Social Scientists Study Development
of Cooperation in Human Societies
A study conducted by an international team of social scientists that includes Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology, suggests that within large-scale, complex human societies, cooperative behavior among strangers has been influenced more by norms and institutions — such as socioeconomics and world religions — than by misplaced preferences favoring kin or friends. The group’s findings appeared in a recent issue of the journal Science.
||Physicists Andrew Cleland, Aaron O'Connell, and John Martinis
Theory of Quantum Mechanics
Applies to the Motion of Large Objects
Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have provided the first clear demonstration that the theory of quantum mechanics applies to the mechanical motion of an object large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Their work satisfies a longstanding goal among physicists.
In a paper published in a recent issue of the advance online journal Nature, Aaron O’Connell, a doctoral student in physics, and John Martinis and Andrew Cleland, professors of physics, describe the first demonstration of a mechanical resonator that has been cooled to the quantum ground state, the lowest level of vibration allowed by quantum mechanics. With the mechanical resonator as close as possible to being perfectly still, they added a single quantum of energy to the resonator using a quantum bit to produce the excitation. The resonator responded precisely as predicted by the theory of quantum mechanics.
Discovery of New Planet Reported
A new planet the size of Jupiter has been discovered by team of scientists that includes UCSB postdoctoral fellow Avi Shporer. The finding was published in a recent issue of the journal Nature.
The planet, called CoRoT-9b, was discovered by using the CoRoT space telescope satellite, operated by the French space agency, The Centre National d’Études Spatiales, or CNES. The newly discovered planet orbits a star similar to our sun and is located in the constellation Serpens Cauda, at a distance of 1,500 light-years from Earth.
Scientists Identify 600 Million-Year-Old Origins of Vision
By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UCSB have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision. The finding appeared in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal of biology.
Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.
“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”
Historian Examines Development of Oral Contraceptives
When chemists in Mexico in the 1940’s began studying barbasco, a wild yam indigenous to the region, they made a startling discovery: The tuber contains chemical components that actually mimic human steroids and could be used to mass-produce synthetic hormones for new drugs, such as cortisone and the first viable oral contraceptive.
Although that discovery positioned Mexico as a major player in the global pharmaceutical industry, the country’s role in advancing this important area of modern medicine has remained largely unknown. In a new book titled Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects, and the Making of the Pill (Duke University Press, 2009), Gabriela Soto Laveaga, associate professor of history, reconstructs the story of how rural yam pickers, pharmaceutical companies, and the Mexican state collaborated and collided over a barbasco industry that continued through the mid-1990’s.
Astronomically Large Lenses Measure the Age and Size of the Universe
Using entire galaxies as lenses to look at other galaxies, researchers have a newly precise way to measure the size and age of the universe and how rapidly it is expanding, on par with other techniques. The measurement determines a value for the Hubble constant, which indicates the size of the universe, and confirms the age of the universe (within 170 million years) as 13.75 billion years old. The results also confirm the strength of dark energy, responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe.
These findings appeared in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Tommaso Treu, associate professor of physics, and Matthew Auger, postdoctoral physics scholar, were among the researchers.
Tsunami Caused by Chilean Earthquake Reached Santa Barbara
Waves from the tsunami produced by the massive earthquake that struck Chile in February reached the Santa Barbara harbor roughly 14 hours after the event, according to UCSB geographers and marine scientists. The first tsunami waves appeared in the harbor at about 12:45 p.m. on February 27, and continued for several hours.
The waves were detected by a pressure sensor attached to a piling on Stearns Wharf. “It’s not a surprise to see the waves, but it was a surprise that they were so large and easy to detect,” said oceanographer Libe Washburn, one of the lead scientists in charge of the sensors.