The Spherical Cow Company

Over the summer, UC Davis physicist Lloyd Knox and students Damien Martin, David Gribble and Justin Smith worked to produce a series of videos for the public explaining topics in modern physics. In their first effort, on the Cosmic Microwave Background, Knox and his 12-year-old son Teddy explain the Cosmic Microwave Background on the kitchen table. The video is now up on their Youtube Channel, the Spherical Cow Company. They also have a blog explaining what the SCC is all about. 

The Spherical Cow Company produces short documentary videos to demonstrate the explanatory power of simple physical models and to help us understand and aesthetically appreciate the natural world.

Book Honors UC Davis Microbiologist

A new book, “The Lure of Bacterial Genetics,” honors the contributions and achievements of John Roth, distinguished professor of microbiology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences.

Written and edited by Roth’s former students and colleagues, the book provides a complete overview of the field and its history. The final chapter, written by Roth, offers a look at the future of bacterial genetics.

Roth’s laboratory uses Salmonella bacteria as a model to explore the basic genetics and biochemistry of all bacteria, including how bacteria evolve and adapt to their environment. Roth is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Department of Flattened Wildlife

UC Davis researchers have just completed the first year of a comprehensive survey of animals killed by traffic on California’s roads. Fraser Shilling, co-director of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center, has released the first year of data for the California Roadkill Observation System and launched a similar effort for the state of Maine with Maine Audubon.

The data could help conservation planners design more wildlife-friendly roads.

The first year of reporting for California includes 6,700 roadkill observations by 300 people involving 205 animal species from acorn woodpeckers to zebratail lizards. The most common roadkill victim: raccoons.

DNA repair machine on the bench

Your DNA is constantly suffering damage, both from carcinogens like sunlight or cigarette smoke and from routine cellular process that cause DNA strands to break. If those breaks are not promptly repaired, they can give rise to cancer or birth defects — people with genetic mutations that affect their ability to repair DNA are at increased risk of cancer.

Stephen Kowalczykowski’s laboratory in the Department of Microbiology, College of Biological Sciences studies how the DNA repair process works in organisms from bacteria to yeast and humans. Now, they have succeeded in reproducing a key step in repairing a broken double strand of DNA using purified proteins in a test tube.