Benazir Bhutto blog commentary

The ImmigrationProf blog run by UC Davis law professors Kevin Johnson and Bill Hing has posted a lengthy, thoughtful and thought-provoking essay on Benazir Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, by former student Wajahat Ali. Samples:

An assassin’s bullets and suicide bomb ended the life of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; tragically, she followed in the footsteps of her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s Prime Minister [1973–1977], who was brutally hung by political rival and subsequent military dictator General Zia al Haq nearly thirty years ago. The tragic legacy of this family elucidates the political instability and schizophrenic personality of modern-day Pakistan: a complex, volatile and multifaceted nation whose diverse features have increasingly and frequently become accentuated by violence…

Dark secrets of the Arboretum Creek

Construction crews are dropping the water level in the Arboretum waterway before running new utilities pipes beneath it. The creek will not be drained completely, but the work is already revealing the corpses of a number of bicycles. And if you’ve ever felt like taking a paddle in the creek, you probably won’t after you see what the bottom of it looks like.

The bike and pedestrian paths along the Arboretum will be closed around the California Avenue bridge well into January, with diversions in effect. A map is available here.

Dateline’s Dave Jones has the full story.

Expert forum on biofuels

Dan Sperling and Ron Steenblik are moderating an online forum on biofuels on the web site of the International Transport Forum.

While the future is uncertain, what we can say with confidence is that it is almost definitely going to include a mix of biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen.

The problem is that each alternative is at a different stage of development, and each carries with it a different mix of pros and cons. Even within the category of biofuels there are a vast array of choices.

Magnetic nanoparticles on video

ABC-7’s Richard Hart reports on work by Ian Kennedy’s group at UC Davis on fluorescent, magnetic nanoparticles. Kennedy has a USDA grant to work on tests for bioterror agents in food.

I first wrote up this work nearly a year ago. Kennedy works with Bruce Hammock in the Department of Entomology on developing these tests. They have now started a company, Synthia LLC, to commercialize the work.

Ian Kennedy’s biosensors web site.

On the bright side: Life after peak oil

UC Davis economist Greg (“A Farewell to Alms“) Clark had a forum piece in the Sacramento Bee last weekend on what life would be like in a world where oil is becoming scarce and ever more expensive, when we will be looking back with nostalgia at $3.5o for a gallon of gas.

His take? Not so bad. “…we can live happily, opulently and indeed more healthily, in a world of permanent $100-a-barrel oil or even $500-a-barrel oil.”

UC Davis at the LHC

Scientists working on the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland just finished installing the six-ton silicon tracking detector in the machine.

CMS trackerPhysicists from the U.S. built and tested 135 of the 205 square meters of the Silicon Strip Tracking Detector. With an area about the size of a singles tennis court, it is by far the largest semiconductor silicon detector ever constructed. Its sensors are patterned to provide a total of 10 million individual sensing strips, each read out by one of 80,000 custom-designed microelectronics chips. Forty thousand optical fibers then transport data into the CMS data acquisition system.

Hey, we’ve still got one of those!

The Knight Science Journalism Tracker picks up on a New York Times story about an old cyclotron at Columbia University that is due to be cut into pieces and sold for scrap. Some are upset that the Columbia machine, which made early discoveries in nuclear physics but hasn’t been used since the 1960s, will meet such a fate instead of being preserved.

Here at UC Davis, we still have the cyclotron at the Crocker Nuclear Lab. The giant magnets for the machine came to Davis from Berkeley in 1964, and some components date from the 1930s. It threw its first beam in 1966, and is still in use for air quality analysis, testing electronic components and treating eye cancers.

Dan Sperling on NPR on energy bill, CAFE standards

Dan Sperling, director of the Institute for Transportation Studies, appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” last night in a piece about the new energy bill just signed by President Bush.

Despite years of automakers “kicking and screaming” about the new mileage standards that Congress set this week, the industry should be able to reach — even exceed — 35 mpg by 2020, Sperling says.

“A key step is for consumers and automakers to consign the horsepower race to history,” he said. “People want more fuel-efficient vehicles that are good for the world and good for the environment, and we have the ability to make those cars and trucks now.”

Congress funds textile research

Included in the massive spending bill just approved by Congress was $1.2 million for research on fibers and fabrics for the military and first responders. The research consortium includes UC Davis.

Dan Lundgren, R-Gold River, was a primary sponsor of the earmark, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Among the textiles under development are uniform materials impregnated with antibiotics so that the drugs are administered immediately to wounded soldiers.

Lungren said UC Davis also is working on fabric for firefighters’ uniforms that better reflect heat and are lighter and more comfortable.

New Paths to Superconductivity

A review published in the journal Nature this week lays out an alternative explanation for high-temperature superconductivity, extending the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory that has dominated the field for the past 50 years. Theoretical advances described in the paper could lead to new superconducting materials with a wide range of applications.

Superconductivity occurs when all electrons can flow through a material without
encountering electrical resistance. Initially found at temperatures close to absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius), materials have since been discovered that become superconductors at temperatures as high as 160 Kelvin (about minus 110 degrees Celsius), well above the temperature of liquid nitrogen.