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UC Berkeley

  1. Scientists Made Color-Changing Chameleon Skin That May Soon Be on the Market

    Stealth Skill: +1

    You already know that chameleons can change their skin color. It turns out, they have tiny crystal mirrors (really!) under their skin and the density of those nanocrystals affects the color. Now, scientists can do it, too!

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  2. Robotic Skin Lights Up at a Touch, Fear the Age of the Glowing Terminator

    I've got you (and a bunch of diodes) under my skin...

    Is your skin not glowing as much as you'd like? Do you want your hand to start flashing red if someone gives you too firm a handshake? Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have invented what they call e-skin, a super-thin material that could serve as artificial skin and also happens to light up at the touch thanks to embedded LEDs. That's definitely what we were asking for in our artificial skin. Ever heard of feature creep, scientists?

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  3. Adorable Fisher Population Currently Being Threatened by Marijuana Growers

    Killing cute animals is probably the only way to convince people that growing marijuana is bad, actually.

    Enormously unjust rates of incarceration aside, one of the biggest arguments cited in favor of marijuana legalization in this country is that it's safe to use and doesn't have many long-term side effects. Tell that to the fishers that live in the southern Sierra Nevada area, though. According to scientists from U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and Integral Ecology Research Center, they're dying out because of the rat poison that local marijuana growers use to protect their crops. Happy now, potheads?

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  4. First Hi-Res Images Taken of a Molecule Breaking and Forming Chemical Bonds

    Gosh, science is pretty.

    Have you ever looked at a textbook diagram of the chemical bonds that make up molecules and thought to yourself, "This is just a dumb drawing -- how do they know what it even looks like in real life?" Well stop it. Stop it right now. Felix Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is going to show you what it looks like with these gorgeous high-resolution images of individual carbon atoms linking together. And guess what? They look just like they do in the textbooks. Happy now?

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  5. Trees In Cloud Forests Absorb Water Through Leaves As Well As Roots

    Trees in cloud forests get plenty of fog to go around, but rainfall that actually saturates the ground can be rare. According to researchers from the University of California Berkeley, the trees that populate those forests have found an evolutionary workaround -- rather than depending solely on their roots to absorb water, they have developed the ability to drink in the water vapor in the clouds that surround them through their leaves.

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  6. Earliest Known Dinosaur — Or Closest Evolutionary Relative — Discovered

    An international team of researchers have identified what they think is the earliest specimen of a dinosaur on record, a find that could rewrite textbooks and push back the development of dinosaurs between 10 and 15 million years from the Late to Middle Triassic period, suggesting that during their early development, dinosaurs wouldn't have been the dominant vertebrate group on the planet. An unassuming specimen -- which had been sitting on a shelf at the Natural History Museum in London since being discovered in the 1930s -- Nyasasaurus parringtoni was a vegetarian, land-dwelling reptile about the size of a labrador retriever boasting a 5-foot-long tail, and likely originated in the southern portion of the super-continent Pangea.

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  7. Decades Old Method For Turning Sugar Into Diesel Fuel Gets New Lease On Life

    In 1916, Chaim Weizmann -- then a professor of chemistry at the University of Manchester, and eventually the first president of Israel -- discovered a method for turning simple sugars into diesel fuel by fermenting it in the presence of the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum. Weizmann's work was groundbreaking, but it was also mostly ignored, as cheap fossil fuels made his process look extremely inefficient and costly by comparison. With the shine taken off of fossil fuels, though, and scientists looking for the new ways to power the future, researchers are revisiting Weizmann's work, which could turn a wide variety of starches into cleaner burning fuels.

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  8. Terrifying New Family of Cave Spider Discovered in Pacific Northwest

    You guys, there is a new kind of spider now, and it is awful and terrifying! Like, even more so than standard issue spiders on account of its raptor-like claws (closeup after the jump, and also in nightmares that will haunt you forever). Trogloraptor marchingtoni lives in caves in Southwest Oregon, where it hangs from ceilings on primitive webs, presumably scaring the hell out of anything that passes nearby.

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  9. A New Way To Solve Linear Equations Over Finite Fields

    Prasad Raghavendra, an Assistant Professor at University of California, Berkeley, has found a whole new way of looking at and solving linear equations. Current methods of solving linear equations involve approximating the solution and improving upon it iteratively, but Raghavendra's approach seems to have eliminated the need for guesswork. Here, have some math.

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  10. Astronomers Detect Supermassive Black Holes Larger Than Any Yet Seen

    In addition to being terrifying celestial holes from which not even light can escape, scientists believe that the incredible gravity exerted by black holes has played a foundational role in the creation of galaxies. That theory might get refined even further, now that astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley have discovered the largest black holes ever detected. These monsters are billions of times larger than our sun, and more than three times larger than the previous record holder.

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  11. The Internet is Responsible for 2% of the Entire World's Energy Usage

    When you're trying to figure out statistics about something as nebulous and pervasive as "the Internet," you're going to have to performs some interesting mental contortions. After all, how many things out there are connected to the Internet? How many of those things would you consider to be actively "using" it, how much power is there in the world? All valid and difficult questions, valid and difficult questions that Justin Ma and Barath Raghavan, of UC Berkeley and the International Computer Science Institute respectively, were determined to tackle.

    By looking at previously published research, the two were able to estimate that there are somewhere around 750 million laptops, a billion smartphones, and about 100 million servers in the world. On top of that, they added the power these devices consume, the power consumed to make these devices, average device life-span, and power to cell towers and Wi-Fi routers. All said and done, they came up with a range of 170-307 Gigawatts that are devoted to Internet use; enough to power 140-253 time-traveling DeLoreans.

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  12. Researchers Reconstruct Observed Videos from Resulting Brain Activity

    Thanks to research by Professor Jack Gallant and a crack team of researchers at UC Berkeley, we are now one step closer to using our brains to record and store actual visual media. When we see things (or think about things for that matter), our brains naturally activate in very specific ways considering what we're seeing or imagining. Gallant's most recent paper in Current Biology outlines the results of an experiment that tried to decode brain activity and convert it back into video. It's astounding how well it worked.

    The experiment went a little something like this. Subjects were placed in an MRI and watched a series of movie trailers. While they watched, the MRI tracked the blood flow to certain parts of the brain and a computer parsed these parts of the brain into voxels (volumetric pixels). The first round of trailer-viewing gave the computer a chance to get a feel for the way the sections of the brain should be mapped. Its results were then compared against the actual trailers to try and match the voxels of activity with the footage that created them, a calibration round of sorts.

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  13. Laundry Folding Robot Just Wants to Help

    Roboticists at The University of California, Berkeley have developed a robot that can fold towels. Very slowly. And, somehow, in a sort of earnest and endearing way? I think it's the careful smoothing of creases that does it. I shall call it FOLD-E. What? Of course there's video after the jump.

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