Cat genome sequenced

The first draft of the cat genome has been published by researchers from the National Cancer Institute. The sequence comes from a pure-bred Abyssinian called Cinnamon, who lives at the University of Missouri.

According to a news report in Science, Stephen O’Brien and Joan Pontius of NCI were able to decode about 65 percent of the gene-containing DNA, capturing about 20,000 genes or 95 percent of the estimated total. (Although as the ENCODE study showed, defining the “gene-containing” DNA might not be so straightforward).

Death and candy

Professor emerita of English Sandra Gilbert has some thoughts on the holiday spirit in this op-ed, which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

In the United States, though, such holidays have been subsumed into the quirky merriment of our contemporary Halloween, with its costumed sendups of dread: trick-or-treating kids dressed as ghosts and skeletons; jack-o-lantern skulls glowing on porches. Do we party so hard on this night to ward off our fear that the dead are too close?

What are those yellow spots?

Still on transportation, LA Times readers want to know the source of the yellow spots dotting their cars. The yellow spots are hard to get off when dry.

Susan Cobey, research associate at the UC Davis Bee Biology Laboratory, confirms that the spots are bee feces. Bees tend to follow the same routes, so if your car is parked under a bee highway it will get pooped on especially in the Spring.

LA Times “Your Wheels” columnist Ralph Vartabedian notes, however, that most Angelenos probably have more serious problems with their cars, like getting all the ash off them and out of the air filters.

Hybrid event coverage

There was quite a big media turnout for yesterday’s launch of the Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Center. Here’s some of the coverage.

In the Sacramento Bee, program manager Dahlia Garas explains why the university is going to loan ten of the cars to local families.

“We want to know how much they will use the car, how much they will charge, how often they will charge, where and when will they charge,” said Garas.

The test cars will be loaned to people of different ages and with different lengths of job commutes.

How to find Comet Holmes

A handy map from space.com.

More information here.

Plugging plug-in hybrids

The new Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Center got launched today with a press event in the Mondavi Center courtyard.

The center is funded with $3 million from the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. One of the it’s first research projects will place 10 plug-in hybrids with local families who will evaluate them for up to eight weeks. This project is supported with an additional $1.8 million from the California Air Resources Board.

This morning, researchers were showing off the first vehicle in the fleet, a 2007 Toyota Prius that was professionally converted to a plug-in hybrid for UC Davis.

Bedbugs are back

This is a story that will make you want to scratch. Bedbug infestations have been reappearing in homes and hotels across the country, according to this article originally from U.S. News and World Report. No one seems to know why, exactly; it may be because they have become resistant to household pesticides.

Bedbugs aren’t significant as disease vectors, but they do a great job of freaking people out.

“They come in the dark; they feed on you; they scurry away when you turn the light on,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California-Davis.

Psi and statistics

News Service intern and sometime Australia-blogger Erin Loury had a feature in last Friday’s Dateline on two UC Davis researchers who have ventured into the tricky ground of investigating the paranormal.

Jessica Utts is a professor of statistics and also runs the Davis Honors Challenge. She also sits on the Board of the Parapsychological Association. Utts is the only statistician in the country, she says, to work on validating claims of paranormal abilities like being able to “see” images in a distant location.

Five AAAS Fellows this year

Five UC Davis faculty members have been elected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are: Peter Richerson, Environmental Science and Policy, who studies cultural evolution; nanotechnology expert Gang-yu Liu, Chemistry; biostatistician David Rocke, Applied Science and the Division of Biostatistics; Tom Scott, who works on controlling mosquitoes that spread diseases like dengue fever and malaria, Entomology; and mathematician Bruno Nachtergaele, who uses math to study quantum physics. More here.

This version of the university seal was made using Gang-yu Liu’s “nanografting” technique. The entire object is 8 micrometers across, and the smallest details are 10 nanometers wide.

Ag soil erosion not contributing to climate change, but not helping, either

Soil erosion due to agriculture is not a net contributor to global climate change, according to researchers at UC Davis, Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and the University of Exeter, England. Previous estimates of carbon emissions from soil erosion had run as high as 13 percent of global emissions.

Erosion does not release significant amounts or carbon to the atmosphere, the researchers found. On the other hand, neither does it represent a significant ‘sink’ removing carbon from the atmosphere, and erosion is still a Bad Thing because of its other environmental impacts.