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Golden Scholars: Berkeley tools help others study exploding stars and utilize 3D imaging technology

Developments coming out of Berkeley will improve your Xbox Kinect and watch stars go supernova.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

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A new $1.5M grant will help Berkeley revise and improve the weeder classes that are so common for science majors in order to improve retention rates and help low-income and minority students.

The School of Public Health is tackling the social issue of wage theft and other mistreatment by employers.

Just to give you an idea of the work of other professors and universities in the Bay Area, LAX recently caught a man attempting to sneak a grenade onto a flight. That man is a professor at Stanfurd University.

Pew pew pew!

With one single technological development, Behnam Behroozpour may have planted the seeds that will turn into change for traffic safety, video games, and maybe even your everyday technology-integrated life.

3D imaging systems are so yesterday, already in use in self-driving cars and in several living rooms as part of the Xbox Kinect system to detect idiots wandering into the street while staring into their phone or attempt to translate your awkward flailing about into the proper input for the latest Dance Central game. However, Behroozpour and his colleagues were able to take these systems and make them more powerful and smaller.

The new system, developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems. With further development, the technology could be used to make smaller, cheaper 3-D imaging systems that offer exceptional range for potential use in self-driving cars, smartphones and interactive video games like Microsoft's Kinect, all without the need for big, bulky boxes of electronics or optics.

Behroozpour's work will help these systems become more powerful while requiring less energy input, helping these devices become more useful and more readily integrated into the general public. With sleeker cameras, they can become a tool for all cars, self-driven or human-controlled, to anticipate collisions. They may even be used for gesture-based controls for your home.

Howl at the moon

(For this segment, I'm sending it to our astrology expert Ruey Yen because he's way smarter than me, especially at this kind of stuff.)

Hello. I'll be filling in for Leland for this next new piece of discovery coming from the UC Berkeley campus and the Berkeley lab.

Here at CGB, we often talks about coaches (and scouts) being able to see that next star, as soon as possible before that athlete figuratively blows up.

Astronomers on campus and up on the hill at Berkeley Lab, including the famed astro professor Alex Filippenko, are much better at doing that, in a literal sense of course. With the brand new sky survey called intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF), started up only a few month ago, scientists have finally been able to observe a Wolf-Rayet star turning into a Type IIb supernova (don't worry, no Wolf is actually destroyed in this process...unless there is a whole planet(s) of life-form around that massive star...but if you read the Golden Scholars from two weeks ago, you would know that life-producing exoplanets are not really expected around these really massive stars).

With the new technology, astronomers were able to notice this supernova within an hour of its brilliant performance and then quickly inform all the other telescopes to tune in and observe it in under 6 hours.

"Newly developed observational capabilities now enable us to study exploding stars in ways we could only dream of before. We are moving towards real-time studies of supernovae," says Gal-Yam, an astrophysicist in the Weizmann Institute's Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics. He is also the lead author of a recently published Nature paper on this finding.

"This is the smoking gun. For the first time, we can directly point to an observation and say that this type of Wolf-Rayet star leads to this kind of Type IIb supernova," says Peter Nugent, who heads Berkeley Lab's Computational Cosmology Center (C3) and leads the Berkeley contingent of the iPTF collaboration.

"When I identified the first example of a Type IIb supernova in 1987, I dreamed that someday we would have direct evidence of what kind of star exploded. It's refreshing that we can now say that Wolf-Rayet stars are responsible, at least in some cases," says Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy at UC Berkeley. Both Filippenko and Nugent are also co-authors on the Nature paper.

This is basically the astro version of the "hello" phone ad when a high school player in practice quickly got noticed by Div 1 coaches.

[Here is a bad quality version of this ad]

I think that might be a recruiting violation committed by Bob Stoops if this is real life.