Attack of the killer spinach

Spinach farmers look set for a bad year. UC Davis ag economist Dan Sumner is reported by the Los Angeles Times as saying that the FDA’s warning not to eat any of the vegetable could cost growers, mostly in California, $50 to $100 million.

Food safety experts Trevor Suslow and Dean Cliver told the Sacramento Bee that, from experience — 44 years experience in Cliver’s case — it could be very hard to trace the source of the contamination.
UC Davis also hosts the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, established in 2002 to carry out research and education in food-borne diseases from farm to plate.

Eat Your Way to Better DNA

The Scientist has a feature today about nutritional genomics, or how what you eat interacts with your genetic makeup to affect your health. Ray Rodriguez, director of the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics at UC Davis, says that, “it tells us that we’re not slaves to our genes and that we’re not victims of genetic determination…We ate ourselves into a disease state, and we can eat ourselves out of that disease state.”

spiked: What Inspired You?

The British-based website spiked has published a survey of “over 100 key thinkers” in science, technology and medicine on “What inspired you to take up science?” No UC Davis thinkers on the (heavily male) list, but UC is represented. The most common response is the old favorite, “an inspirational teacher,” although reading a lot of Isaac Asimov and conducting dangerous experiments in the backyard also get in.

Pieces for the Large Hadron Collider lining up

I just received this Fermilab press release that the Compact Muon Solenoid is now operating at full power. Hooray! What does that mean?

The Compact Muon Solenoid is one of the main experiments to go into the Large Hadron Collider, now under construction at CERN in Switzerland. The LHC will start running next year, and is supposed to bust matter apart at such extremely high energies that some new particles will fall out.

To sleep, perchance to do some research

The Davis Enterprise had an interesting story yesterday afternoon on research into adolescent sleep by Irwin Feinberg and Ian Campbell at the School of Medicine’s Sleep Research Lab. They’ve been studying the brainwaves of 70 sleeping kids, for four nights at a time, twice a year for four years. It’s the only longitudinal study of its kind, Feinberg says. And one major outcome is a new finding — a dramatic drop of 25 percent in deep, “non-REM” sleep between the ages of 12 and 14.

Inventiveness pays at colleges – Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times reports on UC once again leading the nation in patents awarded to a university.

“UC’s enormous scale, high-powered faculty and long-running management of federally funded laboratories account for some of that championship status.

But the ranking also reflects the spirit around the state, according to William Tucker, executive director of UC’s systemwide Office of Technology Transfer.”

Carl Winter has left the building

Carl Winter, “the Elvis of food safety” made an appearance on NPR’s Day to Day last week. Winter has a gig as a professor of food science when he isn’t putting on the rhinestone lab coat. For full stomach-churning lyrics, downloads and videos, go here.

Some sample lyrics, to “Under the Boardwalk:”

A case of Norwalk
Out on the sea
In the bathroom of my cabin
Is where I’ll be

On my vacation cruise
Many lunches I’d lose
People sick everywhere
Cruisers better beware

In search of the perfect stem cell medium

Jennifer Cash, a graduate student in Tim Patten’s lab in the chemistry department, was profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle magazine yesterday. Cash recently won a scholarship from the UC Biotech Program. She’s developing gel-like materials to support growing stem cells, that could be used to repair nerve tissue in patients with spinal injuries or Parkinson’s Disease.

Snakes in the lane

Can a python bite off more than it can chew? Ewe bet | The Daily Telegraph

A 5.5 meter (that’s about 20-foot) python got stuck in a Malaysian street after eating a whole sheep. UC Davis vets have not yet been consulted on the case, but I expect it’s easier to digest a sheep than an electric blanket.

Best chemistry class ever

Remember the chemistry lesson when the teacher dropped a piece of lithium into water? This video explores a bit more of the periodic table.
Alkali metals on Google video

I sent this link to Frank Osterloh, an assistant professor of chemistry at UC Davis, who runs the popular Chemistry Magic Show during Picnic Day, who said it was “Terrific!” Osterloh notes that you can buy rubidium from a chemical supply company, but the shipping is expensive. It’s not hard to figure out why.