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Three nearly Earth-size planets found orbiting nearby star

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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

UC Berkeley Science News - 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.