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.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

1. If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We?
NPR Online

A study led by integrative biology professor Rasmus Nielsen, of Berkeley's Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics, has tracked genetic changes in the polar bear that enabled it to thrive on the high-fat diet required to survive Arctic conditions without suffering heart disease. "The promise of comparative genomics is that we learn how other organisms deal with conditions that we also are exposed to. ... For example, polar bears have adapted genetically to a high fat diet that many people now impose on themselves. ... If we learn a bit about the genes that allows them to deal with that, perhaps that will give us tools to modulate human physiology down the line." Co-author Eline Lorenzen says: "For polar bears, profound obesity is a benign state. ... We wanted to understand how they are able to cope with that." Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources, including Reuters, Discovery News, Science, Daily Mail (UK), LiveScience, New Scientist, and Discover Magazine. Full Story

2. Fukushima radiation not detected in kelp beds yet
KPCC (Southern California Public Radio)

Nuclear engineering professor Kai Vetter, head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has been collaborating on an effort called Kelp Watch 2014. The project aims to detect signs of radioactive seawater arriving on the West Coast from Japan's crippled Fukushima power plant. Initial samples gathered from Alaska to Chile showed no contamination so far. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources, including KQED Online, Orange County Register, Nature World News, and San Francisco Chronicle (AP). Full Story

3. UC extension marks century of service to farmers, homemakers, youths
Modesto Bee

The University of California Cooperative Extension, a research organization founded at Berkeley to provide advice to farmers, homemakers and youth, celebrates its official 100th anniversary on May 8. When President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act to fund extension work nationwide, he was formalizing efforts that had started fifty years earlier at Berkeley and spread to field stations at Davis and Riverside. “The research they do is just invaluable to us,” says Ron Peterson, president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau. Full Story

4. Quake warning system stalls in California

Scientists, state officials and politicians met Wednesday to try to figure out how to expand an early earthquake warning system so that the warnings are more accessible to the public. "A few seconds of warning, you can get under a sturdy table and that means that you've just removed the hazard of falling lighting fixtures, ceiling tiles, which is what's most likely to injure you in an earthquake," said earth and planetary science professor Richard Allen, director of Berkeley's Seismological Laboratory. The total cost of launching the program statewide and funding it for five years is estimated to be $80 million. With funding, experts say it could be up and running in two years. Link to video. Another story on this topic appeared in KNTV (link to video). Full Story

5. Estimated cost of key bullet train segment rises $1 billion
Los Angeles Times

Civil engineering professor William Ibbs remarks on a new cost estimate for an important Central Valley segment of the California bullet train. "A $1-billion cost increase at this point in the project is concerning, to put it mildly," he says. Full Story

6. S.F. family of man killed by neighbor calls for murder charge
San Francisco Chronicle

Law professor Franklin Zimring comments on the case of a San Francisco man who shot and killed a neighbor who mistakenly tried to enter his apartment in the middle of the night. "The question is whether there's an imminent threat of bodily injury, and home invasion is very high on the list of things people get frightened of, particularly in the middle of the night," Professor Zimring says. "This case is well within the confines of circumstances where citizens will not be criminally prosecuted." Full Story

7. Estrogen’s Role in Impulsive Behavior
Scientific American Online

A 2011 Berkeley study is mentioned in a story about new research finding that estrogen may inhibit impulsiveness. The Berkeley study had found that estrogen levels influenced performance on working memory, and this depended on the individual’s baseline dopamine level. Full Story

8. Dressing for Failure: How the Death of Home Ec Unraveled American Fashion

A commentator laments the demise of American fashion sense since the post-war era. The writer explains: "Most 'Dress Doctors'—my name for the women who taught the art of dress — were headquartered in home economics classes, which came under attack in the 1950s as university presidents did their part to fight the Cold War. They dismantled home economics colleges and redirected funds and buildings to the hard sciences; after all, a physics major had a much better chance of knocking Sputnik from the sky than women taking courses on costume and textiles. Home economics programs disappeared from the University of Chicago and the University of California at Berkeley in 1956, for example, while the Bureau of Home Economics at the USDA was, to quote historian of science Margaret W. Rossiter, 'reorganized out of existence.'" Full Story

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