Innovation

Not So Fast: At UC Berkeley, Biofuel Research Takes Hit as BP Oil Company Backs Away

Eight years ago, UC Berkeley struck a historic but controversial deal with the British oil company BP: Berkeley would benefit from the oil giant spending $350 million to create a new Energy Biosciences Institute on its campus, and BP would reap the benefits of that institute’s research into biofuels.

Now, with almost $100 million still unspent, the road to cleaner biofuels has just hit a big speed bump. Read more about Not So Fast: At UC Berkeley, Biofuel Research Takes Hit as BP Oil Company Backs Away »

Grid Guru: This Atypical Biophysicist’s Startup Helps Us Control Where Energy Comes From

Yes, it’s true that there aren’t many women in the sciences. And the reason for the gender gap is predictable: Male scientists seem to like it that way. That, at least, was the conclusion of a 2013 Yale study that found physicists, biologists and chemists are inclined to view a young male scientist more positively than a young woman with the same qualifications. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that it may be a little harder to achieve tenure or obtain research funding in such circumstances. Read more about Grid Guru: This Atypical Biophysicist's Startup Helps Us Control Where Energy Comes From »

SkyDeck Success: Berkeley Project Helps Six Soar onto Forbes “30 Under 30” Lists

Whatever wariness has accompanied the collaboration between public universities and private sector profit-seeking, that horse appears well out of the barn, foaming at the mouth and galloping madly for the horizon. At UC Berkeley, academic/corporate “incubators” and “accelerators” are all the rage. Supporters focus on the upside: Creative researchers are able to launch start-ups that produce spookily cool products and generate gigabucks in the process—and may even embody the maxim to do well by doing good. Read more about SkyDeck Success: Berkeley Project Helps Six Soar onto Forbes "30 Under 30" Lists »

Are Your Holiday Purchases Naughty or Nice? Cal Prof’s App Aims to Help Millions Be Good

If you are looking to make ethical gift-giving decisions this holiday season, UC Berkeley environmental sciences professor Dara O’Rourke can help.  O’Rourke is the co-founder of GoodGuide, a free app and website where close to 30 million consumers have gone for product ratings based on the items’ impacts on health, the environment and society. Read more about Are Your Holiday Purchases Naughty or Nice? Cal Prof's App Aims to Help Millions Be Good »

What’s for Dinner? For These Urban Foragers in Berkeley, The Answer is Weeds

When Thomas Carlson and Philip Stark find a foot-tall dandelion growing out of the sidewalk on Hearst Street, it’s all they can do to contain their excitement.

“Oh wow! Now that is robust!” Carlson exclaims. They won’t eat this one; it’s too close to cars and exhaust. But wow, just look at that beauty! Read more about What's for Dinner? For These Urban Foragers in Berkeley, The Answer is Weeds »

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

How to Train Your Robot: Now They Can Follow Human Demonstrations to Tie Knots

BRETT the robot is a knot-tying whiz; it can tie an overhand knot, square knot, figure 8, and hitch. Sure, there are robots out there that drive cars, detonate roadside bombs, and even collect rock samples from the surface of Mars, but what makes BRETT special is not what it can do, but how it came by its modest talents. Read more about How to Train Your Robot: Now They Can Follow Human Demonstrations to Tie Knots »

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

Fear Factor: In Business and Life, It May Separate Smart Luck from Dumb Luck

Taking big risks might actually keep you from succeeding. 

John Morgan is haunted by the prospect of failure. However, he tells his classroom of aspiring entrepreneurs, this fear might not be as unhealthy as your “clinical psychologist will tell you.”

We may like to peg successful entrepreneurs as overconfident thrill seekers, but such thrill seekers “never appear in Forbes,” according to Morgan, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. That’s because, by and large, these individuals fail and never bounce back. Read more about Fear Factor: In Business and Life, It May Separate Smart Luck from Dumb Luck »

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

Bitcoin and Beyond: Is It Possible to Demystify the Coin of the Digital Realm?

We all know about Bitcoin: It’s that electronic currency that exists somewhere in the ether and can be used to buy illicit products on the Internet. And it isn’t backed by hard assets (such as gold specie) or a sovereign nation. And to create new Bitcoins you must  “mine” them, which means solving complex mathematical problems to demonstrate you put x number of computer hours into the process. Read more about Bitcoin and Beyond: Is It Possible to Demystify the Coin of the Digital Realm? »

Robot Response: Exploring Unique ‘Hands-On’ Potential in the Fight Against Ebola

People tend to be wary of replacing humans with robots—but what if robots could be deployed as mechanical helpers in the fight against Ebola?

The disease, which is an epidemic in West Africa and has made isolated appearances in a few other countries including the United States, is hard to catch but often deadly. Because it is spread by contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids, health care workers and burial workers are particularly at risk. Read more about Robot Response: Exploring Unique 'Hands-On' Potential in the Fight Against Ebola »

GMOs: Research Says They’ll Help End Starvation, but Americans Remain Wary

With global warming, drought and the shrinkage of American farmland, will there be enough food to feed the world? It’s a question with which experts are consumed—and should be. “Millions of people are going to die from climate change,” says Kathryn De Master, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of agriculture, society and the environment.

And experts say some of those millions are going to starve. Read more about GMOs: Research Says They'll Help End Starvation, but Americans Remain Wary »

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