Science + Health

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.” Read more about Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley's Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere »

So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics?

Passwords and humans are frenemies: We tolerate each other because we have to, but we seem to know that one will screw the other over sooner or later (as evidenced by the many security breaches of 2015). Managing our password portfolio is more maddening than ever, given that more than half of us have five or more unique passwords, and nearly a third of us have more than 10. Read more about So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics? »

Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren’t Color Blind on Race

Stephen Colbert’s assertion notwithstanding, none of us is color blind. Not even the blind, it turns out. That’s according to the work of Osagie Obasogie, law professor at UC Hastings who earned his doctorate in sociology from UC Berkeley. In 2005, he began interviewing more than a hundred people who had been blind since birth, asking how they understood race. Were they conscious of it? Did it shape how they interacted with people? Could blind people, in fact, be racist? Read more about Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren't Color Blind on Race »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Hell to Pay: Why Aren’t We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes?

California wants to lay out some major cash for hyper-ambitious public works projects. For example, the Twin Tunnels, Jerry Brown’s retread of the peripheral canal that was defeated by voters in 1982 during his first go-round as governor. Depending on whom you talk to, this massive water conveyance scheme will cost between $25 and $67 billion. Read more about Hell to Pay: Why Aren't We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes? »

Out of the Gate: Laughing Through Tears

In 1966, the same year that I finished my studies at UC Berkeley, the psychology department made a scientific breakthrough. A graduate student discovered that watching an extremely graphic film documenting the subincision rites (the ritual cutting of the undersides of the penises) of Australian aboriginal boys could raise stress levels, particularly in men. Read more about Out of the Gate: Laughing Through Tears »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Who Is Kennewick Man? Study Determines Racial ID of 8,500-Year-Old Skeleton

An archaeological mystery that called into question the racial history of the Americas has finally been solved. After consecutively assigning him Caucasian, Japanese, and Native American ancestry, a team of scientists including some at UC Berkeley say they have finally determined the geographic origins of the Kennewick Man. Read more about Who Is Kennewick Man? Study Determines Racial ID of 8,500-Year-Old Skeleton »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

A Smoking Gun: The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Had Help

Any third grader can tell you what killed the dinosaurs: an asteroid that smashed into Earth 66 million years ago, obliterating T. Rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor, and paving the way for mammals to thrive.

But that theory was wildly controversial when first introduced in 1980 by Berkeley Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez and his son, Walter, a UC Berkeley paleogeologist. Their idea plunged the paleontology community into decades of acrimonious debate before it became the accepted explanation. Now the theory is being challenged once again. Read more about A Smoking Gun: The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Had Help »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates

UC Berkeley bioengineer John Dueber knows too well that sometimes the most important scientific discoveries have harmful consequences. Just recently, Dueber and a team of scientists discovered the final step in modifying common yeast cells to manufacture opiates. Their finding was published in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology, alongside a warning urging scientists and policymakers to work together to address the development’s possible consequences. Read more about Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Lionizing Cecil Makes Us Feel Good, But a Trophy Hunting Ban Will Accelerate Slaughter

If you fly over parts of Tsavo today—and I challenge anyone to do so, if you have the eyes for it – you can see lines of snares set out in funnel traps that extend four or five miles. Tens of thousands of animals are being killed annually for the meat business. Carnivores are being decimated in the same snares and discarded. Read more about Lionizing Cecil Makes Us Feel Good, But a Trophy Hunting Ban Will Accelerate Slaughter »

Turbo-Charging the Hunt for ETs: This Will Give our Decade a Shot at Cosmic Stardom

In the 3.5 billion-year history of life on planet Earth, a century seems barely mentionable and a decade seems insignificant—but the new revelation of a project involving a Russian billionaire, three UC Berkeley researchers and $100 million just may have laid the groundwork for this decade’s shot at eternal distinction. Read more about Turbo-Charging the Hunt for ETs: This Will Give our Decade a Shot at Cosmic Stardom »

Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is “Mind Reading” Deception Detection Sci-Fi—or Science?

Ever since the inception of our species, humans have wanted to peer inside each other’s minds. A major reason we want to do this is because we lie. We lie a lot, and on the whole, we are quite good at it. The capacity for deception is possibly one of the most significant cognitive gifts we received through evolution.

But it turns out that we lack an equal genius for spotting deception. Instead we keep trying to capitalize on technology—hoping it can do the detecting for us. Read more about Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is "Mind Reading" Deception Detection Sci-Fi—or Science? »

Sunken Treasures: Maritime Archeologist Sets Out to Explore the Ships Buried Beneath Us

The waters in and around San Francisco Bay are replete with shipwrecks—200 at least. But they’re exceedingly difficult to find, says James Allan, one of the nation’s leading maritime archeologists. He is determined to bring their secrets up from the depths.

Allan cites two primary factors that made these submerged vessels so elusive: The Gold Rush and the “dynamic” nature of the bay and its coastal environs. Read more about Sunken Treasures: Maritime Archeologist Sets Out to Explore the Ships Buried Beneath Us »

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