Innovation

Avoiding a Tragic Wine Crush: Seismic Expert Urges Safer Barrel-Stacking Method

A forklift operator at Wild Horse Winery near Paso Robles was maneuvering between barrel rows in the wine cellar when suddenly the ground started to shake. The 18-foot-high stacks swayed above her and then collapsed, burying her in an avalanche of 600-pound barrels. It took rescuers over an hour to reach her, after carefully draining and removing barrels one by one.

Cool Play: Innovator Aims to Combat Global Warming From the Rooftops Down

George Ban-Weiss is all about being cool: Not only does coolness figuratively define his work as a professional jazz bassist, it almost literally defines his career as a scientist.

His work was pivotal in persuading the city of Los Angeles to require this year that new and renovated residential rooftops be “cool roofs”—reflecting rather than absorbing the sun’s heat. It’s an idea that could someday spread throughout California and other sun-soaked metropolises.

Engineering Sisters Design, Ship Bargain Bots to Engage Diverse Kids—Especially Girls

The two robots spin and lurch, their little electric motors whirring against each other as a bevy of kids look on, their eyes bulging and their shoulders scrunched almost up to their ears in rapt attention. A girl of about 12 with long black hair scratches her chin, smiling nervously—a smile that twists into a grimace as her robot battles too near the edge of the circular table. She talks to her robot, goads it on, giggles. When that fails, she resorts to body English, rapping her right hand against her hip three times.

Do-It-Yourself Biology? Messing Around with DNA Increasingly a Garage-Band Venture

Silicon is so passé. Those who are truly au courant in the coding world are working with carbon—specifically DNA, that most ancient and elegant of codes. Such biohacking is central to the rapidly expanding field of synthetic biology, a term that somehow seems a little threatening to many of us who are the products of the old fashioned kind of biology that’s been around since the planet first managed to gin up a few primitive prokaryotes 3.5 billion years ago.

Mass Appeal: Researchers Score Public Support—and Cash—Via Crowdfunding

Marcus Lehmann is at work alongside a 50-meter-long water tank in a high-ceilinged engineering lab at UC Berkeley’s O’Brien Hall, surrounded by wrenches, tape, wires, electronics, pipes, lab notebooks and other flotsam and jetsam. Within the tank, he generates ocean-like waves to test a promising invention: a carpet-like device that captures wave energy. It holds the promise of someday being able to harness the power of the ocean, a potential huge source of renewable energy.

When Cal’s Human-Powered Vehicle Snapped in Two, Nobody Expected How it Would End

Things were looking bleak for the UC Berkeley Human Powered Vehicle Team last weekend, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The team, all engineering majors, were on the verge of their big competition: the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Competition West, in Santa Clara. Rider Andrew Taylor had just started his practice run on Saturday morning when Reuben, the state-of-the-art vehicle that he and his cohorts had spent seven months building, crashed on the first lap.

‘Academies-in-a-Box’ Are Thriving—But Are They the Best Way to School the World’s Poor?

An estimated 2.5 billion people on the planet live on less than $2 a day. Is it possible to give the younger ones a high-quality private education?

One company says yes. Bridge International Academies, a for-profit franchise of private schools founded in 2007 in Kenya, is trying to transform “knowledge for all” into a cost-effective reality. Its answer: the “academy-in-a-box.”

In on the Ground Floor: Would My Investment in a Friend’s Scheme Really Seal My Fortune?

Graduation was near and other seniors were scrambling for work. I knew I was set. I had met a brilliant entrepreneur and was investing my time and savings in his sure-fire venture that guaranteed me both a job and untold millions.

His plan was literally airtight: Create a device that would improve upon the highest volume manufactured product—the sealed bags used for everything from dry macaroni to potato chips.

And what was wrong with those bags? They weren’t re-sealable.

From the Spring 2014 Branding issue of California.

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