Science + Health

Should Our Pets Be Vegans, Too?

It’s a cruel world, but a new Berkeley start-up aims to make it just bit kinder and gentler. Wild Earth, a company spearheaded by biohacking wunderkind Ryan Bethencourt, is working up a line of fungus-based pet foods. It’s the kind of venture that, at first whiff, lends itself to some Anthony Bourdain like lampooning: It’s not enough that you don’t want to eat anything with a face. You don’t want your dog to do any face-eating either.

Save Water, Drink Hopless Beer

Here in the Bay Area, where local, organic, and fresh have long been dominant adjectives as well as a prevailing ethos around what we consume, genetically modified alternatives are forcing consumers to confront a new understanding of authenticity when it comes to food and drink. And what’s brewing at Berkeley might just have beer enthusiasts clutching their pearls—or their hops.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Molecules of Life: Seeing the Way to Longer, Healthier Living

The Breakthrough

Researchers at Berkeley have produced the first detailed picture of the molecular structure of human telomerase, an enzyme that plays key roles in both the repair of aging cells and the endless cellular rejuvenation typical of cancers. Berkeley biology professors Kathleen Collins and Eva Nogales published their discovery, complete with 3D images, in the journal Nature in April.

The Background

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Fresh Blood: What Theranos Leaves In Its Wake

The big question is why the scam wasn’t detected earlier. Theranos promised the moon—or at least a full battery of blood tests from a minim of blood—but it never came close to delivering.

Does Science Benefit From the Search for Sasquatch?

Last week, we published a two-part profile on UC Berkeley grad and anthropologist Grover Krantz, known to many as the original “Bigfoot scientist.” (You can find the first part of the profile here and the second half here.) Today, we examine the question of whether mythological creatures like Bigfoot are worthy of scientific analysis.

The Musical Mathematics of Rob Schneiderman

The best jazz musicians can bend and twist time, changing meter mid-phrase to fold a melody back on itself, or stretching a beat so that it seems to hang, pregnant, in mid-air. As a first-call pianist in New York City, Rob Schneiderman spent more than a decade expanding and compressing music’s temporal dimensions with jazz legends such as trumpeter Chet Baker, trombonist J.J. Johnson, and saxophonist James Moody, while also recording a series of critically hailed albums under his own name.

WATCH: What’s In A Fossil?

Want more? For a behind-the-scenes tour of the ancient bones of the Campanile, check out Part 1 here.

The Man, The Myth, and The Legend of Grover Krantz

In the early 1990s in Sequim, Washington, on the heavily forested Olympic Peninsula, anthropologist Grover Krantz was building a helicopter to search for Sasquatch. He ordered the kit from some guy in the Midwest and spent several years trying to assemble it. He hoped the craft would provide the aerial view necessary to locate and retrieve a Bigfoot carcass.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Hot Topic: What Do We Really Know About Volcanoes?

Ongoing volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala are leading to speculation that volcanism in general may be on an upswing. The anecdotal evidence, at least, is tantalizing: There have been about 25 major eruptions around the world from 2000 to 2018, compared to 65 for the entire 20th Century.

WATCH: The Bones of the Campanile

There’s more to dusty old bones than meets the eye. For more on what fossils can teach us about climate change and evolution, watch Part 2 here.

7 Things to Know about California’s New Solar Panel Policy

Earlier this month, California became the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The mandate, which comes from the California Energy Commission (CEC), will take effect in 2020, making solar power even more common in a state that already boasts about half the country’s solar generating capacity. Part of the motivation for the new policy is California’s ambitious goal to be producing 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Can’t Beat the Devil? Eat the Devil.

It’s as ugly as a box of rocks and a literal scum-sucker to boot. But don’t judge a fish by its exterior: The dietary proclivities of the South American armored catfish excite aquarium hobbyists, who employ the homely bottom feeders to hoover up the algae and slime that accrete to their tanks.

Is WaterFix Another Megaproject Gone Awry?

The 20th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities.

New Report: How UC Can Meet Its Ambitious 2025 Carbon Neutrality Goal

The University of California believes it can go carbon neutral by 2025. That means zero carbon emissions from powering its buildings and vehicles on all ten campuses. But according to a recent report and related commentary by experts from across the system in the journal Nature, it could be a tough goal to reach. That’s a position shared by Berkeley professor and energy expert Dan Kammen, who was not affiliated with the report. “We’re not actually on pace for our 2025 goal,” he said—more like 2035 or 2040.

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