Berkeley in the News Archive

The links to the stories summarized on this page are time sensitive, so stories might no longer be online at that URL. We also include links to the original source publication itself.

Monday, 14 April 2014

1. Drunken Monkeys: Does Alcoholism Have an Evolutionary Basis?

Integrative biology professor Robert Dudley has published a book -- "The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol" (University of California Press, 2014) Ė that explores the evolution of humans' and other animals' attraction to alcohol. The work is based on his "drunken monkey hypothesis," which posits that fruit-eating animals, including human ancestors, gained an evolutionary advantage by learning to associate the smell and taste of alcohol with ripe fruit. Since the ethanol in fruit helps preserve it from bacterial spoilage and stimulates the appetite of its consumer, his theory sees an attraction to it as an adaptation to the natural world. However, in the modern world, where alcohol is plentiful, the adaptation has led to a major public health problem for some people. Another story on this topic appeared in Business Insider. Full Story

2. Bits Blog: Bend It, Charge It, Dunk It: Graphene, the Material of Tomorrow
New York Times Online (*requires registration)

Among recent discoveries with graphene -- the strongest and thinnest known material -- is the creation by Berkeley researchers of graphene speakers that deliver sound at a quality equal to or better than a pair of commercial Sennheiser earphones. The speakers were also smaller than the earphones. Full Story

3. New Bay Bridge shows signs of rust in critical areas
Sacramento Bee

Engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl was one of three engineers who conducted independent analyses of corrosion found in cable strands and rods in the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. All three concluded the corrosion is significant because it makes the structure vulnerable to cracking. "The implications are structural and very serious. ... This bridge is fracture critical, which means if any important element of this bridge fails ... the bridge is going to collapse." An Associated Press story on this topic also appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Civil Engineering Professor Emeritus Bob Bea also commented on the bridge's construction flaws in a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Full Story

4. Economix Blog: Equal Opportunity and Social Innovation: Obamaís Policy Agenda
New York Times Online (*requires registration)

Business professor Laura D'Andrea Tyson co-authors a commentary about President Obama's "ambitious agenda to expand opportunity for all Americans, including health care reform, investment in education, an expansion of the earned-income tax credit and an increase in the minimum wage." Full Story

5. D.C. school proposals trigger debate over future of neighborhood schools
Washington Post

Jeffrey M. Vincent, deputy director of Berkeley's Center for Cities and Schools, weighs in on the debate over neighborhood schools. As cities around the country abandon neighborhood schools (which many see as a code for resegregation) in favor of citywide choice policies, he says: "We, as a country, are grappling with this tension right now, and if we have communities or cities that are segregated, we are always going to have this problem. ... Itís not a school problem, itís a housing-integration problem.Ē Full Story

6. Bay Area programs offer hope for dwindling frog population
San Francisco Chronicle

Integrative biology professor David Wake discusses the rapid decline of frogs worldwide. "It's grim," he says. "We actually have quite a few species, but the problem is, they're almost all in trouble." Their decline began in the 1980s due to pathogens, particularly the chytrid fungus. He says that no one's quite sure what caused the spread of chytrid, but it's probably linked to climate change and habitat destruction. Other factors include pesticides and invasive species, which further harm a class of animals already weakened by disease. His colleague, integrative biology professor Tyrone Hayes, alongside Vance Vredenburg of San Francisco State University, have led the way in amphibian research, especially in pesticide and chytrid studies. And Professor Wake's website,, is a global clearinghouse for amphibian research. Professor Hayes will discuss the topic as keynote speaker at a Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention later this month, as noted in an Associated Press brief. Full Story

7. Hero of Ocean Beach rescue: 'Not on my watch'
San Francisco Chronicle

In a story about the rescue of a child and his uncle at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Berkeley engineering professor Reza Alam discusses wave risks. He is investigating ways of harnessing their force for power. He says an extreme rip current can travel 7 to 8 feet per second. "And the world record for swimming is 7 feet per second. ... No way you can fight that." He adds that tourists from the East Coast may not realize it's different here. "The western coast is steeper. ... The amplitude of the waves builds up much faster." Full Story

8. Capitol Alert
Sacramento Bee Online

Environmental science, policy and management professor Maggi Kelly is in Sacramento Monday to discuss the use of remote sensors to quantify productivity and potential storage of the wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The seminar is hosted by the Delta Science Program. Full Story

9. WonderCon: Batman vs. Jason! Kirk vs. Vader! Who vs. Holmes!
Psychology Today

Berkeley bioengineers Kyle Kurpinski and Terry Johnson will lead a session of the WonderCon convention in Anaheim over the coming weekend, April 18-20. The authors of How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution will discuss scientific breakthroughs that inspire science fiction and the ways that science is depicted in popular media, books, movies, and more. WonderCon is hosted by Comic-Con International, a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms. Full Story

10. The upside of failure: Success
Business Standard (India)

Haas School of Business alum Scott Adams is profiled. He is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon and author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (Penguin, 2013). Full Story

11. Stanford soars to victory over Cal in bird-tally competition
San Francisco Chronicle (*requires registration)

In the first Berkeley-versus-Stanford birdathon, bird-watchers from Stanford counted more birds on campus than counterparts at Berkeley. About three dozen students, faculty, staff, alumni and neighbors from both schools combed their respective campuses at 7 a.m., counting bird species for four hours. As the article points out, the highlights for Berkeley "were, of course, of the blue-and-gold variety" -- a great blue heron, a lesser goldfinch, a yellow-rumped warbler, a band of Steller's jays, and a scrub jay. The final score was Stanford 75, Cal 64. Cal's team captain, applied statistics lecturer Maureen Lahiff, congratulated Stanford and said, "We're looking forward to a rematch. Although I'm not sure there are really any losers here -- a day spent birding is always good." Full Story

12. Capitol Journal: A state divided is no longer golden
Los Angeles Times

A Silicon Valley venture capitalist is funding a petition to place an initiative on the California ballot that calls for California to be split into six states. This commentator remarks on some of the possible results of such a plan, including the fact that Los Angeles students attending UC Berkeley or San Diego State would pay out-of-state tuition. Full Story

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