Science + Health

The Blind Leading the Blind: Designing an Inclusive World

Joshua Miele has been blind ever since a violent acid attack took away his vision before his 5th birthday. But he says he no longer spends time wishing he could see. Instead, from his office at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, he dreams up new technologies for the blind, and helps turn those visions into reality: maps that can talk, YouTube videos that can speak, electronic gloves that can text.

Stretch Your Appeal: In Fast-Paced Dating World, Take Up Space to Stand Out

In online dating, a picture is worth much more than a thousand words. When Christian Rudder, a founder of OKCupid, analyzed the dating website’s data, he found that profile photos drove 90% of users’ choices. With so much riding on a split-second impression, what’s the best way to impress potential mates?

Suffer the Children: Long-Term Study Hopes to Unravel Complexities of Chemical Exposure

Chamacos means “little children,” and it’s also an acronym for Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas. Since 1999, when the UC Berkeley-led program enrolled 601 pregnant mothers for a long-term study investigating the impact of agricultural and other chemicals on children, the project’s prolific research output—78 published papers to date—has made news numerous times.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

American Mastadon: Did Forests Edge Out Megafauna, Or the Other Way Around?

Why does North America have so many trees and so few elephants?

One of the many mysteries in the fossil record is the late-Quaternary extinction, that wholesale shift of plant and animal life as the Ice Age ended at the close of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene, a die-off that included about half of the world’s large-bodied animals. Forests grew up, and into the tar pit went the saber-tooth tiger, giant horses, five-ton sloths, and honking big mammoths and mastodons.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

‘Once a Doper, Always a Doper’—Olympic Runner Denounces 2nd-Chance Racers

The way Alysia Montaño sees it, she should have one Olympic and two world championships medals, instead of none. The former UC Berkeley runner finished fourth in the 800 meters at the 2011 world championships, fifth in the 2012 London Olympics, and fourth again at the 2013 world championships. In each of those races, she finished behind athletes who now face bans after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots

Punk rock, which was big during the years writer Sam Quinones spent at UC Berkeley, turned out to be more than just the background noise of an undergraduate life.

For Quinones, who double-majored in economics and American history, it provided an opportunity. He produced several punk shows while he was a student living at the now-shuttered Barrington Hall co-op, bringing in well-known bands such as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “They were probably the biggest shows ever at Barrington Hall,” he said.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Retraction Action: Science Fraud Is Up, but More Retractions Could Be a Good Thing

Scientific retractions are on the rise. In 2001 there were 40 incidents in which published results of scientific research were retracted, but in less than a decade that number had ballooned to 400. And yes, the publication rate had also increased during that time, but by only 44 percent—not nearly enough to explain away a tenfold jump in retractions.

So why is this happening?

Bench Press for Success? Research Finds We See Muscle Men as Leaders

You can dress for success all you want, but if you’re a male, you might want to also make sure you hit the weights. A new study finds that people are more willing to perceive leadership qualities and confer status to men who are muscular.

As for females, the study suggests being buff doesn’t make a difference.

California’s Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons

The drought may not have caused California’s water crisis, but it’s certainly brought it to the attention of a public largely uninterested in it until government fiat made shorter showers and dead lawns de rigueur. State water demand has outstripped supply for decades. Water rights claims for the massive State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project outpace average annual supplies by at least five fold.

From Solo to Social: Research Project Banishes Isolation at SRO—For a While

When Chris Chambers, 55, moved into Oakland’s Lakehurst Hotel, he went from sleeping by the Walgreens on Telegraph Avenue to sleeping in a tiny hotel room in a place where he wouldn’t allow himself to get close with any of his neighbors. But he was used to being alone.

Kill the Suckers: Would a Mosquito Apocalypse Be a Catastrophe or a Godsend?

When I was growing up in Queens, NY, mosquitoes tortured us all through the muggy summers. I ran around with pink splotches of calamine lotion covering my arms and legs. The cold of the lotion soothed the itch for about seven seconds. Never stopped me from scratching. We hated mosquitoes. We wanted them to disappear—not just from Queens, but from the face of the earth.

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