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.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

1. Berkeley in the News will take a break Friday, May 22, and again on Monday, May 25, when the campus will be closed in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Publication will resume on Tuesday, May 26.

2. New Approach Trains Robots to Match Human Dexterity and Speed
New York Times (*requires registration)

A team of Berkeley researchers has trained a two-armed robot to match human dexterity and speed in performing routine tasks considered simple for humans, but which represent significant advances in robotic learning. The tasks include such things as putting a hanger on a rod, inserting a block into a tight space, placing a hammer at the right angle to remove a nail from wood, and learning to screw the cap on a bottle. The work used a powerful artificial intelligence technique known as "deep learning," previously employed in computer vision and speech recognition breakthroughs. The team was led by electrical engineering and computer sciences professors Pieter Abbeel, a roboticist, and Trevor Darrell, a computer vision specialist, along with graduate researchers Sergey Levine and Chelsea Finn.
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3. Lily: the world’s first throw-and-shoot camera

A new camera called Lily, born in a Berkeley robotics lab, is the world's first throw-and-shoot, flying camera. The device is tossed into the air, and four propellers send it flying up to 25 miles per hour while taking high-quality photos and video. It follows the user's bracelet via GPS, which communicates distance, position and speed back to the camera. The camera, which the company resists calling a drone, is equipped with an accelerometer, barometer, GPS, and front- and bottom-facing camera. Alumnus Antoine Balaresque is the CEO and founder of Lily Robotics, and the venture has raised funding from Upside Partnership, SV Angel and High Line Venture Partners, among others. "Our medium- and long-term goal is to democratize flying cameras. Make it available for kids to professional filmmakers," Balaresque says. "There will be different price points and user experiences, but in the next five years we'd like everyone to have cameras."
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4. Discovery by UC Berkeley Scientists May Lead to Home Brewing of Life-Saving Medications

A team of researchers co-led by assistant bioengineering professor John Dueber has made it far easier to produce synthetic morphine using glucose and yeast. The technology is potentially applicable to other drugs as well, including antibiotics and anti-cancer therapies, but a side-effect could be vastly more accessible opiates. “What should we do?" he asks. "What are the steps we should be thinking about so that we can minimize the risk of the illicit use?” Link to video. Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 250 sources around the world.
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5. ‘We Need to Take a Look at the Data’: How 2 Persistent Grad Students Upended a Blockbuster Study
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

A widely cited study on public opinion regarding same-sex marriage has been retracted after Berkeley political science graduate students David Broockman, soon to become an assistant professor at Stanford, and Joshua Kalla reported what they called "irregularities" in the data. The study claimed to demonstrate that people's opinions of same-sex marriage could be changed after short conversations. When the data discrepancies were pointed out, the original data couldn't be produced, and the lead author then asked for the study to be retracted. Broockman is interviewed here.
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6. Op-Ed: The best way to eliminate the gender pay gap? Ban salary negotiations.
Washington Post

Business and leadership professor Laura Kray writes about pay discrimination against women, referring to the case of Ellen Pao, who recently lost a high-profile sex discrimination lawsuit against one of Silicon Valley's biggest venture capital firms. Professor Kray co-authored a study in 2001 finding that fewer than one-third of surveyed business students believed women have the advantage in negotiations, while 48 percent said men have an advantage. Rather than teaching women to "man up," she says the best option for women would be "negotiation-free workplaces." She concludes: "Certainly, it would be best if women were judged and treated just as men are when sitting at the negotiating table. But society’s gender biases and discriminating behavior haven’t been overcome in a generation. Pao’s solution of banning salary negotiations is not ideal, but it has the virtue of being grounded in the reality of the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be."
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7. L.A. firms see peril in tying minimum wage increases to inflation
Los Angeles Times

A story about a provision in the Los Angeles minimum wage hike, which would tie future increases to inflation, cites a study by Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. The researchers found that 20 localities currently have their own minimum wage policies, with all but three indexed to inflation. Economics professor Michael Reich, the institute's director, says he studied San Francisco's experience tying wages to price fluctuations from 2002 to 2013 and found that the strategy worked as intended. At restaurants, he says, wages kept pace with inflation within San Francisco, but not the rest of the Bay Area, while employment grew at the same rate as other nearby counties. Another story on this topic appeared in the New Yorker.
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8. McDonald's faces worker pressure as shareholders meet
BBC Online

In a story about pressure McDonald's is facing to raise employees' wages, Ken Jacobs, head of Berkeley's Labor Center, comments on the decisions of other firms, including Walmart and Target, to raise theirs. "Part of the [wage increases] are due to the fact that as the economy has improved, [corporations] need to do something to hold on to workers -- Walmart was having trouble keeping goods stocked in their stores," he says. "But I don't think McDonald's, without all the protests, would have acted. ... I think the workers [who], really quite courageously, went out on strike have really inspired and moved something that's very big and will have long-term repercussions."
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9. Monkey Cage Blog: How climate change makes the world more violent
Washington Post Online

A pair of Princeton doctoral students write about the threat of growing violence with global warming. The authors cite two studies -- one that linked hotter temperatures to diminished agricultural output and another, co-authored by Berkeley economics professor Edward Miguel, which found that young men are “more likely to take up arms when income opportunities are worse for them in agriculture [...] relative to their expected income as [fighters].”
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10. Why I Declared Our Bedroom a Wireless-Free Zone
CBS SF Bay Area Online

A consumer-investigative reporter writes about why she decided to ban wireless devices from her bedroom. She summarizes an interview with Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at Berkeley's School of Public Health, in which he cited studies linking cell phone radiation to various adverse health effects, including tumors, infertility, developmental delays, and even autism.
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11. ‘Inside Out,’ Pixar’s New Movie From Pete Docter, Goes Inside the Mind
New York Times (*requires registration)

A new Pixar film called "Inside Out," set to arrive in theaters June 19, is set inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl. There were a number of creative challenges involved, and one had to do with depicting the emotions of Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness. To get that right, the filmmakers consulted with psychology professor Dacher Keltner and psychologist Paul Ekman, both of whom are known for their study of emotions.
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12. Berkeley: Morgan lecture kicks off UC Botanical Garden anniversary
Contra Costa Times

The UC Botanical Garden kicked off its 125th anniversary celebration on May 14 with a lecture inside the Julia Morgan Building, previously known as Gitron Hall and moved to the garden from its original central-campus site in 2013. The garden opened in 1890, the same year Morgan enrolled at Berkeley, and Morgan designed the building in 1911 to give senior female students a social hall at a time when women had little access to other facilities on campus. Karen McNeil, an expert on Julia Morgan, gave the lecture, called "Julia Morgan -- Gender, Space and Nature at UC Berkeley."
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13. Berkeley, A Look Back: A significant, now obscure date in city history San Jose Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News (*requires registration)

Sunday, May 24, marks the 149th anniversary of the day a full board meeting of the trustees of the College of California gave the name "Berkeley" to the site on which they would soon build a new campus. The name was chosen after the trustees had taken a walk, stopping at Founders' Rock, where Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road now intersect. They admired the view and considered names like Peralta, Havenhurst, Shelterwood and Billingsgate. Then one of the trustees -- Frederick Billings -- felt inspired to quote from George Berkeley's poem, "On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America," and the name Berkeley resonated with all of them.
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