In the midst of forecasts of continuing economic woes and congressional gridlock, experts gathered recently at UC Berkeley to assess what worked and what didn’t during the Great Depression-inspired New Deal, the Obama administration’s still emerging efforts to ease the Great Recession, and prospects for relief, reform and recovery.
UC Berkeley researchers have created unique dual-diameter nanopillars – narrow at the top, broad at the bottom – that absorb light as well or even better than commercial thin-film solar cells, using far less semiconductor material and without the need for anti-reflective coating.
The Amgen Foundation has renewed a four-year, $1 million grant to UC Berkeley that to date has introduced 94 undergraduate students from a range of colleges and universities to laboratory research and steered more than three-quarters of them into graduate level research.
Jillian Banfield, a biogeochemist and geomicrobiologist, will receive two prestigious awards – the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science and the L-Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" award – for her groundbreaking work on how microbes alter rocks and interact with the natural world.
New "metamaterials" can overcome some of the limitations of microscopes and imagers, including ultrasound imagers. Researchers in the Nano-scale Science & Engineering Center have come up with a metamaterial to improve the picture quality of ultrasound by a factor of 50.
Long-duration gamma-ray bursts flash across the universe to signal the collapse of a massive star, but this collapsar model predicts either a neutron star or a black hole is left behind. New calculations of the energy released by gamma-ray bursts find it too large to be powered by a neutron star, even highly magnetized, spinning magnetars. Thus, UC Berkeley astronomers conclude, the likely power source is a black hole.
The ability to store phantom images in our brain in order to make visual comparisons is impaired by damage to the prefrontal cortex, but intact regions of the prefrontal cortex pick up the slack in less than a second. Damage to the basal ganglia, however, causes more widespread impairment of visual working memory. New studies by UC Berkeley neuroscientists show how the prefrontal cortex flexibly picks up new functions while retaining old.
The University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Economics is the recipient of a $1.25 million grant from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) to develop a Berkeley Economic History Laboratory to train more historically literate economists who can contribute to policy debates and help avoid devastating economic crises.
UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that when zebrafish larvae see large objects, like leaves or other zebrafish, inhibitory nerve cells fire in the brain to tamp down a prey response. But when the larvae see small, prey-size objects, fewer inhibitory nerve cells fire and the fish quickly responds. This simple neural circuit helps explain the visual filters that enable prey capture.
Biofuels hold great promise as an alternative to greenhouse-gas-generating gasoline, if a cost-effective means of commercial production can be found. Professor Harvey Blanch and other researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have designed an online wiki that allows experts to collectively analyze and discuss biorefinery data and production costs.