UC Berkeley Science News

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News from the University of California, Berkeley
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

Why the Nepalese quake was so destructive

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 13:28
The earthquake that ripped across Nepal and its neighbors on Saturday was the world's strongest quake so far this year. Scientists on UC Berkeley's Seismo Blog look at what caused it and why it was so devastating.

Astronomers join forces to speed discovery of habitable worlds

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 08:39
UC Berkeley astronomer James Graham is leading a coalition of planet-searchers in an effort to more efficiently find habitable planets around other stars, and perhaps extraterrestrial life itself. The project is one of 16 funded by NASA's new NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science) initiative.

Nanowire-bacteria hybrid converts carbon dioxide into plastic

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 15:53
Chemists Peidong Yang, Christopher Chang and Michelle Chang have created a nanowire structure that captures carbon dioxide from the air and, with the help of sunlight, makes acetate, a building block for plastics and other chemicals. The researchers call it a "revolutionary leap forward in the field of artificial photosynthesis."

Doudna among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 08:32
Time magazine has named Jennifer Doudna, a professor of molecular and cell biology, to its 2015 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The list also includes President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and rapper Kanye West.

Opinion: Seismo Blog details Bay Area quake risk

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 13:19
In its 100th entry since its launch in 2008, the UC Berkeley Seismology Laboratory’s “Seismo Blog” offers an up-to-date, more detailed map of earthquake risk in the larger San Francisco Bay Area.

What happens when you put a hummingbird in a wind tunnel?

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 08:00
KQED producer Sheraz Sadiq joined UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher Victor Ortega in Robert Dudley’s Animal Flight Laboratory to film hummingbirds in action for a “Deep Look” segment, “What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel?”

New target for anticancer drugs: RNA

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 08:00
UC Berkeley researchers Jamie Cate and Amy Lee have found that a subset of messenger RNAs – many of which have been linked to cancer – have unique tags that make them promising targets for anticancer drugs. These short RNA tags bind to a protein, eIF3, that regulates translation at the ribosome.

Calaveras-Hayward fault link means potentially larger quakes

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 12:03
UC Berkeley seismologists have proven that the Hayward and Calaveras faults are essentially the same system, meaning that a rupture on one could trigger a rupture on the other, producing considerably larger quakes than once thought.

200th anniversary of Tambora eruption a reminder of volcanic perils

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 06:00
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.

Astronomers upgrade their cosmic light bulbs

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 13:53
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.

Student has fun exploring disco clam’s underwater world

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 12:34
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.

Young bug enthusiast meets his hero, E.O. Wilson

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 09:10
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.

Love national parks? Thank UC Berkeley

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:01
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.

New Lick instrument scans infrared for signals from alien civilizations

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 15:38
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.

Even at a molecular level, taking it slow helps us cope with stress

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 11:00
UC Berkeley scientists have identified a new molecular pathway critical to aging. They found that by slowing down the activity of mitochondria in the blood stem cells of mice, they could enhance the cells' capacity to handle stress and rejuvenate old blood.

Scientists urge caution in using new CRISPR technology to treat human genetic disease

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 11:00
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.

Altering brain chemistry makes us more sensitive to inequality

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 09:00
What if there were a pill that made you more compassionate? A new study finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.

Conifers’ helicoptering seeds are result of long evolutionary experiment

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 09:20
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.

Two new projects will search for dark matter axions

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 09:50
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.

Bakar Fellow Shawn Shadden is using computer modeling to sharpen diagnostic tools

Fri, 03/13/2015 - 13:58
Bakar Fellow Shawn Shadden, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, has developed computational strategies designed to serve as diagnostic tools to better inform treatment for medical conditions including stroke, heart disease and osteoporosis.