About Egghead

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 Strategic Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.

Evolution of Biggest Whales Linked With Ocean Productivity

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.

Blue whale

A blue whale off the coast of Southern California. Photo by D Ramey Logan, via Wikipedia.

LUX Dark Matter Experiment Ends Run, Still No Dark Matter

UC Davis grad student in LUX chamber

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.

Network Science Meets Al Capone

Al Capone's network drew in thousands of people through activities both legal and illegal.

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.

UC Davis Wildlife and Fish Ranked No. 1 in Nation

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

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.

Grounds For Concern: Is Your Coffee Consistent?

UC Davis entomologist Christian Nansen trained some high-tech analysis on coffee beans, showing that brands were not consistent in content. Photo: Kathy Garvey

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.”

Perovskite, Potential Solar Cell Material Unsuited for Real-World Use

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.

Do Zebra stripes confuse biting flies?

Audio: Listen to this story on our podcast, Three Minute Egghead. 

 

Zebra stripes have fascinated people for millennia, and there are a number of different theories to explain why these wild horses should be so brightly marked. A handful of laboratories around the world – including one lead by UC Davis wildlife biologist Tim Caro – have been putting these theories to the test. A new paper from Caro’s group, led by Ken Britten at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, puts a hole in one idea: that the stripes confuse biting flies by breaking up polarized light.

Three Minute Egghead is our new podcast

We’re adding a new element to the Egghead blog this month with Three Minute Egghead, a podcast about research at UC Davis. While we figure out a few details about RSS feeds and XML, I’ll be posting these audio files to the Egghead blog, usually with an accompanying blog post.

Our first piece is about two UC Davis computer scientists who are using data from the open-source programming website GitHub to learn about coder’s work habits and in particular, how multitasking affects productivity.

Study author Bogdan Vasilescu will be presenting the study at the International Conference on Software Engineering in Austin, Texas tomorrow, May 20.

UC Davis scientists explore the microbiome

Today’s White House announcement of the National Microbiome Initiative will bring new funding and attention to better understand the billions of microbes that swarm around in and around us and probably play an important role in our health, food and environment. At UC Davis, many scientists are already exploring this hidden world. Here are a few of them.

Jonathan Eisen is one of the pioneers of studying microbe communities through genetic sequencing. His lab is involved in understanding the complete “Tree of Life,” and projects on microbial communities associated with buildings, as well as communities on different plants and animals, including people, dogs and cats. A prolific blogger, Eisen regularly calls out examples of excessive microbiome hype.

How antibiotics open door to “bad” gut bacteria: more oxygen

By Carole Gan

Antibiotics are essential for fighting bacterial infection, but they can also make the body more prone to infection and diarrhea. Exactly how do antibiotics foster growth of disease-causing microbes – and how can resident “good” microbes in the gut protect against pathogens, such as Salmonella?

Now research led by Andreas Bäumler, professor of medical immunology and microbiology at UC Davis Health System, has identified the chain of events that occur within the gut lumen of mice after antibiotic treatment that allow “bad” bugs to flourish.