Science + Health
The big idea: When scientists demonstrated that teleportation was possible in practice as well as theory, pop science writers immediately began musing about human transporters. Technology forecaster Paul Saffo also started thinking. “It’s like when [Berkeley professor Charles] Townes invented the laser,” he says. “Everyone thought it was going to turn into a ray gun.”
The big idea: If you’ve ever played air guitar along with your old Beatles or Jimi Hendrix albums and imagined what your wicked licks would sound like, Kris Pister, M.S. ’89, Ph.D. ’92, has great news for you.
In Spiderman 2, mild-mannered physicist Dr. Otto Octavius attaches four mechanical limbs to his own spinal cord to conduct nuclear energy experiments. Octavius manipulates the four superhuman limbs with his mind through a clever brain/machine interface. But after a radiation test goes bad, his computerized limbs compel him to do terrible deeds. He becomes the evil Dr. Octopus.
Prickly ethical and political issues are rarely circumvented by a technical trick in a laboratory. But that’s what Shinya Yamanaka appears to have achieved. A former UCSF postdoctoral researcher who later became a stem cell scientist in his native Japan, he’s returning to the Bay Area to work his scientific magic at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.
Imagine a machine that can tell from your brain activity alone, what images you’ve just seen. It sounds like something straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel.
In 2004 economics and public health professor Paul Gertler was invited by the Mexican government to study a program called Piso Firme, or “firm floor,” a deceptively simple public health initiative in which families were given an average of $150 worth of wet cement for domestic flooring. To measure the efficacy of the program, Gertler and his colleagues traveled to Torreón, in Coahuila, where Piso Firme had been implemented, and neighboring Gómez Palacio/Lerdo, in Durango, where it had not.
A crosswalk might appear to be the safest route across a busy, multi-lane street, but research conducted by the Federal Highway Administration shows that pedestrians are almost five times more likely to be struck in a painted crosswalk than at an unmarked crossing.
Phytophthora ramorum is a silent killer that burrows through the bark of its victim to feed on the nutrient-rich cambium. Californians may recognize P. ramorum as the pathogen responsible for Sudden Oak Death, the forest disease that has spread to 14 coastal counties and killed more than 1 million oaks since it was first reported in 1994. The pathogen also infects, but does not usually kill, other species, including rhododendron, redwood, and bay laurel.
When Haas School of Business professor Eduardo Andrade and his wife-to-be were planning their first trip to Las Vegas, she insisted they hold themselves to a budget. So Andrade was surprised when the usually pragmatic woman, having quickly lost her allotment, abandoned her plan and continued gambling. Intrigued, he decided to find out what had changed her mind.
As you probably know by now, dinosaurs didn’t really go extinct—they evolved into birds.
The paradigm-shifting moment came in 1964 when Yale paleontologist John Ostrom found a dinosaur fossil that reminded him more of a modern raptor than it did a lizard. The discovery led Ostrom to conclude that birds, not reptiles, are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs.
As Berkeley’s director of sustainability, Lisa McNeilly will first need to figure out what, exactly, she’s supposed to do. Tasked by Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom with “fostering a culture of sustainability and adding accountability to our climate commitment,” McNeilly recognizes that such language explains little of how to get where we’re going. Since assuming the newly created position in January, McNeilly has been acquainting herself with existing environmental initiatives around the campus, many of which have been driven by students.
At first blush the challenge seemed ridiculous: Turn 50,000 square feet of raw space at San Francisco’s Fort Mason into a gleaming gourmet pavilion. The materials had to be free or really cheap, sustainable or at least recycled, have a connection to food, and preferably come from someplace local. Oh, and the installation timeline: three days. The pay: nothing.