Optical illusions and tennis

Disputed line calls are as much a part of the Wimbledon tennis tournament as rain and overpriced strawberries. Tuesday’s New York Times has a long article on research by David Whitney and his lab at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, which found that judges are far more likely to call a ball out when it was actually in, than the reverse.

Whitney’s team watched video of the 2007 Wimbledon tournament and identified 83 incorrect line calls. Of those, 70 (84 percent) were ruled out when they should have been in.

UC Davis magazine summer issue now online

Vanderhoef mag coverBye-bye, Larry; pioneering female winemakers; healing eyes in Peru; D. Kern Holoman passes the baton; and much more. Access to the full issue here.

Forbes interview with Andrew Hargadon

One percent inspiration, 99 percent networking, as Thomas Edison might have said. Innovation only happens when a network is available to turn a great idea into a product, says UC Davis business professor Andrew Hargadon.

New ideas are cheap, he says:

Most great innovations are based on ideas already developed by others. The iPod was not the first MP3 player. Google was not the first search engine. Edison’s wasn’t the first light bulb. These and other innovations were successful because of the networks that were built around them. The particular network of founders, investors, developers, customers and distribution partners is what makes the difference between a good idea that goes nowhere and one that overthrows entire industries.

Duelling voices: Obama vs Osama

Religious studies professor Flagg Miller was extensively quoted in this article from the New York Times Week in Review section on reaction to President Obama’s Cairo speech — especially the apparent attempt to upstage it with a new audio tape message from Osama bin Laden.

Miller noted that Obama’s speech was about consensus building, while bin Laden’s rhetoric was polarizing. But many in the West miss how effective bin Laden’s language can be, Miller says: he is a good poet in classical Arabic, using imagery of 12-century Muslim warriors fighting heroically against Crusaders.

NPR covers bellowing bison, Fox covers cow burps

Out on the great plains, UC Davis grad student Megan Wyman is trying to work out what makes a bison bellow sexy. Somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the males that bellow more quietly are more successful in mating. Listen to the whole NPR story, including bison bellows, here.

Original story here.

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel is out by the cow barns today, reporting live on research by Frank Mitloehner, who has been measuring the gases and other emissions created by cattle operations, by housing cattle in enclosed tents. Mitloehner was quoted in a New York Times story on Friday about farmers experimenting with new cattle feeds. The average cow emits 200 to 400 pounds of methane (a greenhouse gas) a year, Mitloehner told the Times.

Farm animals as lab animals

Agricultural scientists who work with cows, pigs, chickens and sheep are hoping to get more federal dollars to support medical research in these animals. The laboratory mouse — cheap to keep, easy to breed, and available in thousands of inbred strains — is the mainstay of medical research in animals, but scientists like Russ Hovey of the UC Davis Department of Animal Science says traditional barnyard animals have something to offer as well. Hovey is studying the genes and hormones that control breast development in pigs, and hoping to get some insight into human breast cancer.

Lunchtime with the President

Obama and studentsUC Davis economics senior Marilyn Murray (left) and Natasha Sandor of UC Santa Barbara happened to be in the Five Guys burger restaurant in Washington DC last Friday when President Obama dropped in for a cheeseburger with jalapenos. Murray and Sandor are both interns at the University of California’s Washington DC Center this quarter; Murray is taking Professor Larry Berman’s seminar on the presidency. “I carry my camera with me every where because you never know who you will meet or what you will see while living in Washington DC,” Murray says.

It might be hard to top this, though.