Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

1. 95-Degree Days: How Extreme Heat Could Spread Across the World
New York Times (*requires registration)

A new map based on an analysis from the Climate Impact Lab, co-directed by public policy professor Solomon Hsiang, shows how 95-degree days are expected to multiply within this century according to various climate-action scenarios, including no action. In addition to highlighting the global consequences of climate change, the maps should help cities and regions plan for the future by, for example, adding green spaces or increasing the reflectivity of rooftops to cool city centers. "Right now, when you start talking to people about higher temperatures, they tend to think, great, more beach days," Professor Hsiang says. "What's often less appreciated is just how much an extremely hot day can distort our lives in all sorts of ways we don't often even think about."
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2. Sustainable Design of Communities
Scientific American

Neighborhood efforts to reduce fossil fuel and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, could go beyond serving as a model for sustainability by providing local construction jobs and revitalizing entire communities, energy professor Daniel Kammen writes in a commentary about the Oakland EcoBlock project he is co-leading with architecture and urban design professor Harrison Fraker. The multidisciplinary effort, which is already attracting global attention, will retrofit 30 to 40 old homes in a lower- to middle-income neighborhood. "In the past decade, the construction and retrofitting of individual homes to reduce energy and water use has grown explosively," Professor Kammen says. "Yet applying green construction to multiple buildings at once may be an even better idea. Sharing resources and infrastructure could reduce waste, and retrofitting impoverished or moderate-income neighborhoods could also bring cost savings and modern technology to people who would normally lack such opportunities. Working at the neighborhood level does add complexity to planning, but these neighborhood efforts offer rewards that even green single-family homes cannot offer."
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3. Crispr Offers a Leap Forward for Diagnosing Disease
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

The revolutionary gene-editing technology CRISPR, co-invented by molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna, has garnered plenty of attention for its promise in curing heritable diseases, but less-well-known is its potential for providing fast, cheap, and accurate diagnoses of disease. Its breakthrough is that tests may be developed to use in the field and at home, without requiring the specialized analysis by technicians or labs that current blood tests do. Professor Doudna has been active on the diagnostics angle since 2016, when her lab published a paper demonstrating how the protein Cas13a can be useful in detecting sequences of RNA in a virus. And last month, her team published a paper about 10 new CRISPR enzymes that are variants of the Cas13a protein, opening up new diagnostic options. "It's tantalizing to go after that," she says.
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4. Earthquake Swarm Rocking Truckee Residents

A swarm of earthquakes measuring up to 3.9 magnitude woke many residents of the Truckee and Lake Tahoe area early this morning, as if to confirm warnings issued by Berkeley seismologists earlier this month. The researchers had reported that the shifting weights of snow and rain and spring runoff in the Sierra Nevada and Coast ranges trigger small temblors on earthquake faults each year. They had looked at nine years of GPS measurements, calculating how much stored water stresses faults, and how the seasonal stress changes can lead to thousands of quakes in the often unnoticeable 2.0 magnitude range. "What we see is this change in the smaller earthquakes that we're using in this study," says co-author Chris Johnson, an earth and planetary science graduate student. "There's a response to the faults from these really small, subtle motions." The team says that the most active times for this kind of temblor is in the late spring/early summer in the Sierra, and summer/early fall closer to the Coast. Link to video. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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5. Will Your Next Password Be a Brainwave?

Berkeley's Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity is working on new online authentication methods that could overcome lapses in current biometric methods, writes the center's executive director, Betsy Cooper. The team, led by information and electrical engineering and computer sciences professor John Chuang, is developing a three-factor biometric authentication that is "both unique to the individual and changeable," because it employs our brainwaves and so-called "passthoughts." She writes: "Imagine wearing a small device in your ear, shaped like an earbud. Now think a phrase, let's say 'Mary had a little lamb.' Now imagine that, as you think the phrase, the small device reads your brainwaves, using an EEG sensor. It identifies a particular pattern of brainwaves. Now think the phrase again. In early studies, our researchers have uncovered that you will see a repeatable pattern of brainwaves, when provoked by the same thought. Even better, if I think the same phrase that you were thinking, I will have a repeatable patternóbut it won't be the same as yours. ... With new techniques like 'passthoughts,' we're hoping to create a more secure online future."
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6. Wonkblog: A 'very credible' new study on Seattle's $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals
Washington Post (*requires registration)

A new University of Washington study of the effects of Seattle's minimum wage increases claims that the costs to low-wage workers outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one. The findings are stirring debate among experts in the field, because they contradict numerous other studies, including research by Berkeley economists David Card and Michael Reich. Professor Reich recently co-authored another study on the topic. He says of the contradictory researcher's methods: "I think they underestimate hugely the wage gains, and they overestimate hugely the employment loss. ... Their results are so out of the range." Professor Reich's study, which used more conventional methods and federal survey data, showed that the minimum wage increases raised wages for workers in the restaurant industry without reducing employment overall. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, USA Today, Inc., and Vox.
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7. Op-Ed: Trump's 'emoluments' defense argues he can violate the Constitution with impunity. That can't be right
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

"When the president of the United States violates the Constitution there must be a way for a federal court to hear the case and provide a remedy," writes incoming law dean Erwin Chemerinsky in a commentary about three different lawsuits alleging that Donald Trump is violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution by receiving unlawful payments or other benefits from foreign governments and from the United States. He concludes: "All too often in recent years, the Supreme Court has closed the federal courts to injured individuals by restricting the definition of who has standing to sue. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that the federal courts be available to enforce the Constitution. What is at stake is the central tenet of our democracy: No one, not even the president, is above the law."
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8. Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana
NBC News Online

A new analysis of police data has shown that traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012. While the overall drop in searches meant that fewer minorities were unfairly targeted, blacks and Hispanics were still searched at higher rates than whites. As public policy professor Jack Glaser points out: "As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious."
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9. A century of Berkeley students have come to these woods -- for very different reasons
Sacramento Bee (*requires registration)

Berkeley forestry students, alumni and faculty celebrated 100 years of summer fieldwork at the school's Meadow Valley Forestry Camp in Plumas County last weekend. Today, the camp is one of just a few of its kind left in the country, and is the only one in California. "This is where [students] establish relationships with forests and people, and develop professional field skills," said event host Rick Standiford, a UC Cooperative Extension forest management specialist who taught at Berkeley for 37 years. While noting how social attitudes about forestry have changed over the years, he says one thing remains the same: "They come here passionate about forests and forest processes. I don't think that ever goes away."
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10. Officials demonstrate water rescue at San Francisco's Ocean Beach

Geography professor Francis Smith has been on a campaign this summer to make sure visitors to local beaches understand the risks of rip currents, and how to survive them. In a demonstration at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, he pointed out that the lethal currents are often found where the waves look calmest. If you're caught in one, he says: "Let the current take you out. It'll probably take you out beyond the breakers. Look for the shore, swim parallel to shore, and then surf the waves back in." Link to video. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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