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.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
1. Study: Medical costs up to 20% higher with hospital-owned physician groups
Los Angeles Times
A new study led by health economics professor James Robinson found total medical costs 10 – 20 percent higher at hospital-owned physician offices than those at offices owned by doctors, raising new questions about the trend of healthcare consolidation. "I think this consolidation wave is virtually unstoppable," Professor Robinson says. "Left to itself, it will increase the cost of healthcare. ... There is a strong case for coordination of care ... but there is a weak case for consolidation of physicians and hospitals into large mega-systems." Other stories on this topic appeared in California Healthline and Kaiser Health News.
2. Berkeley Team to Transform MRI
A team of researchers led by adjunct neuroscience professor David Feinberg aims to revamp magnetic resonance imaging technology, commonly known as MRI, in order to study the neural pathways clustered toward the surface of the brain. "We want to focus on where the action is, exactly," he says. "The goal of our project is to take the concept of getting small loops of coils closer to the brain, to the head and also using a larger number of them so they achieve a much higher signal." The work is partially funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, shared by researchers at Berkeley, Harvard and Duke.
3. S.F. Fire Department joins study into breast cancer risks
San Francisco Chronicle
Environmental science, policy and management researcher Jessica Trowbridge is coordinating a study of female firefighters to see if their work-related exposure to toxic chemicals elevates their risk of developing breast cancer. Previous studies of firefighters' cancer risk have been conducted on men, and Trowbridge says: "Since breast cancer is a cancer that more commonly affects women, and because of anecdotal evidence that the firefighters have been experiencing (many cases of breast cancer), we wanted to see if there was a link.”
4. New amplifier design could improve quantum circuits
A team of scientists led by mechanical engineering professor Xiang Zhang has unveiled a new broad-bandwidth amplifier for detecting microwave photons. Called the "Josephson travelling-wave parametric amplifier," it is predicted to have a bandwidth of 3 GHz and will boost the existing Josephson parametic amplifier's (JPA) gain by more than 10 dB. It could be used in quantum circuits that operate at multiple frequencies and in extremely sensitive astronomical detectors. "Our new result is important because JPAs are the most advanced amplifiers available today for making low-noise measurements on systems such as superconducting qubits," says team member Kevin O'Brien of Berkeley's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.
5. POLARBEAR Sniffs Out Cosmic Clues About The Universe, Dark Matter And Neutrinos
An international team of scientists led by physics professor Adrian Lee has issued a report on their cosmological collaboration, POLARBEAR. Using a telescope high in Chile's Atacama Desert, the scientists captured the universe's oldest light and made the most sensitive and precise measurements to date of the polarization of the cosmic microwave background. "We made the first demonstration that you can isolate a pure gravitational lensing B-mode on the sky,” Professor Lee says. "Also, we have shown you can measure the basic signal that will enable very sensitive searches for neutrino mass and the evolution of dark energy." Other stories on this topic appeared in Tech Times, Capital Wired, and Wall Street OTC.
6. Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution
A carbon sequestration experiment begun seven years ago by ecosystem ecology professor Whendee Silver has substantially boosted the soil's carbon storage on a Marin County ranch. The experiment uses a simple method of sprinkling compost over the land to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The effect has lasted six years, and Professor Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for several decades, at least. The win-win strategy also improves the soil's fertility, in turn boosting plant growth that captures more carbon, and it improves the soil's ability to absorb and retain water.
7. Motorcycle lane-splitting study finds: the more speed, the more danger
Commissioned by the California Highway Patrol and the Office of Traffic Safety, a year-long Berkeley study of motorcycle lane-splitting has determined that the practice is no more dangerous than motorcycling in general, as long as the rider is traveling at speeds similar to or only slightly faster than the surrounding traffic. However, when the motorcyclist is speeding or riding more than 10 mph faster than the traffic being passed, it becomes significantly more dangerous. The authors said the study, which is the first of its kind, is limited in scope and will be followed up with a more detailed analysis.
8. Another death knell for the middle class
CBS Moneywatch Online
A new study co-authored by economics professor Emmanuel Saez has found that the American middle class is poorer now than at any other time since the 1940s. While economists have tended to focus on income inequality, this study explored the issue of wealth, which is defined as homes, retirement and investment assets, minus debts. "Wealth inequality, it turns out, has followed a spectacular U-shape evolution over the past 100 years," the report noted.
9. Economists See Holes in G.O.P.'s Post-Election Wish List
New York Times (*requires registration)
Economics professor Alan Auerbach comments on the economic agenda Republicans have assembled as they anticipate taking over Congress following the election. Many of the bills would significantly reduce federal regulation, particularly for energy industries, and Professor Auerbach says: “You could certainly make an argument that relaxing all environmental regulations would increase employment, but there’s a reason we have environmental regulations.”
10. Green groups say EPA underestimates methane leaks from fracking
Al Jazeera America Online
Visiting scholar Seth B.C. Shonkoff, executive director of the science policy think tank PSE Healthy Engery, comments on the problem of underestimated methane leaks associated with the natural gas production process. “Consistently, studies show [methane leaks] are between 4 and 17 percent,” he says. “The most authoritative say the EPA underestimates methane emissions by about 50 percent. It seems the EPA is forgetting this big field of independent science.”
11. L.A. County OKs contract to design new touch-screen voting system
Los Angeles Times
Electrical engineering and computer science professor David Wagner has served as an unpaid technical advisor to Los Angeles County in its effort to overhaul its voting system, replacing ink-based ballots with touch-screen machines. The planning began five years ago, and they just approved a $15 million contract to design a new system they hope to fully roll out in 2020. He says a staged rollout is wise to avoid a debacle like the rollout of Healthcare.gov. "Some big software projects fail. ... There's no silver bullet. But typical best practices are to test the system before rollout and pilot it on a small scale."
12. Ebola Is a True Systems Crisis: It Must Be Managed Systemically or It Cannot Be Managed At All
Adjunct environmental design professor Ian Mitroff writes about the U.S. response to Ebola. He begins: "As most know by now, the response in the U.S. to Ebola has been mixed at best. On the one hand, the infectious disease has not spread uncontrollably. Despite serious snafus, the health system is learning how to manage the disease. On the other hand, the health system should have known from the very beginning that it was dealing with a disease and a situation that demanded a true systems understanding and appropriate response. The appointment of an 'Ebola Tsar' is a belated acknowledgement of the fact that Ebola must be managed systemically or it cannot be managed at all."
13. Meet Facebook’s Mr. Nice
New York Times
Psychology professor Dacher Keltner, co-founder of Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, is working with Facebook’s empathy team to promote respectful interaction on the social media site, particularly among teenagers. When Facebook asked users why they shared a post that hurt someone else, roughly 90 percent said they thought their friends would like it or think it was funny. Only 2 percent intended to provoke or alarm someone. “Believe it or not," Professor Keltner says, "most of the time people do mean well.”
14. UC leaders consider limiting out-of-state enrollment
Los Angeles Times
Responding to concerns of California families and legislators, UC officials have announced that they will consider putting limits on out-of-state student enrollment. The percentage of nonresident students has grown to roughly 20 percent of the system's freshman class and 30 percent of the Berkeley and UCLA freshman classes, leading to a common perception that there is less room for California students. Officials have noted, however, that the growth has been accomplished mainly by increasing the size of incoming freshman classes -- not by significantly reducing the number of California students. Furthermore, the higher nonresident tuition raised the system’s income by $400 million last year, partially compensating for reduced government funding and benefitting all students.
15. Where to go to business school if you want the highest salary
Berkeley's Haas School of Business ranked fourth in the nation for graduates' median mid-career salaries, according to a new report by PayScale.com.
16. Harvard Law Graduates Top Salary Survey
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)
PayScale.com's ranking of top law schools for graduates' median mid-career income placed Berkeley Law 9th.
17. What Happened to All the Women in Computer Science?
A story about the dearth of women in the computer science field includes the following remarks: "Some universities are working hard to turn this trend around. At the University of California Berkeley, one introductory computer science class has started to enroll more women than men with by changing its name and adding lessons that tie programming in to its context in the world. For example, each class opens with discussion of a recent tech article in the media." Senior computer science lecturer Dan Garcia notes: "Everything that turns women off, we reversed it."
18. You could tour a campus without leaving your hometown. Cue the TourBox
YouVisit, a website offering virtual tours of college campuses, has introduced a headset called TourBox. The box is used by sliding a cellphone into it and picking a campus from the menu. Students can then view a range of activities there, from classroom lectures to dining halls and sporting events. Head and eye-movement tracking lets the user control where they go without operating a physical controller. It is expected to be especially usesful to students who can't afford to physically visit all the campuses they're interested in. Dan Gillette, a research specialist at Berkeley's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), says it might help students feel more at ease through the familiarity of seeing a campus without visiting it, but seeing the situation itself is not as impactful as seeing yourself within that situation. “Wanting to belong is much more powerful than experiencing it through your eyes.”