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Golden Scholars: Berkeley researchers develop a cutting-edge radio and figure out how humans lie

UC Berkeley teams with evil to make something pretty cool and figures out how evil people lie.

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The UC Berkeley campus considered one of the 25 most beautiful in America by Thrillist.

Congratulations to Berkeley superstar, former PI, and pioneer Professor Jay Keasling for winning The Economist's 2014 Innovation Award in Bioscience for his bacterial production of inexpensive semi-synthetic artemisinin for the treatment of malaria.

Berkeley Lab researcher Daniela Ushizima (working with researchers from UFOP of Brazil) developed an award-winning method for improving the detection of cancerous cells in Pap smears.

Google announced they will buy Lift Labs, a start-up led by Berkeley alumnus Anupam Pathak that seeks to design high-tech spoons to aid patients with neurodegenerative tumors.

Professor William Jagust's lab has shown that individuals with beta-amyloid deposits—which correlate with Alzheimer's disease—can subconsciously kick their brains into overdrive as a means to overcome limitations imposed by those deposits. They also believe a lifetime of "cognitively stimulating activity" improves the ability for the brain to adapt in this manner.

Civil engineering professor Armen Der Kiureghian will lead the UC-run American University of Armenia.

Berkeley Lab has set a record for the highest resolution achieved with x-ray microscopy!

How do people lie?

Are humans programmed to be good, honest people? Or are we born as evil, wrong-doing babbies?

A study by Ming Hsu of the Haas School of Business and the Neuroeconomics Laboratory suggests that it is human instinct to lie, but a conscious act by the brain is needed to act honestly instead. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is known for its role in impulse control and has long been suspected to play a role in honesty. Hsu's group have finally done some work to prove this by testing individuals with damage to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, people with damage to another part of the brain, and subjects with "healthy" brains; the cohort played two games as part of the study.

In one game, participants simply chose one of two payment options to implement. For example, with options to take $10 and give $5 to another person or take $5 and give $10, the selfish move would be to choose the first option. The other game was identical except that, instead of choosing an option directly, the participant had to send a message to the other recipient stating "Option A is better for you" or "Option B is better for you." The other person would then choose between the two options. In this game, the selfish move involved sending a dishonest message, misleading the other participant for personal gain.

In the game not involving honesty, the behavior of patients with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex damage was indistinguishable from that of the control groups. However, in the game involving honesty, the patients with damage in that region of the brain were more willing than the other groups to lie in order to benefit monetarily.

"The fact that dorsolateral prefrontal cortex patients were less able to implement honesty points to a causal role for DLPFC enabling honesty behavior," Hsu explained. "And because DLPFC is known to be involved in control over automatic impulses, this suggests that being honest when it's advantageous for you to lie requires control."

Warning: using the "it's human nature" excuse the next time you get caught in a lie is not official scientist advice!

Tiny radio runs on itself?

Let's get the ugly out of the way firstthis project involves a collaboration between Berkeley and Stanfurd. It's terribleI KNOWbut let's try to focus on the good that can come of this.

These Bay Area schools have engineered a radio that has several advantageous design features: it's super tiny, it sends data very rapidly, and the only power it needs is from the very messages it receives. This sounds... kind of crazy, so let's get into it!

The key development here is the use of higher frequencies to send messages, which resulted in several awesome abilities.

"One of the benefits of going to high frequencies is that the wavelengths get smaller and you can put the antennas on the chip itself," said Ali Niknejad, a co-developer of the radio and director of UC Berkeley's Wireless Research Center. This also reduces the amount of energy the radio needs to transmit, so much so that it can charge itself by scavenging energy from the signals it receives. Moving to the higher frequency also lets the little radios send data at extremely fast rates (3-4 times faster than your phone), compensating for the lower volume of data it can send at a time.

One resulting limitationwhich is probably due to the Furdie involvementis the need for these devices to be in close proximity for proper function, but that problem can be bypassed with a network of devices or for specific applications that rely on close distance.

Coming up with tiny, cost-effective radios has huge implications, and not just so your refrigerator can text you when your lettuce starts going bad. Niknejad says he is currently working on a DARPA proposal to integrate these chip radios into larger chipsets, so the government can make sure the technology they buy hasn't been tampered with. Another example would be embedded chips in retail items. Instead of seeing a cashier, you'd simply walk out of the store with your cart full of items, which would ping a central database and subtract the cost from your bank account before you reach your car.