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.

Friday, 24 October 2014

1. New Research Center Aims to Develop Second Generation of Surgical Robots
New York Times

Electrical engineering and computer sciences professors Ken Goldberg and Pieter Abbeel, and postdoctoral researcher Sachin Patil, are founding a new Center for Automation and Learning for Medical Robots. The scientists aim to develop medical robots that can perform low-level and repetitive surgical tasks. “Our goal is to help surgeons focus on the critical aspects of surgery, rather than having to perform each tedious and repetitive subtask,” Professor Goldberg says. The center will be funded by a $3 million National Science Foundation grant, with additional seed money and equipment from private donors.
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2. New policymaking tool for shift to renewable energy
University of Copenhagen News

Energy professor Daniel Kammen, director of Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and doctoral student Tessa Beach were in Copenhagen this week, presenting a new tool called SWITCH. The tool helps policymakers and planners to assess the economic and environmental implications of various energy scenarios. The event was a congress called Global Challenges: Achieving Sustainability, hosted by the University of Copenhagen. “SWITCH is a tool we can use to examine the different choices of technologies within the electrical power sector and their locations. It enables us to estimate the impact on regional air pollution emissions, as well as how much land area and water consumption would be needed for each scenario. We have used this model for different future energy scenarios across western North America, and we see an enormous variation in both the magnitude and location of environmental impacts,” Beach said.
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3. Does Inequality Cause Crime?
The Atlantic

A study co-authored by postdoctoral researcher Joan Hamory Hicks, of Berkeley's Center for Effective Global Action, compared crime and consumer data, finding a link between conspicuous consumption and high crime rates. They also found that that link was much stronger than the link between income inequality and crime. The key take-away is that potential criminals base their actions on apparent wealth -- what they see in expensive cars or clothes -- not private information, such as bank account balances or paychecks.
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4. A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime: End Hurdle to Job After Prison
New York Times

Public policy professor Steven Raphael weighs in on a trend of states beginning to loosen some of the tough-on-crime laws that have over-filled prisons and made it hard for ex-offenders to re-enter society. “When a lot of these laws passed, there was anxiety about crack cocaine and black homicide rates and arguments that some criminals were ‘super predators,’ ” he says. “That was a powerful argument, especially for legislators, so a lot of the re-evaluation happening now has to do with the budgetary implications of prisons.”
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5. Democrats Attack Over Outsourcing in Key Senate Races
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

A recent Berkeley-MIT study highlights a problem that Democrats are using against Republicans in tight Senate races this fall. It estimated that one-quarter of U.S. companies have moved some operations to other countries, and the Democrats are pointing to actions by Republicans that have or would continue to encourage such outsourcing.
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6. Motorcycle Lane Splitting Is Relatively Safe: Study
NBC 7 San Diego

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. California is the only state where lane splitting is not banned. Link to video.
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7. U.S. Schools Take Precautions Amid Ebola Fears
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

Dr. Arthur Reingold, a professor and chair of epidemiology at Berkeley's School of Public Health, comments on some school districts' active responses to fears of an Ebola outbreak. “I can understand wanting to be prepared,” he says. "But most of these school districts will never encounter a student with contact with the three countries [in Africa which have seen an Ebola outbreak]. It’s a legitimate concern but an overreaction.”
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8. Zuckerberg Talks His Way Into Chinese Hearts and Minds
Tech News World

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delighted an audience at Beijing's Tsinghua University on Wednesday when he spoke entirely in Mandarin, and video of the event has gone viral. "He could make himself understood, which is pretty good for someone who seems only to have been working on it for a year or so," says international studies professor Mark Csikszentmihalyi, chair of Berkeley's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. You can tell he uses it, [probably] with his wife's paternal grandmother, because his ability to express himself outpaces his vocabulary at this point, where for many book learners it's quite the opposite." Facebook needs to collaborate and coordinate with Beijing if it wants to succeed in China, visiting business professor Chris Tang notes. "Knowing some basic Chinese and Chinese culture will go a long way. ... Showing respect and understanding can make your potential partners open up to discussions."
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9. Athletics Advisers' Ethical Dilemma
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

Alum Bruce Smith, an associate dean at Reed College, asks thought-provoking questions about the role of counselors and advisers in the big-stakes world of college sports, where they are under pressure to do whatever coaches believe is necessary to keep students academically eligible to play. The former Brown University football player earned an education Ph.D. at Berkeley and worked as an academic adviser to athletes at Cal. He lost his position with the basketball team when a coach suggested he pick up an athlete and physically take him to class, a service he declined to provide. The experience has been on his mind since, and he believes the trend of advisers hypermanaging unmotivated students by offering everything from chauffeuring services to wake-up calls does more harm than good, hindering their intellectual growth and self-sufficiency. "They grow to expect other people to do things for them," he says. "It’s important that they fail and learn from their failures. ... Athletes and their coaches are in a position where they cannot fail."
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10. Frank Mankiewicz, aide to Robert Kennedy, dies
San Francisco Chronicle (*requires registration)

Alum Frank Mankiewicz, the press secretary who announced before television cameras Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's death, has died at the age of 90. Mankiewicz earned his law degree from UC Berkeley and then spent much of his career as a Democratic political operative, journalist and author, including a stint as political director for presidential candidate George McGovern.
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11. Audiograph's Sound of the Week: UC Berkeley's Spotted Hyenas
KALW Radio

KALW's Audiograph Sound of the Week featured hyena giggles, and the reporter visits Berkeley's hyena colony to meet some hyenas and talk to research analyst and colony manager Mary Weldele and psychology professor Frederick Theunissen about the sounds the animals make and the history of the colony. Due to lost funding, the project is ending and the caretakers are finding new homes for the hyenas. Link to audio.
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12. Sunday Book Review Letters: Women and Power
New York Times (*requires registration)

English and Celtic Studies Professor Emeritus Robert Tracy writes to admire Terry Castle's review of Hilary Mantel’s short stories, especially her enthusiasm for Mantel’s use of the word “bleb.” He says: "Osip Mandelstam had a special regard for writers who reintroduced an obscure word to use. But 'bleb' has already been reintroduced, by Seamus Heaney in his poem 'North' (c. 1975): 'Keep your eye clear / as the bleb of the icicle, / trust the feel of what nubbed treasure / your hands have known.' The treasure is the word-hoard, nubbed with opportunities to restore old words or dialect words to use, as a tree branch is nubbed with little lumps that may become new branches."
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13. The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend
Berkeleyside

The It List highlights a couple of Berkeley-related events this weekend. The first is Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Idea, taking place Friday and Saturday at various sites around the city and featuring public discussions on a variety of current and thought-provoking topics. Several Berkeley faculty are participating. For more information, visit: Uncharted. The second event is a Halloween at the Hall event Saturday and Sunday at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Visitors will enjoy spooky science, including introductions to creepy creatures and a supposedly haunted robot.
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