Review Category : Science & Technology

Decreasing chlorophyll causes fall colors

It’s that time of year when the thousands of trees on and off campus experience a dramatic change before the cold winter. Leaves are turning gold, red and orange — what is the secret behind these changes? To answer that question, we need to understand the biological purpose of leaves and their chemical components. Leaves are the part of a plant that photosynthesize. They take in energy from the sun in the form of light and turn it into a form they can use, namely, glucose and other sugars. Why do leaves do this instead of other parts of the plant? In trees, especially, leaves are responsible for photosynthesis because they are green. Their unique structure also aids them in their ability to make sugars, but the most important part is their color. The green in plants comes from a specific light-absorbing pigment, known as chlorophyll a. “Leaves are green because the primary photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, absorbs the red and blue spectra of light while reflecting the wavelength of visible... ...

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UC Davis, NASA study Chelyabinsk meteor’s impact

UC Davis Professor Qing-Zhu Yin of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has collaborated with an international team including NASA’s preeminent meteor astronomers in the first ever study of the Chelyabinsk meteor. The research was published Nov. 7 in the journal Science. Studies of this type, which employ experts’ knowledge, highly-practiced sets of eyes and specialized technologies have allowed researchers to tell the life story of the meteor, from its cosmic birth billions of years ago, to its turbulent and high-speed conclusion in the frozen base of Lake Chebarkul. On Feb. 15, a decaying remnant of the extra-terrestrial Chelyabinsk meteor plunged through Earth’s atmosphere at an estimated 41,000 miles per hour, roughly 40 times the speed of a triggered bullet. The resulting shock wave, which caused significant damage, passed through the city of Chelyabinsk, shattered windows, knocked locals to the ground and prompted nearly 1,500 people to seek hospitalization. Although less than half of one percent of the meteor remained intact by the time it collided with an ice-capped... ...

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This Week in Science:11/12 – 11/18

Canyon of fire appears on Sun’s surface, according to NASA A filament of charged particles blasted away from the sun at more than 3 million kilometers per hour, leaving behind a scar in the plasma that NASA has dubbed the “Canyon of Fire.” Interesting mating habits discovered in Australian sea slugs It has been discovered that Australian sea slugs, a hermaphroditic mollusk, have sex by reciprocally stabbing one another in the forehead with their penises, according to Rolanda Lange from the University of Tuebingen in Germany. Fossils suggest Asia, not Africa, as ancestral home of big cats The oldest known fossils from a big cat were found recently in Tibet, and suggest that Asia, not Africa, is the origin of big cat ancestry. Dr. Jack Iseng authored the study along with a team of U.S. and Chinese paleontologists, and their research is published in the Royal Society Journal. Breakthrough in invisibility cloak Dr. George Eleftheriades from the University of Toronto has developed an invisibility cloak capable of completely concealing objects... ...

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Tech Tip: Mobile app puts new spin on our four wheels

Most students are aware of the Tipsy Taxi service run by Unitrans, which brings you back home safely after one too many drinks. However, Tipsy Taxi is only available from Thursday to Saturday between the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wouldn’t it be nice to have other late-night modes of transportation that aren’t limited to three nights of the week? In the near future, it could be possible to get a lift from Lyft. Lyft is an app that is available on iPhone and Android-based cell phones and is currently a popular service in San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles. Originally started in San Francisco, Lyft was created with the younger generation’s needs in mind, promoting peer-to-peer ridesharing when traveling to a similar destination as someone with transportation. For those who live far from home, this app finds people around you who might be headed in the same direction — like driving to L.A. for the holiday break — and allows you to tag... ...

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Racks-on-chip, a conceptual solution to data centers

Today’s data centers have ever-increasing workloads placed upon them, resulting in the wildly expensive cost of operations and maintenance in addition to supplying the thousands of watts of power they can require. This is the question highlighted in the Oct. 11 edition of the journal Science by Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Chair Shaya Fainman and Center for Networked Systems Associate Director George Porter, both faculty at UCSD. In order to accomplish energy and monetary conservancy in future centers, Fainman and Porter discuss one option which would change the current data center design into racks-on-chip. Rather than large racks of servers arranged in conjunction, individual chips will have “racks” that act like a miniaturized server. “The idea behind racks-on-chip [is] to take the processing power and memory of individual servers in these data centers, and start to integrate them into highly dense packages, reducing the overall power and cooling,” Porter said in an email interview. “By increasing the density of these internet data centers, we have the potential of doing... ...

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UC Davis begins breeding poultry for impoverished Africans

Africa could be receiving some new hot, healthy chicks if Davis scientists have anything to say about it. Researchers from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis and the School of Veterinary Medicine are working on creating disease-resistant, heat-resistant chickens for hunger-prone areas of Africa. In particular, the work focuses on fighting Newcastle disease, which kills 750 million chickens every year. “Newcastle disease is the number one disease that kills chickens throughout most of the developing world, so across Africa, South [and] Central America and across much of Asia. Newcastle disease kind of sweeps through rural villages once or twice a year and kills most of the chickens,” said David Bunn, director of the effort called Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry. With new technology and innovative genomics, the team hopes to breed fowl suitable for the most affected areas. This isn’t genetic modification, but it’s a step up from traditional breeding. They examined local birds that can withstand heat and incorporated what... ...

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Tech Tip: A new take on an electrical bike

It could be possible in the near future to arrive to class looking just as good as when you left, not like you just biked two miles. FlyKly has recently unveiled their prototype for Smart Wheel, a pedal assist unit that can transform almost any bike into an electric bike. For a community like Davis, where biking is not just a form of transportation but a lifestyle, Smart Wheel and its mobile phone app are an exciting development. The 9-pound Smart Wheel contains the motor, battery and electronics inside a unit that is affixed to a 29-inch rear wheel. It can replace almost any bike’s rear wheel and is simple to swap in and out. Smart Wheel’s motor turns on when you start pedaling to assist you in your journey. It can help you reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and can travel up to 30 miles on a single charge. It will come in a variety of colors to suit bike frames and customer preferences. Though... ...

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Crows flock to campus

UC Davis is no stranger to the crows that hover over campus. There seems to be a colony of them in particular areas around campus, especially the Silo. Andrea Townsend, an assistant professor of urban conservation ecology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, studies social behavior and disease transmission in birds, including the crows on campus. According to Townsend, crows have a communal roost in the parking lot next to the Silo. They have what are known as staging areas — where a select portion of the crows from a larger group gather while they find their way to and from their bigger roost. The Silo could be serving as one of the staging areas for them. “The reason that crows roost (and stage) together is unclear, but they often prefer well-lit city parking lots,” Townsend said in an email. “One hypothesis for why they roost communally is information sharing: they might learn from other birds at the roost about food sources and places to avoid. The... ...

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November constellations and Comet ISON

The coming of winter means less sunlight but more starlight. The beginning of November hailed a rare solar eclipse, but the eclipse was only visible to viewers from the US East Coast to the middle east. However, Davis astronomy aficionados can still catch the highly anticipated Comet ISON. Born from the primeval matter of the earliest days of the solar system, the ball of ice and rock is embarking on its first trip through the inner solar system. When it nears the sun, its pristine surface will ignite and form a tail of gas and dust. Experts worry that ISON has a high chance of disintegrating due to the gravitational forces, solar radiation and extremely high temperatures from the sun. If it survives skimming just 730,000 miles above the surface of the sun at its perihelion — the point of an orbit closest to the sun — it will return and blaze in northern skies as the most dazzling comet of this century. ISON is currently only visible by binoculars... ...

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Protect your bike

A new device is poised to revolutionize the way people think about bicycle security. LOCK8, an induction-charged, keyless, alarm-secured, GPS-tracking bike lock is the first smart bike lock with sharing capabilities. Two Oxford students, Franz Salzmann and Daniel Zajarias-Fainsod, developed LOCK8 after having both of their bikes stolen in a two-day time span. “LOCK8 is the first integral solution for bike sharing,” Zajarias-Fainsod said. “Not only do we provide a powerful and user-friendly app, but also cutting-edge hardware that actually lets you communicate with your or someone else’s bike.” LOCK8 features both Bluetooth and GSM communication, which means that a phone can connect to your LOCK8-equipped bicycle from a few feet or from the other side of the world. With the LOCK8 device and app, users can offer their own bikes to rent, or if you need a bicycle but don’t own one or it’s not near, you can use the LOCK8 app to rent one. LOCK8 could provide a low-cost solution that requires little to no infrastructure when creating... ...

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This Week in Science and Technology: 10/28 – 11/4

At Least You Get to Keep the Glasses A study to be published in Media Psychology found that watching a movie in 3D vs 2D doesn’t actually make a significant difference in the experience. Aside from costing slightly more than 2D, 3D usually helps the viewer from being distracted by the usual theater norms like the talking kid, the obnoxious laughter or the texter. However, the 3D aspect of the movie cannot do wonders for a less than average movie. According to the researchers, the slight satisfaction boost 3D movies have from the immersion is usually canceled out by the extra cost or uncomfortable glasses. Look Who’s Learning Already A recent study published in the journal PLoS One found that when fetuses were regularly played a specific tune in the womb they had more brain activity when hearing that exact tune after birth. This study shows that even fetuses can be impressionable, so maybe switch that Nicki Minaj to some Bach when pregnant. Dog’s Best Friend A small study was... ...

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The science behind sweating

Why do we sweat? Where in the long path of human history did we evolve this embarrassing characteristic? How does it work? Well, the truth is that sweating is what gave us the ability to achieve greatness. Most other mammals don’t sweat, causing them to run internal body temperatures much higher than our own. They can pant, but they can’t hide. Humans, on the other hand, are unique in that we can direct heat off of our bodies and (more importantly) away from our big brains. On top of giving our brains an easier time, we can use our perspiration powers for endurance activities that others cannot. The four-legged prey we used to run after with spears had to eventually slow down to pant. We didn’t. We could keep pace with them, outrun them and then eat them. Almost every aspect of science plays an important role in keeping us cool. Let’s start with how we know when to sweat. As we become active, our body temperature rises. Then, when... ...

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Construction begins on SkyMine

The construction of a carbon dioxide (CO2) recycling plant in San Antonio, Texas will employ new technology to trap CO2 from power stations and industrial manufacturing processes before it is released into the atmosphere. Using technology from Skyonic, construction began on the SkyMine demonstration plant on Sept. 30. The technology utilizes heat in waste gases from industrial chimneys, which is then used to generate electricity. Then the carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals like mercury are scrubbed from the waste gases and stored. The CO2 enters absorption chambers where it is treated with sodium hydroxide (aka caustic soda ) made from salt and water. The chemical reaction that occurs is: CO2 + H2O + NaCl —> NaHCO3 + H2 + Cl2 The byproducts of this chemical reaction are baking soda (NaHCO3), hydrogen gas (H2) and chlorine gas (Cl2), all of which have multiple commercial uses. Hydrogen and chlorine gases, for example, can be dissolved in water to make hydrochloric acid, which is frequently used as an industrial... ...

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Study finds linkage between DNA, marital satisfaction

When it comes to marriage, wouldn’t it be nice to know whether it’s for the better or for the worse? Fortunately, for the meticulously-cautious and planning-obsessed people, a recent study published in the journal Emotion begins to tap into this fascinating area of marriage and its relation to DNA. Dr. Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley and the main investigator of the study, suggests that our genetic make-up contributes to our marital satisfaction. The study discovered that alleles — different versions of particular genes — set the stage for how individuals process and understand their emotional state, which eventually affects their relationships. “We are always curious why some couples are happy and thriving whereas others are seemingly unhappy and miserable,” said Claudia Haase, co-author of the study, in an email interview. “Research has shown that the emotions that spouses show when they are together (e.g. affection, joy, sadness or anger) play an important role in how their marital satisfaction develops over time.” The researchers discovered a linkage between... ...

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SmartSite: How it helps, how it hurts

Replacing MyUCDavis in 2005, SmartSite is the current course management system here at UC Davis. Sakai is the underlying, open source software for Smartsite hosted through the outsourced vendor Asahi Net International. Andy Jones, academic associate director of Academic Technology Services, said in an email that Sakai is “the community source collaborative learning environment that provides the code and ‘engine’ for our SmartSite.” This means that software developers at other schools from around the country can contribute tools and applications that we can use on SmartSite. UC Davis’ software developers are responsible for the Gradebook2 application. SmartSite is one of the most heavily relied upon tools that instructors and students use to keep track of their courses. “SmartSite is used in the vast majority of all UC Davis classes, and in almost all large-enrollment classes,” Jones said. As such an important tool in students’ everyday lives, there is a lot of dependency placed on it, and this dependency is a real issue when SmartSite’s routine maintenance goes wrong. The most... ...

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