Friday, January 29, 2010

Grateful Dead Performs Supernova Music

Scientists are familiar with what a supernova looks like--when these stars are destroyed in the most massive explosions in the universe, they leave their mark as one of the brightest objects in space, at least for several weeks. While the supernova can be seen, it can't be heard, as sound waves cannot travel through space. But what if the light waves emitted by the exploding star and other cosmological phenomena could be translated into sound? That's the idea behind a "Rhythms of the Universe," a musical project to "sonify" the universe by Grateful Dead percussionist and Grammy award-winning artist Mickey Hart that caught the attention of Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Berkeley lab news release:microbes produce fuels directly from biomass

A collaboration led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Deploying the tools of synthetic biology, the JBEI researchers engineered a strain of /Escherichia coli/ (/E. coli/) bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel and other important chemicals derived from fatty acids. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Daily Californian.

Choosing Climate-Friendly Insurance

With almost every aspect of our lives undergoing a green makeover, it may come as no surprise that insurance companies are starting to reward their customers' environmental choices. An April 2009 report by Ceres--a network of sustainable-business advocates--discovered that insurance companies are starting to respond to climate change. Several companies, especially in Europe, have created policies that encourage consumers to limit their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. "Consumers should look for products that recognize the benefits of climate-friendly activities," Evan Mills, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and an expert in greening insurance, told me in an email. More>

Studies of how things fall apart may lead to materials that don’t

Suppose there was a fourth little pig. This one was a physicist. Unlike his brother the engineer, who built a house out of tried-and-true bricks, the physicist pig chose a building material by doing calculations based on fundamental principles. He settled on a substance made from silicon and oxygen, an abundant material with high bond strength and the aesthetic bonus of transparency. It was safe from huffing and puffing. But then the wolf learned to throw stones. Some materials scientists are already creating new materials based on how natural substances fail, or fail to fail. Robert Ritchie and Tony Tomsia of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and colleagues, for example, made a material based on seashells in late 2008. More>

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mismatched alloys are a good match for future development of thermoelectrics

Employing some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that mismatched alloys are a good match for the future development of high performance thermoelectric devices. Thermoelectrics hold enormous potential for green energy production because of their ability to convert heat into electricity. Computations performed on Franklin, a Cray XT4 massively parallel processing system operated by the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), showed that the introduction of oxygen impurities into a unique class of semiconductors known as highly mismatched alloys (HMAs) can substantially enhance the thermoelectric performance of these materials without the customary degradation in electric conductivity. More>

Converting Waste Heat Into Electricity? Mismatched Alloys Are a Good Match for Thermoelectrics

Employing some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that mismatched alloys are a good match for the future development of high performance thermoelectric devices. Thermoelectrics hold enormous potential for green energy production because of their ability to convert heat into electricity. More>

The Volcano Beneath

Most people do not know that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is almost entirely sited on a caldeara, a collapsed volcano. Below this caldera there is the Hayward Fault, which cuts through Memorial Stadium and across the bottom of the hills. The Hayward Fault is due for a magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 earthquake anytime within the next 30 years. Still, LBNL plans to build up to a million square feet of research facilities on its steep and unstable hills above the city and UC campus. More>

DOE Plans Geothermal Drilling Safeguards

A finding by the DOE, reported by the New York Times, showed that any earthquakes would have been small and had little impact in the sparsely populated area. However, in the face of local opposition, AltaRock abandoned the project. The DOE has shown confidence in AltaRock, by subsequently awarding the company $25 million to try a similar project at the Newberry Volcanic Monument near Bend, Oregon. The New York Times also quoted Ernie Majer, a seismologist and deputy director of the Earth Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, as saying that the new standards show how the DOE “is being ultra-careful about any induced seismicity,” referring to earthquakes triggered by humans. More>

Bacteria rebuilt to make oil

Researchers have engineered a common type of bacteria to produce biodiesel and other goodies from plain old plants. The microbial trickery, detailed today in the journal Nature, promises to add "nature's petroleum" to America's energy supply within the next few years. "We've got a billion tons of biomass every year that goes unused," said Jay Keasling, a co-author of research study and chief executive officer for the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute, or JBEI. "We'd like to turn that into fuel." More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in CNet, Scientific American, Forbes, AFP, Earth Techling, Genetic Engineering News, and the East Bay Business Times.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Microbes produce fuels directly from biomass

A collaboration led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Deploying the tools of synthetic biology, the JBEI researchers engineered a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel and other important chemicals derived from fatty acids. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in 9 News and Earth Times.

Galaxies unlock new secrets of dark matter

To weigh the universe, scientists use two kinds of cosmic scales: one to measure all the regular matter out there, and another to deduce how much invisible dark matter remains hidden underneath. These calculations have been taken further than ever before by a new study that tallied both types of mass in smaller and more distant groups of galaxies than any previous projects. The project found that these faraway galactic clusters have roughly the same proportion of dark matter to regular matter as the closer galaxy groups do. "We can map out the big cities, but no one's been able to map out the villages yet," said Alexie Leauthaud of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., leader of the new study. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in examiner.com, and softpedia.

Mismatched alloys are a good match for thermoelectics

Employing some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that mismatched alloys are a good match for the future development of high performance . Thermoelectrics hold enormous potential for production because of their ability to convert heat into electricity. More>

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mickey Hart's Music of the Universe Reveals the Sound of Supernova

Now, as reported by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we have Rhythms of the Universe. In outer space, no one can hear you rock out. Sound waves do not travel in the vacuum of space, and even the cosmic cataclysm that is the supernova is completely silent to our ears. However, Rhythms of the Universe presents a musical offering that suggests what a supernova might sound like, once the different electromagnetic frequencies given off by an exploding star are translated into signals that we can hear. More>

Bin Laden - Dead or Alive? Threats, Lies and Videotapes

Former assistant director of FBI's counter-terrorism division Dale Watson; former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf; current Pakistani President Asif Zardari; Afghan President Hamid Karzai; late Benazir Bhutto; Israeli intelligence sources; Pakistani and Afghan sources, including Taliban leaders all have reported Osama bin Laden to be "probably dead" since December 2001. A January 2004 audio tape of bin Laden was described by physicist and US national security consultant Professor Richard Muller of the Berkeley National Laboratory as most likely a fake. Muller did not cite technical evidence, however, but focused on the multiple accounts of bin Laden's death around December 2001, and outlined a plausible technical account of how the tape could have been doctored. More>

EPA makes gains with Energy Star program, but US housing stock remains woefully 'sick.'

Homebuilders say they'll build more efficient homes when buyers ask for them, but demand won't grow until more people understand the benefits of efficiency. "Consumers really, really need more information about efficient homes," Khan said. "They just aren't getting it."Edward Vine, an energy efficiency expert at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the California Institute for Energy and the Environment, agrees. "That's where I'd focus most of my energy," he said. "We have to change the mentality of some people who say, 'We have energy-efficient homes, so why aren't people knocking down the doors?' " More>

Open-Source Lab Promises Free DNA Parts for Bioengineers

Poor Dr. Frankenstein had to steal corpses for his mad experiments, but modern-day bioengineers need not resort to such dubious methods for raw materials. The new Biofab laboratory plans to churn out thousands of free standard DNA parts that academic and private biotech labs can use to create new designer microbes that can make everything from new drugs to fuel. Scientists from Stanford University and UC Berkeley have focused on identifying the thousands of molecules and processes so that they can mix and match DNA parts in the Biofab lab. Their funding comes from the U.S. National Science Foundation, as well as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the BioBricks Foundation. More>

Monday, January 25, 2010

Haiti Quake Raises Flags on U.S. Hot Spots

In the past 20 years, there have been 26 earthquakes measuring 6.5 or higher in places like San Francisco and Northridge, Calif. They turn high-rises into rubble. They happen without warning, and our report card shows America gets mixed grades when it comes to preparing for and predicting earthquakes. Scientists across the country are searching for a solution. "Earthquake prediction, nobody has reliably done that," said Ernie Majer, head earth sciences division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. "It would be more towards earthquake understanding." To achieve that goal, researchers like Majer need to feel the pulse of seismic activity. During a recent test, Majer and his team were able to see specific changes in the ground hours before a small earthquake hit. More>

Brain protein critical to movement, memory, and learning deciphered at the Advanced Light Source

The structure of a protein that is sending electrical pulses between neurons in your brain as you read this article has been fully mapped for the first time using Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source. This much-anticipated milestone could lead to new treatments for neurological diseases and a better understanding of how the nervous system controls movement, memory, and learning. More>

Mismatched alloys are a good match for thermoelectics

Employing some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that mismatched alloys are a good match for the future development of high performance thermoelectric devices. Thermoelectrics hold enormous potential for green energy production because of their ability to convert heat into electricity. More>

Weak Gravitational Lensing Uniquely Promising to Learn How Much Dark Matter in Universe

Spearheaded by a Berkeley Lab cosmologist, an international team has extended the reliability of gravitational lensing to much older, more distant, and smaller galactic structures than previously possible. Weak gravitational lensing is a uniquely promising way to learn how much dark matter there is in the Universe and how its distribution has evolved since the distant past. New work has made major progress in extending the use of gravitational lensing to the study of much older and smaller structures than was previously possible. More>

First Genetic Parts Production Facility

With seed money from the National Science Foundation (NSF), bioengineers from the Univ. of California, Berkeley, and Stanford Univ. are ramping up efforts to characterize the thousands of control elements critical to the engineering of microbes so that eventually, researchers can mix and match these "DNA parts" in synthetic organisms to produce new drugs, fuels or chemicals. The new effort, called the BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (BIOFAB), aims to produce thousands of free, standardized DNA parts to shorten the development time and lower the cost of synthetic biology for academic or biotech laboratories. The BIOFAB has received two years of funding from the NSF and matching support from founding partners Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the BioBricks Foundation (BBF), a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the use of synthetic biology. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in PhysOrg.com and Medgadgetcom.

Union 'Insulted' by Lab's Reassignment of Drivers

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's outsourcing of 13 bus driver positions may have more consequences than simply taking union members out of the driver's seat. The lab has reassigned 13 union members to other positions at the same level of pay as part of its plan to subcontract its bus service to Fairfield, Calif.-based MV Transportation, Inc. to cut down on costs for the laboratory. More>

NSF Funds Berkeley, Stanford Bio-fabrication Project

Scientists at the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University have won a grant from the National Science Foundation to start a new bio-fabrication facility that will develop thousands of standardized DNA parts for use in synthetic biology, academic, and biotech labs. This $1.4 million Engineering Education and Centers Innovation grant from the NSF will support the International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (Biofab) project, which is receiving matching funds from its partners, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and the BioBricks Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the use of synthetic biology. More>

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weak Gravitational Lensing Uniquely Promising to Learn How Much Dark Matter in Universe

Spearheaded by a BERKELEY LAB COSMOLOGIST, an international team has extended the reliability of gravitational lensing to much older, more distant, and smaller galactic structures than previously possible. Weak gravitational lensing is a uniquely promising way to learn how much dark matter there is in the Universe and how its distribution has evolved since the distant past. New work has made major progress in extending the use of gravitational lensing to the study of much older and smaller structures than was previously possible. More>

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Berkeley Lab rakes in more stimulus

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has pulled in another $12.4 million in stimulus money to fund research into cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, radioactive decontamination and other health conditions. So far the lab has amassed $240 million form the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The latest tranche is funded through the National Institutes of Health. More>

Weak Gravitational Lensing Research Gets Boost

One of the most used methods of analyzing the distribution of dark matter throughout the Universe is called weak gravitational lensing (WGL). At this point, our technology has not yet evolved to a point where we can observe the elusive stuff directly, so we must rely on indirect observations to assess some of its most basic properties. It is known that it mostly becomes visible through the gravitational pullit exerts on regular matter. Now, scientists have managed to extend the use of WGL to smaller cosmic structures as well, which could result in new and groundbreaking science. In charge of the new investigation have been researchers at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). More>

A story on this topic also appeared on brahmand.com.

Brain protein critical to movement, memory, and learning deciphered at the Advanced Light Source

The structure of a protein that is sending electrical pulses between neurons in your brain as you read this article has been fully mapped for the first time using Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source. This much-anticipated milestone could lead to new treatments for neurological diseases and a better understanding of how the nervous system controls movement, memory, and learning. The complete atomic-level architecture of the protein, called a glutamate receptor, caps more than 11 years of painstaking work by a team of scientists led by Eric Gouaux of the Oregon Health and Science University. The team’s research was featured on the cover of the December 10, 2009 issue of the journal Nature. More>

14 arrested near UC Berkeley in protest over shuttle bus driving contract

Berkeley police arrested 14 protesters IN FRONT OF UC BERKELEY today after they linked hands and surrounded a shuttle bus at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way. The protesters were cited and released at the scene. The protesters were public employee union members angry at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's move to contract out shuttle bus driving services to a nonunion outfit, said Lakesha Harrison, president of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299. The union represents 20,000 workers at 10 UC campuses. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, the Mercury News, the Daily Californian, and the Contra Costa Times.

Copper-Free Click Chemistry Used in Mice

For the first time, the widely used molecular synthesis technique known as click chemistry has been safely applied to a living organism. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (UC) BERKELEY have crafted a unique copper-free version of click chemistry to create biomolecular probes for in vivo studies of live mice. Conventional click chemistry reactions require a copper catalyst that is toxic to cells and organisms. "We developed a variant of the click chemistry reactions that possesses comparable kinetics to the conventional copper-catalysed reactions, only without the requirement of a toxic metal," says CAROLYN BERTOZZI, A BERKELEY LAB-UC BERKELEY CHEMIST who leads this research. "Our latest studies have now established copper-free click chemistry as a bioorthogonal reaction that can be executed in the physiologically relevant context of a mouse." More>

DNA factory launches

Need a gene promoter? You may soon be able to order one from a catalog. California synthetic biologists are launching a production facility that will provide free, standardized DNA parts for scientists around the world. The project, called BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology -- or just BIOFAB for short -- aims to boost the ease of bioengineering with "biological parts" that are shared resources, standardized and reliable enough that they can be switched in and out of a genome like electronic parts in a radio. ADAM ARKIN, BIOFAB's codirector and a PROFESSOR OF BIOENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, and BERKELEY LAB, says the group has already hired scientists who are in the lab, making constructs. More>

Another story on this topic appeared in Genetic Engineering News.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Deep-Sea Snail Shell Could Inspire Better Body Armor

A deep-sea snail wears a multilayered suit of armor, complete with iron, new research shows. Dissecting details of the shell's structure could inspire tough new materials for use in everything from body armor to scratch-free paint. "If you look at the individual properties of the bits and pieces that go into making this shell, they're not very impressive," comments Robert Ritchie of Berkeley Lab. More>

Copper-Free Click Chemistry Used in Mice

For the first time, the widely used molecular synthesis technique known as click chemistry has been safely applied to a living organism. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have crafted a unique copper-free version of click chemistry to create biomolecular probes for in vivo studies of live mice. Conventional click chemistry reactions require a copper catalyst that is toxic to cells and organisms. More>

Cosmology: Weak Gravitational Lensing Improves Measurements of Distant Galaxies

Weak gravitational lensing is a uniquely promising way to learn how much dark matter there is in the Universe and how its distribution has evolved since the distant past. New work by a team led by a cosmologist from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has made major progress in extending the use of gravitational lensing to the study of much older and smaller structures than was previously possible. More>
Premier Anna Bligh had a chance meeting today with Al Gore during the Silicon Valley leg of her US Trade Mission. Ms Bligh met with the former Vice President - famous for his climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth - when they both visited Silicon Valley cleantech company Amyris. During the tour Ms Bligh also tasted cookies made from algae grown from Queensland sugar, witnessed a major agreement between UQ and a Silicon Valley biofuel company and met with scientists in the world famous Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

An analysis of China's current five-year energy conservation plan

Last month, I had the unique opportunity to gather with some of the top U.S-based thinkers on Chinese energy and climate policy. Participants hailed from World Resources Institute’s ChinaFAQs group of experts. Since it was a closed door session, I can’t spill everything that was discussed, but I did get permission to share what I thought was the most fascinating segment of the day’s programs. Mark Levine and Lynn Price of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs’ China Energy Group, presented a fascinating array of findings on how China is progressing on its energy conservation goals in its current five-year plan (2006 to 2010). More>

XMM-Newton See Dark Matter In Distant Galaxy Groups

Observations of faint and distant galaxy groups made with the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory have been used to probe the evolution of dark matter. The results of the study are reported in the January 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. To date the relationship could only be established for nearby clusters. New work by an international collaboration, including the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Marseilles (LAM), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), has made major progress in extending the relationship to more distant and smaller structures than was previously possible. More>

Federal Funds Aid Researchers' Goal to Treat Radioactive Contamination

Federal stimulus money will be used to support a scientific research project aimed at producing a treatment for radiation exposure that might be produced by a radiological "dirty bomb," the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California said yesterday. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in Environmental Expert.com,

NSF grant to launch world's first open-source genetic parts production facility

With seed money from the National Science Foundation (NSF), bioengineers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University are ramping up efforts to characterize the thousands of control elements critical to the engineering of microbes so that eventually, researchers can mix and match these "DNA parts" in synthetic organisms to produce new drugs, fuels or chemicals. More>

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Investigations into the mysteries of the universe and matter at the most fundamental levels, and ground-breaking research into the application of nanomaterials to energy production, storage and conservation were recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy in announcing the first recipients of its Early Career Research Program. Four scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) - Christian Bauer, Delia Milleron, Feng Wang and Feng Yuan - were among the 69 recipients from across the nation who will divide up to $85 million in five-year research grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More>

Geothermal Drilling Safeguards Imposed

The United States Energy Department, concerned about earthquake risk, will impose new safeguards on geothermal energy projects that drill deep into the Earth’s crust. The new policy is being instituted after a project in California that used the new technology was shut down by technical problems and encountered community opposition, federal documents indicate. Two seismic experts who read the documents said the message about the perils and potential of geothermal energy was unclear. But Ernie Majer, a seismologist and deputy director of the Earth Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said that the new standards were a welcome development. The letters show that the department “is being ultra-careful about any induced seismicity,” he said, referring to earthquakes triggered by humans. More>

Quark-Gluon Plasma Research Advances

Researchers from nine research institutions in the United States have recently entered a five-year, theoretical collaboration effort, whose express goal is to investigate the QGC. The “Quantitative Jet and Electromagnetic Tomography of Extreme Phases of Matter in Heavy-Ion Collisions” (JET) initiative is being led by the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Researchers here were deemed by the DOE Office of Nuclear Physics as the most qualified to guide this research effort. According to physicists, it is widely believed that the quark-gluon plasma condensed immediately after appearing into protons, neutrons, as well as a host of other elementary, subatomic particles, that are known today as making up the Universe. More>
Do you need hot/cold aisle containment? First, a data center manager needs to decide whether hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment is a good fit for his facility. Dean Nelson, the senior director of global data center strategy at eBay Inc., said it's not a question for his company, which already uses the method. But as Bill Tschudi, an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who has done research on the topic, said, it's all about taking the right steps to get there. "You can do it progressively," he said. "Make sure you're in a good hot-aisle/cold-aisle arrangement and that openings are blocked off. You don't want openings in racks and through the floors." More>