Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Fracking Changed Everything. Now What?

Things were looking pretty sunny for alternative energy sources back in 2005. Though still resisted by conservative politicians and allied voters, human-caused climate change was accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists, many business leaders, and even the Pentagon. Energy security was a major concern for the armed services, given that U.S. troops were fighting and dying in Iraq, home to the world’s fifth largest reserve of oil—the substance that America was “addicted to,” according to President (and former oil man) George W. Bush.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

Big Science in Action: Nobel Laureate Barry Barish Helped Open a New Window on the Universe

The year was 1956. Barry Barish was a junior at Cal doing research at the California Radiation Laboratory, or Rad Lab (known today as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). When his professors were too busy to see him, he’d wander into the 184-inch cyclotron—a larger sequel to Ernest Lawrence’s fabled particle accelerators—invented at Berkeley and famous for blasting into existence an array of new heavy elements, including plutonium, berkelium, and californium.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

Waxing Poetic: New Tech Revives Sounds from Past Treasures

In a corner of the Digital Imaging Lab in the basement of UC Berkeley’s Moffitt Library, recent graduate Olivia Dill is checking on the latest shipment of fragile wax recordings from the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. These hard wax tubes, invented by Thomas Edison in the 1880s, are one of the earliest sound recording media.

It’s Elementary: Berkeley Can Bask in the Glow as More Elements Hit Periodic Table

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.

Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners “Hear” Effects of Climate Change

As the 2015 U.N. climate change conference continues in the outskirts of Paris—pursuing a global agreement to slow down the devastating effects of global warming—there will be graphs. There will be charts. There will be slideshows.

But if presenters really want to tug at a world leader’s heartstrings, they might want to bring a violin. Break out a synthesizer, a keyboard, and play a snippet of what climate change sounds like: Earth, out of tune and distorted, an orchestra gone a little haywire.

Turbo-Charging Cloud Research: Now It’s Easier to Decipher Clues to Climate Change

For most people, clouds are mere grist for metaphor, as with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” But clouds have deep implications beyond late 1960s pop music lyrics. Geophysical implications. Their frequency, type, direction, density and velocity all say a great deal about weather, climate—even atmospheric ozone depletion. The problem is that it’s hard to draw a bead on clouds, to obtain the precise measurements in real time that can translate into useful data. They are clouds, after all: nebulous, evanescent—indeed, vaporous.

Branding the Elements: Berkeley Stakes its Claims on the Periodic Table

Let the other universities brand themselves with the presidents they’ve produced, the corporations they’ve midwifed, their location in a small town outside of Boston, or their number one football team.

At Berkeley, we’re OK with being number 97. On the periodic table of elements. You may have heard of “the table,” as we call it around here. It’s sort of the ingredients list for the universe. All of it, including presidents, corporations, slushy college towns, and inferior (spiritually) football teams.

From the Spring 2014 Branding issue of California.

Fit After the Holidays? You Can’t Hide—But You Can Run

It turns out the secret to health and longevity isn’t that complicated: Run if you can, walk if you can’t. Also more is better than less, and faster is better than slower. Those are the ineluctable conclusions of the world’s longest-running study on the health benefits of running and walking—a tracking of 160,000 runners and walkers that is also debunking some conventional wisdom about fitness.

Typhoon Torment: They’re likely to grow stronger, devastating communities for years

Typhoon Haiyan was not an anomaly. Researchers confirm that we should expect more such tropical “super storms” as the planet warms inexorably from human activity. And the grim fact is that a good percentage of these massive cyclones will slam into the Philippines. 

“The Philippines is situated in a unique—and unfortunate—spot on the planet,” says Solomon Hsiang, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

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