UCI News

Daily Pilot – Oct. 9, 2019
UCI researchers develop algorithm to help predict the final size of a wildfire
A team of researchers at UC Irvine says it has developed a machine learning model based on a “decision tree” algorithm that — if given information on climate data, atmospheric conditions and the types of vegetation present — can help determine the final size of a wildfire, starting from the moment of ignition. “Our approach was to learn through machine learning” — the use of a computer system to identify patterns in data sets — “and identify the important variables and what combinations of those variables are good predictors of final fire size,” said Shane Coffield, a UCI doctoral student in earth science and lead author of the study. [Subscription required, you can request an electronic copy of the article by sending an email to communications@uci.edu.]

THE Journal – Oct. 11, 2019
UC Irvine Project to Test Embedded Conversations in Kid Vids
An upcoming children’s show co-created by a University of California, Irvine physics professor will serve as a testbed to see how interactive videos could boost children’s understanding of science. “Elinor Wonders Why,” which will launch on PBS KIDS in September 2020, will be at the heart of the research project. The idea is to use an “intelligent conversational agent application” — embedded conversation — to allow the kids to speak with the main character. Elinor will ask questions and respond to their answers as she and her friends solve everyday science mysteries in each show. The UCI experiment will specifically focus on three episodes. “The goal of this project is to amplify the educational value of watching TV by making it more interactive,” said Mark Warschauer, a UCI professor of education and one of the project’s principal investigators. “By integrating a conversational agent as a virtual character in a science-oriented video, we can examine whether and in what ways young children’s engagement, attention, communication strategies, perceptions and learning are affected.”

US News & World Report – Oct. 11, 2019

Are Juul Countermeasures Too Little, Too Late?

If the last few months have been tough for e-cigarettes in general – with, at last count, more than two dozen deaths and scores of illnesses linked to inhaling vaporized, additive-spiked liquids – things have edged close to disastrous for Juul Labs in particular. … “We just fought the battle (against smoking) and won,” says Connie Pechmann, a marketing professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine. Pechmann, who has studied the link between youth smoking rates and cigarette advertising, says Juul is responsible for hooking a new generation of young users, just like Big Tobacco did decades earlier.

Technology.org – Oct. 11, 2019
Team to study socioeconomic effects of coastal flooding in California
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are leading a new project with three other UC campuses to study the impact of coastal flooding on disadvantaged communities in California. … “Coastal flooding poses major challenges worldwide that are worsening with climate change and the continued expansion of coastal cities,” said co-investigator Brett Sanders, UCI professor of civil & environmental engineering. “Over just the past few years, the U.S. has suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in losses from flooding disasters linked to hurricanes and intense rainfall, and both the delta and L.A. metro regions are vulnerable to flooding disasters.”

LAist – Oct. 10, 2019
Mass Blackouts Threaten To Be The New Norm To Prevent Wildfires. Is There A Better Way?
Fall fire weather isn’t anything new for Californians. It’s usually hot, dry and windy this time of year. What is new, however, is the state’s largest power companies shutting off electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes in the hope of preventing their power lines from sparking wildfires. … “When you meet your electric demand only with local resources, it’s possible, but the amount of energy storage you need increases and that makes it more expensive,” said Brian Tarroja, professional researcher in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

Previously “In the News”