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The Lead

Robot masters new skills through trial-and-error

May 22, 2015 10:04 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.

Discovery paves way for homebrewed drugs

May 18, 2015 11:22 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

Fans of homebrewed beer and backyard distilleries already know how to employ yeast to convert...

Did dinosaur-killing asteroid trigger largest lava flows on Earth?

May 1, 2015 7:47 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

The asteroid that slammed into the ocean off Mexico 66 million years ago and killed off the...

Electric vehicles may be more useful than previously thought

March 31, 2015 7:54 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the first study of its kind, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory...

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Even at a molecular level, taking it slow helps to cope with stress

March 23, 2015 10:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists have identified a new molecular pathway critical to aging, and confirmed that the process can be manipulated to help make old blood like new again. The researchers found that blood stem cells’ ability to repair damage caused by inappropriate protein folding in the mitochondria, a cell’s energy station, is critical to their survival and regenerative capacity.

“Smart bandage” detects bed sores before they are visible

March 17, 2015 2:23 pm | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, are developing a new type of bandage that does far more than stanch the bleeding from a paper cut or scraped knee. Thanks to advances in flexible electronics, the researchers have created a new “smart bandage” that uses electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers, or bedsores, before they can be seen by human eyes, and while recovery is still possible.

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

March 12, 2015 7:43 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley chemists have made a major leap forward in carbon-capture technology with a material that can efficiently remove carbon from the ambient air of a submarine as readily as from the polluted emissions of a coal-fired power plant. The material then releases the carbon dioxide at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials.

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Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

March 4, 2015 4:27 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute have found a way to increase the production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass fermented by yeast. By introducing new metabolic pathways into the yeast, they enable the microbes to efficiently ferment cellulose and hemicellulose, the two major families of sugar found in the plant cell wall, without the need of environmentally harsh pre-treatments or expensive enzyme cocktails.

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 2, 2015 8:08 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

Geysers have loops in their plumbing

February 25, 2015 8:25 am | by Robert Sanders, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Geysers like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupt periodically because of loops or side-chambers in their underground plumbing, according to recent studies by volcanologists at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The key to geysers is an underground bend or loop that traps steam and then bubbles it out slowly to heat the water column above until it is just short of boiling.

Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western U.S. carbon negative

February 9, 2015 12:51 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Generating electricity from biomass, such as urban waste and sustainably sourced forest and crop residues, is one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because it is carbon-neutral: It produces as much carbon as the plants suck out of the atmosphere.

How oxygen is kryptonite to titanium

February 6, 2015 11:00 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have found the mechanism by which titanium, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio and natural resistance to corrosion, becomes brittle with just a few extra atoms of oxygen. The discovery has the potential to open the door to more practical, cost-effective uses of titanium in a broader range of applications.

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Quantum computer as detector shows space isn’t squeezed

January 29, 2015 10:42 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Ever since Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity in 1905, physics and cosmology have been based on the assumption that space looks the same in all directions: that it’s not squeezed in one direction relative to another. A new experiment by Univ. of California, Berkeley physicists used partially entangled atoms to demonstrate more precisely than ever before that this is true, to one part in a billion billion.

Scientists set quantum speed limit

January 23, 2015 8:01 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Scientists have proved a fundamental relationship between energy and time that sets a “quantum speed limit” on processes ranging from quantum computing and tunneling to optical switching. The energy-time uncertainty relationship is the flip side of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which sets limits on how precisely you can measure position and speed, and has been the bedrock of quantum mechanics for nearly 100 years.

Organic electronics could lead to cheap, wearable medical sensors

December 10, 2014 2:19 pm | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Future fitness trackers could soon add blood-oxygen levels to the list of vital signs measured with new technology developed by engineers.                               

Copper on the brain at rest

December 1, 2014 8:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now, a new study has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest.

Lightning expected to increase by 50% with global warming

November 13, 2014 4:56 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | Videos | Comments

Today’s climate models predict a 50% increase in lightning strikes across the U.S. during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. Reporting in Science, a team of 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.

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Outsmarting thermodynamics in self-assembly of nanostructures

November 3, 2014 1:56 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you’re a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic-driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material.

Scientists create new protein-based material with some nerve

October 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, 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

October 15, 2014 7:56 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

NIH awards UC Berkeley $7.2 million to advance brain initiative

October 2, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The National Institutes of Health this week announced its first research grants through President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, including three awards to the Univ. of California, Berkeley, totaling nearly $7.2 million over three years. The projects are among 58 funded in this initial wave of NIH grants, involving 100 researchers and a total of $46 million in fiscal year 2014 dollars alone.

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

September 15, 2014 10:43 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

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, according to a new study led by Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers. The findings could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.

Shining light on brain circuits to study learning, memory

September 8, 2014 8:04 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley neuroscientists plan to use light to tweak the transmission of signals in the brain to learn more about how the mouse brain and presumably the human brain process information. Last month, the promising optogenetics research project was awarded one of 36 new $300,000, two-year grants from the National Science Foundation in support of the BRAIN Initiative.

Tiny laser sensor heightens bomb detection sensitivity

July 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

New technology under development at the Univ. of California, Berkeley could soon give bomb-sniffing dogs some serious competition. A team of researchers has found a way to dramatically increase the sensitivity of a light-based plasmon sensor to detect incredibly minute concentrations of explosives.

Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

Blind lead the way in brave new world of tactile technology

July 2, 2014 9:46 am | by Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

New research at UC Berkeley has found that people are better and faster at navigating tactile technology when using both hands and several fingers. Moreover, blind people in the study outmaneuvered their sighted counterparts, perhaps because they’ve developed superior cognitive strategies for finding their way around. These insights are useful as more media companies are implementing tactile interfaces.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

Dynamic spectroscopy duo

June 17, 2014 1:34 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

From allowing our eyes to see, to enabling green plants to harvest energy from the sun, photochemical reactions are ubiquitous and critical to nature. Photochemical reactions also play essential roles in high technology. Using photochemical reactions to our best advantage requires a deep understanding of the interplay between the electrons and atomic nuclei within a molecular system after that system has been excited by light.

New clues to why older women are more vulnerable to breast cancer

June 6, 2014 10:56 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have gained more insights into why older women are more susceptible to breast cancer. They found that as women age, the cells responsible for maintaining healthy breast tissue stop responding to their immediate surroundings, including mechanical cues that should prompt them to suppress nearby tumors.

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