Science + Health

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

From the May June 2009 Go Bare issue of California.

A Campus Kyoto

These days , all the cool kids are “carbon neutral.” Presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd is into it. So are the nation’s mayors. Even the Presbyterian Church says it will neutralize emissions. So it is only fair that the colleges and universities housing most global warming scientists take a stab at it, too.

From the September October 2007 Green Tech issue of California.


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