Welcome to the 19th issue of the Berkeley Science Review. In this era of Facebook and Twitter, I feel a bit anachronistic introducing you to an honest-to-goodness paper and ink magazine that only appears twice per year. Indeed, information technology is dramatically influencing the research appearing in our pages, much of which focuses on finding connections buried in huge swaths of data that would surely be beyond the reach of human comprehension without computational assistance.
On page 30, Sisi Chen tells us how even the most fundamental assumptionsabout the origins of different classes of life are breaking downas we catalogue more and more of the Earth’s genomic diversity.Phuongmai Truong describes the new SynBERC synthetic biologycenter (p. 36), which aims to nurture a field dedicated to building biological devices from the huge collection of genetic parts being discovered. For decades astrobiologists have been using distributedcomputing to search for signs of life elsewhere in the cosmos, as Naomi Ondrasek tells us on page 40. According to Crystal Chaw, such tools are also giving researchers new insights into the workings of Jupiter, our solar system’s largest and most mysterious planet (p. 17). Finally, Alireza Moharrer writes that the power grids of the future will make use of Internet technology to intelligently balance the availability of electricity and consumer demand in real-time (p. 24).
Nevertheless, there are still many examples of scientists doing things the old-fashioned way, combining exciting observations, plain clever ideas, and careful experiments. Azeen Ghorayshi describes a sharp-eyed researcher’s accidental discovery of a new water-splitting catalyst (p. 12), and Sebastien Lounis writes of an elegant optimization of solar-panel technology using simple geometrical principles and nanotechnology (p. 10). In the realms of psychology and the brain, we learn that there is a surprising link between hormonal cycles and cognition from Ginger Jui (p. 16) and that our emotional state is strongly affected by our perception of the passage of time from James McGann (p. 14).
In an effort to adapt to a world of ever-more rapidly expanding information, the Berkeley Science Review is proud to announce the launch of our new blog (p. 22), which will serve as a continuous source of BSR content between print issues. We are also introducing a new back page column, “Toolbox,” where Robert Gibboni will describe methodological tools that have revolutionized science (p. 51). We hope to achieve a balance between our slow and steady print-magazine habits and the turbo-charged pace of the Internet to provide the best experience to you, our readers. I would like to thank my predecessor Hania Köver for helping me survive my delicate early larval stage as Editor in Chief, Marek Jakubowski for a beautifully redesigned layout, and our new Web Editor Anna Goldstein for making the long-imagined blog a reality. I would also like to thank Rachel Bernstein for her continued commitment as Business Manager to making our organization actually function, and the authors, editors, and layout staff for their hard work and dedication.
Enjoy the issue,