Posts about Berkeley

The Mystery of Empty Space

Get ready to re-think your ideas of reality. Join UCSD physicist Kim Griest as he takes you on a fascinating excursion, addressing some of the massive efforts and tantalizing bits of evidence which suggest that what goes on in empty space determines the properties of the three-dimensional existence we know and love, and discusses how that reality may be but the wiggling of strings from other dimensions.

Related: HiggsLooking for Signs of Dark Matter Over AntarcticaFeynman “is a second Dirac, only this time human”

Feynman “is a second Dirac, only this time human”

Oppenheimer recommendation of Feynman, page 1

Great quotes from Oppenheimer’s recommendation of Richard Feynman

“He is by all odds the most brilliant young physicist here, and everyone knows this. He is a man of thoroughly engaging character and personality, extremely clear, extremely normal in all respects, and an excellent teacher with a warm feeling for physics in all its aspects. He has the best possible relations both with the theoretical people of whom he is one, and with the experimental people with whom he works in very close harmony.”

Bethe has said that he would rather lose any two other men than Feynman from this present job, and Wigner said, ‘He is a second Dirac, only this time human.”

Oppenheimer recommendation of Feynman, page 2

Images of letter from Oppenheimer to the University of California – Berkeley Recommending Richard Feynman for a position, November 4, 1943 (from Big Science at Berkeley).

via: He is a second Dirac, only this time human.

Related: Vega Science Lectures: Feynman and MoreThe Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Feynman and Robert B. Leighton and Matthew Sands – posts on physics

General Biology Berkeley Course Webcast

General Biology Course at University of California – Berkeley, Fall 2007. Instructors John Forte, R Fischer and R Malkin. “General introduction to cell structure and function, molecular and organism genetics, animal development, form and function. Intended for biological sciences majors, but open to all qualified students.” A great service from Berkeley with video and audio… Topics include: Macromolecules structure and function, How cells function-an introduction to cellular metabolism and biological catalysts, Microbes – Viruses, Bacteria, Plasmids, Transposons and Homeostasis: The body’s defenses.

Related: Science and Engineering Webcast DirectoryHarvard Course: Understanding Computers and the InternetBerkeley and MIT courses onlineArizona State Science Studio PodcastsGoogle Tech Talks

Invisibility Cloak Closer

Invisibility shields one step closer with new metamaterials that bend light backwards

Applications for a metamaterial entail altering how light normally behaves. In the case of invisibility cloaks or shields, the material would need to curve light waves completely around the object like a river flowing around a rock. For optical microscopes to discern individual, living viruses or DNA molecules, the resolution of the microscope must be smaller than the wavelength of light.

The common thread in such metamaterials is negative refraction. In contrast, all materials found in nature have a positive refractive index, a measure of how much electromagnetic waves are bent when moving from one medium to another.

In a classic illustration of how refraction works, the submerged part of a pole inserted into water will appear as if it is bent up towards the water’s surface. If water exhibited negative refraction, the submerged portion of the pole would instead appear to jut out from the water’s surface.

For a metamaterial to achieve negative refraction, its structural array must be smaller than the electromagnetic wavelength being used. Not surprisingly, there has been more success in manipulating wavelengths in the longer microwave band, which can measure 1 millimeter up to 30 centimeters long.

Related: Engineering Harry Potter’s Invisibility CloakUC-Berkeley Course Videos now on YouTubeposts on university based researchBerkeley tagged posts

Magnetic Movie

Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo

Magnetic Movie was shot in NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories at UC Berkeley for Chanel 4 in association with the Arts Council of England.

In Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor have taken the magnificent scientific visualisations of the sun and solar winds conducted at the Space Sciences Laboratory and Semiconducted them. Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt of Semiconductor were artists-in-residence at SSL. Combining their in-house lab culture experience with formidable artistic instincts in sound, animation and programming, they have created a magnetic magnum opus in nuce, a tour de force of a massive invisible force brought down to human scale, and a “very most beautiful thing.”

Magnetic Movie is the aquavit, something not precisely scientific but grants us an uncanny experience of geophysical and cosmological forces.

Cool video: I must admit I am confused at how extensive the artistic license taken with the animation is.

Related: SciVee Science WebcastsThe Art and Science of ImagingArt of Science 2006Nikon Small World Photos

Lancelet Genome Provides Answers on Evolution

Lancelet genome shows how genes quadrupled during vertebrate evolution by Robert Sanders

“If you compare the 23 chromosomes of humans with the 19 chromosomes of amphioxus, you find that both genomes can be expressed in terms of 17 ancestral pieces. So, we can say with some confidence that 550 million years ago, the common ancestor of amphioxus and humans had 17 chromosomal elements.”

Each of those 17 ancestral segments was duplicated twice in the evolution of vertebrates, after which most of the routine “housekeeping” genes lost the extra copies. Those left, totaling a couple thousand genes, found new functions that, Putnam said, make us different from all other creatures.

“These few thousand genes have been retooled to make humans more elaborate than their simpler ancestors. They are involved in setting up the body plan of an animal and differentiating different parts of the animal,” he said. “The hypothesis, pretty strongly supported by this data, is that the multiplication of this particular kind of gene and differentiation into different functions was important in the formation of vertebrates as we know them.”

“The most exciting thing that the amphioxus genome does is provide excellent evidence for the idea that Ono proposed in 1970, that the human genome had undergone two rounds of whole-genome duplication with subsequent losses,”

A great example of the scientific method in action. It often isn’t a matter of developing a theory one day, testing it the next and learning the outcome the next. The process can take decades for complex matters.

Related: Opossum Genome Shows ‘Junk’ DNA is Not JunkAmazing Science: Retrovirusesposts on evolution

Shaw Laureates 2008

Image of the Shaw Prize Medal

The Shaw Prize awards $1 million in each of 3 areas: Astronomy; Life Science and Medicine; and Mathematical Sciences. The award was established in 2002 by Run Run Shaw who was born in China and made his money in the movie industry. The prize is administered in Hong Kong and awards those “who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or application and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind.” The 2008 Shaw Laureates have been selected.

Professor Reinhard Genzel, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, in recognition of his outstanding contribution in demonstrating that the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole at its centre.

In 1969, Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees suggested that the Milky Way might contain a supermassive black hole. But evidence for such an object was lacking at the time because the centre of the Milky Way is obscured by interstellar dust, and was detected only as a relatively faint radio source. Reinhard Genzel obtained compelling evidence for this conjecture by developing state-of-the-art astronomical instruments and carrying out a persistent programme of observing our Galactic Centre for many years, which ultimately led to the discovery of a black hole with a mass a few million times that of the Sun, in the centre of the Milky Way.

Supermassive black holes are now recognized to account for the luminous sources seen at the nuclei of galaxies and to play a fundamental role in the formation of galaxies.

Mathematical Sciences
Vladimir Arnold, together with Andrei Kolmogorov and Jurgen Moser, made fundamental contributions to the study of stability in dynamical systems, exemplified by the motion of the planets round the sun. This work laid the foundation for all subsequent developments right up to the present time.

Arnold also produced extremely fruitful ideas, relating classical mechanics to questions of topology. This includes the famous Arnold Conjecture which was only recently solved.

In classical hydrodynamics the basic equations of an ideal fluid were derived by Euler in 1757 and major steps towards understanding them were taken by Helmholtz in 1858, and Kelvin in 1869. The next significant breakthrough was made by Arnold a century later and this has provided the basis for more recent work.

Ludwig Faddeev has made many important contributions to quantum physics. Together with Boris Popov he showed the right way to quantize the famous non-Abelian theory which underlies all contemporary work on sub-atomic physics. This led in particular to the work of ”²t Hooft and Veltman which was recognized by the Nobel Prize for Physics of 1999.
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UC-Berkeley Course Videos now on YouTube

About a year ago I posted that UC-Berkeley Course Videos were available on Google Video. Well now the
Berkeley YouTube site includes even more videos of Berkeley lectures. They include those listed on Google Video that I mentioned last year such as Physics for Future Presidents and Search Engines (by Sergey Brin) and more.

They currently have 201 videos posted. Hopefully they will add many more.

Does anyone else have the annoying delay on pages with YouTube videos? My entire browser locks up for probably 15 seconds on average now for any page that has an embedded YouTube video (not always but very often now). I find this very annoying.

Related: Science and Engineering Webcast DirectoryMore Great Webcasts: Nanotech and moreGoogle Technology Talks

ScienceMatters@Berkeley April 2007

As usually the latest issue of ScienceMatters@Berkeley includes several intersting articles including, The Protein Machine by Kathleen M. Wong

A large percentage of known antibiotics target bacterial ribosomes, including tetracycline, erythromycin, and streptomycin. Many of these antibiotics have been isolated from microbes themselves. “It’s a byproduct of the chemical warfare that’s been going on among bacteria for hundreds of millions of years,” Cate says. “We want to understand how these natural products inhibit translation. Then, based on what we understand about the ribosome mechanism, we should be able to come up with new ways to stop bacterial translation based on the old compounds.”

Self-Tuning Genes:

Researchers such as UC Berkeley’s Adam Arkin have found that regulatory feedback is associated with chance fluctuations in mRNA or protein levels—a phenomenon called expression noise. “Even though they’re all genetically identical, and grown under the same conditions, yeast clones don’t express certain proteins at exactly the same level,” Brem says. “Some genes are noisier than others. That makes people think the cell is actively tuning the distribution around an expression level set by the regulatory network.” Noise may ensure that a few individuals can handle abrupt changes in their environment. In other words, if a colony is suddenly assaulted by toxic chemicals or high heat, a few individuals will already have expression levels suited to those conditions.

Berkeley and MIT courses online

Huge amount of University of California Berkely webcasts of course lectures. Subscribe to RSS feeds and listen to podcasts or listen online.

Courses include: General Biology, Solid State Devices and Introductory Physics. Course websites include handouts for the lectures.

A great open access resource.

I can’t believe I have mentioned MIT open courseware before but a search didn’t find anything. MIT’s effort is an excellent resource, many on science and engineering: Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering, etc..

MIT also includes the excellent: Visualizing Cultures – a gateway to seeing history through images that once had wide circulation among peoples of different times and places by John Dower (author of National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winning: Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II) and Shigeru Miyagawa.

The Future is Engineering

Do Great Engineering Schools Beget Entrepreneurism? by Brent Edwards provides two great links.

How to Kick Silicon Valley’s Butt by Guy Kawasaki:

Focus on educating engineers. The most important thing you can do is establish a world-class school of engineering. Engineering schools beget engineers. Engineers beget ideas. And ideas beget companies. End of discussion.

If I had to point to the single biggest reason for Silicon Valley’s existence, it would be Stanford University—specifically, the School of Engineering. Business schools are not of primary importance because MBAs seldom sit around discussing how to change the world with great products.

Why Startups Condense in America:

You need a great university to seed a silicon valley, and so far there are few outside the US. I asked a handful of American computer science professors which universities in Europe were most admired, and they all basically said “Cambridge” followed by a long pause while they tried to think of others. There don’t seem to be many universities elsewhere that compare with the best in America, at least in technology.

Both essays make many excellent points – read them! Continue reading