New Discovery Opens Door for Radical Reduction in Energy Consumed by Digital Devices

A new study led by engineers at UC Berkeley and CITRIS describes the first direct observation of a long-hypothesized but elusive phenomenon called “negative capacitance.” The work describes a unique reaction of electrical charge to applied voltage in a ferroelectric material that could open the door to a radical reduction in the power consumed by transistors and the devices containing them.

Scientists measure speedy electrons in silicon

In semiconductors like silicon, electrons attached to atoms in the crystal lattice can be mobilized into the conduction band by light or voltage. Berkeley scientists have taken snapshots of this very brief band-gap jump and timed it at 450 attoseconds. 

Can organic crops compete with industrial agriculture?

An analysis of 115 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. Researchers also found that taking into account methods that optimize the productivity of organic agriculture could minimize the yield gap between organic and conventional farming.

Study links revitalized public housing to fewer ER visits

Children living in revitalized public housing are significantly less likely to take repeated trips to the emergency room, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. The study suggests that improvements in public housing could potentially yield a big return on investment through the reduction in emergency room visits.

New therapy holds promise for restoring vision

A new genetic therapy developed by UC Berkeley scientists has not only helped blind mice regain light sensitivity sufficient to distinguish flashing from non-flashing lights, but also restored light response to the retinas of dogs, setting the stage for future clinical trials of the therapy in humans. The therapy involves inserting photoswitches into retinal cells that are normally ‘blind.’

Inspired by Nature

Despite working from a limited selection of components and at ambient temperature, nature has managed to craft a wide range of incredibly diverse materials with astonishingly elegant and complex architectures.

Lightning Expected to Increase by 50 Percent with Global Warming

Today’s climate models predict a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes across the US during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. UC Berkeley climate scientists look at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and conclude that their combined effect will generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground.

Creating the Coldest Cubic Meter in the Universe

In an underground laboratory in Italy, an international team of scientists has created the coldest cubic meter in the universe. The cooled chamber—roughly the size of a vending machine—was chilled to 6 milliKelvin or -273.144 degrees Celsius in preparation for a forthcoming experiment that will study neutrinos, ghostlike particles that could hold the key to the existence of matter around us.

POLARBEAR seeks cosmic answers in microwave polarization

The POLARBEAR experiment, directed by UC Berkeley physicist Adrian Lee, is studying the B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation. He hopes to determine the structure of matter in the universe, the masses of neutrinos and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

New front in war on Alzheimer’s, other protein-folding diseases

A surprise discovery that overturns decades of thinking about how the body fixes proteins that come unraveled greatly expands opportunities for therapies to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which have been linked to the accumulation of improperly folded proteins in the brain.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

UC Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

UC Berkeley geophysicist Paul Renne, grad student Courtney Sprain and their Italian and French colleagues found that Earth’s last magnetic reversal took place 786,000 years ago and happened very quickly, in less than 100 years – roughly a human lifetime. The rapid flip is much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought.

Low birth rates can actually pay off in the U.S. and other countries

As birth rates decline in countries that include parts of Europe and East Asia, threatening the economic slowdown associated with aging populations, a global study from UC Berkeley and the East-West Center in Hawaii suggests that in much of the world, it actually pays to have fewer children.

Three faculty members awarded National Medal of Science

President Barack Obama has chosen three UC Berkeley faculty members – chemist Judith Klinman, applied mathematician Alexandre Chorin and the late statistician David Blackwelll – to receive the 2014 National Medal of Science. They were among 10 honorees announced Oct. 3 by the White House.

Funding for big-data projects in ecology, astronomy & microscopy

Three professors at UC Berkeley will receive $1.5 million over the next five years from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of the foundation’s Data-Driven Discovery Initiative. The initiative, one of the largest privately funded data scientist programs of its kind, is committed to enabling new types of scientific breakthroughs by supporting interdisciplinary, data-driven researchers.

Shake your silk-maker: The dance of the peacock spider

The radio show “Science Friday” profiled UC Berkeley graduate student Madeline Girard and her study of peacock spiders, using Girard’s amazing video of the rhythmic, disco-like courtship dances males employ to entice and placate females.

Counting fish teeth reveals DNA changes behind rapid evolution

Threespine sticklebacks undergo rapid evolutionary change when they move from the ocean into freshwater, losing their armor and gaining more teeth in as little as 10 years. UC Berkeley biologist Craig Miller now shows that this rapid change results not from mutations in functional genes, but changes in regulatory DNA. He pinpoints a gene that could be responsible for jaw deformities in humans.

Human faces are so variable because we evolved to look unique

Why are human faces so variable compared to other animals? Berkeley biologists Michael Nachman & Michael Sheehan analyzed human faces and the genes that code for them and found a variability that could only be explained by selection for uniqueness, probably because of the importance of social interactions in human relationships and the need for all of us to be recognizable.

Researchers find neural compensation in people with Alzheimer’s-related protein

UC Berkeley researchers have found that the human brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of beta-amyloid, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.

Bakar research fellows make their case in Silicon Valley

Sixteen faculty members from UC Berkeley’s Bakar Fellows Program recently took their research ideas to Sand Hill Road — the heart of Silicon Valley’s venture capital community — for a coveted meeting with some of the nation’s top angel investors.

Biologists try to dig endangered pupfish out of its hole

Scientists estimate that fewer than 100 Devils Hole pupfish remain in their Mojave Desert home, but a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is giving important guidance in the efforts to rescue them by establishing a captive breeding program.

Study links honesty to prefrontal region of the brain

Are humans programmed to tell the truth? Not when lying is advantageous, says a new study led by Assistant Professor Ming Hsu at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The report ties honesty to a region of the brain that exerts control over automatic impulses.

Berkeley air-monitoring project wins White House nod

The White House has given a public nod to a ground-breaking UC Berkeley air-monitoring project and its new collaboration with a Colorado public media platform, which aims to build a citizen-science story-corps to help monitor carbon emissions in the Bay Area.

NMR Using Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth’s magnetic field, a familiar directional indicator over long distances, is routinely probed in applications ranging from geology to archaeology. Now it has provided the basis for a technique which might, one day, be used to characterize the chemical composition of fluid mixtures in their native environments.

‘Getting-by girls’ straddle gap between academic winners and losers

Everyone notices the academic superstars and failures, but what about the tens of millions of American teens straddling these two extremes? A new UC Berkeley study has spotlighted a high school subculture that has made an art of slacking – even with ample educational resources – and may be destined to perpetuate the nation’s struggling lower-middle class.

Seven tiny grains captured by Stardust likely visitors from interstellar space

Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft delivered its aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors back to Earth, a team of scientists has combed through the collectors in search of rare, microscopic particles of interstellar dust. The team reports they have found seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system.

CNR Purchases Powerful New Microscope

A microscopy expert at UC Berkeley has won a grant to purchase an amazingly powerful new microscope that will enable scientists to study the tiniest of organisms. The new $600,000 instrument, purchased with a National Institutes of Health grant, is a "Structured Illumination Microscope" that allows researchers to image and differentiate different parts of a cell, using different fluorescent dyes.

Vision-correcting display makes reading glasses so yesterday

Researchers at UC Berkeley are developing vision-correcting displays that can compensate for a viewer’s visual impairments to create sharp images without the need for glasses or contact lenses. The technology could potentially help those who currently need corrective lenses to use their smartphones, tablets and computers, and could one day aid people with more complex visual problems.

Tiny laser sensor heightens bomb detection sensitivity

A team of researchers at UC Berkeley have found a way to dramatically increase the sensitivity of a light-based plasmon sensor to detect incredibly minute concentrations of explosives. The sensor could potentially be used to sniff out a hard-to-detect explosive popular among terrorists.

Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

Despite a deluge of new information about the diversity and distribution of plants and animals around the globe, “big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change.

New Discovery in Living Cell Signaling

Berkeley Lab researchers help find that what was believed to be noise is an important signaling factor. A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy.

Extinct human cousin gave Tibetans advantage at high elevation

Tens of thousands of years ago, the common ancestors of Han Chinese and Tibetans interbred with a mysterious human-like group known as Denisovans and picked up a unique variant of a gene for hemoglobin regulation that later helped them adapt to a low-oxygen environment on the high Tibetan plateau, reports UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology Rasmus Nielsen

Berkeley a big part of new UC initiative on global food needs

The University of California is launching an initiative to marshal resources across the UC campuses — including Berkeley’s 90 courses, 150 faculty and staff and multiple institutes and centers devoted to the study of agriculture and food — to address global food challenges.

Drunken monkeys: what animals tell us about our thirst for booze

Robert Dudley, an evolutionary physiologist and professor of integrative biology, discusses his new book, “The Drunken Monkey, Why we drink and abuse alcohol” (UC Press 2014). Dudley talks about his motivations for writing the book, the evidence that our attraction to alcohol is an evolutionary adaptation, and what this means for efforts to prevent alcohol abuse.

Blind lead the way in brave new world of tactile technology

Imagine feeling a slimy jellyfish, a prickly cactus or map directions on your iPad display. Virtual textured touchscreens are where tactile technology is headed. New research has found that people are faster at navigating tactile technology when using both hands and several fingers. Moreover, blind people in the study outmaneuvered their sighted counterparts.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

The disco clam was named for the rhythmic, pulsing light that ripples along the lips of its mantle. UC Berkeley graduate student Lindsey Dougherty now reports that the mirror is actually a highly reflective, densely packed layer of silica spheres a mere 340 nanometers across never before seen in animals.

RadWatch project brings near real-time radiation data to the public

A team of UC Berkeley scientists has launched a project called RadWatch to provide the public online access to a wealth of information — including near real-time readings — on environmental radiation levels. The researchers say the effort is meant to demystify radiation, an often misunderstood subject.

Your genes affect your betting behavior

People playing betting games engage two main areas of the brain: the medial prefrontal cortex and the striatum. Ming Hsu of UC Berkeley and Eric Set of the University of Illinois scanned 12 genes involved in dopamine regulation in these areas and found that people’s genetic variants affected how they dealt with trial-and-error learning and belief learning.

Manipulating and Detecting Ultrahigh Frequency Sound Waves

An advance has been achieved towards next generation ultrasonic imaging with potentially 1,000 times higher resolution than today’s medical ultrasounds. Researchers with the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated a technique for producing, detecting and controlling ultrahigh frequency sound waves at the nanometer scale.

Tobacco Gets a Makeover as New Source for Biofuel

Peggy Lemaux, UC Berkeley cooperative extension specialist, is working with Berkeley Lab and the University of Kentucky to develop a genetically engineered tobacco plant that will produce oil that can be used as a biofuel. KQED Science wrote this story about the research effort.

Confirmed: Stellar Behemoth Self-Destructs in a Type IIb Supernova

Our Sun may seem pretty impressive: 330,000 times as massive as Earth, it accounts for 99.86 percent of the Solar System’s total mass; it generates about 400 trillion trillion watts of power per second; and it has a surface temperature of about 10,000 degrees Celsius. Yet for a star, it’s a lightweight.

Top graduating senior makes a splash in water policy

Rebecca Peters’ IQ score measured so low in fourth grade that her school did not deem her to be college material. Her parents didn’t buy it, and neither did she. Today she’s a diehard clean-water-access warrior, the winner of three of America’s top 10 scholarships — and UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior

Study says green buildings don’t create happier workers, yet

People working in buildings certified under LEED’s green building standard appear no more satisfied with the quality of their indoor workplace environments than those toiling in conventional buildings, according to new research from UC Berkeley, and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

Bottom-up model predicts depth to fresh bedrock under hillslopes

William Dietrich and graduate student Daniella Rempe have proposed a method to determine underground details without drilling, potentially providing a more precise way to predict water runoff, the moisture available to plants, landslides and how these will respond to climate change.

Brain size matters when it comes to animal self-control

Chimpanzees may throw tantrums like toddlers, but their total brain size suggests they have more self-control than, say, gerbils or fox squirrels, according to a new study of 36 mammal and bird species ranging from orangutans to zebra finches.

Seismic early-warning: What Mexico has, California is lacking

Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Romania, Turkey and several other seismically active countries operate early warning systems - but not the United States. Although the technology is available along the west coast and a demonstration system is operating, a public alert system does not exist.

Neuroengineers bring science cred, Berkeley feel to ‘Transcendence’ film

When Hollywood knocked on the doors of UC Berkeley engineering professors Michel Maharbiz and Jose Carmena, the researchers answered. Director Wally Pfister tapped their expertise in neural engineering and brain-machine interfaces during the filming of his movie, “Transcendence,” which opens in theaters April 18.

Student ‘hackers’ design new ways to research the Free Speech Movement

Students were invited recently to develop a compelling user interface to the Bancroft Library’s FSM Digital Archive, and shared their results 12 days later before a panel of judges. It’s hoped that HackFSM will spur future efforts to make online collections more accessible and useful to scholars and the public.

Berkeley Lab’s Adam Arkin Wins 2013 Lawrence Award

Arkin has been named one of six recipients of the 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The E.O. Lawrence Award, the DOE’s highest scientific honor, is recognizing Arkin “for his work advancing biological and environmental sciences."

Can New Understanding Avert Tragedy?

Solomon Hsiang's research provides a “ground–level” view of climate’s current and likely future role in such social stresses as child mortality, crime and social upheaval.

Graduate student brings extinct plants to life

When Berkeley graduate student Jeff Benca submitted a paper describing a new species of long-extinct lycopod, he ditched the standard line drawing and insisted on a detailed color reconstruction of the plant. This piece earned the cover of the American Journal of Botany.

On Memory’s Trail

Ehud Isacoff and his colleagues explore the brain at several levels critical to ultimately understand how memories form and what can threaten their demise. He is the Director of Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

College of Chemistry launches research hub with BASF, UCLA and Stanford

The College of Chemistry has launched a new collaborative research center, the California Research Alliance by BASF (CARA), a multidisciplinary effort focused on innovation and technology transfer. Along with Berkeley and the chemical company BASF, CARA academic partners include UCLA and Stanford University.

New Partnership Launches with Meeting at Berkeley Lab

To unite the research strengths of Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, the three institutions recently announced the formation of the Tri-Institutional Partnership as a means to promote collaborative research among the three institutions.

Michael Dear Receives AAG Global Book Award

Michael Dear’s Why Walls Won’t Work: Repairing the US–Mexico Divide, published by Oxford University Press, has been selected by the Globe Book Award Committee to receive the 2013 Association of American Geographers Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography.

Wind Power Can Be Cost-Comparable, New Analysis Reveals

The costs of using wind energy and natural gas for electricity are virtually equal when accounting for the full private and social costs of each, making wind a competitive energy source for the United States, according to a new study on the federal tax credit for wind energy.

Fierce solar magnetic storm barely missed Earth in 2012

According to University of California, Berkeley, and Chinese researchers, a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections — the most intense eruptions on the sun — sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barreling into space and through Earth’s orbit.

Crispr Goes Global

Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues showed that CRISPR/Cas9, can be used with great precision to selectively disable or add several genes at once in human cells, offering a potent new tool to understand and treat complex genetic diseases.

CHAMACOS: How pesticides harm young minds

Children born to mothers who work in California’s pesticide-treated fields show signs of developmental problems, according the pathbreaking CHAMACOS study, led by UC Berkeley professor Dr. Brenda Eskenazi in the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health.

Making Sense of Big Data

Ben Recht was recently honored by the White House with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, recognizing some of the most promising young researchers.

Scientists ‘herd’ cells in new approach to tissue engineering

Researchers at UC Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering and for potential applications such as “smart bandages”.

Preschoolers outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos

Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from UC Berkeley and the University of Edinburgh.

Ashok Gadgil inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Dr. Ashok Gadgil is inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) for his water disinfecting device. The NIHF honors those who are responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible.

Using Carbon to Control the Light

Feng Wang is studying how electrical fields modulate the optical properties of a number of materials. The flip of a light switch – a nano-scale light switch – may some day dramatically boost the speed of data transmission, from streaming movies to accelerating the most data-intense computation. 

Big Step for Next-Generation Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers

A big step in the development of next-generation fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers has been achieved with the discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the DOE.

How to Starve Out the Enemy

Mary Wildermuth is developing plant breeding strategies that can weaken the effects of powdery mildew. If not controlled, powdery mildew is a fast spreading fungus that can cause billions of dollars of crop damage in California.

Seizing Control of Brain Seizures

Daniela Kaufer made a startling discovery about the effect of psychological stress on the brain a few years after serving in the Israeli army during the first Gulf War. 

Key process in photosynthesis likely evolved before oxygen

Key protein in photosynthesis likely evolved before oxygen Virginia Tech and UC Berkeley researchers discover that thioredoxin, a critical protein in photosynthesis, likely developed on Earth long before oxygen became available. Thioredoxin, the researchers found, plays an important role in methanogens, an ancient type of microbe found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

New insight into an emerging genome-editing tool

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna and biophysicist Eva Nogales led an international collaboration with results that point the way to the rational design of new and improved versions of Cas9 enzymes for basic research and genetic engineering.

Pinning down malevolent cancer cells

Lydia Sohn is developing a new technique based on microtechnology to distinguish between different types of circulating tumor cells also known as CTC’s . She hopes this more sensitive approach will help clinicians learn which CTC’s are most prone to lead to metastasis.

Magnes exhibition explores intellectual migration

A new exhibition at UC Berkeley’s Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life tells the stories of more than 70 scholars, writers and artists – many of them Jewish, related to Jews or political dissidents – who escaped the rise of Nazism and fascism in Europe and brought their talents and dreams with them to UC Berkeley.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

A team of researchers with the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley have determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells

Seafloor carpet catches waves to generate energy

UC Berkeley Professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics, is looking to harness the power of big ocean waves by using the seafloor “carpet”, which he proposes will convert ocean waves into usable energy.

Solutions for voters’ short-term view of economic returns

American voters are pointedly asked during every presidential campaign if they are better off today than four years ago. But a new study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Political Science examines why voters actually consider how the economy has performed only in the last six months.

Researchers open door to new HIV therapy

People infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can stave off the symptoms of AIDS thanks to drug cocktails that mainly target three enzymes produced by the virus, but resistant strains pop up periodically that threaten to thwart these drug combos.

Announcing the California Report Card

Californians can now use smartphones to grade their state on timely issues. Developed by the office of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom with the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley.

Costas Spanos Appointed New CITRIS Director

Costas Spanos, the Andrew S. Grove Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, will become the fourth Director of CITRIS (the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society).

Why state’s water woes could be just beginning

As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn’t think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.

Urging women in physics to stay in physics

UC Berkeley graduate student Katayun Kamdin’s experience as an undergraduate physics major at the University of Chicago was like that of many women who enter a field traditionally dominated by men.

Eel River Observatory seeks clues to watershed’s future

University of California, Berkeley, scientists will receive $4,900,000 over the next five years to study the nearly 10,000 square kilometer Eel River watershed in Northern California and how its vegetation, geology and topography affect water flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Symposium spotlights clean-technology solutions

In the atrium of Sutardja Dai Hall, a screen displayed real-time results as audience members texted votes they based on what they’d just seen on stage. The audience was voting on favorites from a spate of innovative, environmentally friendly energy technologies being developed and refined through Cleantech to Market (C2M), a unique collaboration of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

BOSS Measures the Universe to One-Percent Accuracy

Today the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) Collaboration announced that BOSS has measured the scale of the universe to an accuracy of one percent. This and future measures at this precision are the key to determining the nature of dark energy.

Kumar and Murthy receive Keck Fund award

Bioengineering professors Sanjay Kumar and Niren Murthy have been granted a $500,000 research award from the W.M. Keck Foundation for their project, Single Tumor Cell Proteomics for Diagnosis and Prognosis.

Workshop series sows the seeds for conservation

The Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley has a big mission: understanding and protecting California’s flora. Given that the state is home to thousands of native plants, nearly 1,500 of which can be found only here, that’s a lot of work for a lot of people with a lot of specialized knowledge. So the Jepson Herbarium has done what comes naturally in order to ensure it will always have the well-trained plant-lovers it needs.

President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists

President Obama named 102 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Senate confirms Yellen as first woman to lead Federal Reserve Bank

Janet Yellen, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a trailblazer for women economists in academia, will become the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors starting Feb. 1. The U.S. Senate confirmed the presidential nominee today (Monday, Jan. 6).