His “hoot-dash” brings all the girls to the yard

Anyone who’s spent time near male peacocks knows that they can be noisy birds. At the height of his courtship dance, the male gives a distinct two-part whoop before leaping on the female.

“Peacocks have a number of different courtship calls, but this is the only one specifically associated with the moment before copulation, a time when the female is finally right in front of the male. It’s called the hoot-dash display,” said Jessica Yorzinski in a story for the Duke University research blog. Yorzinski, now a postdoc at Duke, studied peacock behavior as a graduate student at UC Davis.

Garen Wintemute on preventing gun violence

UC Davis emergency physician Garen Wintemute is one of the nation’s leading experts on gun violence, and has long argued that it should be treated as a public health problem. In this Q&A with The Nation he says that the prohibition route followed by countries like Australia and Great Britain is closed to the U.S. — there are just too many guns already out there. But real steps can be taken that would make a dent in gun violence that kills 88 Americans every day.

Undergraduate discovers the physics behind the music

(Contributed by Siv Schwink, University of Illinois)

For Meredith Powell, science and music form a natural union. The fourth-year physics major has been playing piano and viola for as long as she can remember and plans to graduate with a minor in music. And her talents have not gone unrecognized — she has performed as principal violist in the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, and plays regularly around the Sacramento area with her quartet.

Meredith Powell

UC Davis undergraduate student Meredith Powell  in the lab of Steve Errede, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Photo by Steven Errede.

“Mothers and Others” wins book awards

UC Davis Professor emerita of Anthropology Sarah Blaffer Hrdy has been awarded the J. I. Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe for her book, Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding (Harvard University Press, 2009). The Staley Prize, which includes a cash award of $10,000, is awarded to a living author for a book that exemplifies outstanding, innovative scholarship and writing in anthropology, especially books that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Synchrotron gives insight into green energy enzymes

UC Davis chemists have been using a Japanese synchrotron to get a detailed look at enzymes that could help power the green economy. The work was published online Nov. 8 by the journal Angewandte Chemie and is featured on the cover of the Nov. 26 issue.

One option for powering clean, environment friendly vehicles is to run them on hydrogen fuel rather than carbon-based fuels. Cheap catalysts to prepare hydrogen gas (H2) are key to this future “hydrogen economy.”