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, 28 May 2015

1. Berkeley in the News will take a break on Friday, May 29, resuming publication on Monday, June 1.

2. New technique allows study of clouds in 3-D

A team including UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers is collecting three-dimensional data on cloud behavior that will help one of the team members -- assistant earth and planetary sciences professor David Romps -- measure how fast clouds rise. This sheds light on a range of climate factors, such as lightning rates, extreme precipitation, and the ozone hole, and it will help scientists improve global climate models. Professor Romps says: "We want to answer a very basic question: with what speeds do clouds rise through the atmosphere? This is very difficult to answer by any technology other than stereophotogrammetry. ... Knowing their speeds is important for several reasons; the important one is that we lack a really basic understanding of what processes control these clouds, the levels they peter out at, and how buoyant they are."
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3. A New Theory to Explain the Higgs Mass
Quanta Magazine

A team of scientists, including assistant physics professor Surjeet Rajendran, has come up with a new solution to a 30-year-old puzzle that could, in simple terms, explain how a magnet can lift a paperclip against the gravitational pull of the whole planet. According to the article: "Their solution traces the hierarchy between gravity and the other fundamental forces back to the explosive birth of the cosmos, when, their model suggests, two variables that were evolving in tandem suddenly deadlocked. At that instant, a hypothetical particle called the 'axion' locked the Higgs boson into its present-day mass, far below the scale of gravity. The axion has appeared in theoretical equations since 1977 and is deemed likely to exist. Yet no one, until now, noticed that axions could be what the trio calls 'relaxions,' solving the hierarchy problem by 'relaxing' the value of the Higgs mass."
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4. How a robotic cockroach and bird teamed up
Christian Science Monitor

Researchers at Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, led by electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Ron Fearing, have designed a robot capable of both flying through the air and crawling on land. They accomplished the feat by pairing the lab's running VelociRoACH with its flying H2Bird ornithopter. The team believes the robot could have applications for medical and emergency services, and they are presenting their paper at the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society meeting in Seattle this week. Link to video. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including the French Tribune.
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5. ‘Deep Learning’ Will Soon Give Us Super-Smart Robots

An article about "deep learning" in the development of artificial intelligence mentions new work at Berkeley, in which researchers have developed a robotic system that uses deep learning technology to teach itself how to screw a cap onto a bottle. One member of the team -- electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Trevor Darrell -- says the team is also exploring use of the technology in autonomous automobiles. He says: "From a researcher's perspective, there are many commonalities in what it takes to move an arm to insert a peg into a hole and what it takes to navigate a car or a flying vehicle through an obstacle course." Related stories appeared in Tech Republic, Science World Report, iSchoolGuide, and iProgrammer.
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6. RN Breakfast: Artificial intelligence expert sounds alarm on robots that can kill
ABC Radio Australia

Electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Stuart Russell, director of Berkeley's Center for Intelligent Systems, discusses ethical concerns related to the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, or LAWS, which could kill people without human direction. He just wrote about this in an opinion piece in the journal Nature, noting that the technology is moving far ahead of the law. Link to audio.
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7. California could soon legalize motorcycle lane-splitting
Los Angeles Times

The state legislature is considering legislation that would sanction the practice of motorcycle lane-splitting, when bikers overcome rush-hour traffic by riding between cars in different lanes. The measure would allow the practice only when motorcycles travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic, and only up to a maximum speed of 50 mph. The speed limits were determined with the help of the CHP and a safety study conducted by research epidemiologist Tom Rice. The study, soon to be released, investigated 6,000 California motorcycle accidents — 1,000 of them involving lane-splitting — and concluded that legalizing the practice was safer than outlawing it, since accidents were more common when motorcycles idled in stopped traffic.
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8. In Central Coast cattle region, drought continues to shrink the herds
Los Angeles Times

A story about the stress the California drought is placing on trees and wildlife mentions a study co-conducted by Berkeley graduate student Andrew Weitz. The team is sampling forests to determine the level of water stress in selected trees. They’ve been finding that trees are struggling worse than the lead researcher has ever seen, and it’s only the beginning of the dry season now.
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9. Wonkblog: Why this Fed official believes the central bank should rethink everything
Washington Post Online (*requires registration)

A new working paper by St. Louis Fed President James Bullard claims that the Federal Reserve is trying to revive the economy by aiming at the wrong target – keeping its benchmark interest rate at zero. He suggests that instead the Fed should set a target for how fast the economy should grow, a policy known as nominal gross domestic product targeting. Other prominent economists, including Berkeley economics professor Christina Romer, have also supported the nominal GDP concept.
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10. The Human Family Tree Bristles With New Branches
New York Times (*requires registration)

A story about the whirlwind of recent studies on newly discovered bones or stone tools that are prompting reconsideration of certain tenets of human evolution quotes integrative biology professor and paleoanthropologist Tim White, who is skeptical of recent claims. He says that most of the new studies have rushed to publication without careful peer review. Stories quoting Professor White on this topic have appeared in more than 100 sources around the world, including CBC Canada (Reuters), Science Magazine, and Japan Times.
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11. The road to a ‘genius grant’ often starts at lesser-known colleges
Washington Post (*requires registration)

An article about the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s annual six-figure grants bestowed on exceptionally creative people mentions that Berkeley ranks third among the 10 elite schools that have produced the most MacArthur fellows. Other stories on this topic appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Rhode Island Public Radio Online.
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12. Local hiring for Berkeley Global Campus project to be discussed at public meeting in Richmond
Richmond Standard

Community members are invited to attend a working group's meeting in Richmond on Thursday to discuss local hiring related to the planned Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay. The global campus is envisioned as an international hub of research, where academic institutions, the private sector and community partners work together to solve global challenges. Jen Loy, assistant director of local government and community relations at UC Berkeley, says the working group aims to develop proposals for legally-binding agreements with Berkeley to offer community benefits in areas such as education, employment and workforce training. The meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Richmond Field Station. A related letter to the editor appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.
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13. Berkeley, A Look Back: Famed planner assesses Berkeley and Oakland in 1915
Contra Costa Times

Steve Finacom, of the Berkeley Historical Society, writes about the initial planning of the city of Berkeley 100 years ago. Werner Hegemann, a German planner hired by Oakland and Berkeley community organizations in 1913 to study local issues, issued a "Report on a City Plan for the Municipalities of Oakland and Berkeley" in 1915. He employed what is now called the "City Beautiful" planning tradition, a reform philosophy that attempted to organize and beautify the fast growing and chaotic American metropolises of the early 20th century. He praised the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Architectural Plan for the UC campus, saying: "To have this unique group of buildings as it is planned, in its midst, is one of the highest privileges of the East Bay. ... From the broadest point of view, the plans for the University of California represent one of the most interesting and largest attempts in the world towards dignified and effectual grouping of public buildings."
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