“The future will not, in crucial ways, be anything like the past, even the very recent past of a month or two ago,” the author Rebecca Solnit, M.A. ’84, wrote of the pandemic in the Guardian in early April. In a crisis, Solnit wrote, “Our focus shifts, and what matters shifts. What is weak breaks under new pressure, what is strong holds, and what was hidden emerges.”
IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.
Research out of UC Berkeley shows that animals around the world are becoming more nocturnal in response to human populations.
The study, published in the journal Science in June, found that mammals have, on average, become 1.36 times more active at night. In other words, a creature that normally would have split its activities equally between day and night, now carries out 68 percent of its activities at night, presumably in avoidance of humans.
Relatively few people, in or out of the field of science, believe in Bigfoot. A purported Bigfoot sighting would likely be met with the same level of credulity as a discovery of Casper, Elvis, Tupac, or Santa Claus. With only 16 percent of Americans Bigfoot believers, you might just write them off as crazy. But contrary to popular assumption, folklore experts say, Bigfoot believers may not be as irrational as you’d think.
Posted on June 28, 2018 - 3:49pm
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.
In 2010, Patrick O. Brown, then a biochemist at Stanford University, and Michael Eisen, Berkeley professor of genetics, were at a board meeting in Washington, D.C., for PLOS, the Public Library of Science.
You’ve probably been told, “Wikipedia is not a source. Don’t cite it. Don’t use it.”
Many high school and university instructors warn students against using Wikipedia, but new research illuminating the online encyclopedia’s impact on academia might prompt teachers to reconsider.
Pete Oboyski worries about bugs eating his bugs.
Hurricane Harvey was declared a Category 4 storm late this past Friday, was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, and is officially the most extreme rain event in U.S. history.
Posted on August 29, 2017 - 4:50pm
At an age when most boys are learning to throw a curveball and struggling with elementary algebra, Paul Jacobs was writing code. Simple code, to be sure, but code good enough to let him play the video game Adventure with his dad on a clunky, early laptop.
It’s no surprise that Jacobs, who was in sixth or seventh grade when he wrote his first programs, grew up to be an engineer.
What happens when the world’s largest mammal washes up dead on your local beach? Residents of Bolinas, California were faced with this question in May, when a 79-foot blue whale turned up ashore on nearby Agate Beach. According to biologists present, the necropsy (an autopsy for animals) revealed that the whale had collided with a ship and died of blunt force trauma.
Posted on June 26, 2017 - 4:53pm
No issue of a magazine devoted to the theme of Adaptation would be complete without some attention paid to biological evolution, à la Charles Darwin. To learn more about the subject we turned to Anna Thanukos, M.A. ’00, Ph.D. ’02, principal editor of Understanding Evolution, a free Web resource produced by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, humans have been buttering up the natural world for a long time. It’s often called biomimicry. Think Olympic swimmers in sharkskin-inspired suits, bullet trains shaped like kingfisher beaks, or the ubiquitous Velcro, which was famously modeled after plant burrs.
Yet all of these examples depend on man-made materials and processes. What if we took biomimicry one step further and learned how to grow structures the way they grow in nature?
When Rebecca Skloot was 16 years old, her biology teacher wrote a name on the blackboard: “Henrietta Lacks.” He explained that Lacks was a black woman whose surgeon had extracted cells from her tumor in 1951. They turned out to be the first human cells to survive indefinitely in a laboratory. Billions of so-called HeLa cells lived in labs around the world and had helped produce treatments for leukemia, influenza, Parkinson’s disease, and many other ailments.
Posted on May 18, 2017 - 11:42am