Science

Evolve or Die: A Q&A with Anna Thanukos

No issue of a magazine devoted to the theme of Adaptation would be complete without some attention paid to biological evolution, à la Charles Darwin. To learn more about the subject we turned to Anna Thanukos, M.A. ’00, Ph.D. ’02, principal editor of Understanding Evolution, a free Web resource produced by the University of California Museum of Paleontology. Read more about Evolve or Die: A Q&A with Anna Thanukos »

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Can We Learn to Grow Color? Butterfly Wings May Hold the Answer

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, humans have been buttering up the natural world for a long time. It’s often called biomimicry. Think Olympic swimmers in sharkskin-inspired suits, bullet trains shaped like kingfisher beaks, or the ubiquitous Velcro, which was famously modeled after plant burrs.  

Yet all of these examples depend on man-made materials and processes. What if we took biomimicry one step further and learned how to grow structures the way they grow in nature? Read more about Can We Learn to Grow Color? Butterfly Wings May Hold the Answer »

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Q&A: Rebecca Skloot on Seeing “Henrietta Lacks” Come To Life Onscreen

When Rebecca Skloot was 16 years old, her biology teacher wrote a name on the blackboard: “Henrietta Lacks.” He explained that Lacks was a black woman whose surgeon had extracted cells from her tumor in 1951. They turned out to be the first human cells to survive indefinitely in a laboratory. Billions of so-called HeLa cells lived in labs around the world and had helped produce treatments for leukemia, influenza, Parkinson’s disease, and many other ailments. Read more about Q&A: Rebecca Skloot on Seeing "Henrietta Lacks" Come To Life Onscreen »

Gov Data Is Being Deleted: Shouldn’t There Be Laws for That?

After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, information was altered and links up and died on government websites. In response, citizen programmers, scientists and activists met up at UC Berkeley for Data Rescue SF, an event created to preserve publicly accessible data, specifically from NASA Earth Sciences and the Department of Energy National Labs. Read more about Gov Data Is Being Deleted: Shouldn't There Be Laws for That? »

Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti

More than 550 Berkeley students take your course Drugs and the Brain every year. What do you hope your students take away from the class?

Respect for the power of drugs, and specifically that all drugs are poisons as well as medicines. This is embedded in the ancient Greek word pharmakon. The origin of our words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology, it means both medicine and poison. While the ancients appreciated this dual property of drugs, it is often overlooked, even forgotten, in contemporary society. Read more about Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti »

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing

Yesenia Guitron knew something was wrong at the bank branch where she worked. She was getting complaints from customers—many from Mexico and undocumented—that they were being charged for accounts they had never opened and were receiving debit cards they had never requested. Guitron, a personal banker at a local Wells Fargo in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, began to realize that some of her colleagues, under intense pressure to open accounts, were doing so without customers’ knowledge. Read more about Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing »

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Deep Down: Geologists Discover New Feature of the Cascadia Subduction Zone

To understand what’s happening on the surface of things, you must look deep within. That might be the guiding mantra of a trio of UC Berkeley geologists who are looking a hundred miles below the earth’s surface in order to better understand the tectonic forces that shape our planet. Read more about Deep Down: Geologists Discover New Feature of the Cascadia Subduction Zone »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods

It is a curious thing to consider that UC Berkeley, a school notably lacking a marine biology program, has produced not one, not two, but three published studies on the venerable octopus within the last year. But then octopuses, too, are curious to consider. They have three hearts; blue, copper-based blood; regenerating tentacles; and a level of sentience unique among invertebrates. Read more about Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays

Eugene Chiang became a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley in 2001 with the intention of contemplating the stars. But when he took on the role of writer, producer, director, prop/costume designer, and actor for the department’s annual holiday play, he became one himself, at least within the department. Read more about Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays »

What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia?

In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.

“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.” Read more about What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia? »

That’s So Metal: You Won’t Believe How These Bacteria Get Around

When we say “internal compass,” we’re usually referring to something metaphorical, a person’s innate sense of right and wrong. But for UC Berkeley microbiologists Arash Komeili and David Hershey, the term is literal: The two study magnetotactic bacteria, which navigate using tiny magnetic iron crystals called magnetosomes. Read more about That’s So Metal: You Won't Believe How These Bacteria Get Around »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Straw Into Gold: New Way to Retrieve CO2 From Air and Recycle It Into Useful Products

Turning an undesirable substance into something valuable seems like the plot of an old fable, but UC Berkeley researchers Chris Chang and Omar Yaghi may have done just that. Their invention, covalent organic frameworks, or COFs, can transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into a useful building block for biodegradable plastics, fuel, and more.

Chang likens COFs to TinkerToys, though at a nano scale. They consist of strings of carbon crystals that are special in their unique porosity, as they can be custom tailored to capture the chemical of choice. Read more about Straw Into Gold: New Way to Retrieve CO2 From Air and Recycle It Into Useful Products »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Quantum Dots Promise Better-Than-Ever Digital Color Resolution—Will it Matter?

Have you ever been engrossed in your favorite episode of Star Trek on your smartphone and thought “Hey! The color of Kirk’s uniform doesn’t look pure!” Yeah, most of us probably wouldn’t think that. But with quantum dots seeping into modern displays, our viewing expectations could drastically change. Read more about Quantum Dots Promise Better-Than-Ever Digital Color Resolution—Will it Matter? »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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