Posts byBSR Web Team

From the field

It’s a baking-hot day in June 2019, and I’m crouched on the floor of a boat, rocking gently with the waves of the San Francisco Bay. I watch as USGS Geologist Dave Schoellhamer rubs mud between his fingers. “This has been my whole career,” he says of the wet slurry. I’m here to learn from
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Social synchrony

There may be some scientific truth behind the feeling of being in sync with someone. Human studies suggest that brain activity between two people becomes synchronized as they interact. But collecting data from humans is difficult because scientists cannot easily measure their individual neurons and rarely observe human subjects interacting in a natural environment. To
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What our ancient neighbors were eating

Species evolve in response to changes in their environment, and human beings are no exception. To better understand the changing environment that our ancestors inhabited, a team of researchers from the Human Evolutionary Research Center (HERC) at UC Berkeley is currently analyzing fossils of animals that lived in close proximity to ancestral humans between 100,000
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Toolbox: A drop in the chaotic soup

Phase separation sounds complicated but is a familiar idea. Think of oil and vinegar. When a dissolved substance has stronger interactions with itself than with its environment, nature favors a separation of the two into different phases, producing the familiar droplets we enjoy on our greens. The same thing happens within a cell: when certain molecules
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Historical DNA is bound to repeat itself

Let’s dive into our genomes. Each of us carries 2 meters of DNA in every cell, which in turn carries the information that makes us all unique. However, some regions in the genome are extremely tricky to navigate and decipher. These regions contain many genetic repeats, which confuse current DNA sequence analysis technologies, making them
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Coculturing color

Antibiotics are potent drugs used to combat bacterial infections, saving countless lives and revolutionizing modern medicine. Most people are surprised to hear that nearly all antimicrobials—a broader term that encompasses antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics, and antivirals—were discovered in plants, fungi, and bacteria. One major source of naturally occurring antimicrobials is a genus of soil-dwelling bacteria called
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Bomb-sniffing viruses

If you hang around the Berkeley campus long enough, you’re destined to go head-to-head with a wild turkey. You might see the turkey’s head change color—from blue to white to red. When a turkey gets stressed, its heart rate increases and blood vessels dilate, which pushes apart collagen fibers in the skin. This response changes
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From the field: A song of ice and fungus

Warping the reflected sky like an antique window, brimming waters spilled generously over mounds of emerald green cushion plants. My field team navigated the wetland, 5,400 meters above sea level in Peru’s Cordillera Vilcanota, with careful tread. Misstep, and we could plunge meters deep into the ice-cold chasms between the giant cushions. The blinding white
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From the editor

Dear Readers, People occasionally ask me: why does the Berkeley Science Review still print magazines instead of relying on its online presence? After taking on the role of Editor in Chief last December, I started to really think about that question. Why do we cherish our printed magazine, and is it actually better than only
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Staff Listing, Spring 2019

Editor in Chief Katie Deets Editors Maya Emmons-Bell Tim Jeffers Ankit Kumar Nanticha Lutt Dat Mai Hayley McCausland Anna Waldo Copy Editors April Myers Emma Regan Managing Editor Hayley McCausland Art Director Nicole Repina Designers Mohini Bariya Emily Gonthier Dana Goodacre Gautam Gunjala Tim Jeffers Mackenzie Kirchner-Smith Liz Lawler Alexandra Ramsey Nicole Repina Matthew Stefely
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Toolbox: #Scicomm

Want to stay up with the latest science? Try Twitter. Twitter is social media’s scientific hub, where scientists share findings, explore controversy, and have fun. Professors, graduate students, heads of major funding sources, biotech companies, and more are all on Twitter. Even if you aren’t a scientist, Twitter is a great place for anyone to
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Book review – How to Change Your Mind

Meditation, prayer, and even yoga have been hailed by practitioners as stimuli for spiritual awakenings. Michael Pollan, however, tackles a more controversial spiritual catalyst in his most recent book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. By recounting the history, neuroscience, and
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From the field

I stepped out of the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, and a wave of the most humid air I’ve ever felt swept over me. My legs were still wobbly from 24 hours of travel, and I was dragging a large suitcase packed full of pipette tips, sterile filters, conical tubes, and lab manuals. With a team
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Creeping around the Bay Area

Whenever the ground starts to shake in the Bay Area, many wonder, “Is this the Big One?” Seismologist Roland Bürgmann, head of the Active Tectonics Research Group (ATRG) at UC Berkeley, is trying to characterize local faults to help predict future tremors and build a better understanding of why some faults move, or creep, while
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Lessons for adolescents

The adolescent brain is rapidly rewiring at a time when it must navigate intricate social and digital environments. At this age, the natural development of the brain can motivate impulsiveness and poor decision making with potential lifelong consequences. Dr. Lucia Magis-Weinberg, a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Ron Dahl at the UC Berkeley Institute
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Simplifying synthetics

Plastics are everywhere. Yet what they look like at the atomic scale was unclear. Recent work from the lab of Nitash Balsara, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley, has revealed the structure of basic synthetic polymers on the nanometer scale. Polymers are chemicals made of many molecules linked together in chains, and
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A colorful tale of adaptation

Twenty-two thousand years ago, a volcano erupted in the Mojave Desert, leaving an area of black lava rocks that today contrast starkly with the surrounding desert landscape. To survive in this new habitat, side-blotched lizards changed their coloration from brown to black, which camouflaged them from predators. As an integrative biology postdoc in Rasmus Nielsen’s lab,
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Staff Listing, Fall 2017

Editor in Chief Emily Hartman Editors Katie Deets Nicole Haloupek Chris Holdgraf Tim Jeffers Dat Mai Hayley McCausland Sumayah Rahman Amanda Tose Copy Editors Zeke Barger Maiko Kitaoka Managing Editor Katie Deets Art Director Ashley Truxal Designers Cameron Baker Benjamin Obadia Nicole Repina Dennis Sun Jo Downes-Bairzin Kurtresha Worden Alexandra Ramsey Photographers Sam Kenny Christiane
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Breathing life into the Delta

Several centuries ago, California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was covered in a thick layer of peat: dark, pungent, carbon-rich soil—the product of thousands of years of decomposing plant matter.  Once a web of tributaries feeding a vast freshwater marsh, the Delta has since been drained and cultivated, resulting in a loss of up to eight meters of soil.  Dennis Baldocchi, lead scientist from the Berkeley Biometeorology Lab, scans the sunken patchwork of agricultural paddocks from the levee above. “This is clearly not sustainable,” he remarks. To
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Book Review — A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves

The narrow coastal strip in which the thirteen American colonies were trapped was built by two great events in Earth history,” writes Walter Alvarez in his book, A Most Improbable Journey. About 320 million years ago, the collision that assembled the supercontinent Pangaea also formed the Appalachian Mountains. one hundred and forty million years later,
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Catching the quantum cat

In 1935, the famous quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment. He imagined a cat sealed in a box with a poison-dispensing device that would kill the cat if triggered. The trigger is an unpredictable event, such as whether a radioactive atom releases radiation over a certain span of time. Without opening the box,
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Diversity: It’s all the phage

Leaves are home to a rich bacterial community, invisible to the naked eye. Like humans, plants have a microbial flora that is important for protection from dangerous pathogens. These microbial communities shape the plant’s immune system to help it recognize foreign invaders. Norma Morella, a graduate student in Britt Koskella’s lab at UC Berkeley, studies the above-ground plant microbiome, which is less understood than soil and root microbiomes. Morella’s research focuses on the dynamic interactions between leaf bacteria and the viruses that
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Dancing DNA and packaging protein

DNA in bacteria is constantly changing shape—it recombines, replicates, and compresses into organized structures. This remarkable plasticity would be impossible without helpers known as nucleoid associated proteins. Recently, Dr. Michal Hammel, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, headed a study aiming to understand how DNA interacts with these nucleoid associated proteins to create tightly compressed DNA structures. The study used a technique that reveals
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Deciphering the dome

Modern technology is allowing UC Berkeley paleontologist Mark Goodwin to butt heads with a decades-old theory that pachycephalosaurs—or pachys, as Goodwin fondly calls them—used their domed skulls in battle. The head-as-a-battering-ram idea emerged in science fiction literature in the 1950s and was further popularized by a 1971 paper in the Journal of Paleontology that concluded, “the dome-headed dinosaurs . . . were a functional analogue of present-day sheep and goats.” After finding a pachycephalosaur skull at a dig site in Montana in the 1990s, Goodwin took
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