Science + Health

No.16 Label Me if You Must

The big idea: An eye-pleasing, data-rich tag that tells consumers how much CO2 and other pollutants were emitted during the production, packaging, and transportation of the product.

The players: “This goes way beyond tracking how much CO2 you emit when you drive your car one mile,” says Daniel Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group. “We’re talking about measuring everything, all the energy it takes to get a product to the consumer and all the pollution that’s created.”

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

No.15 My Pants Have Ideas of Their Own

The big idea: “Smart clothing” is the catchphrase for a genre of clothing that directly integrates computer technology with fabric.

For instance, Levi Strauss & Co., based in San Francisco, is working on a jacket that will play music. Levi already features a few garments that host gadgets such as iPods attached to the outside. But the goal is to integrate the technology, as it were, seamlessly.

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

No.12 Beam Us Up. For real.

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.”

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

No.10 The Ultimate Machine

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.

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

No.1 Nonpartisan Stem Cells

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.

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

Dirt Simple

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.

From the July August 2008 Summer Sports Issue issue of California.

Don’t Walk, Run!

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.

From the July August 2008 Summer Sports Issue issue of California.

Tracking a Killer

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.

From the July August 2008 Summer Sports Issue issue of California.

Going for Broke

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.

From the July August 2008 Summer Sports Issue issue of California.

Terrible Lizards, Better Birds

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.

From the July August 2008 Summer Sports Issue issue of California.

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