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.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

1. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: 'Business Has To Step Up'
Huffington Post

From the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks spoke with HuffPost Live about the role of business in the future of America's universities. "Great public research universities in the United States have traditionally been really important centers for innovation, as well as for education," he said. "But I think the crises that have emerged around public higher education and public funding have really changed the landscape and, in a way, business has to step up. ... Are we going to let our great public universities simply get weaker and weaker just because either states can't afford or don't feel the political pressure to fund them? ... That is the worry." Link to video. Full Story

2. Turkey flesh inspires bomb-detecting technology
Los Angeles Times

A team led by associate bioengineering professor Seung-Wuk Lee has employed the same principles that make male turkey skin change color to develop a sensor capable of detecting the presence of explosive TNT gas. The researchers say the system could be modified to detect "a variety of harmful toxicants and pathogens to protect human health and national security." Stories on this topic appeared in multiple sources around the world, including CNET, Science World Report, Wired UK, UPI, and the French Tribune. Full Story

3. Electronic Whiskers: University of California Berkeley Scientists Finalize Plans For New Science
Franchise Herald

A team of scientists led by associate electrical engineering and computer science professor Ali Javey has developed nanotech sensors that match the attributes found on the whiskers of cats and rats. "Our e-whiskers represent a new type of highly responsive tactile sensor networks for real time monitoring of environmental effects," he says. "In tests, these whiskers were 10 times more sensitive to pressure than all previously reported capacitive or resistive pressure sensors." The sensors could enable "user-interactive systems," or robots, to see and feel. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including the Christian Science Monitor, Nature World News, GigaOm, Popular Mechanics, Wired UK, and CNET. Full Story

4. Researchers create light-activated ‘curtains’
Science Recorder

A team led by associate electrical engineering and computer science professor Ali Javey has created a material that moves quickly in response to light. The material is made with carbon nanotubes layered onto a plastic polycarbonate membrane. The nanotubes can, within fractions of a second, absorb light, convert it into heat and transfer the heat to the plastic surface. The plastic expands in response to the heat, while the nanotube layer does not, causing the material to bend. “The advantages of this new class of photoreactive actuator," Professor Javey says, are that "it is very easy to make, and it is very sensitive to low-intensity light.” He adds that even a flashlight can cause a response. Full Story

5. UC quake researchers give L.A. list of old concrete buildings
Los Angeles Times

UC researchers have given the city of Los Angeles a list of 1,500 older concrete buildings included in their study of the seismic safety of a particular building type. The researchers emphasize that their list should not be regarded as a list of dangerous buildings, but rather a list of buildings that require further examination. Engineering professor Jack Moehle said, “We would like to be helpful to the city, to help them move forward” on this issue. Other stories on this topic appeared in the KPCC Radio Online and NBC Los Angeles--link to video. Full Story

6. Buses for Tech Workers in San Francisco Will Pay Fee
International New York Times (*requires registration)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted unanimously Tuesday to begin a pilot program that will charge tech companies small fees when their buses pick up and drop off commuters in the city. Activists who wish to "reclaim a city they say has been appropriated by the tech elite," according to this article, wanted the MTA to fine the buses for using public spaces, or charge them more substantial fees. They cite a new study by Berkeley graduate students finding that if tech companies didn't provide bus service from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, 40 percent of riders say they would move closer to work, and that would help ease demand for San Francisco housing. Another story on this topic appears in the San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today. Full Story

7. Airbnb profits prompted S.F. eviction, ex-tenant says
San Francisco Chronicle

The short-term rental businesses that homeowners are using to rent spare rooms or apartments to temporary visitors are becoming increasingly controversial. Critics charge that the new sharing-economy is so lucrative and unregulated that it is forcing out residents and driving up rents by reducing the supply of available housing. One of the rental agencies, Airbnb, recently commissioned a study from business Professor Ken Rosen, and he found that short-term rentals of perhaps a couple of thousand at a time are such a small percentage of the San Francisco's 378,000 apartments, homes and condominiums that they "cannot have a measurable impact on housing costs or renter demand." Full Story

8. Two-Track Future Imperils Global Growth
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

A study co-authored by economics professor Emmanuel Saez showed that in 2012 the top 10% took half of all income earned in the U.S., their highest share since 1917. In this article, global mirrors of this income inequality are discussed. Another story on this topic appeared on the NPR Online. Full Story

9. IMF 'very positive' US can taper and grow: Deputy MD

From the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, economics professor Barry Eichengreen said he feels the "stars are aligning for the U.S. economy." Indicating that he thinks 3 percent growth for the U.S. in 2014 "is a slam dunk," he added: "The prospects for the U.S. are remarkably good and that's one bit of very good news for the world economy." He said the reasons for his optimism are lower fiscal drag, richer households, and the fact that capital spending which has lagged in the past, now needs to catch up. "[There's] a growth-friendly Fed chair and no increase in Fed policy rates until the end of 2014 or even 2015. ... [The] only thing that could go wrong is on the political front." Full Story

10. 'I knew in my heart she was alive': Families in El Salvador are finally reunited with children abducted during the country's civil war
The Independent (UK)

During the brutal 12-year civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s, many children were forcibly taken by armed forces and illegitimately put up for adoption. After the war, in 2006, Berkeley's Human Rights Center helped set up a DNA registry that could be used to reunite Salvadoran adoptees with their biological parents. Now a public-awareness campaign through conventional and social media is raising awareness of the program among the two million Salvadorans now living in the US (half-a-million migrated to the States between 1980 and 1990, according to the US census). Already one mother forced to give up her baby during the war has come forward. Full Story

11. Capitol Alert Blog: Read Jerry Brown's State of the State speech, as delivered
Sacramento Bee Online

Gov. Jerry Brown gave a State of the State address Wednesday, in which he said: "Four out of the world's twenty leading academic bioscience institutions are located here in California: UCSF and Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and UC San Diego. Just as California has led the way with stem cell research, so too we can pioneer the new fields of precision medicine which uses genomics, medical devices, computer sciences and other fields to treat individual patients, instead of broad populations." Full Story

12. UC system eases cross-campus registration for online classes
San Francisco Chronicle

The UC system is testing an online education program that allows undergraduates to take online courses at any UC campus. The pilot program aims to offer 21 courses developed by UC faculty. Student reaction has been mixed. Kareem Aref, a UC Riverside junior and president of the systemwide UC Student Association, says: "I haven't taken an online course, but I've spoken with many students who have, and they give them mixed reviews. ... The worry is that we're going to replace class discussions with an out-of-class, online experience -- and that's not the UC experience. We place a high level of value in being able to interact with professors and fellow students, and that can't be replicated with just an online class and a book. ... I could be taking an (online) class at Berkeley, but in reality I'm essentially taking a class alone." Full Story

13. UC Berkeley hires Tang Eye Center boss to lead Optometry School clinics
San Francisco Business Times (*requires registration)

Associate clinical optometry professor Christine Wilmer, director of the University Health Services' Tang Eye Center, has been appointed the optometry school's next clinic director and associate dean for clinical affairs. Her appointment will be effective beginning July 1, when she will take over from retiring director Edward Revelli. Full Story

14. Border Crossings: A History of US-Mexico Relations
Back Story with the American History Guys [Radio Program]

Associate history professor Brian DeLay discusses the Mexican-American war and the threats Mexico faced from Comanche Indians and the U.S. Army during that conflict. Link to audio. Full Story

15. Dot Earth Blog: Bananas are Chemicals, Too
International New York Times (*requires registration)

Posters created by a chemistry teacher in Australia to highlight the chemical properties of fruits remind this blogger of landmark research by Berkeley professor Bruce Ames and his late colleague Lois Swirsky Gold. Referring to an "eye-opening paper" the two published in 1990, he offers the following excerpt: "About 99.9% of the chemicals humans ingest are natural. The amounts of synthetic pesticide residues in plant foods are insignificant compared to the amount of natural pesticides produced by plants themselves. Of all dietary pesticides that humans eat, 99.99% are natural: they are chemicals produced by plants to defend themselves against fungi, insects, and other animal predators." Full Story

16. India Ink Blog: A Conversation With: Author Vikram Chandra
International New York Times Online (*requires registration)

Senior English lecturer Vikram Chandra recently spoke at the 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival in Rajasthan, India. He is interviewed here about his epic novel Sacred Games, set in contemporary Mumbai and adapted for television. Full Story

17. Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The Bicycle Thief’

Vittorio De Sica's classic film The Bicycle Thief will kick off the Pacific Film Archive's series "The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray" on January 23. A viewing of the film inspired Ray to take up filmmaking in the 1950s. This review concludes: "Its depiction of post-war hopelessness and obsession ... is a small story exquisitely told (Cesare Zavattini’s screenplay was Oscar-nominated at a time when there was no Best Foreign Language Film category) and beautifully shot — and in a time of continuing economic malaise, as relevant today as it was over sixty years ago." Full Story

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