Ithaca school robotics team builds augmented reality sandbox on UC Davis design

A high school robotics team in Ithaca, New York has built their own augmented reality sandbox, based on the model built by Oliver Kreylos and colleagues at UC Davis’s Keck Center for Active Visualization in Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES). A video of the UC Davis sandbox went viral last year, attracting over one and half million views to date.

The sandbox uses a Kinect controller from a Microsoft Xbox game console and a digital projector to read contours on real sand and project images such as contours or flowing water onto the sand.

UC Davis tech incubator admits three new startups

Three new UC Davis startup companies working in clean hydrogen production, chip-scale magnetic sensors and tissue engineering have been admitted to the Engineering Translational Technology Center at the College of Engineering.

Woodall Tech, Inc.

Triassic “Jaws” found

We’re going to need a bigger boat: palaeontologists including UC Davis postdoc Lars Schmitz have described a 30-foot long ichthyosaur — an air-breathing, dolphin-like marine reptile — with five-inch long razor teeth that was likely the top predator in the ocean 244 million years ago. The fossil is described in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan. 7.

The fossil was found during a dig in Nevada, well-known as a site for ichthyosaur fossils. The researchers named the beast Thalattoarchon saurophagis, or “lizard-eating ruler of the seas,” because it likely preyed on other marine reptiles, filling the role of top predator of its time, like a modern Great White shark or killer whale.

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.

Filling the tank at dark matter detector experiment

Contributed by the LUX Collaboration

An experiment to look for one of nature’s most elusive subatomic particles is finally under water, in a stainless steel tank nearly a mile underground beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Large Underground Xenon experiment, nicknamed LUX, will be the most sensitive device yet to look for dark matter. Thought to comprise more than 80 percent of the mass of the universe, dark matter has so far eluded direct detection. The LUX detector, under construction for more than three years in South Dakota, was installed underground in a protective tank in July. The tank was filled with water last week, and all systems are functioning well.

Pigs join the genome club

The genome of the domestic pig is published in the journal Nature today, Nov. 14. The pig genome was completed by an international team led by researchers at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, the Univesity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and included Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. Lewin became involved in the project when he was heading the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before joining UC Davis.

Sequencing the unsequenceable: Genome Center technology advances Fragile X research

The UC Davis Genome Center has been applying one of the world’s most advanced commercial genome sequencing machines to study the developmental disorder, Fragile X syndrome.

The DNA code is made up of four letters, A, T, C and G. Fragile X syndrome occurs when a large number of three-letter repeats CGG appears in part of the fragile X mental retardation gene, FMR1. A run of more than 200 repeats causes full-blown fragile X syndrome, switching off the gene altogether and causing serious intellectual disability. But shorter sequences of repeats can also cause a range of problems including learning disabilities, seizures and fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome.

BGI Chairman to speak on campus, Nov. 9

Huanming (Henry) Yang, Ph.D., co-founder and chairman of BGI — formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute — will speak in room 1005, Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility at 4.10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

UC Davis and BGI have formed a partnership, BGI@UC Davis, to set up a DNA sequencing facility and foster new breakthroughs in genomics especially related to medicine, food and agricultural sciences, and the environment.

Cuts to Williamson act threaten open space and critical habitat

From UC ANR News

A survey by UC Davis doctoral students shows that cuts to California’s Williamson Act could lead to a sell-off of land currently protected from development.  The findings appear in the October–December 2012 California Agriculture, UC’s peer-reviewed research journal.

State budget cuts have dramatically reduced funding for the Williamson Act, California’s conservation law that provides property tax relief for the owners of 15 million acres of rangeland and farms — preserving California’s prized open space.