December 2007 Newsletter

Dear Friends of CITRIS,


It has been an exciting and eventful fall semester, one that
has seen continued strides for CITRIS in many areas. We have been particularly
active in our research focus of energy and the environment, a focus whose importance
to California and to the world is reflected in daily news about everything from
global conflicts to economics and climate change.


As the high costs and dangers of global warming continue to
materialize and as the world population grows and industrializes, we have no
choice but to find energy solutions that minimize our impact on the environment
while preserving or improving quality of life for everyone in every country.
Our recognition of that here at CITRIS is demonstrated in the work of researchers
at all four of our campuses. While our programs include a wide range of energy
and environment related research, at a time when nearly everyone is investing
in renewable energy—including such companies as Google, as reported in a
recent NYT article—CITRIS remains
focused on tapping the powers of Information Technology to boost efficiency and
reduce our environmental footprint.


We are developing medium-range solutions that can already
begin to promote energy efficiency at low cost. Carbon abatement, for example,
can and should be addressed at all levels.
But while building costly carbon sequestration technologies on our power
plants would abate a good deal of carbon, it would be costly to implement, and
not to likely to be put in place any time soon. On the other hand, the adoption
of some simple smart technologies—such as high-efficiency fluorescent light bulbs
and the programmable communicating thermostats (PCT’s) we are developing here
at CITRIS—would abate an equal amount of carbon, but at virtually zero cost.
Within a year, a typical family could begin to save money for themselves while
abating carbon for the world. This is the model we embrace at CITRIS as we seek
ways to boost energy efficiency and reduce spike demands in buildings and
improve the efficiency of transportation.


CITRIS is perfectly positioned to chip away at those
medium-term energy conservation challenges with unique technologies such as
environmental monitoring by smart dust, the use of advanced nanomaterials for improving
photovoltaic cells, building more efficient thermo-electric generators, and better
energy storage units. Our researchers are also developing advanced control and
sensing devices that promise to boost the efficiency of alternatively-fuelled
automobile engines.


Along with transportation, buildings are the greatest
consumers of energy and other resources. Before we can mitigate the effects of
building construction and use, however, we must understand what they are and
how extend over time and space. At Berkeley, engineers Arpad Horvath and Iris
—the subjects of one of this newsletter's features—are developing new
ways of evaluating construction and its environmental impacts. Professor
Horvath is developing systematic ways to examine these questions that will help
builders and planners take a realistic look at the effects of their everyday
decisions. Professor Tommelein, on the other hand, is working to retool the
often wasteful and inefficient development culture to both save money for
developers and their customers, and save resources for the rest of us. For
views of several other projects take a look at the current issue of Forefront,
the magazine published by the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, which features the
work of five engineers (I'm one of them) in pursuit of technologies for a
sustainable world.


At UC Davis, research is underway on biofuels and the safe
and portable storage of hydrogen, necessary before hydrogen-driven cars will be
practical. Those are just two of the important projects conducted by the Davis
Center for Energy and the Environment.


At UC Santa Cruz, which has numerous projects in this area,
special attention is focused on the human-related impacts on the wild
populations of Monterey Bay. (And incidentally, the work of Santa Cruz computer
scientist Luca de Alfaro—who is developing methods of evaluating the authority
of Wikipedia entries—is the focus of this newsletter's second feature.)


A commitment to reducing the University's own environmental
footprint is also made real in the ongoing construction of UC Merced's new
energy-efficient and low-carbon-producing buildings. And an innovative giant
cold-water chiller reservoir will be employed there to keep campus buildings
efficiently and inexpensively cool in the hot Central Valley summers. The
proposed Merced Energy Research Institute (MERI), once it is launched, will
develop technologies addressing energy, economic, and environmental problems.


As we often tell our students, it is hard to find a good
planet, and this is the only one we know of.
At CITRIS, we are all working hard to develop better ways to keep its
life-sustaining systems intact. We appreciate your support. Keep up the good


Professor Paul K. Wright

Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Research
in the Interest of Society

CITRIS videos are now
on YouTube

Videos from CITRIS talks and events, including all Research
Exchanges and Distinguished Speakers, are now online at


UC Receives $22
Million FCC Telehealth Grant

The University of California, in partnership with a
coalition of government agencies, health care providers and others, received a
three-year, $22 million award from the Federal Communications Commission to help develop a new California Telehealth
Network. CITRIS campus UC Davis will manage this ambitious initiative to create
a new telecommunications infrastructure that will eventually allowing
California’s rural communities to access a broad range of technology-enhanced
services to improve the quality of health care services.


UC Merced Professor Selected for
Presidential Science and Engineering Award

Shawn Newsam, an
assistant professor in the School of Engineering at the University of
California, Merced, has been selected for a prestigious PECASE award from the
White House. Prof. Newsam works on computer vision.


Digital project to
boost Irish studies with 'virtual Ireland' website

A new ECAI-related project, "Context and Relationships:
Ireland and Irish Studies," aims to better connect Irish studies materials
and to make them easily accessible from anywhere with a quick click of the
computer mouse.


The Future of Energy
at Berkeley

December 6, 2007:
5:30pm – 7:00pm

105 Stanley Hall, UC

This interactive, moderated panel will be composed of Paul
Alivisatos, Harvey Blanch, and Arun Majumdar, who are conducting groundbreaking
technology research in the context of carbon neutrality, national security and


CITRIS Holiday Gala

December 7, 2007:
4:00pm – 6:00pm

Gordon and Betty Moore
Lobby, Hearst Memorial Mining Building, UC Berkeley

The annual CITRIS holiday gala will take place from 4-6pm on
Dec. 7th, followed by the Tin Can Carousel Project performance, which will
involve five carousels from all-recycled materials that will combine the
time-honored technique of puppeteering with the recent digital control
technology to create a novel narrative experience.