Science + Health

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.

Cal’s Queen of Green

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.

From the September October 2008 Sustainable Blueprint issue of California.

Slow Food Wrap

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.

From the September October 2008 Sustainable Blueprint issue of California.

Count Down

Electronic voting systems have been regarded with suspicion by the public in the wake of accusations that the machines have lost or miscounted votes. The manufacturers involved have improved their equipment in an attempt to regain voters’ trust, but even now Berkeley cryptologist David Wagner finds that not enough has changed: The systems are still vulnerable.

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

Lucky Star

The first indication that something big was happening arrived in Maryam Modjaz’s inbox on January 10. The “circular” came from Princeton scientists who noticed a burst of X-rays while reviewing data from a NASA satellite. The event was labeled XRT 080109, and at first, all anyone knew for sure was that it was a transient—an object that quickly becomes luminous and then fades away (XRT stands for X-ray transient).

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

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