Science

Berkeley Lab Finds Ingredients for Life—In Meteorites

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.

From the Spring 2018 Edibles and Potables issue of California.

No Rest for the Wikied

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.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

A Life And Career By Design: Qualcomm Exec Paul Jacobs

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.

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

When the Elephant in the Room Is a Beached Whale

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.

Can We Learn to Grow Color? Butterfly Wings May Hold the Answer

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?

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Q&A: Rebecca Skloot on Seeing “Henrietta Lacks” Come To Life Onscreen

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.

Gov Data Is Being Deleted: Shouldn’t There Be Laws for That?

After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, information was altered and links up and died on government websites. In response, citizen programmers, scientists and activists met up at UC Berkeley for Data Rescue SF, an event created to preserve publicly accessible data, specifically from NASA Earth Sciences and the Department of Energy National Labs.

Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti

More than 550 Berkeley students take your course Drugs and the Brain every year. What do you hope your students take away from the class?

Respect for the power of drugs, and specifically that all drugs are poisons as well as medicines. This is embedded in the ancient Greek word pharmakon. The origin of our words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology, it means both medicine and poison. While the ancients appreciated this dual property of drugs, it is often overlooked, even forgotten, in contemporary society.

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing

Yesenia Guitron knew something was wrong at the bank branch where she worked. She was getting complaints from customers—many from Mexico and undocumented—that they were being charged for accounts they had never opened and were receiving debit cards they had never requested. Guitron, a personal banker at a local Wells Fargo in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, began to realize that some of her colleagues, under intense pressure to open accounts, were doing so without customers’ knowledge.

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

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