California adopts low-carbon fuel standard

The California Air Resources Board this evening adopted the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The original standards were drafted by a panel of UC experts including Dan Sperling, Bryan Jenkins and Joan Ogden from UC Davis, and Alex Farrell from UC Berkeley. They released their blueprint of the standard in August, 2007. Their approach was to shape regulations so that competition and market forces drive down carbon emissions. “One of the key roles for the state agencies will be ensuring that the competition among the different fuels results in real carbon emission reductions, more consumer choice, and minimal costs,” Farrell said at the time.

What in our DNA makes us human?

Katherine Pollard of the Genome Center and Department of Statistics has a cover article in the current Scientific American on the genetic differences between humans and our closest living relatives, chimpanzees. In 2004, Pollard and colleagues used computers at UC Santa Cruz to compare the human and chimp genomes, and came up with a stretch of 118 base pairs —  called HAR1, or “human accelerated region 1” — that has diverged the most since our common ancestors split millions of years ago. Intriguingly, HAR1 is active in brain development.

Film screening April 26: The Atom Smashers

The High Energy Physics group is hosting a public screening of “The Atom Smashers,” a documentary about the race to find the Higgs boson. The screening will be on Sunday, April 26 at 7 pm in Chem 194. After the movie, directors Clayton Brown and Monica Ross, and UC Davis professors John Conway and Robin Erbacher, who appear in the movie, will be on hand to answer questions. Tickets are $4. More information here.

Opinion: Forensic Science under the Magnifying Glass

Contributed by David Howitt and Fred Tulleners, Forensic Science Program

Earlier this year, the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science, released its eagerly-awaited report on the practice of forensic science in the United States. Judging from some headlines, one might think that forensic science is unreliable, but this is far from the case. In fact, the report does make constructive suggestions for strengthening forensic science: more basic research, improved standards and accreditation, and promoting the independence of crime labs.

The Great H1 Visa Debate

Are visas for foreign technology workers vital to America’s economy, or a way of undermining the salaries of US-born engineers? Five immigration experts, including UC Davis computer science professor Norman Matloff, have been debating the issue on the New York Times immigration blog.

Saturday’s NY Times carried the story of Google engineer Sanjay Mavinkurve, who is currently living in Canada and commuting to Google because under U.S. immigration law, his wife would not be allowed to work if they moved to the U.S..

Matloff is unimpressed: he says that the H-1B visa category is actually a way to bring cheap labor to the tech industry.

Food safety news roundup

Some food safety news items related to UC Davis that caught my eye:

Virulent E. coli strain rare in wildlife?

The AP reports that a the incidence of dangerous E. coli microbes in wildlife in the central coast region appears to be low. Less than one-half of one percent of samples tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7, which caused contamination in spinach crops in 2006. More detail comes in a press release from the California Department of Fish and Game, which conducted the study with UC Davis and the USDA.

Pride, before or after a fall

Keeping up appearances — continuing to take pride, even when your circumstances are down — might seem shallow, but it has real psychological benefits, according to this article in today’s New York Times. Recent research shows that people who look pleased with themselves are perceived by others as being more high-ranking, and that people who have a feeling of pride about a task are better motivated for other challenges.

Olive the otter nears release

Olive, a year-old sea otter rescued from an oil spill on Sunset Beach in February, is nearing release after recuperating at the state Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz. The center is part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is run by the Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis. Over the past 15 years, the network of 25 centers has handled thousands of birds caught up in oil spills both on land and at sea, as well as a few seals and sea lions, but Olive is the first otter to be treated.