The Kavli Foundation
Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue 3, 2009
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:

America's Energy Future
With Phase I complete, a national science initiative reports on U.S. energy technologies.

America's Energy FutureThree years ago, a group of leading scientists and engineers decided that the time had come to look at the state of energy technology and try to determine what was truly feasible. The result was America's Energy Future, an initiative of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

America's Energy Future (AEF) has two phases. The first focuses on sorting out the claims and counter-claims about various energy technologies; the second on analyzing the range of possible policy solutions.  Phase I was completed this summer, producing series of reports to establish what NAS executive Peter Blair calls a "definitive technology base" for future policy debates. Now Phase II has begun and, when concluded, AEF expects to provide a range of recommendations wide enough to find takers across the political spectrum. Full story.


Fred Kavli Chair of Nanotechnology, UC Santa Barbara
John Bowers, Energy Efficiency Expert

Cells in the pale tadpole's brain adopted a new chemical code.When it comes to supply and demand, John Bowers is a demand-side leader. Instead of working on how the world will find a future supply of environmentally-friendly energy, he's focused on making our demand of energy less wasteful. A longtime professor of electrical and computer engineering, his duties include leading UC Santa Barbara's Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE), home of wide-ranging research on energy-saving ideas. 

It's a job that just got busier. In April 2009 IEE was awarded a $19 million grant in federal stimulus funds to host of one of the federal government's new Energy Frontier Research Centers. Full story.


Three New U.S. Research Centers
Explore the Frontiers of Energy

In an effort to spur the development of new energy-related technology, the federal government has established 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) at universities, national laboratories, corporations and non-profit organizations. Scientists affiliated with the Kavli Prize or Kavli Institutes play leading roles in three of these EFRCs. Based at the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, here is a look at these centers. Full story.


Yale Announces Center Dedicated to Human Brain Development and Evolution
Pasko Rakic, KIN DirectorThe Yale School of Medicine has created a new research center to study how our brain evolved uniquely human traits. Named the Yale Center for Human Brain Development and Evolution, the Center will be part of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale (KIN).

The Center's founders hope that the center will identify new treatment options for many forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disease. Key will be to help create a transcriptome atlas of the developing human brain and launch a multi-disciplinary search for genetic changes responsible for the evolution over the last 100 million years of the cerebral cortex, the brain region responsible for human intelligence.

"We are looking at the biological basis of what makes us unique," said Pasko Rakic, director of KIN and chairman of the Department of Neurobiology. Full story.

From Students to Judges, Interest Broadens in the Neuroscience of Decision-Making
Ralph Greenspan and Patricia ChurchlandEarlier this year, UC San Diego held a graduate seminar on the neuroscience behind moral decision-making  -- a topic certain to attract neuroscience and philosophy students. Also in the classroom, however, were students from fields such as computer science and political science. They came to understand how the brain shapes social behavior, their areas of study and in some cases, their careers.

Leading the seminar were Patricia Churchland and Ralph Greenspan. A philosopher and neurobiologist respectively, both are finding a widening interest in how moral decision-making takes shape within the brain. Full story.


First Black Holes Born Starving

Computer-simulated image: gas and early universe black hole.The first black holes in the universe had dramatic effects on their surroundings, despite the fact that they were small and grew very slowly.

This was the finding of recent supercomputer simulations carried out by astrophysicists Marcelo Alvarez and Tom Abel of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University, and John Wise, formerly of KIPAC and now of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Several popular theories posit that the first black holes gorged themselves on gas clouds and dust in the early universe, growing into the supersized black holes that lurk in the centers of galaxies today. However, the new results published in Astrophysical Journal Letters point to a much more complex role for the first black holes. Full story.

Even When Faced with Nanoslits,
Bacteria Conforms to Tight Spaces

Artist's impression of bacteria squeezing through a nanoslit.It appears that bacteria can squeeze through practically anything. Using nanofabrication, researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University of Technology made minuscule channels, measuring a micrometer or less in width and 50 micrometer in length, on a silicon chip between tiny chambers containing bacteria. The bacteria swarmed as usual through channels that were only 30 percent wider than their own diameter (of about 1 micrometer). Even in narrower submicron channels where the bacteria stopped swimming, the bacteria still made their way through ultra-narrow passageways by growing and dividing. The researchers found that in this way, E. coli bacteria could squeeze through narrow slits that were only half their own diameter in width. Full story.

Carbon Nanotubes Could Be Basis for
Future High Efficiency Solar Cells

Carbon nanotube-based photodiodeUsing a carbon nanotube instead of traditional silicon, researchers affiliated with the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscience have created the basic elements of a solar cell that, hopefully, will lead to much more efficient ways of converting light to electricity. The researchers fabricated, tested and measured a simple solar cell called a photodiode, formed from an individual carbon nanotube. The device converted light to electricity in an extremely efficient process that multiplies the amount of electrical current that flows. According to the researchers, this process could prove important for next-generation high efficiency solar cells. Full story.

Influence of a Single Electron Measured on a 'Nano Violin String'

Researchers at TU Delft have succeeded in measuring the influence of a single electron on a vibrating carbon nanotube, which may be important toward the development of ultra-small measuring instruments. The scientists of the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience at TU Delft based their project on a suspended vibrating carbon nanotube, comparable to an ultra-small violin string. They then applied an alternating electric field to the nanotube using an antenna. As a result of the alternating electric field, the suspended nanotube begins to vibrate at a certain frequency. Full story.

Mechanism That Constructs Key Brain Structure Found

Neurons over expressing a key gene that abnormally segregates them.Scientists have known for years that information processing in the cerebral cortex depends upon groupings of neurons that assemble in the shape of vertical columns. If the number and mix of neurons in the column are wrong, severe cognitive problems can result. Now a team led by Pasko Rakic, head of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University, has found the molecular mechanism that allows the proper mixing of neurons during the formation of columns essential for the operation of the cerebral cortex.  Full story.

For Navigation, the Brain Relies on a Series of Maps

NTNU map mazeInstead of just one big map, the brain creates multiple independent maps while finding the way in the physical world, according to researchers at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Separately, researchers also found that the mental maps are constructed in a systematic way. The maps are stored as extremely thin "cards in a deck" in the hippocampus, the area that is regarded as the brain's memory focal point. The deck is sorted by rank, so that the fine-grained detail maps are located at the top, with the biggest, most coarsely drawn maps  farther down the deck. Full story.

The Kavli Foundation
Enhanced Videos, Smarter Navigation Among Highlights of New Website

Cells in the pale tadpole's brain adopted a new chemical code.

The Foundation has redesigned its website, making it easier to take advantage of the many resources freely available for  educators, scientists and the general public. Among the new features include embeddable, higher-resolution videos, simpler printing and sharing of feature stories, and improved navigation.

VIsit website.
In This Issue
Special Section on Energy: America's Energy Future Initiative; Profile of John Bowers; Three New US Energy Centers
Yale Announces Center on Human Brain Development and Evolution
Feature: Morality and the Social Brain
Astrophysics: First Black Holes Born Starving
Nanoscience: Bacteria Conforms to Tight Space
Nanoscience: Carbon Nanotubes May Lead to Highly Efficient Solar Cells
Nanoscience: Influence of a Single Electron Measured
Neuroscience: Mechanism that Constructs Key Brain Structure Found
Neuroscience: Brain Relies on Series of Maps
KICC Opening Ceremony in November
KIBST-Affliated Researcher Receives MacArthur Grant
Upcoming Events
Cells in the pale tadpole's brain adopted a new chemical code. 2010 Nomination Call

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has posted the nomination period for the 2010 Kavli Prizes. The call for nominations will be open through December 15, 2009. For additional information about the call for nominations and application process, as well as committee membership, please visit
KICCCambridge Institute's Opening Ceremony Scheduled in November

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh to Open KICC

KICCIn a ceremony to be held November 18, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will open the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Presentations will also be made by Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, and Richard Ellis, Steele Professor at the California Institute of Technology.

The ceremony will be preceded by a scientific workshop held on November 17, with guest speakers including directors from other Kavli Institutes -- Roger Blandford (KIPAC, Stanford University), John Carlstrom (KICP, University of Chicago), Jacqueline Hewitt (MKI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Douglas Lin (KIAA, Peking University). Program details.
KIBSTKIBST-Affiliated Researcher Receives MacArthur Grant

Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, a researcher affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University (KIBST), has been named a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. The award honors individuals for their creativity, originality, and potential for making important contributions in the future. Full story.

Also in September, KIBST director George Whitesides was honored in a ceremony for earlier receiving the inaugural Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences -- a prize that recognizes exceptional and original research in a selected area of chemistry that has advanced the field in major ways. In addition, KIBST-affiliated researcher Zhigang Suo received a Humboldt Research Award, which recognizes researchers whose work have had a significant impact on their own discipline, and are expected to continue producing cutting-edge research.


Kavli bullet pointt Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University. Michael Brenner has become
the new Associate Dean for Applied Mathematics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Brenner -- who is working on the theoretical underpinnings of self-assembly, biofilms, and the nature of evolution -- also was among the faculty to receive a KIBST grant designated to promote greater interaction among theorists and experimentalists. The two other recipients were L. Mahadevan and Zhigang Suo. (See related Newsletter story.)

end mark Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Susan F. Gurley Chair in Theoretical Physics and Biology was established at KITP. Endowed by Gus Gurley, co-founder of Santa Barbara based Digital Instruments (DI), the first holder of the chair is condensed matter theorist turned theoretical biologist Boris Shraiman.

Kavli bullet pointt Kavli Nanoscience Institute at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, recently received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Institute. Dr. Kalam, who is also a distinguished professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, was at Caltech to receive the 25th Annual International von Kármán Wings award.

end mark Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University. The Institute has three new investigators: Drs. Randy Bruno and Nathaniel B. Sawtell, Assistant Professors in the Department of Neuroscience, and Dr. Charles Zuker, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator who recently joined the university.

end mark Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego. In the July 16 issue of Science, a paper co-authored by Institute executive committee member Terrence J. Sejnowski discusses the foundations for a new science of learning -- a science that brings together leaders in neuroscience, psychology, education, and machine learning to reshape how we think about learning. Full story.

end mark Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. In September, a special "origins" issue of Scientific American included a prominent feature by Michael S. Turner on the origins of the universe. The same month, Turner also provided Physics Today a "Reference Frame" that took a backward -- and forward -- look at physics titled "A century of physics: 1950 to 2050."

Upcoming Events

Kavli bullet pointt California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Directed by Paul S. Weiss, Fred Kavli Chair in Nanosystems Sciences, the California NanoSystems Institute is hosting a Core Lab Open House and Exhibitor Showcase on Thursday, October 15, 2009. All labs will be open to view equipment and learn more about each facility's specialty. Event information.

Kavli bullet pointt Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University of Technology. On November 4th, the Van Leeuwenhoek Laboratorium formally opens -- a new nanofacility that will offer the latest lab technology to researchers at the Institute. Opening the facility will be Ronald Plasterk, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science for the Netherlands.

end mark Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. November 18, the Institute will hold its opening ceremony. (For event details, see Newsletter story.)

Kavli bullet pointt Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. November 19-20, the Institute's Education and Outreach Group will host a conference on science programs for older youth (age 14-19) in out-of-school time. The conference marks three years of the National Science Foundation-funded Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship. Event information.