Innovation

Hungry for Kiwi…Bots

As the future steadily becomes the present, we often find ourselves disappointed with how little our world resembles … The Jetsons. No flying cars, no 3-D printed meals. And today’s hoverboards? They don’t even hover! But if you’ve spent any time on the Cal campus lately, you’ve likely crossed paths with a KiwiBot, one of 150 fox terrier–sized robots that autonomously navigate the winding paths and hordes of hustling students. The bots are on their quest to deliver lunch. And though a KiwiBot is no Rosey (the Jetsons’ sassy robo-maid), it does have a certain charm.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

“It Was a Revolution”: The History of a Berkeley Crane Engineer

In the 1970s, a crane we designed collapsed in New Jersey. It had not been built with the right material. The operator cab fell, but landed on a container full of soft cheese and the operator survived.

That failure was a result of a brittle fracture. Picture a small windshield crack that appears but doesn’t grow much until—bang—it spiderwebs across the glass without warning. That happens to cranes. A crack appears, and the maintenance people just weld over it. That’s like painting over a crack in your windshield. It doesn’t resolve the problem.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Berkeley Brains of Yore: Wendell M. Stanley & Joel H. Hildebrand

Eureka! The Diving Bell and the Bullet Wound

On August 4, 1919, Berkeley chemist Joel H. Hildebrand (above, right) was shot and wounded by a lab assistant who accused the professor of opposing his application for appointment. Hildebrand survived—fortunately for the Navy. Twenty years later, in 1939, his work on the properties of gasses being dissolved into liquids saved the lives of 33 members of the USS Squalus when their submarine sank.

From the Winter 2018 Play issue of California.

The Art of Innovation: George Crow’s Path from Cal to Apple

You could forgive George Crow for declining the first time Steve Jobs tried to lure him away from Hewlett-Packard.

That was back in early 1981, when Apple was developing the industry-changing Macintosh. Crow, who would eventually be in charge of the power supply and display for the pathbreaking personal computer, didn’t know what the project was. And Jobs didn’t make a stellar first impression.

Should Our Pets Be Vegans, Too?

It’s a cruel world, but a new Berkeley start-up aims to make it just bit kinder and gentler. Wild Earth, a company spearheaded by biohacking wunderkind Ryan Bethencourt, is working up a line of fungus-based pet foods. It’s the kind of venture that, at first whiff, lends itself to some Anthony Bourdain like lampooning: It’s not enough that you don’t want to eat anything with a face. You don’t want your dog to do any face-eating either.

Reading Roundup: Bridges, College Admissions, Border Identity

UC Berkeley is consistently ranked one of the best research universities in the world, but what happens to researchers after they leave?

Earlier this month, four Cal grads—four! Can we get a Go Bears?!— were featured in the Lehigh Research Review for their remarkable work in sustainable infrastructure, college admission economics, and discourses on border identity.

Check out their research below to find out what these Berkeley grads-cum-Lehigh professors have been up to since they left the den.

Save Water, Drink Hopless Beer

Here in the Bay Area, where local, organic, and fresh have long been dominant adjectives as well as a prevailing ethos around what we consume, genetically modified alternatives are forcing consumers to confront a new understanding of authenticity when it comes to food and drink. And what’s brewing at Berkeley might just have beer enthusiasts clutching their pearls—or their hops.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Molecules of Life: Seeing the Way to Longer, Healthier Living

The Breakthrough

Researchers at Berkeley have produced the first detailed picture of the molecular structure of human telomerase, an enzyme that plays key roles in both the repair of aging cells and the endless cellular rejuvenation typical of cancers. Berkeley biology professors Kathleen Collins and Eva Nogales published their discovery, complete with 3D images, in the journal Nature in April.

The Background

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Fresh Blood: What Theranos Leaves In Its Wake

The big question is why the scam wasn’t detected earlier. Theranos promised the moon—or at least a full battery of blood tests from a minim of blood—but it never came close to delivering.

7 Things to Know about California’s New Solar Panel Policy

Earlier this month, California became the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The mandate, which comes from the California Energy Commission (CEC), will take effect in 2020, making solar power even more common in a state that already boasts about half the country’s solar generating capacity. Part of the motivation for the new policy is California’s ambitious goal to be producing 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

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