Genes, ancestry and women’s health

Michael Seldin and colleagues at the UC Davis School of Medicine have been awarded a grant by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to look at the role of ancestry in women’s health, especially heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer and bone fractures due to osteoporosis. The study will draw on samples taken from 160,000 women enrolled in the NIH’s 15-year Women’s Health Initiative study.

“This research allows us to identify additional genes that are important in causing diseases that disproportionately affect women or affect them in different ways than men,” Seldin said in a press release.

Click and Clack and the Car of the Future

So yesterday afternoon I went over to Bainer Hall check up on a crew we’d heard about filming a documentary for PBS. They were interviewing Professor Andy Frank about his work on plug-in hybrid vehicles. I was talking to the producer outside when two guys walked out of the bay, and he said, “come and meet Tom and Ray Magliozzi,” at which point I managed to say nothing very intelligent at all.

Organic or conventional food? Trade-offs either way

It’s premature to conclude that foods produced through either organic or conventional farming are superior to each other, according to a review by Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program, and Sarah Davis of the Institute of Food Technologists.

People may choose organic foods to avoid pesticide residues in conventional foods, although the levels of pesticides in foods are well far below levels considered toxic, the authors write. Organic foods themselves may be susceptible to naturally occuring toxins, and the measurable differences in health benefits are hard to find.

UC Davis business school #1 in organizational behavior

The Financial Times ranks the UC Davis Graduate School of Management first in the world in “Organizational Behavior.” The London-based business paper ranks UC Davis’s MBA program at 76 in the world, 47th in the United States, according to rankings published on their website. The organizational behavior ranking can be found on a separate page of rankings in selected areas.

“I’m absolutely delighted that our organizational behavior faculty members have received this international recognition. They are world-class researchers and they know how to communicate their research in ways that are valuable to our MBA students — and this #1 ranking reflects that classroom experience,” said Nicole Woolsey Biggart, the School’s dean, in an email to faculty and staff.

SF Chronicle: Dan Sperling on the Governor’s energy plan

Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle includes a Q&A with UC Davis transportation expert Dan Sperling on how Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to cut carbon emissions from California vehicles could be implemented. Sperling should know, as he will lead the committee that will come up with regulations to implement the Governor’s executive order. He describes it as a “sound approach” for managing the transition to alternative fuels.

Where’s the fog?

You aren’t imagining it: the legendary Central Valley fog is not so thick this year. In fact, it has been almost absent so far this winter. One reason for that is that rainfall has been low so far this winter.

“In the month of January we’ve only had about five-hundredths of an inch,” Richard Grotjahn, a professor of meteorology at UC Davis, told the Stockton Record. “That’s threatening a 110-year-old record.”

“Bump Hunting” for the Higgs Boson

Writing on the Cosmic Variance blog, John Conway describes “bump hunting” in the search for the Higgs Boson, the particle that explains the existence of mass. Part 2 is here. The piece gives some insight into what experimental particle physics is like: is that tiny blip in the graph a statistical fluctuation, or a particle scientists have spent 20 years looking for?

The most exciting phrase in science…

…according to Isaac Asimov, is not ‘Eureka!’ but “hmm… that’s funny…”

Which is brought to mind by Tom Siegfried’s report in Science on the American Astronomical Society meeting earlier this month. Researchers with NASA’s COSMOS survey published the first results on the distribution of dark matter in a small piece of the universe. Mostly, ordinary matter hangs around clumps of dark matter. But there are some discrepancies, also shown by previous maps by Tony Tyson, a physics professor at UC Davis, and others.

‘”There is something funny going on,” said Tyson.’

An uncooperative experimental subject

A sloth called Mats has been retired to a zoo after failing to cooperate with research in animal motion for the past three years.

SlothScientists at the University of Jena, Germany had been trying to coax Mats into climbing up and down a pole, but he just hung around like a, uh, sloth.

“Mats obviously wanted absolutely nothing to do with furthering science,” said Axel Burchardt, a university spokesman, according to the Associated Press.

Perhaps they should have offered him a co-author spot on the paper.

The Art of Physics

Bubblechamber artA series of artworks based on experiments in particle physics will get its first showing in a public lecture at UC Davis, Feb. 6. “In Search of Meaning,” by Lylie Fisher, explores how both art and science address fundamental questions of existence.

“For me, there is a double reality where scientists explore the source of life, the building blocks of the universe, and that is parallel to philosophical pondering on the meaning of life,” said Fisher, who is based in Alameda, Calif. These are root questions that people return to, whether through art or science, she said.