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Monkeys for equal pay (and every cat for itself)

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 12:18
In a campus appearance hosted by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, primatologist Frans de Waal discussed his research on "the emotional side of animal behavior" — behavior, he insists, more like our own than some humans admit.

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 11:00
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.

Endocrine disruptors cost at least $175 billion annually in the E.U.

News from the GreenChemBlog - Sat, 03/07/2015 - 12:30
Hormone-disrupting flame retardants often found in children’s toys and furniture were some of the chemicals investigated (jingdianjiaju/Flickr)

An international panel of scientists has found that endocrine disrupting chemicals likely cost the European Union over 100 billion dollars annually — and American officials say this expense could be even higher in the U.S.

The scientific panel, convened by the Endocrine Society, adopted strategies created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  to evaluate how much causation of a particular disorder could be attributed to a particular chemical. For example, they found 70-100% probability that polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and organophosphates contribute to IQ loss, based on previously published epidemiological studies. They then estimated the costs incurred to the European Union from health issues caused by exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The health effects investigated included neurobehavioral disorders, male reproductive health issues, and diabetes, and the total cost was found to be at least 100 billion dollars.

Linda Birnbaum, the top U.S. environmental health official, told National Geographic news that the panel’s findings on endocrine disruptors are a “wake-up call,” and added that, “If you applied these [health care] numbers to the U.S., they would be applicable, and in some cases higher.” Levels of exposure to endocrine disruptors are generally much higher among Americans than they are for citizens of the European Union.

The biggest contributors to cost were the effects of the chemicals on children’s brain development, potentially resulting in attention-deficit disorders and lost I.Q. points.

The scientists released their work in a series of studies  published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (and summarized in this National Geographic news article). The studies were conducted at the behest of the European Commission for an impact assessment on the social cost of endocrine disrupting chemicals. The results will be used to inform future E.U. regulations as part of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) program and other legislation.

Mallory Pickett is a former chemist and a science journalism student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism


Bakar Fellow targets cancer’s disposal system

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 16:18
Andreas Martin, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, has developed novel systems and strategies to screen for compounds that selectively inhibit protein turnover in the cell and may lead to new drugs against cancer. His work is supported by the Bakar Fellows Program.

Distant supernova split four ways by gravitational lens

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 12:00
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.

Probing bacterial immune system could help improve human gene editing

UC Berkeley Science News - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 09:28
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.

Anxious people more apt to make bad decisions amid uncertainty

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 09:00
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.

First detailed look at the guts of world’s smallest lifeforms

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 13:47
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.

Bakar Fellow works to bring the invisible to light

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:58
EECS professor Laura Waller is working on computational imaging methods for quantitative phase microscopy, which can be applied in a variety of scientific and industrial settings. Her work is supported by the Bakar Fellows Program for young faculty whose work holds commercial promise.

UC’s first Nobel Prize presented in Berkeley 75 years ago

UC Berkeley Science News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:00
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.

Back to the future: Berkeley and the national parks start a second century of science

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:23
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."

Study IDs key birds that host Lyme disease bacteria in California

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00
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.

Why do geysers erupt? Loops in their plumbing

UC Berkeley Science News - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 09:44
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.

U.S.-Cuba relations: A historic change, but pitfalls ahead

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 16:23
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.

Sloan fellowships give research boost to nine young faculty members

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 11:00
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.

Astronomers, physicists celebrate as Campbell Hall rises again

UC Berkeley Science News - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 16:03
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.

How a student’s good idea has cut water use and could save money, too

UC Berkeley Science News - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 13:04
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.

Brain’s iconic seat of speech goes silent when we actually talk

UC Berkeley Science News - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 13:00
The brain's speech area, named after 19th century French physician Pierre Paul Broca, shuts down when we talk out loud, according to a new study that challenges the long-held belief that "Broca's area" governs all aspects of speech production.

Creating love in the lab: The 36 questions that spark intimacy

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 15:00
Around the time of the Summer of Love in 1967, Arthur Aron, then a UC Berkeley graduate student in psychology, kissed fellow student Elaine Spaulding in front of Dwinelle Hall, and formed a romantic and professional partnership. Among the couple's most enduring claims to fame are 36 questions that break down the barriers to intimacy, a fitting topic this Valentine's Day.

Berkeley, the National Park Service and the vital role of science in the parks

UC Berkeley Science News - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:23
"Science for the Parks, the Parks for Science: The Next Century," a new video collaboration by UC Berkeley and the National Park Service, takes viewers along to see firsthand the value of science in the national parks. Next month, Berkeley is co-hosting a conference on the parks as they enter their second century.