Egghead is a blog about research by, with or related to UC Davis. Comments on posts are welcome, as are tips and suggestions for posts. General feedback may be sent to Andy Fell. This blog is created and maintained by UC Davis University Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.
The world’s coral reefs are both stunningly beautiful and vital to ocean health, hosting a huge diversity of fish and marine life. And they are, as they always have been, under pressure from periodic natural disasters. However, a coral reef’s ability to recover from unavoidable and often unpredictable natural disasters, like hurricanes and tsunamis, may depend on human activities including fishing and pollution. UC Davis marine biologist Mike Gil is one of the scientists working to understand how reefs recover from natural disturbances in the presence of unnatural, man-made stressors.
Developing nations particularly at risk
By Kat Kerlin
With the increasing pace of globalization comes the movement of invasive non-native species around the planet. Although often seen as a “first-world problem,” a new study shows these invasions threaten the economies and livelihoods of residents in some of the world’s poorest nations.
The harlequin ladybird was introduced to North America from Asia in 1916 to control aphids. It has spread to Europe and though beloved by many, is considered a pest in some regions. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
With gold medals in three sprinting events at three Olympic Games, Usain Bolt has written himself into the record books as arguably the fastest human of all time. But just how fast is the Jamaican sprinter?
Three mathematicians, Sebastian Schreiber of UC Davis, Wayne Getz of UC Berkeley and Karl Smith of Santa Rosa Junior College, show how to calculate Bolt’s maximum velocity in the 100 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in their 2014 textbook, “Calculus for the Life Sciences.”
This plot shows Usain Bolt’s velocity measured at 10 meter intervals.
Full post: Calculating just how fast Usain Bolt runs
(331 words, 3 images, estimated 1:19 mins reading time)
By Kathleen Holder
Our species, Homo sapiens, left Africa earlier than previously thought and our diverse cultures have been heavily influenced by geography, according to a recent review by Alexander (Sandy) Harcourt, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.
The paper grew out of a keynote address to a National Academy of Sciences colloquium in Irvine earlier this year on comparative phylogeography, the study of the geographic distribution of species (Watch a video of Harcourt’s lecture below).
By Becky Oskin
Starting out the size of a hippo some 50 million years ago, whales have since evolved into the largest animals on Earth. But their growth wasn’t steady over the millennia; instead, filter-feeding whales like the blue whale only ballooned in size starting about 2.5 million years ago. Whales’ grass-gobbling relatives, such as sea cows, also expanded in size during this time.
A blue whale off the coast of Southern California. Photo by D Ramey Logan, via Wikipedia.
UC Davis graduate student Jeremy Mock inspecting the LUX detector before the chamber was filled with water. Credit: Matt Kapust/Sanford Lab
The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment, which operates beneath a mile of rock at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has completed its silent search for the missing matter of the universe.
The experiment did not find a dark matter particle, but it did eliminate a wide swath of mass ranges where a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, or WIMP, the leading theoretical candidate for dark matter, might exist, team members said.
Al Capone’s network drew in thousands of people through activities both legal and illegal.
The Prohibition era, from 1920 to 1933, is remembered as a time when organized crime flourished in the U.S., and no name is more notorious than Al Capone in Chicago. But Capone’s organization didn’t operate in a vacuum: he had clients, suppliers, associates and acquaintances both legitimate and not so much, forming a vast network throughout the city.
Full post: Network Science Meets Al Capone
(319 words, 1 image, estimated 1:17 mins reading time)
Department faculty recognized for top scholarly performance
By Kat Kerlin
Faculty in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology were recently ranked No. 1 in the nation for research productivity and impact.
Brian Todd of the UC Davis Department of Willdife, Fish and Conservation Biology found that turtles at Sequoia National Park still carry agricultural pesticides from past decades in their bodies. Credit: Brian Todd/UC Davis
The distinction came from an analysis of 33 research-extensive universities in the United States belonging to the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs.
UC Davis entomologist Christian Nansen trained some high-tech analysis on coffee beans, showing that brands were not consistent in content. Photo: Kathy Garvey
By Kathy Keatley Garvey
If your particular brand of coffee doesn’t seem to taste the same from week to week or month to month, you may be right. And it’s not you, it’s the coffee beans.
Agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and four colleagues analyzed 15 brands of roasted coffee beans, purchased at an area supermarket on two dates about six months apart, and using hyperspectral imaging technology, found “they were all over the board.”
By Becky Oskin
Solar cells made from perovskites have sparked great excitement in recent years because the crystalline compounds boast low production costs and high energy efficiencies. Now UC Davis scientists have found that some promising compounds — the hybrid lead halide perovskites — are chemically unstable and may be unsuited for solar cells.
“We have proven these materials are highly unlikely to function on your rooftop for years,” said Alexandra Navrotsky, interdisciplinary professor of ceramic, earth, and environmental materials chemistry at UC Davis and director of the Nanomaterials in the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology (NEAT) organized research unit.