Science + Health

Salty or Sweet?

Experience has shown us where there’s sugar, there’s usually ants. But Berkeley biologist Robert Dudley and his colleagues found that in inland areas, ants swarmed to salt solutions in preference to sugar, their basic food. The study suggests that the availability of sodium could be what limits plant-eating ant populations globally. Read more about Salty or Sweet? »

From the March April 2009 The Soul of Wit issue of California.

Foolproof Funny

For those with a refined punchline palate, Jester, the Online Joke Recommender, is a dream come true. The website’s premise is simple: Read eight jokes and rate them according to how funny you find them. After that, Jester will begin suggesting new material tailored to your tastes. Whether you’re a fan of shaggy-dog yarns or snappy one-liners, you’ll find plenty of material for your next social gathering or paper presentation. Read more about Foolproof Funny »

From the March April 2009 The Soul of Wit issue of California.

The Stars Her Destination

Natalie Batalha’s worst enemy is the clock. Installed around the corner from her office at NASA Ames Research Center, a looming LED display is counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the launch of the Kepler Mission: NASA’s first attempt to find habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy.

“It’s terrible,” says Batalha ’89, who has been working on the mission for eight years. “It recently rolled over from 300 to 299, and I could just feel my blood pressure rising.” Read more about The Stars Her Destination »

From the November December 2008 Stars of Berkeley issue of California.

Lion King: Berkeley Carnivore Research Works to Halt the Decline of African Predators

In Kenya, it seems everyone has a favorite Laurence Frank story.

In his book, A Primate’s Memoir, baboon researcher Robert Sapolsky recalls encountering Frank in the Maasai Mara in southwestern Kenya. Sapolsky describes Frank as “Laurence of the Hyenas,” a wild man who stalks through the bush at night, oblivious to danger, using infrared vision goggles to study large carnivores. Read more about Lion King: Berkeley Carnivore Research Works to Halt the Decline of African Predators »

From the January February 2009 Effect Change issue of California.

Life on Mars?

In June, U.S. space scientists announced “with great pride and a lot of joy,” that they had spotted frozen water—ice—in robotic images from the surface of Mars. The discovery confirmed a scientific prediction by a Berkeley chemist nearly 40 years ago. Mars is wet. Oddly, he based the prediction on a totally erroneous observation. Read more about Life on Mars? »

From the November December 2008 Stars of Berkeley issue of California.

Blown Apart

“Your job as a scientist is to figure out how you’re fooling yourself,” Saul Perlmutter declares. The famed astrophysicist is sitting in the cafeteria at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, eating a falafel. Normally he talks at a machine-gun pace, but his speech, between bites, is measured. He glances out a big picture window toward the Berkeley hills and the fog-veiled universe beyond. “Our brains are … so good at seeing patterns that we sometimes see patterns that aren’t there.” Read more about Blown Apart »

From the November December 2008 Stars of Berkeley issue of California.

The Connected Commute

Berkeley assistant professor Alex Bayen was floating mobile phones down the Sacramento River one day in 2007 when he received a call that would change his life. Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, was on the other end. They wanted to know if Bayen, a researcher in Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, could do the same thing with traffic that he was doing with rivers; namely, use cell phones to reconstruct flow patterns. Bayen said he could, and the $6 million Mobile Millennium project was born. Read more about The Connected Commute »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

Teaching Method

After launching the Understanding Evolution website as an educational source for the public in 2004, researchers at Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology quickly discovered that many people lacked a grounding in the fundamentals of science. For example, some didn’t grasp the distinction between scientific fact and theory, or didn’t fully appreciate the complex workings of the scientific method. Read more about Teaching Method »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

Do Babies Spell Doom for Marriages?

If you believe a recent study that’s been all over the news, children are wrecking your marriage.

According to the study, many couples complain of marital discord within a year after the arrival of the first baby. Another study out of Berkeley that was covered by The New York Times concluded that couples who hold on until the children leave home find a return to nuptial bliss. Read more about Do Babies Spell Doom for Marriages? »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

The View from Above

Charles Benton began by choosing the right kite for the strong April winds blowing at San Francisco’s Crissy Field. He had three “soft” kites stuffed into his backpack—soft because they don’t rely on stiff frames to hold their shape. He pulled out the largest one and attached it to a line. The wad of bright nylon fabric filled with wind and rose into the air, straining powerfully against its tether—powerfully enough to loft his digital camera skyward. Read more about The View from Above »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

The Skinny on School Lunches

Elementary students in the Berkeley Unified School District have some strange eating habits. No Pop-Tarts, no cheese-flavored Doritos, not even those little doughnuts with the powdered sugar. They prefer weeditos—their own version of burritos. At recess, the kids run to the garden—all 16 of the schools in the district have one—tear themselves off a big chard leaf, fill it with a handful of edible flowers and a plump radish, roll it up, and chow down. Sometimes they go back for seconds and thirds.

Then they go home and ask for spinach. Read more about The Skinny on School Lunches »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

Here Below

Several months ago, as winter had begun darkening the afternoon landscape and we were driving along the rolling fields of central France, my friend Christophe said, “There’s something almost erotic about these bare fields.”

“Comment?” I said, as he had made the comment in French, which came out just a bit differently: “Il me semble qu’il y a une presence d’erotisme dans les champs nus.” Read more about Here Below »

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

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