Earthquake damage photo collection

Geotechnical engineers Ross Boulanger of UC Davis and J. Michael Duncan of Virginia Tech have compiled a comprehensive collection of photos of all kinds of damage the planet can do to our puny human structures, and some of the techniques engineers can use to prevent such damage.

Geotechnical Engineering photo album

Hat tip to io9.com, which has collected some of the images in a nice gallery.

Multi-telescope study of giant black hole

UC Davis physicists are part of an international team that just published a study of the giant black hole at the core of galaxy M87, 50 million light years from Earth. M87 gives off bursts of high-energy gamma rays. The discovery provides new evidence about the workings of these powerful objects that lie at the heart of many galaxies, according to a press release from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The astronomers used several telescopes to study M87, including the National Science Foundation’s continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system of ten radio-telescope antennas stretching from Hawaii to the Caribbean, and three gamma-ray telescopes: the VERITAS array in Arizona, the H.E.S.S. system in Namibia, Africa, and the MAGIC system on La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Health care reform debate rages on

Contributed by Clifton Parker

For the next month, Congress will undertake the daunting feat of trying to solve the nation’s health care woes.

Given the complexity, real change, if any, is likely to be more incremental than substantive, say UC Davis faculty members. The crux of the issue is who gets health care coverage and who has to pay for it.

Economic historian Peter Lindert says the “angel and devil are both in the details.” A unified and competitive health care plan can work extremely well, he believes, but only if policymakers get the details right. With skyrocketing cost, one might think the urgency is clear — but this actually makes a deal more difficult.

Drug ban makes sense, says pain expert

An FDA advisory panel has proposed banning the prescription painkillers Vicodin and Percocet, which combine acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) with more powerful opiate painkillers. The panel says that patients may take the prescription drugs in combination with over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol or Excedrin, reaching a dose that can cause dangerous liver damage.

Scott Fishman, chief of pain medicine at UC Davis, says the proposed ban makes sense. The drugs contained in Vicodin and Percocet would still be available, but as separate pills, allowing better control, he says.