Cables could help protect buildings from bombs

Securing steel cables around the floors of existing buildings may be an effective way to prevent a catastrophic collapse caused by a terrorist bomb, according to test results released by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, professor of civil engineering at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, and four of his civil engineering graduate students have successfully tested a system that would shift the gravity load of a collapsing floor to supporting cables if a column were destroyed by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, or a terrorist bomb.

'Periodic Table' of proteins helps make sense of structure

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have taken the first stab at a “periodic table” of the protein structures – an organized map of the building blocks used over and over again to construct the billions of complex proteins that make up life on Earth. The three-dimensional map depicts similarities and differences among the building blocks, letting scientists visualize the universe of possible protein structures – the many possible twists, turns and folds – and see evolutionary changes that may have occurred with time.

Genetically modified cotton crops produced greater yields, reduced pesticide use

Cotton crops in India that were genetically modified to resist insects produced dramatically increased yields and significantly reduced pesticide use compared with non-bioengineered crops, according to the results of farm trials reported by researchers in California and Germany. The study, published Friday, Feb. 7, in the journal Science, holds particular promise for small-scale, low-income farmers in developing nations, said the researchers. These farmers, especially those in tropical regions, regularly risk large, pest-related crop losses because they cannot afford to use the pesticides available to larger farms.

Semen quality may start to decline in one's 20s

With each passing year, semen quality in adult men declines, suggesting that age plays a greater role in male fertility rates than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The study, published Thursday, Feb. 6, in the journal Human Reproduction, suggests that even healthy men may become progressively less fertile as time goes by.

Sapphire/slammer worm shatters previous Internet speed records

A team of network security experts in San Diego, Eureka and Berkeley, Calif., has determined that the computer worm that attacked and hobbled the global Internet 11 days ago was the fastest computer worm ever recorded. In a technical paper released today, the experts report that the speed and nature of the Sapphire worm, also called Slammer, represent significant and worrisome milestones in the evolution of computer worms. Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego and its San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), Eureka-based Silicon Defense, the University of California, Berkeley, and the nonprofit International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, found that the Sapphire worm doubled its numbers every 8.5 seconds during the explosive first minute of its attack.

Millions of Americans are Failing to Get Recommended Health Care

Tens of millions of patients with chronic diseases in this country are not receiving the type of care management proven to be effective, according to a new nationwide survey of physician organizations by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. The researchers found that physician groups on average use only 32 percent of 16 recommended care management processes – which include the use of nurse case managers, programs to help patients care for their illness, disease registries, reminder systems, and feedback to physicians on their quality of care. The study, published today (Wednesday, Jan. 22) in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that one physician group in six uses none of these processes.

Robotic telescope catches early afterglow of gamma-ray burst

A team of California astronomers announced today that its robotic telescope has captured one of the earliest images ever of the visible afterglow of a gamma-ray burst. The telescope started its exposures 108 seconds after the burst was detected by the HETE-2 satellite and continued for more than 2.5 hours, until brightening of the dawn sky halted the observations. The unprecedented record of the fading glow, captured Dec. 11, will help theorists as they puzzle out the physics of these bizarre cataclysmic events, which are heralded by a brief burst of energetic gamma rays and X-rays emitted billions of years ago and followed by a fading optical light.

Moon’s early history may have been interrupted by big burp

Using a state-of-the-art computer model of the lunar interior, geophysicists in California have shown that a mighty burp early in the moon’s history could account for some of its geologic mysteries. The burp of hot rock, like a blob rising to the top of a lava lamp, would have lifted a blanket covering the moon’s core, allowing the core to cool quickly enough to produce a magnetic field.

Researchers Crack Web Bot Security System

For every warm-blooded human who has ever taken an online poll or signed up for free web-based email, there are legions of computer-automated Internet robots, or “bots,” trying to do the same thing. A clever security system designed to stop these bot programs – which contribute to the Internet equivalent of computer-generated telemarketing calls – has now been cracked by a pair of computer scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh created the security system, known as Gimpy, to thwart the bot programs that relentlessly scour cyberspace for opportunities to register new email addresses, stuff ballots for online polls and direct unwitting participants in Internet chat rooms to advertisements. Bot-produced email accounts are hard to block or trace, making them ideal vehicles for sending spam to legitimate email users.

Fossil fuels for cooking, heating may be best for world’s 2 billion poor

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the use of fossil fuels for household cooking and heating may make more environmental sense for the estimated 2 billion rural poor in the world, according to a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley. Because they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuels have been largely dismissed as a viable alternative for the one-third of the world’s population who now use coal and local biomass – including wood, crop residues and dung – for cooking and heating, said Kirk R. Smith, professor and chair of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Efforts have been focused on equipping the rural poor with renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Scientists Detail Neural Circuit

Nearly 40 years ago scientists were startled to discover that the eye, far from being a still camera, actually has cells that respond to movement. Moreover, these cells are specialized to respond to movement in one direction only, such as left to right or right to left. Now, in a paper in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, biologists at the University of California, Berkeley, have finally detailed the cellular circuit responsible for motion detection in the eye’s retina.

Brain’s perception depends upon the source of cues, researchers find

When the human brain is presented with conflicting information about an object from different senses, it finds a remarkably efficient way to sort out the discrepancies, according to new research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley. The researchers found that when sensory cues from the hands and eyes differ from one another, the brain effectively splits the difference to produce a single mental image. The researchers describe the middle ground as a “weighted average” because in any given individual, one sense may have more influence than the other. When the discrepancy is too large, however, the brain reverts to information from a single cue – from the eyes, for instance – to make a judgment about what is true.