Blue is an elusive color. Crush the feathers of a blue jay or the wings of a Morpho butterfly and you’ll see gray dust; our perception of their electric blue hue depends on microscopic structural features that bend the light just so. The blue sky is merely a mirage of refracting light, as are blue eyes. Truly blue pigments are exceedingly rare in the natural world, which is perhaps part of their allure—blue is our favorite color, according to an international, cross-cultural survey.
Every week the number jumps. The epidemic of a mysterious lung illness, first reported this spring, has swept across the nation, jumping from a few to more than 1,000 cases in 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in early October.
Posted on November 4, 2019 - 11:19am
In late August, the Amazon was aflame, and so was social media. Everyone from regular citizens to celebrities and politicians wanted to express their outrage. But in the rush to retweet and regram, some people forgot to fact-check.
The longstanding and oft-tweeted claim that the Amazon acts as the “lungs of the Earth,” producing 20 percent of our oxygen? It’s simply incorrect, says Jeffrey
Posted on October 2, 2019 - 3:29pm
Glenn Seaborg was born too late to have spawned Cal’s spirit cry. It’s coincidence, surely, that his name is an anagram for “Go Bears!” And, although he was definitely a Bears fan and was Chancellor when Cal last made it to the Rose Bowl in 1959, he was never in Oski’s league as a campus celebrity. While others led rallies, he had to settle for spearheading decades of trailblazing nuclear science, endowing UC Berkeley with bragging rights to the discovery of a record 16 new elements.
Twenty years ago, two chunks of rock plummeted from space. One landed in Texas in March, only yards away from a children’s basketball game. The other hit the ground in Morocco five months later. At the time, no one guessed that the meteorites carried some very unique passengers: crystals embedded with clues to the origins of life on Earth.
California’s Lost Coast isn’t that hard to find—just drive south on a narrow, twisting road from the Humboldt County town of Ferndale. The landscape is extreme in its beauty, wending across ridge top meadows that plunge eastward to forested gorges and roll to the cobalt blue Pacific to the west. The route skirts miles of deserted beach where the only sound is the lapping of gentle surf and the cries of seabirds, and finally tracks through Petrolia, a tiny settlement on the Mattole River.
Posted on February 13, 2018 - 5:26pm
To the average technology consumer, a quantum computer sounds like something out of science fiction. But these machines are real, and scientists at Berkeley are working on one right now.
So what is a quantum computer?
Well, a “classic” digital computer, like the one at your desk, stores information in bits, a basic unit of information. Binary bits, found in the computers we use daily, can only be zero or one, or on or off.
If you’re considering ways to reduce urban heat and moderate global warming, cool pavements just seem like a no brainer. Asphalt, after all is dark; it absorbs heat. But light colored cement or asphalt treated with a whitish surfacing agent can reflect heat. That should make cities cooler and also reduce air conditioning demands, cutting back on electricity production and the planet-warming carbon emissions that spew from fossil-fueled power plants. Win-win, right?
Posted on August 17, 2017 - 3:25pm
A new study led by UC Berkeley Lab researcher Trevor Keenan suggests that increased plant growth is slowing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a finding that could help explain the mystery of why the uptick in CO2 concentrations has leveled off since 2002, even as emissions have increased. “We believed one of the planet’s main carbon sinks had unexpectedly strengthened,” Keenan explained in a Lab press release. “The question was: which one?”
Moore’s Law—as first put forth in 1965 by Berkeley alum and Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor co-founder Gordon E. Moore—postulates that the number of circuits on an integrated circuit will double every two years. Amazingly, the prediction (initially just an observation) has held up in the decades since, leading to computers that are ever smaller and ever more powerful.
But Moore’s Law is now running up against hard limits, due to the physical properties of silicon, the semiconducting material used in computer chips.
Posted on July 18, 2016 - 12:05pm
In the mid-2000s, William Fisk, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, stumbled upon two obscure Hungarian studies that challenged common assumptions about the air indoors. The studies suggested that, even at relatively low levels, carbon dioxide could impair how well people thought and worked.
The recent inclusion of four new elements to the periodic table was cause for the clinking of champagne glasses at places where people cook up such exotic stuff, including Berkeley. One reason is that credit for some of these latest discoveries goes to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was itself birthed out of UC Berkeley.
Posted on January 7, 2016 - 8:16pm
Something remarkable has happened on the seventh floor of UC Berkeley’s Stanley Hall, where Professor Jennifer Doudna’s lab resides.
Update: UC Berkeley seismologists just published data proving that the Hayward Fault is essentially a branch of the Calaveras Fault—meaning that both could rupture together, generating a more devastating earthquake than the predicted “Big One.” And we thought we were envisioning the worst with this article from our apocalyptic Summer 2014 issue.