Science + Health

Fired Up: Controversy Still Raging Like Wildfire Over Tree-Cutting Plan in East Bay

As drought continues to crisp up the state—increasing the potential for catastrophic fire and further taxing plants already competing for water resources—many conservationists are supporting a plan by UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland and East Bay Regional Parks District plan to cut, chop, mulch and deter the future growth of many non-native trees. Read more about Fired Up: Controversy Still Raging Like Wildfire Over Tree-Cutting Plan in East Bay »

The End for ‘Brittany’s Bill’? Legislators Balk at Doctor-Assisted Suicide for the Terminally Ill

Brittany Maynard’s battle with virulent brain cancer was compelling and heartbreaking, but today it wasn’t enough to sway key California lawmakers. Her decision to end her life last year at age 29 galvanized a campaign to make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients, but this morning the sponsors of the End of Life Option Act shelved the bill until next year, acknowledging that for now, they lacked the votes to secure passage in the Assembly Health Committee. Read more about The End for 'Brittany's Bill'? Legislators Balk at Doctor-Assisted Suicide for the Terminally Ill »

A Year In, the University of California’s Global Food Initiative Sows Success and a Few Fears

In March of last year, Alice Waters, the food activist and owner of the Chez Panisse restaurant, surprised everyone by prematurely announcing the University of California’s plans for a major, sweeping initiative to take on the many problems in the food system—not just on campuses but around the globe. Read more about A Year In, the University of California's Global Food Initiative Sows Success and a Few Fears »

From Spider-Infested Digs, U.S. Company Devises Way to Spin Silk—Sans the Spiders

In the beginning, David Breslauer’s office was infested with spiders—lurking in the corners, hunkered down on their webs, crawling up his arms. “I had one right above my desk, and it pooed on my computer like a pigeon,” he says. And these were large, long-legged beasties, too: Nephila clavipes, an orb-weaving species commonly used in scientific studies. Read more about From Spider-Infested Digs, U.S. Company Devises Way to Spin Silk—Sans the Spiders »

Pedaling to Tomorrow: Could an Electric Bike Kick-Start the Future of Transportation?

Emerging from the San Jose train station on my superfast electric bike, I lean into the first turn, boosted by the latest in lithium-ion battery technology. I’m headed to a business meeting at the Hayes Mansion, eight miles south of the commercial heart of Silicon Valley.

And I am late. Read more about Pedaling to Tomorrow: Could an Electric Bike Kick-Start the Future of Transportation? »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Robots With Us, Or Against Us? Rethinking the Risks Posed by Artificial Intelligence

“We turned the switch and saw the flashes,” said physicist Leo Szilard, describing his 1942 experiment that created the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. “We watched them for a little while and then turned everything off and went home. That night, there was very little doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief.” Read more about Robots With Us, Or Against Us? Rethinking the Risks Posed by Artificial Intelligence »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Parts Department: The You that Survives into the Next Century May be Mostly 3D Printed

The future will be an exciting time to be alive, if for no other reason than it will be so much easier to survive.

We’ll have a bewildering variety of replacement parts for our organs and limbs. Stubborn diseases will be tamed by exotic treatments. New technologies will enable not just better living, but new ways of living. And the human body will reveal all of its secrets in response to our probings in… (dramatic pause) … the year 2000. Read more about Parts Department: The You that Survives into the Next Century May be Mostly 3D Printed »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Going Chameleon: What a New Material that Changes Color as it Moves Means for Humans

We’ve all probably experienced a moment when we envied a chameleon’s ability to blend into the background—say, after a gaffe at the office holiday party. As it turns out, chameleons change their skin color in response to all kinds of stimuli: physical threats, temperature changes, and the animal’s moods. What if humans could harness that same ability? Read more about Going Chameleon: What a New Material that Changes Color as it Moves Means for Humans »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Stir-Fry Crickets and Sauteed Weeds: Why the Food of the Future Won’t Be Nutrient Powder

Remember Tang? It was the “space age” drink that in 1962 astronaut John Glenn sipped in orbit on his Mercury flight, and for a while thought to be the next generation of orange juice. It was considered convenient because it came in powder form, was less perishable than juice, and boasted lots of vitamins and calcium. Read more about Stir-Fry Crickets and Sauteed Weeds: Why the Food of the Future Won't Be Nutrient Powder »

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Effluent Communities: Why Drought Will Mean Learning to Drinking Treated Sewage

It’s the kind of subject that lends itself to the lowest of low humor, but we’ll try to resist that temptation. Because at bottom (sorry), it’s among the most serious of subjects, speaking as it does to basic survival. We’re talking about water (again), of course. But more specifically, we’re talking about blackwater: Sewage.  And even more particularly, recycling sewage, treating it to the potable level and–gulp–drinking it again. Read more about Effluent Communities: Why Drought Will Mean Learning to Drinking Treated Sewage »

When Cancer Strikes Twice: “Being a Dancer Has Saved My Life in So Many Ways”

Brianna Mercado is tired of telling the same old story.

“It’s a cookie-cutter cancer story and I’m so much more than that,” she told a crowd last year at a TEDx talk.

Today, the 24-year-old UC Berkeley graduate and inspirational speaker has been asked to tell the story so many times that it’s become rote. But how can you truly express the fears and pain of knocking on death’s door not once, but twice? How do you verbalize it in a way that can make people understand the trauma and the terror? Read more about When Cancer Strikes Twice: "Being a Dancer Has Saved My Life in So Many Ways" »

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