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Hopping Mad: Frog researcher who galls industry loses UC lab funds

A lone wolf academic calls into question the safety of an herbicide being peddled by a Big Ag-embedded conglomerate. But alas, said conglomerate has donated a fat chunk of change to the university where the academic is employed and, before you can say “quid pro quo,” the maverick scientist is out of funding.

Silent Screams: Hearing no evil with Hitchcock

You know a typical Alfred Hitchcock film when you see it—the eerie shadows, the quivering face of some blonde ingénue. But it also fills you with dread when you hear it—the echo of footsteps down a dark hallway, the violin-punctuated slashes of a knife, the histronic screams of a cinematic victim.

Astro Bling: Finding gold in our stars

Moby had it right: we are all made of stars. Astronomers have long known that stars fuse hydrogen and helium, ultimately creating somewhat heavier elements, which are then expelled through the universe when stars explode as supernovae. All the carbon and calcium in our bodies, all the oxygen we breathe, originated in stars.

But where is the cosmic factory that manufactures the heavier elements—say, gold?

Now a Cal computational astrophysicist may have helped solve that mystery.

Shuttle Diplomacy: The social toll of the “Google Bus”

In the love-hate relationship that the Bay Area has with its own economic boom, nothing seems to pack the symbolic punch of the “Google Bus” (an imprecise but convenient short-hand for the private shuttles operated by nearly 40 regional tech and biotech companies.) Especially in San Francisco, these shuttles—double-decked, dark-windowed, and usually unidentified— have come to represent that which separates the coding and DNA-splicing haves from the Luddites and erstwhile English majors who make up the have-nots.

Merit in the Mirror: California whites redefine it to reflect their kids

Boil the American Dream down to a single maxim and it’s this: “If you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to get what’s yours.” Our mutual commitment to meritocracy is, we’re told, about as central to our national character as baseball. Divvying up gains based on ability and hard work (as oppposed to, say, your family’s social status, race or religion) is not only a workable way to organize an economically productive society—it also seems fundamentally fair.

Bots for the Middle East?

Turns out that the creation of the robot bug we introduced you to last week—the one ready to be mass-produced on 3D printers—sprang from research funded by the Israeli army, and is considered ideal for urban reconnaissance missions.

Drowning in a sea of Reagan

A proposal to name 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean surrounding the United States after Ronald Reagan is thrilling a lot of Republicans and satirist Stephen Colbert.  “I’ve always known the ocean was conservative,” he giddily told his audience Thursday night. “Like the Republican party, it’s full of Great Whites.”

Printer Jam, Will Robinson

As a science fiction motif, the Robot Apocalypse ranks right up there with the Zombie Apocalypse. And, it seems, it’s more likely: anyone who has browsed Ray Kurtzweil’s work on the Singularity—the point at which computers achieve true intelligence, and discover their interests aren’t necessarily congruent with our own—may find the meteoric pace of cybernetics innovation a little disconcerting.

Photo Fakery? The Shadow Knows

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for the burgeoning field of image forensics.

Thanks to a new technique developed by computer scientists at UC Berkeley and Dartmouth College, it’s now going to be that much trickier to convincingly doctor a photograph. Putting the unbending rules of physics and geometry to computer code,

Off Site and Outta Sight

Congratulations are due to Berkeley alumnus Jonn Herschend, MFA ’06, and the three other recipients of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s biennial SECA Award for local artists, announced today. In previous years, an exhibition of the winners’ works would be mounted at the museum, complete with the usual wine-and-cheese reception. But this year, the museum is closed for construction, so things are a little more interesting if less convenient (and, possibly, less tasty).

Sunny Side Up

A few days ago, we posted a piece on breakthroughs in thin-film solar cells, noting the development could lead to wider applications of solar technology.

Heated Debate

Perhaps you’ve seen the news: “Hotter Weather Actually Makes Us Want to Kill Each Other.”

That’s the snappy title that The Atlantic used to describe a new academic paper that looks at the relationship between climate change and human conflict.

California Water Wars, Part 2

As we reported earlier today, a forthcoming study, to be released on Monday, details the consequences—both good and bad—of the Twin Tunnels project that would divert water from the Sacramento River to farms and cities to the south. Critics say that it addresses only the concerns of contractors and agriculture, and doesn’t mention the rest of the California populace.

Water Wars Heat Up, Again

It’s hard to generate a great deal of excitement over water. The language that governs its development and disposition is wonky and snooze-inducing; and, hey, I just turned on the tap to wash my hands and water came out, so what’s the problem?

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