Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

1. Nature's Most Common Chemical Bond Finally Cracked
Technology Networks

The chemical bond between carbon and hydrogen is the most common bond known in the living world, but it has long evaded chemists' efforts to break them in order to create new products. Now, after 25 years working on the problem, a team of Berkeley researchers has done just that. "Carbon-hydrogen bonds are usually part of the framework, the inert part of a molecule," says chemistry professor John Hartwig, the study's lead author. "It has been a challenge and a holy grail of synthesis to be able to do reactions at these positions because, until now, there has been no reagent or catalyst that will allow you to add anything at the strongest of these bonds. ... We now have the ability to do these types of reactions, which should enable people to rapidly make molecules that they would not have made before. ... I wouldn't say these are molecules that could not have been made before, but people wouldn't make them because it would take too long, too much time and research effort, to make them." This story originated at Berkeley News.
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2. UC Berkeley: Astronomers Create Cloud Atlas for Hot, Jupiter-Like Exoplanets
Berkeley Patch

Giant planets orbiting our sun as well as other stars have clouds unlike any in Earth's atmosphere, according to a new model created by an international team of scientists led by postdoctoral astronomy fellow Peter Gao. The model will facilitate the study of gases in the atmospheres of exoplanets, since clouds interfere with measurements of atmospheric composition. It will also help scientists understand the atmospheres of cooler giant planets and moons, such as Jupiter and Saturn's moon Titan. "The kinds of clouds that can exist in these hot atmospheres are things that we don't really think of as clouds in the solar system," Gao says. "There have been models that predict various compositions, but the point of this study was to assess which of these compositions actually matter and compare the model to the available data that we have." This story originated at Berkeley News.
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3. What Does Drought Mean for Endangered California Salmon?
ECO Magazine

To protect California's endangered salmon from increasingly threatening droughts, a team of researchers is proposing the development of pools that could be used as refuges for fish that would otherwise die in dried up streams. The proposal is based on an analysis that tracked nearly 20,000 tagged fish in Sonoma County streams from 2011 to 2017. "We were able to measure survival during this historic drought, which will help us understand how future droughts will impact this population of salmon," says Ross Vander Vorste, who conducted the analysis as a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley, in collaboration with California Sea Grant's Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program. Vander Vorste is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin--La Crosse. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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4. Newsom faces growing concerns that he's reopening California too quickly

Dr. Lee Riley, public health professor and chair of Berkeley's Division of Infectious Disease and Vaccinology, is among a number of public health experts who are uncomfortable with the pace and details of Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening strategy amid the COVID-19 crisis. Commenting on the plan, Dr. Riley says that the number of contact tracers in the state is "at least better than what we had before," but he also says you can't test your way out of a pandemic, especially since he believes the tests aren't all that accurate. "By the time you found out somebody tested positive, the transmissions have already occurred in the community." He recommends pausing new relaxations of the lockdown for two incubation weeks at a time. "If we don't see a huge impact after a new set of relaxations and if you do this in a two-week, phased-in fashion, then you would begin to see what type of relaxation is feasible and what type of relaxation will contribute to resurgence."
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5. QS World University Rankings: USA East Coast vs. West Coast
QS Top Universities

The QS World University Rankings: USA 2020 places Berkeley in fourth place in the U.S., second place on the West Coast, and first among public universities. The new ranking uses a methodology that includes measures of research performance, salary uplift, social impact, and efforts to advance sustainable development goals. For more on this, see our story at Berkeley News.
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6. Obituary: Oliver Williamson, 87, Dies; Nobel Laureate Studied Organizations
New York Times (*requires registration)

Business professor emeritus and Nobel Laureate Oliver Williamson, known for his pioneering work in organizational economics, has died at the age of 87. Professor Williamson shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences with Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to receive a Nobel in economics. Awarded during a global financial crisis that saw large banks failing, he was recognized for his research suggesting that it's preferable to regulate large companies than try to limit their size or break them up. In the Nobel citation, the committee said that he had "provided a theory of why some economic transactions take place within firms and other similar transactions take place between firms, that is, in the marketplace. ... The theory informs us about how to handle one of the most basic choices in human organizations. ... When should decision power be controlled inside an organization, and when should decisions be left to the market?" Noting that Professor Williamson deepened economists' understanding of complex organizations and their management, business and public policy professor David Teece says: "Competition policy around the world was also significantly revamped because of the insights he gave us into business behavior and complex contracting." Obituaries of Professor Williamson have now appeared in more than 100 sources around the world, including the Washington Post. For more on Professor Williamson, see the obituary at Haas News.
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7. Op-Ed: Trump's 'Horrifying Lies' About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line
New York Times (*requires registration)

"President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts -- gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal," writes visiting law professor Peter Schuck. "But Mr. Trump's wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him." Discussing key facts in the case, Professor Schuck says: "The president has offered no evidence for this slander, because there is none. ... Mr. Trump's first tort is called intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the courts developed precisely to condemn wanton cruelty to another person who suffers emotionally as a result. ... Under the [Supreme Court's] unanimous 1998 ruling in Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, both of these lawsuits -- by Mr. Klausutis and by Mr. Scarborough -- could proceed against the president while he is still in office. Because his tweets reach followers nationwide, the lawsuits could probably be brought in any state. And since the subject of his tweets had nothing to do with his presidential responsibilities, he probably could not hide behind an assertion of executive privilege. ... The Klausutis family has suffered enough for almost 20 years without having to endure Mr. Trump's crocodile tears and malicious raking of the coals. Tort law might hold our brutish president to account."
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