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Golden Scholars: Brian Barsky revolutionizes vision-adaptive screens and Irfan Siddiqi peeks at Schrodinger's cat

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Berkeley's placement on two new rankings (neither of which is for party schools), hater of Cal Football Brian Barsky develops screens that eliminate the need for glasses, and Irfan Siddiqi can tell you if that cat's alive or not.

How is this cat both dead and alive at the same time? By being alive physically, but dead on the inside.
How is this cat both dead and alive at the same time? By being alive physically, but dead on the inside.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

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Forbes's list of most entrepreneurial schools has Berkeley at #3.

Time declares UC Berkeley is the 13th best school for your money, noting our academic rigor, perennial winning of prestigious awards, and a bevy of non-academic activities.

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Congratulations to Emeritus Research Botanist of the University Herbarium and Owner of Perhaps the Coolest Title Alan R. Smith for winning the 2014 Asa Gray Award for "outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of plant systematics."

UC Berkeley is teaming up with four other schools to create a database on the brain and making it accessible to neuroscientists, which will promote synergistic relationships and progressing research.

Eye screen, you screen, we all screen for bad titles

Well, this is going to be a little controversial.

Professor of computer science and vision science at UC Berkeley and noted critic of Cal Athletics Brian Barsky has been working on a novel revolution in screens. Knowing Barsky, this has less to do with tailback and jailbreak screens and more to do with adaptive computer screens. Research from Barsky and Austin Roorda (professor of vision science and optometry) has resulted in computer screens that display images tailored to the vision impairment of its primary user.

The setup adds a printed pinhole screen sandwiched between two layers of clear plastic to an iPod display to enhance image sharpness. The tiny pinholes are 75 micrometers each and spaced 390 micrometers apart.
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The algorithm, which was developed at UC Berkeley, works by adjusting the intensity of each direction of light that emanates from a single pixel in an image based upon a user's specific visual impairment. In a process called deconvolution, the light passes through the pinhole array in such a way that the user will perceive a sharp image.

"Our technique distorts the image such that, when the intended user looks at the screen, the image will appear sharp to that particular viewer," said Barsky. "But if someone else were to look at the image, it would look bad."

The lead author for the study, former Berkeley grad student Fu-Chung Huang, produced the following video to explain the research.

Can you even think of the last time you went ten minutes without checking some kind of device or screen? With this kind of technology, bespectacled beauties like myself could benefit, especially those who are far-sighted and solely use their glasses for reading or looking at close details. This even means these people could become so accustomed to every screen all around them adjusting to their own vision, thus becoming less reliant on their glasses until they forget them, which could become a fatal issue when they don't have their glasses when they direly need to read some emergency information on a box of poison they mistook for trail mix. THANKS BARSKY. This is what happens when you hat Cal football!

Opening Pandora's Schrodinger's Box

Perhaps you've heard of Schrodinger's cat, a fundamental thought experiment in the world of quantum mechanics. While this is a typically esoteric field of study, this has transcended into the mainstream due to its irreverent inanity.

Imagine a (spherical?) cat inside a completely opaque box. Based on the possibility of an atom's decay, the cat may die. If we don't know whether or not the atom has decayed, then quantum mechanics dictates we don't know if the cat has died or is still alive. In the box, the cat exists as being both alive and dead until the box is opened and the cat is observed. Weird, right? Effectively, this applies to quantum physics, which dictates that if a particle has a chance to be at location A or location B, then it's essentially in both locations.

Associate professor of physics Irfan Siddiqi has developed a means to track the cat's status throughout the experience.

"Gently recording the cat's paw prints both makes it die, or come to life, as the case may be, and allows us to reconstruct its life history," said Irfan Siddiqi, UC Berkeley associate professor of physics, who is senior author of a cover article describing the result in the July 31 issue of the journal Nature.

The Schrödinger's cat paradox is a critical issue in quantum computers, where the input is an entanglement of states - like the cat's entangled life and death- yet the answer to whether the animal is dead or alive has to be definite.

"To Bohr and others, the process was instantaneous - when you opened the box, the entangled system collapsed into a definite, classical state. This postulate stirred debate in quantum mechanics," Siddiqi said. "But real-time tracking of a quantum system shows that it's a continuous process, and that we can constantly extract information from the system as it goes from quantum to classical. This level of detail was never considered accessible by the original founders of quantum theory."

The breakthrough by Siddiqi and his colleagues was to model this continuous collapse (i.e., determining if the cat is dead or alive) with a level of resolution to allow for improvements in work by quantum computers. This will allow for researchers a profound level of control in the final result for chemical reactions.

"If you did this experiment many, many times, measuring the road the system took each time and the states it went through, we could determine what the most likely path is," Siddiqi said. "Then we could design a control sequence to take the road we want to take for a given quantum evolution."

If you probed a chemical reaction in detail, for example, you could find the most likely path the reaction would take and design a way to steer the reaction to the products you want, not the most likely, Siddiqi said.

Theoretically, this could open up huge new worlds for the synthesis of products by improving the yield of chemicals once considered rare or hard to create.