technology

A Life And Career By Design: Qualcomm Exec Paul Jacobs

At an age when most boys are learning to throw a curveball and struggling with elementary algebra, Paul Jacobs was writing code. Simple code, to be sure, but code good enough to let him play the video game Adventure with his dad on a clunky, early laptop.

It’s no surprise that Jacobs, who was in sixth or seventh grade when he wrote his first programs, grew up to be an engineer. Read more about A Life And Career By Design: Qualcomm Exec Paul Jacobs »

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged

As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures. Read more about Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya’s Largest Slum

Nairobi is a tough town, and there’s no place in Nairobi that’s tougher than Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Maybe a half-million people live there, maybe a million. No one’s really counting. But virtually everyone is desperately poor, with per capita earnings averaging about a dollar a day. Rape, assault, and murder are simple facts of daily life. The streets are paved with rotting garbage, sewage flows in the gutters, disease is rampant, and city services are largely nonexistent. Read more about In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya's Largest Slum »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Whooshing into the Future: Aiming to Make Speed-of-Sound Commutes a Reality

Remember pneumatic tubes, those compressed-air pipelines that whisked plastic canisters from basement mailrooms to penthouse boardrooms? Imagine being in one, traveling at more than 700 mph. You could make the round-trip from San Francisco to LA in a little over an hour. That may sound like science fiction, but it could one day be a reality thanks to the efforts of engineering students at UC Berkeley and elsewhere. Read more about Whooshing into the Future: Aiming to Make Speed-of-Sound Commutes a Reality »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

The Blind Leading the Blind: Designing an Inclusive World

Joshua Miele has been blind ever since a violent acid attack took away his vision before his 5th birthday. But he says he no longer spends time wishing he could see. Instead, from his office at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, he dreams up new technologies for the blind, and helps turn those visions into reality: maps that can talk, YouTube videos that can speak, electronic gloves that can text. Read more about The Blind Leading the Blind: Designing an Inclusive World »

Not Supremely Tech-Savvy—Can High Court Keep Up With the Cyber Revolution?

A popular opinion on the Internet lately is that the members of the Supreme Court are a bit superannuated. You know: supremely old, dated, over the Capitol Hill, if you will. The presumption seems to be that with our geriatric justices aged to imperfection, they’re not only physically impaired, but technologically impaired as well. Read more about Not Supremely Tech-Savvy—Can High Court Keep Up With the Cyber Revolution? »

“World’s Smartest Billionaire:” James Simons is Cal Alumnus of the Year for 2016

As a teenager in Newton, Massachusetts, James Simons had a short-lived job in the basement stockroom of a garden supply store. “I was terrible at it; couldn’t remember where anything went,” he told an audience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2013. He was quickly demoted to floor sweeper, “Which I loved: It was easy, took no brain work.” Read more about "World’s Smartest Billionaire:" James Simons is Cal Alumnus of the Year for 2016 »

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s Start-Up Accelerator

SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s start-up accelerator program, is housed on the top floor of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. All four walls of the 10,000 square-foot penthouse have floor-to-ceiling windows, offering up a 360-degree view. This is where Cal’s fledgling entrepreneurs come for free office space and guidance while preparing to launch their product or service. They have six months to a year up here with SkyDeck, and then it’s time to jump out of the nest. Read more about Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley's Start-Up Accelerator »

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.

Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted

For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.

I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult. Read more about Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of an Online Journalist: How I Killed My Profession

In the fall of 1994, when I was a young reporter struggling to pay the rent, I wrote a cover story for the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Plugging In: An Idiot’s Guide to the Internet.” I explained why a 14.4 baud modem was a great deal, and reported that the Internet was a fantastic resource because “all kinds of information are available.”

I am so, so, sorry. Read more about Confessions of an Online Journalist: How I Killed My Profession »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert

Your journalism crowdfunding platform, Spot.Us, the first of its kind, was acquired by American Public Media in 2011 and has since been “retired.” What do you think went wrong, and what does it mean for the viability of crowdfunding for journalism in general? Read more about Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication. Read more about Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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