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Reading Roundup: Probing the Sun, Draining the Swamp, and More

Hot Hot Heat

This Saturday, NASA plans to launch the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft designed to touch the edge of the solar corona, the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun. It will be the first-ever spacecraft to enter into the orbits of Venus and Mercury, a feat scientists have dreamt of for decades.

“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.”

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

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.”

Grid Guru: This Atypical Biophysicist’s Startup Helps Us Control Where Energy Comes From

Yes, it’s true that there aren’t many women in the sciences. And the reason for the gender gap is predictable: Male scientists seem to like it that way. That, at least, was the conclusion of a 2013 Yale study that found physicists, biologists and chemists are inclined to view a young male scientist more positively than a young woman with the same qualifications. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that it may be a little harder to achieve tenure or obtain research funding in such circumstances.

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