Science + Health

Q&A: The Most Toxic Town In America

Located in the high desert of eastern Washington along the Columbia River, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has played a crucial role in global war and peace for more than half a century. It’s also the most heavily contaminated nuclear site in the country—one that few people know about.

Beauty Is In The Eye of the Beholder (of Kidney Stones)

Amethyst, rose quartz, garnets, pearls…kidney stones? That’s right—it might just be time to add a lesser known formation to the list of gemstones you might want for your engagement ring. Turns out, those uncharming urinary deposits that affect more than ten percent of people across the globe are surprisingly interesting, beneath their rough exterior.

Why Do Veterans Drop Out of Higher Ed?

1. You quote a veteran in your book, Grateful Nation: Student Veterans and the Rise of the Military-Friendly Campus, who says of his civilian classmates, “…none of the people in this room gave a shit about what I thought was important.” What are some of those important things valued in the military but not on campus?

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

A Day Late and A Summit Short: Can California Save the World?

The Global Climate Action Summit that wrapped recently in San Francisco was trumpeted as a “subnational” approach to climate change solutions, a riposte to the regressive environmental policies of the Trump administration. For three days, delegates from diverse international municipalities, provinces, states and corporations discussed ways to cut carbon emissions and mitigate global warming.

High-Risk Housing Developments Fan the Flames for Wildfire

The world certainly seems more flammable these days. Thousands of homes were lost last year in Sonoma County alone, and wildfires have raged across California all summer. And not just in California: Records from the federal National Interagency Fire Center show that U.S. acreage burned in wildfires leaped from 1.8 million in 1995 to 10 million in 2017.

Tensions Rise In the Battle To Save Old Trees

The timber wars are heating up again in Northern California, this time at Rainbow Ridge, a tract of mature Douglas fir near the remote community of Petrolia in Humboldt County. As reported in California earlier this year, the property is the focus of a dispute between the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC), which intends to log it, and local residents who steadfastly oppose the proposed cutting.

Don’t Mind If I Do: Mind-Controlling Fungus Infects, Hijacks Fly

As the sun set on Berkeley one evening in 2015, a fruit fly, whom we’ll call Bill, crawled his way up the tender green skin of a watermelon. Moving slowly, as if hypnotized, he reached the top of the melon, extended his proboscis and released a gluey gunk that gently adhered his tiny limbs to the fruit. His body tensed as his wings pulled up and back behind him; he was still as a statue—poised, elegant.

Newly Discovered Spiky-Headed Dino Hints at Dino Migrations

“This one was a plant-eater and has kind of a wide grin. Not too fearsome, but I wouldn’t want to get whacked by that bony-tailed club,” says UC Berkeley grad Randall Irmis, discussing a spiky-headed dinosaur assembled before us in squat, bony glory at the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU), on the University of Utah’s campus. Curator of Paleontology at the museum, Irmis and others recently discovered this new dinosaur, an herbivore that roamed southern Utah 76 million years ago.

Don’t Get Down, Get Outside: How Awe-Inspiring Nature Heals

About three years ago, UC Berkeley psychology PhD candidate Craig L. Anderson started investigating the components and implications of awe. Not the bad kind of awe—the sort you might experience if a mushroom cloud suddenly loomed on the horizon. But the good kind, specifically the variety associated with nature and all its manifold wonders: A sunset on a South Pacific atoll, icebergs calving from an Alaskan glacier, a hike through alpine meadows. Or in Anderson’s case, river-rafting.

Gird Your Genes: What DNA Matching Might Mean for Your Privacy

The recent capture of a suspect for the notorious Golden State Killer crimes was a vindication of both diligent detective work and modern technology. More than four decades after the first incident attributed to the GSK, which ultimately tallied at least 12 murders, 45 rapes, and more than 100 home burglaries, 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo was arrested in his California home.

The Secret of the Sea Nomads

The Bajau people, commonly known as “sea nomads,” live in coastal regions of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They spend some 60 percent of their working hours in the sea, foraging for food at depths of up to 230 feet below the surface. Bajau divers are known to hold their breath for several minutes at a time.

How do they do it? Researchers think they have found the key: larger spleens.

Findings like these are a reminder that humans, like all animals, are products of evolution.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Five Questions for David Patterson

1. The Turing Award is often called the Nobel Prize of Computing. Counting faculty and alumni, Berkeley claims more Turing laureates than almost any other university in the world. That surprises a lot of people. Should it?

Let’s just say our competitors aren’t burdened with an overdeveloped case of humility.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

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