Science + Health

Dammed If We Do: What Could Happen If Oroville Dam Fails

The news from Oroville Dam on Tuesday is nominally better. Water isn’t flowing over the top of wall at the auxiliary spillway, and erosion has stopped. Water releases are ahead of inflows, and the reservoir’s level is falling. Perhaps most encouraging for the close to 200,000 displaced locals downstream of the dam, the evacuation alert has been downgraded. Read more about Dammed If We Do: What Could Happen If Oroville Dam Fails »

Marriage Is Driving Some to Drugs And It May Not Be a Bad Thing

Writer Ayelet Waldman was teaching a class on drug policy reform at UC Berkeley when she and her husband, the popular novelist Michael Chabon, decided that MDMA, the illegal party drug fueling those all-night raves, might also be a medicine that could save their marriage. They got the idea after Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the psychedelic chemist and so-called “godfather of ecstasy,” spoke to her class.  Read more about Marriage Is Driving Some to Drugs And It May Not Be a Bad Thing »

Uncovered California: ACA Repeal’s Full Cost

No state did Obamacare quite like California.

Here, we built our own state-insurance market. Here, we got a jumpstart on shifting low-income residents onto Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program) as early as 2010. Here, insurance policies were standardized, consumer protections were tightened, and multi-lingual, statewide PR campaigns were kicked into overdrive. While other, redder states dragged their institutional heels, California took to the Affordable Care Act with gusto. Read more about Uncovered California: ACA Repeal's Full Cost »

Greening the Planet: The Fertilizer Effect of CO2 Slows Warming

A new study led by UC Berkeley Lab researcher Trevor Keenan suggests that increased plant growth is slowing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a finding that could help explain the mystery of why the uptick in CO2 concentrations has leveled off since 2002, even as emissions have increased. “We believed one of the planet’s main carbon sinks had unexpectedly strengthened,” Keenan explained in a Lab press release. “The question was: which one?” Read more about Greening the Planet: The Fertilizer Effect of CO2 Slows Warming »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

People Are Strange When You’re Sleep Deprived

Got a lousy night’s sleep? Feeling kinda grouchy? Turns out waking up on the wrong side of the bed won’t just make you cranky. It will make others seem that way, too. A 2015 study from the UC Berkeley Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory found that a single sleepless night can fundamentally alter the way we perceive others—making even the mellowest of fellows seem like the strangest of dangers. Read more about People Are Strange When You're Sleep Deprived »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Alumni Gazette: Rocket Science, Woman Power, and Updating The League

Ever hear that old cliché “This ain’t rocket science?” I wouldn’t use it around Ashley Chandler Karp because what she does is rocket science. A propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she’s helping design the next generation of rockets, which will bring samples from Mars back to Earth for more extensive testing than can be done on the Martian surface.

As if that weren’t ambitious enough, they also have to figure out a way to transport the stuff here without getting any contamination from the Red Planet on the container. Read more about Alumni Gazette: Rocket Science, Woman Power, and Updating The League »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Deep Down: Geologists Discover New Feature of the Cascadia Subduction Zone

To understand what’s happening on the surface of things, you must look deep within. That might be the guiding mantra of a trio of UC Berkeley geologists who are looking a hundred miles below the earth’s surface in order to better understand the tectonic forces that shape our planet. Read more about Deep Down: Geologists Discover New Feature of the Cascadia Subduction Zone »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Flu Vaccines: A Long Shot, But Better Than Nothing

With the CDC admitting that last year’s flu shot was a considerable bust and other emerging research challenging the shot’s efficacy, some are questioning if they should even bother. As a spritely 20-something who feels like she’s made of steel and impervious to all disease, I planned to meet in person with Dr. John Swartzberg, UC Berkeley professor of public health and Editorial Board Chair of Berkeley Wellness, to discuss the controversy. Read more about Flu Vaccines: A Long Shot, But Better Than Nothing »

Fish Gotta Swim: But Maybe Not in the Delta

When Donald Trump barnstormed through California during the recent presidential campaign, he declared that the California drought was a myth, a canard promulgated by conservationists to protect a “three-inch fish”—i.e., the endangered delta smelt. He huddled with San Joaquin Valley farmers, taking on their cause as his own, and declared we’d have plenty of water if we didn’t “shove it out to sea” in efforts to protect the fisheries and ecosystems of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. Read more about Fish Gotta Swim: But Maybe Not in the Delta »

Unboggling Minds: New Brain Study May Impact Language Research

Scientists have long believed that the cortex, the outer layer of the brain, was responsible for figuring out the meaning in a sentence. But a new study out of UC Berkeley shows that the hippocampus, a brain structure long believed to act as a center for linking memories together, plays an active role in extracting meaning from language.

“This gives us a new insight into how memory works in humans, and how memory interacts with the rest of the brain to produce behavior,” says study co-author and Berkeley psychology professor Robert Knight. Read more about Unboggling Minds: New Brain Study May Impact Language Research »

Clear Sound, Sleek Styling, and Microwave Radiation

The release of AirPods, those sleek wireless earbuds from Apple, is again spurring debate over the safety of radiation-emitting devices—including cell phones, WiFi routers, and wireless headsets. While U.S. regulatory agencies and some scientists believe the risk from these devices is either low or unproven, there are experts, including a UC Berkeley public health researcher, concerned about their safety. Read more about Clear Sound, Sleek Styling, and Microwave Radiation »

A Cal Alum’s Recipe for More Tuolumne River Salmon: Add Water

The Tuolumne River has long been revered by whitewater kayakers and rafters for its pristine wilderness canyon and challenging rapids. But “The T,” as it’s known by river-runners, was once famed for something else: Salmon. Before the Hetch Hetchy and Don Pedro Dams were built on the river’s upper reaches in the last century, the Tuolumne supported up to 130,000 spawning Chinook salmon annually. Read more about A Cal Alum's Recipe for More Tuolumne River Salmon: Add Water »

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