Friday, December 16, 2011

Berkeley Lab In the News, Week of Dec. 12, 2011

Berkeley Lab “In the News” is our weekly review of Lab researchers, staff, and students who have appeared in the news media this past week. This is but a sampling of our coverage. Please note that some links may expire after some time.

The latest issue of Physics World includes its list of the Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2011. Number six on the list is research led by the Lab’s Nu Xu.

A Dec. 16 IEEE Spectrum magazine story highlighted work on flexible materials led by the Lab’s Ali Javey. EndGadget and EE Times also covered the work.

A Dec. 15 London Daily Mail story featured the discovery of a supernova by the Lab’s Peter Nugent. The London Register, Canadian Broadcasting, Nature, AFP news, and The Epoch Times were just some of the many news outlets that also covered the research.

A Dec. 13 NPR story featured work by the Lab’s Carl Haber in retrieving audio from records made by Alexander Graham Bell. The joint-Smithsonian announcement led to significant news coverage including the Washington Post, Associated Press, Christian Science Monitor, Canadian Broadcasting, and dozens of other outlets.

A Dec. 13 Berkeleyside story featured photography by the Lab’s Daniel Parks.

A Dec. 13 PBS Newshour story on the hunt for the Higgs boson quoted the Lab’s Michael Barnett.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Berkeley Lab In the News, week of Dec. 4, 2011

Berkeley Lab “In the News” is our weekly review of Lab researchers, staff, and students who have appeared in the news media this past week. This is but a sampling of our coverage. Please note that some links may expire after some time.

A Dec. 8 CNN story advocated for cool roofs and quoted the Lab’s Art Rosenfeld.

A Dec. 8 story on this year’s Nobel prize winners quoted the Lab’s Saul Perlmutter.

A Dec. 7 San Diego Union-Tribune story on new efforts to measure greenhouse gases quoted the Lab’s Marc Fischer. EcoSeed and several other websites ran similar stories.

A Dec. 7 R&D magazine story highlighted an industrial partnership helping to provide new tools to the ALS. The story quoted the Lab’s Horst Simon, Roger Falcone and Patrick Naulleau. Nanowerk and several other websites also ran the story.

A Dec. 6 Scientific American story on technology transfer highlighted a Berkeley Lab success story.

A Dec. 5, USA Today story quoted the Lab’s Felisa Wolfe-Simon and mentions John Tainer in a story about Wolfe-Simon’s microbial research. Stories also ran in Science magazine, MSNBC, and in The Scientist.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Berkeley Lab In the News for the Week of Nov. 28, 2011

Berkeley Lab “In the News” is our weekly review of Lab researchers, staff, and students who have appeared in the news media this past week. This is but a sampling of our coverage. Please note that some links may expire after some time.

A Dec. 2 Ecoseed story featured work led by the Lab’s Jay Keasling showing how E. coli can be used to create biofuels. Cleantechnica, the Examiner, and other outlets ran similar stories.

A Dec. 2 KQED story on the recent high winds quoted the Lab’s Norm Miller.

A Dec. 2 story looked at work by the Lab’s Felisa Wolfe-Simon.

A Nov. 29 New York Times story on greenhouse gas emissions touched on a recent study led by the Lab’s Margaret Torn. Ars Technica, KXTV Channel 10 in Sacramento, California Watch, and Resource Investing News also covered her work.

A Nov. 29 Fast Company story featured the Lab’s Blake Simmons in a discussion about JBEI.

A Nov. 28 segment on NPR’s All Things Considered featured work on smart windows and included the Lab’s Steve Selkowitz, Delia Milliron, and Howdy Goudey.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Berkeley Lab In the News for Nov. 18-28, 2011

Berkeley Lab “In the News” is our weekly review of Lab researchers, staff, and students who have appeared in the news media this past week. This is but a sampling of our coverage. Please note that some links may expire after some time.

A Nov. 28 Huffington Post story on California’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions featured research by the Lab’s Margaret Torn. Her work was also covered in a front-page Contra Costa Times story, KQED-FM and KCBS-AM radio, ClimateWire, the International Business Times, Woodland Daily Democrat, and several other websites and publications.

A Nov. 23 HealthCanal story highlighted obesity research by the Lab’s Paul Williams. The Times of India and several other publications also covered his work.

A Nov. 23 KQED radio story noted the impending start of construction for the Lab’s CRT building and included an interview with the Lab’s Horst Simon. The Daily Cal also covered the story.

A Nov. 23 BioFuelsDigest story about that publication’s photo contest noted that Lab photographer Roy Kaltschmidt received a first place award for a photograph taken at JBEI.

A Nov. 22 announcement that the Lab’s selection of a preferred second campus site has been delayed until early 2012 received a fair amount of news coverage including in the San Francisco Chronicle, Richmond Confidential, Contra Costa Times, Daily Cal, and San Francisco Business Journal, among others.

A Nov. 22 AOL Energy story on renewable energy projects quoted the Lab’s Ryan Wiser.

A Nov. 20 Associated Press story on fuel cells quoted the Lab’s Adam Weber.

A Nov. 18 UPI news story featured new research on the use of switch grass as a biofuel led by the Lab’s Blake Simmons.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Berkeley Lab In the News, Nov. 13-18, 2011

A Nov. 18 TG Daily story featured work on the creation of a genome-scale network of rice genes.

A Nov. 17 Johns Hopkins News-Letter story looked at research into melting permafrost by the Lab’s Janet Jansson.

A Nov. 17 Wired magazine story on the shrinking size of supercomputers quoted the Lab’s Erich Strohmaier.

A Nov. 17 Government Computer News story featured the launch of a 100Gbps network led by ESNet and quoted the Lab’s Steve Cotter.

A Nov. 16 Court House News story noted that a lawsuit against the Lab’s proposed CRT building has been dismissed by a trial court judge.

A Nov. 15 Wired magazine story covered the annual list of the world’s fastest computers; a list compiled in part by the Lab’s Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon. Information Week, Tech Radar, HPC Wire, and ZDNet were some of the other news outlets covering the report.

A Nov. 14 Semiconductor Today story featured research on solar cells by the Lab’s Eli Yablonovitch.

The Nov. 14 episode of NPR’s Fresh Air included an extensive interview with the Lab’s most recent Nobel Prize winner, Saul Perlmutter.

A Nov. 14 KQED radio story featured work on smart windows by the Lab’s Delia Milliron, Howdy Goudey and Steve Selkowitz.

A Nov. 13 episode of KQED radio's “California Report” included a story on the Lab’s recent Open House and an interview with the Lab’s David Knowles, among others.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Runners Can Relax About Holiday Feasting: Study

Good news for high-mileage runners: They may be able to help themselves to an extra serving at holiday meals because variations in diet are less likely to affect them, researcher say.

The new study included nearly 107,000 runners who were grouped according to the distance they run each day: less than 1.2 miles (under 2 kilometers [km]); 1.2 to 2.4 miles (2 to 4 km); 2.4 to 3.7 miles (4 to 6 km); 3.7 to nearly 5 miles (6 to 8 km); and about 5 miles (8 km) or more.

The researchers found that body mass index and waist circumference increased significantly among the least active runners when they ate more meat and less fruit. But the effects of this diet change were reduced by 50 percent or more in the most active runners. The effects in runners who covered more than 1.2 miles a day were also reduced, but not to the same extent as the highest-mileage runners.

The study is published in the November issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

"Generally, body mass index and waist circumference increase as a person eats more meat and less fruit," study author Paul Williams, a researcher at the U.S. government's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said in news release from the American College of Sports Medicine. More>

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Congressman Believes Federal Labs Key to Job Creation

Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and related agencies subcommittee, commends the Administration on its new efforts to speed up the commercial application of federally funded research. The plan supports two Fattah initiatives that improve the way federally funded research is transferred to the private sector. Fattah has a longtime commitment to improving the transfer of research from Federal laboratories. He met this week with Dr. Paul Alivisatos; Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, which is a cornerstone of the nation's science and technology infrastructure. Additionally, over the last six months Fattah has visited four of the nation's leading laboratories. More>

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One last chance to view spectacular supernova

If you've got a pair of binoculars, this will be your last chance to view a new supernova that was recently discovered near the Big Dipper, about 21 million light-years away from Earth. Astronomers describe this as the supernova of a generation, adding it is the closest and brightest supernova of this type detected in the last 30 years. When the discovery was reported by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California in late August, scientists excitedly announced that the supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, was getting brighter by the minute. Although 21 million light-years covers an enormous chunk of space, it's still considered to be a relatively small distance (by astronomical standards.) So don't miss the opportunity. If you've been dilatory, you have one more good chance to check it out as the supernova will reach its brightest display on Sept. 8. More>

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Stellar Explosion in the Big Dipper's Handle

Horst Scott Simon talk with Berkeley Lab's Peter Nugent about the biggest, brightest supernova in a generation and how people can see it from their backyards this week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Power Plants

It’s been suggested before, but Adam Arkin, head of the synthetic biology and physical biosciences division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, believes advances in plant synthetic biology are “turning a corner that will be transformative” for the energy industry. Synthetic biologists engineer part or a whole cell to create different functions. In this case, scientists have created plant-eating microbes that produce biofuels. More>

Home solar system prices have just modest drop

The price of solar panels has plunged in the last four years. But the price of a complete home solar system hasn't kept pace. "There is a lag," said Galen Barbose, principal scientific engineering associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who studies solar prices. "You've got these upstream cost reductions that take months to ripple down to the consumer." More>

Marijuana: High on Megawatts

When it comes to wasting megawatts, marijuana is the greatest offender. According to a 2011 study of indoor pot-growing operations, growers in the United States use about $5 billion worth of electricity to power lightbulbs, ventilation fans, dehumidifiers, and other appliances to mimic outdoor growing conditions. That's the output of seven large electrical power plants, or one percent of national electricity consumption, wrote Evan Mills, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who performed the study independently. Smoking a single joint, Mills wrote, is worth two pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. More>

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, to Be Warm in Summer’s Heat

Why are airports, shops, offices and homes in the United States and elsewhere chilled to sweater-weather temperatures in summer when the temperature outside rises? “Everyone asks the question, but no one has a good answer,” said Fergus Nicol, a cooling expert and professor emeritus of architecture at London Metropolitan University. “I think it’s because air-conditioners are supposed to produce cool, so it has become an expectation.” Maybe, he said, there’s also a bit of “conspicuous consumption.” ALAN MEIER, A SENIOR SCIENTIST AT LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY, said there was debate about whether people could acclimate to a new “comfort regime.” He noted that, just as in lighting, the attitude was “the more the better.” But lighting designers backed off that predilection; he said the same trend might follow in cooling. More>

Internet Could Run Ten Times Faster With Graphene

Internet connections could run ten times faster than current speeds, according to research published in the journal Nature Communication. University of Manchester and Cambridge scientists have discovered a key step in improving characteristics of graphene for use as photodetectors in high-speed optical communications. Graphene is a form of carbon just one atom thick and yet 100 times stronger than steel. Earlier this year, researchers discovered the new use for graphene. They suggested that a one-atom-thick layer of crystallised carbon could be used as a possible replacement for traditional transistors in the next generation of computer chips. Berkeley Lab's Ziang Zhang said: "Graphene enables us to make modulators that are incredibly compact and that potentially perform at speeds up to ten times faster than current technology allows. This new technology will significantly enhance our capabilities in ultrafast optical communication and computing." More>

Monday, August 29, 2011

New supernova is closest one to Earth in 25 years

Astronomy buffs, hold onto your telescopes. Scientists have discovered a new supernova, or exploding star, in the Pinwheel Galaxy. And, in a few weeks, you might be able to see it for yourself with nothing but a good pair of binoculars. Astronomers are especially excited about this newly discovered supernova -- although it's been given the decidedly unjazzy name SN 2011fe -- because it's a mere 21 million light-years away. In the language of astronomy, that puts it right in our backyard. Peter Nugent, the senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who originally spotted the exploding star, told the Los Angeles Times it has been 25 years since a supernova has occurred so close to Earth and that the last one was visible only in the southern hemisphere. More>

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Microbes' role in oil spills investigated

A report by researchers at a California lab has highlighted the critical role microbes played in mitigating the two worst oil spill incidents in U.S. history. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studying last year's BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska two decades ago say oil-degrading micro-organisms played a significant role in reducing the overall environmental impact of both spills. More>

RichmondBUILD Awarded $115,000 for Green Workforce Training

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom spoke to the graduates of RichmondBuild at the recent graduation of "Cohort Fifteen" about how profoundly important choice is in shaping the future. "Fundamentally, it's decisions, not conditions that shape our future," said Newsom. He talked about the importance of building green jobs, about personal accountability and scaling successful programs that embody best practices at the August 19th, 2011 graduation held at RichmondBuild's training facility at 23rd Street. Chevron, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) contributed a combined $115,000 with Chevron handing out the largest check of $100,000 at the event. More>

Friday, August 19, 2011

Radiation From Japan Reached California Coast in Just Days

New research finds that radiation from the nuclear plant accident in Japan in March reached California within days, showing how quickly air pollution can travel, but scientists say the radiation will not hurt people. "It's not harmful at all," said study author Antra Priyadarshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at San Diego. The value of the study, Priyadarshi said, is understanding how fast the tiny particles of radiation traveled and how many particles made it to the United States. So, is the radiation in the air harmful? Not in this case, since the amount is small and the spike in radiation didn't last long, said Eleanor Blakely, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Leon Schipper, Physicist and Iconoclast, Dies at 64

Leon J. Schipper, a physicist whose passion for data led him to question the value of popular energy policies, like government subsidies for ethanol and for electric cars and the “cash for clunkers” program, died Tuesday in Berkeley, Calif. He was 64. The cause was pancreatic cancer, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he had worked for more than 20 years. More>

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boxer: Climate-Change Legislation Still DOA

Sen. Barbara Boxer would like to see Congress take another stab at legislation to fight global warming. Just don't expect it to happen anytime soon. After touring part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Wednesday morning, Boxer said federal climate-change legislation remains dead. Such legislation would be a big boost to many of the technologies under development at the lab, including advanced biofuels and artificial photosynthesis. But the current gridlocked Congress won't touch it. And she won't introduce such legislation herself until that changes. "Climate change doesn't have the votes," said Boxer, a Democrat. "I'm a pragmatic legislator. I'm not going to waste time on something that's not going to work." More>

Semen quality drops after age 35 in Chinese men

A new study of age-related changes in semen in Chinese men shows sperm health can start declining as early as age 30, with notable changes after age 35, although the research stops short of determining the effects on fertility. "The motility -- the ability of the sperm to move -- does change with age, and that probably will translate into a likelihood that, as a group, older men are going to have a harder time to fertilize," said Andrew Wyrobek, a sperm specialist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, who was not involved in this research. More>

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lab programs gives teens a jump on science

EMERYVILLE -- Deep within the Joint BioEnergy Institute, eight researchers are hard at work trying to find solutions to the growing global energy crisis. The team diligently researches renewable, carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuels in the hopes of finding a resource abundant enough to meet the world's demand. Eight sophomores and juniors are participating in the Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology, or iCLEM, a summer science education program sponsored by the Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. The program provides opportunities to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and who come from families with little or no history of college attendance. More

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cooking up some chemistry inside a cell

There are, however, some brave chemists who are actively eschewing the comfort of simplicity. These scientists are developing chemical tools to craft new chemistry inside of cells. The cell is teeming with chemicals. The cell is the most complex collection of chemistry found anywhere on earth all bundled up in a teeny tiny little package. And these chemists are using the cell as their own personal test tube. A cell is like a bowl of vegetable soup. When you or I add salt to our soup it flavors the entire dish. The goal of bio-orthogonal chemists would be to salt only the peas in the soup. Likely, the chemist most responsible for popularizing the use of these bio-orthogonal techniques is Berkeley Lab's Carolyn Bertozzi. More>

Lawrence Berkeley Lab courted by East Bay cities

If the East Bay were a giant high school, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory would be, this summer anyway, the homecoming queen. Cities up and down the waterfront are ardently courting the federal research institution in hopes of winning the lab's nod for a sprawling second campus. "We love LBL" lawn signs and billboards have sprung up from Alameda to Richmond, and thousands have turned out for community meetings to woo lab officials. More>

Curbing Supercomputers' Growing Drain On Energy

Supercomputers have become a critical tool for scientists. Each year, they get bigger and faster — and use a lot more power. Soon, each one will need as much energy as a small city. That has researchers — like Berkeley Lab computing scientist John Shalf — looking to reinvent the supercomputer by using the technology inside cellphones. More>

Monday, July 25, 2011

Richmond puts on charm offensive to woo Berkeley Lab

"Renaissance" was the watchword Thursday at a packed reception for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. About 700 residents packed into the Richmond Auditorium to help convince lab representatives that this city is in the midst of a turnaround, and urge them to build their planned second campus here. The new campus, which is expected to accommodate more than 800 workers and generate more than $200 million in spending impacts, is the first project in recent memory to unite all corners of the city in support. Richmond leaders took advantage of its town hall meeting, a requirement for each of the six finalists, to tout the city's successes in luring green industry and restoring local landmarks such as the Richmond Plunge. More>

Pull the Plug on Home 'Energy Vampire' Appliances and Electronics to Stop Standby Power Use

How high is your monthly electricity bill? With the kind of summer we've had, your power consumption has probably gone through the roof if you've kept the fan and air conditioner on to keep you cool during the ongoing wave of oppressive heat. There are ways that you can cut back, though. Did you know that certain appliances and electronics will continue to use power even when they're switched off? It's estimated that 10 percent of the average home electricity bill comes from the energy used by these products, which are popularly called energy vampires." But an aggressive campaign, armed with knowledge about which products draw standby, can cut total standby by as much as a third, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A sand box for low energy building tech

For most people, the images below look like just another building on the UC Berkeley campus. But for tech firms, construction companies, architects and utilities that are interested in low energy building design, Building 90, and its accompanying structures, look like a little slice of heaven. The planned building, which will go under construction in the Spring of 2012 with a $15.9 million grant from the stimulus program, is a comprehensive test bed for low energy building tech, like electrochromic windows, smart lighting systems or connected efficient HVAC systems. In conjunction with the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, researchers and partners can test out building technology in real world conditions at the site, and with the ability to control the settings and study the results. More>

Indoor or out, heat hurts work productivity

Productivity suffers in the heat, whether you are working outside or indoors, experts say. It’s brutal to work outdoors during a heat wave, but even workers in air conditioned offices lose their edge. Office workers’ productivity peaks at 71 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, said William Fisk, a senior scientist Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In a study published recently in “Indoor Air,” a journal about indoor health and environment, Fisk and two colleagues found that office buildings often have poorly controlled temperatures. More>

Alameda Maneuvers for Coveted Lab

When the Naval Air Station closed here in 1997, the city predicted the sprawling waterfront base would become a budding community, filled with housing, businesses and open space. Fourteen years and a handful of developers later, some of the most prime real estate in the Bay Area remains mostly undeveloped and underused. Twice, Alameda worked closely with outside developers to craft plans aimed at rebuilding the entire 918 acres in one go. Each time, the plans faltered. This time, a new city staff is working on a plan, and at least one big-name potential tenant has shown interest. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a federally funded lab run by the University of California, is searching for a site to build a second campus. It has named Alameda Point, as the former air base is now dubbed, one of six finalists. More>

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Shelters That Clinton Built

When Demosthene Lubert heard that Bill Clinton 's foundation was going to rebuild his collapsed school at the epicenter of Haiti's January 12, 2010, earthquake, in the coastal city of Léogâne, the academic director thought he was "in paradise." The project was announced by Clinton as his foundation's first contribution to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which the former president co-chairs. The foundation described the project as "hurricane-proof...emergency shelters that can also serve as ensure the safety of vulnerable populations in high risk areas during the hurricane season," while also providing Haitian schoolchildren "a decent place to learn" and creating local jobs. However, when Nation reporters visited the "hurricane-proof" shelters in June, six to eight months after they'd been installed, we found them to consist of twenty imported prefab trailers beset by a host of problems, from mold to sweltering heat to shoddy construction. Most disturbing, they were manufactured by the same company, Clayton Homes, that is being sued in the United States for providing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with formaldehyde-laced trailers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Randy Maddalena, a scientist specializing in indoor pollutants at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, characterized the 250 parts per billion finding as "a very high level" of formaldehyde and warned that "it's of concern," particularly given the small sample size. More>

No Eureka Moments in Long U.S. Campaign to Crack Cellulosic Code

From a series of low-slung buildings in Walnut Creek, Calif., east of Oakland and nestled at the base of Mount Diablo, the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI), fresh from sequencing the human genome, has pursued for the past half-decade the DNA of microbes known to unwind these barbed wires. Marshaling these genetic resources is one of the institute's top priorities, on parallel with its cancer research. It may sound strange, but the cellulose work is like Lewis Caroll's "Through the Looking-Glass," said Eddy Rubin, JGI's director and Hess' former boss. At one point, Alice hustles after the Red Queen, but she never gains any ground. Likewise, plants have kept their lead over all comers, Rubin said. More>