In less than a year, all cosmetics sold in Europe will have to be “cruelty-free—that is, developed without the use of animal testing. As the industry sweats over the new regulations, chemical engineering professor Douglas Clark, together with Jonathan Dordick of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the team at Solidus Biosciences, the company Clark co-founded, are busy developing a solution.
Science + Health
If the Cal researchers consulting on Sonoma’s sustainability initiative have their way, the project will shift the greenhouse gas reduction focus away from a free-market approach known as cap-and-trade to more localized, technology-based fixes.
There’s a certain aura of mystery surrounding the birth of an idea, but rarely is the question asked: What’s next? Ashok Gadgil, Ph.D. ’80, knows that the “eureka!” moment is just the beginning; developing and implementing an idea is the hardest part.
Every day scientists announce frontier discoveries or breakthroughs. Some signal new technologies, others life-improving or life-saving medicines. Most never pan out.
In March of 1989, a pair of chemists announced a discovery that essentially took a sandblaster to modern physics. But rather than publish in the journal Nature, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann called a press conference and excitedly announced that, using a jar of lukewarm water and a simple diode, they could create the same nuclear fusion that fuels the core of the sun.
The big idea: Nanotech is handing medical science a scalpel in place of a chemical sledgehammer. At the molecular (as opposed to cellular) level, chemical elements change radically. Bouncy elements become hard; sticky ones become slick. In the macro world, gold is used to fill cavities. In the nanoworld, gold can be bonded to a cancer cell and then cooked with lasers to destroy the malignant cell.
The big idea: Physics professor Alex Zettl and a team of solid-state physics researchers have created the world’s smallest radio. It has all the major parts of a conventional radio—tuner, antenna, amplifier, and demodulator—but, remarkably, all in one tiny tube that’s 10,000 times thinner than the width of a single hair.
The big idea: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”—the cheesy TV-ad catchphrase should reach its final resting place shortly. For elders needing help, at-home support is in the works.
The big idea: Ever since women started having their babies in hospitals, they’ve been asking their doctors, their Lamaze instructors, and especially their poor, clueless husbands, “How will I know when it’s time to go?”
For nearly 30 years, scientists thought cells develop into specific cell types nerve, skin, or liver cells, for instance in exactly the same way. But researchers Robert Tjian of Berkeley and Maria Divina E. Deato of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, working with skeletal muscle cells, are throwing this basic premise into doubt.
The big idea: The term “low-carb” took on new meaning when California adopted the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), the world’s first greenhouse gas standard for transportation fuels.
In a state where transportation accounts for 41 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (compared to a national average of 32 percent), the commitment to reduce carbon intensity of fuels by 10 percent by 2020 is significant—and inspiring.
In the race to create cleaner energy, one of the dark horses is heat conversion: capturing heat that we expend in making energy, and making it into more energy. It’s made possible by a loophole in the second law of thermodynamics that says you can derive energy from a situation where there is a large difference in temperature—like, say, the surface of a running engine block. In an engine that uses 50 kilowatts to go up a hill, 1 kilowatt might run your lights and air conditioning.