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, 12 December 2019

1. Heat energy can travel through a complete vacuum
Tech Explorist

Heat energy can leap over two or three hundred nanometers of a vacuum, a team of Berkeley scientists has found, not only debunking one of physics' longstanding assumptions, but also suggesting new possibilities and considerations for manufacturers concerned with heat transfer. "Heat is usually conducted in a solid through the vibrations of atoms or molecules or so-called phonons -- but in a vacuum, there is no physical medium. So, for many years, textbooks told us that phonons could not travel through a vacuum," says mechanical engineering professor Xiang Zhang, the study's lead author. "What we discovered, surprisingly, is that phonons can indeed be transferred across a vacuum by invisible quantum fluctuations." Says first author Hao-Kun Li, a former doctoral student in Professor Zhang's lab: "This discovery of a new mechanism of heat transfer opens up unprecedented opportunities for thermal management at the nanoscale, which is important for high-speed computation and data storage. Now, we can engineer the quantum vacuum to extract heat in integrated circuits." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in a couple dozen sources around the world, including NewScientist, Scientific American, Smart2.0 and Outlook India.
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2. Nokia Bell Labs Prize goes to Berkeley team for new quantum computing processor

Electrical engineering and computer sciences doctoral student Tianshi Wang and Professor Jaijeet Roychowdhury have been awarded the 2019 Nokia Bell Labs Prize for their development of a new type of processor element that will be significantly more efficient in computing the answers to discrete optimization problems. The award comes with a $100,000 prize and the opportunity to collaborate with Nokia Bell Labs. The two were chosen from a batch of 250 applications from 31 countries. Other stories on this topic appeared in WebWire, Pipeline Magazine, and Technology for You.
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3. Californians with no health insurance face penalties. Not everyone has to pay
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

A new California law will impose a steep tax penalty for anyone not covered by health insurance after this year, but it offers a number of exemptions to low-income households, prisoners, and people living abroad. "It will be really important that people get clear guidance and instruction to make sure they don't inadvertently pay a penalty when they are eligible for an exemption," says Laurel Lucia, director of the Health Care Program at Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education.
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4. Californians want to end PG&E's operations as they exist now, new poll says
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

An Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that likely California voters have little faith in PG&E's ability to straighten up and fly right. Fewer than 1 in 8 respondents want the utility to solve its own problems and maintain its current structure after it comes out of bankruptcy. "Californians are reading reports from the PG&E chairman and CEO that we're going to be in this boat for the next 10 years and it's going to take massive investments to make this safer," says Mark DiCamillo, the poll's director. "Should we just allow PG&E to continue making the decisions about the best way out of it? I think the public in that respect is just saying no." However, there was no consensus on what should be done, either. Some 35% said they'd let PG&E remain investor-owned, while 37% favored government-run models.
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5. What's the greenest way to travel?
Washington Post (*requires registration)

Addressing the apparent hopelessness of finding environmentally friendly modes of travel, adjunct civil and environmental engineering professor Susan Shaheen, co-director of Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center, points to a number of stumbling blocks in this country. For example, many communities lack even sidewalks or reliable public transit systems; a dearth of affordable housing sends people away from city centers, leading to lengthy commutes; the U.S. spends a far smaller portion of its GDP on passenger rail infrastructure than most other developed nations; and our rail network is among the world's least extensive and least safe.
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6. Meet the Scholar Who Diagnosed 'Surveillance Capitalism'
New York Times (*requires registration)

In a profile of Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard scholar who came up with the phrase "surveillance capitalism" to describe the way companies like Facebook and Google are harvesting our personal information, law professor Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, remarks that Zuboff saw not only that the data wasn't just an unexpected byproduct -- "It is the product."
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7. Why French Jews and Muslims are learning each other's language
Christian Science Monitor

History professor Ethan Katz, author of The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France, is quoted in an article about initiatives in France to build bridges between Jewish and Muslim communities. Explaining the need for better cultural understanding between the two groups, he says: "French Jews and Muslims have a long history of co-existence despite tensions. ... Historically, Jews and Muslims have tried at different times to negotiate their different identities ... and the perception of what it means to be French, for both themselves and others, while maintaining their Jewish and Muslim identities."
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8. Television Academy Foundation Announces Nominees for 40th College Television Awards
Broadway World

Journalism alum Yutao Chen has been nominated by the Television Academy Foundation for one of the 40th College Television Awards. He was nominated for the $3,000 prize in the news category for "Dirty Business," a film about recycling that he produced, directed, and wrote while at Berkeley. His film may be viewed here.
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9. Cal State vs. Illinois? Redbox Bowl merchandise features wrong name for Golden Bears
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

Oops! A third-party vendor made a mistake. The Golden Bears are set to play Illinois in the Redbox Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on December 30, but images of the official merchandise for the event indicate it'll be Cal State, not Cal, playing the game. Images of the products have been removed from the website, but that cat is out of the bag and a lot of people have been having fun with jokes on social media. Taking it a bit more seriously, John Lemein, Cal Athletics' creative director and brand/web manager, tweeted: "We officially rejected this design. It was released without our approval. ... The University of California, Berkeley Athletics Department either goes by Cal or California, period." The communications director for the Bay Area Host Committee also issued a statement, acknowledging the error and promising gaffe-free merchandise will be available "once designs are approved."
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