study has found that birds are more important than previously recognized as hosts for Lyme disease-causing bacteria in California. Small mammals have been identified in previous studies as wildlife hosts of the Lyme disease spirochete bacterium in California, but fewer studies have looked at the role of birds as reservoirs.
Volcanologist Michael Manga and his students have studied geysers in Chile and Yellowstone National Park, threading sensors and cameras into the boiling water, and have come up with an explanation for why geysers erupt periodically. They've even built a laboratory geyser that erupts every 20 minutes. The key: the loops and bends in their plumbing.
December's announcement that Cuba and the United States would take steps toward normalizing relations was historic, but bumps and potholes lie ahead, writes Harley Shaiken, chair of Berkeley’s Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), in his introduction to the cover story of the new Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies. The magazine can be viewed online.
Nine UC Berkeley faculty members were awarded 2015 Sloan Research Fellowships to boost their early-career research. They are Naomi Ginsberg and Thomas Maimone in chemistry; Benjamin Handel in economics; Vivek Shende, Richard Bamler and Lin Lin in mathematics; Helen Bateup and Polina V. Lishko in neuroscience; and James Analytis in physics.
On Thursday, Feb. 12, the campus celebrated the resurrection of Campbell Hall, the home of the astronomy department with a literal and figurative bridge to the physics department. Aside from new offices & classrooms, the building houses a new precision measurement lab and a new telescope and teaching observatory.
When Karen Andrade, a Ph.D. student in the School of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, came to UC Berkeley, she was surprised to discover how challenging it was for outside organizations to partner with students and faculty on research projects. She came up with the idea of Science Shop to fill the gap. Its first project could result in water and cost savings at University Village.