Science + Health

Fracking Changed Everything. Now What?

Things were looking pretty sunny for alternative energy sources back in 2005. Though still resisted by conservative politicians and allied voters, human-caused climate change was accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists, many business leaders, and even the Pentagon. Energy security was a major concern for the armed services, given that U.S. troops were fighting and dying in Iraq, home to the world’s fifth largest reserve of oil—the substance that America was “addicted to,” according to President (and former oil man) George W. Bush.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

Big Science in Action: Nobel Laureate Barry Barish Helped Open a New Window on the Universe

The year was 1956. Barry Barish was a junior at Cal doing research at the California Radiation Laboratory, or Rad Lab (known today as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). When his professors were too busy to see him, he’d wander into the 184-inch cyclotron—a larger sequel to Ernest Lawrence’s fabled particle accelerators—invented at Berkeley and famous for blasting into existence an array of new heavy elements, including plutonium, berkelium, and californium.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

Expert: CA Universal Healthcare May Have a Chance If ACA Flatlines

The Affordable Care Act, never a particularly robust program, now appears headed for the ICU. But that isn’t to say the dream of universal health care is dead.  

Many advocates say we can still get there from here; we just have to go through the states. Or more accurately, big, blue and economically powerful states. California, specifically.

The Big Suck: Can Atmospheric Carbon Removal Stop Climate Calamity?

Strategies to deal with climate change have focused largely on reducing emissions of CO2 and other planet-warming compounds from industry, transportation and agriculture. The news isn’t particularly heartening on that front. After three years of leveling off, CO2 levels are expected to rise by two percent by the end of 2017, due largely to increased coal-burning in China.

Are Wet Winters or Drought Worse for California Fires?

Disastrous wildfires are popularly associated with drought. But the North Bay fires followed one of the wettest winters in decades.

The nightly news tends to make things even more confusing. During drought, newscasters sound the alarm about dead trees and the general flammability of parched forests. After wet winters, dire warnings are issued about the abundant growth of grass and brush that will become tinder during the hot, dry days of California’s summer and fall. So are wet winters worse for fires? Or are dry winters worse?

Chewing the Fat: This Is What the Public Dialogue On Obesity Is Missing

We’re still living large. Very large. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, 39.8 percent of adult Americans and 18.5 percent of American youths were obese in 2016. While these rates aren’t much worse than those from a couple of years ago, they’re not any better either. Obesity, in short, is a slow motion crisis that is stripping health and ultimately longevity from almost half the population.

Physicist Q&A: Trump “Makes Sense” On Energy, Not On Climate

Richard Muller is a Berkeley physics professor, senior scientist at Berkeley Lab, and founder of the group Berkeley Earth, a non-profit established to systematically address the concerns of climate change skeptics. (Muller considers himself a converted skeptic.) He is the author of numerous books including The Instant Physicist and most recently Now: The Physics of Time.

Burning Question: Can California Prevent the Next Wildfire?

Santa Rosa and Sonoma County officials are now in the post mortem phase of the North Bay fire storms, asking what could’ve been done to avoid the tragedy and what can be done in the future to prevent similar conflagrations. Discussions largely have focused on tighter zoning and fire ordinances. Those are appropriate areas to focus on, say many wildfire experts, but municipalities and counties inevitably face pressures that make effective wildfire risk reduction difficult.

WATCH: Does This Thing Have Selfhood?

What is the self? The answer to the question, often explained away by religious thinkers and philosophers as “spirit” or “soul,” has long been science’s “big blind spot,” says Terrence Deacon, neuroscientist and professor at UC Berkeley.  

I Thought I Knew What It Was Like to Be Displaced. I Was Wrong.

As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee. Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.

Or at least, like an evacuee, which can feel distinctly refugee-esque to a citizen of a developed country who has never been forced to leave home and possessions due to conflict or natural catastrophe.

Students Sink Their Teeth Into the Search for a Meat Alternative

That Wagyu porterhouse makes any carnivore salivate, but tasty as many people find it, there’s no doubt that meat exacts a price both on human health and the environment.  A number of studies confirm links between red meat consumption and disease, including extensive research in Britain and Germany concluding that vegetarians are 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than carnivores.

What’s the Deal with Gravitational Waves? An Explainer

After much speculation and bated breath, two-time UC Berkeley alumnus Barry C. Barish (BA ‘57, PhD ‘62)  has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

Barish shares the prize with fellow Caltech physicist Kip Thorne and MIT physicist Rainer Weiss. The trio earned the recognition for their groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space that spread through the universe.

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