Caterpillars are not descended from a worm/insect hybrid

A proposal that butterfly caterpillars are descended from the mating of an ancient insect with a type of worm is comprehensively rejected by a new paper to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The author of the original paper, Donald Williamson of the University of Liverpool, England, appealed to the scientific community to test his hypothesis. Rick Grosberg, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology and the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis, and Mike Hart of Simon Fraser University, British Columbia took up the challenge, showing that Williamson’s hypothesis can be disproven using data already published and readily available.

Where in your brain do you change your mind?

From Phyllis Brown, UC Davis Health System Public Affairs

When you rationalize driving your SUV with the world growing ever warmer or smoking with the threat of lung cancer looming, a distinct area in the middle of the frontal lobes of your brain allows you to adjust your attitudes to justify your behavior, research conducted at UC Davis has found.

In a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, UC Davis researchers report that a portion of the brain that sits on top and in front of the connection of the brain’s two hemispheres is the place where we wrestle with our inner conflicts. The place is called the anterior cingulate cortex. Psychologists call the process cognitive dissonance.

Physics Nobel: How telephone echoes lead to digital cameras

The 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics is split between Charles Kao, for developing fiber optics, and Willard Boyle and George Smith, who invented the Charge Coupled Device or CCD at Bell Laboratories in 1969. CCDs are now the ubiquitous heart of digital cameras.

UC Davis physics professor Tony Tyson joined Bell Labs around the same time as Boyle and Smith invented the CCD, and has worked on the development of these light-sensing chips and ever more powerful digital cameras throughout his career.

Telomeres a Nobel No-brainer

Today’s award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to Elizabeth Blackburn of UCSF, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University and Jack Szostak at Harvard, “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase,” is a “Nobel no-brainer,” said Stephen Kowalczykowski, distinguished professor of microbiology and of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis.

“It was a most appropriate and well deserved award. The discovery had broad implications; from understanding a fundamental aspect of chromosome biology to providing a basis for treating cancer and limiting aging,” Kowalczykowski said in an email.