Science + Health

Dietary Disruption: Startup Takes on Lucrative Supplement Market

The last time many people on the campus of UC Berkeley were paying attention to Will Smelko it was 2010. Then 22 years old, Smelko was the ASU president and he made news by vetoing a resolution urging the University to divest from companies supplying military-related equipment to Israel.

Do Cool Pavements Moderate Global Warming? It’s Complicated

If you’re considering ways to reduce urban heat and moderate global warming, cool pavements just seem like a no brainer. Asphalt, after all is dark; it absorbs heat. But light colored cement or asphalt treated with a whitish surfacing agent can reflect heat. That should make cities cooler and also reduce air conditioning demands, cutting back on electricity production and the planet-warming carbon emissions that spew from fossil-fueled power plants. Win-win, right?

Where Did the Sun Go? An Eclipse Primer

If you’re in North America, chances are you’ve heard that there will be a solar eclipse on August 21. You may even be traveling—or know people who are traveling—a goodly distance for the best view of what is essentially a monumental overcast.

So what’s the big deal?

Glad you asked! We’ve got answers to your most burning questions about the solar event of the century.

Bob Bea Takes Us on a Deep Dive Through His Dire Oroville Report

Like everyone else, Robert Bea was appalled when almost 200,000 Californians living below Oroville Dam were ordered to flee for their lives on February 12.  The evacuation was necessitated by severe erosion of the dam’s primary and emergency spillways caused by massive releases of water following torrential winter rains. But unlike most citizens, Bea knew the incident wasn’t engendered strictly by the vagaries of nature or an act of God. Human error was at play.

Is Peeing in the Pool Dangerous or Just Gross?

For many swimmers, the bracing aroma of swimming-pool chlorine is assurance that pool water is free of disease-causing microbes.

Unfortunately, that summery smell may actually signal troublesome levels of urine, sweat, and body-care products in the water. And according to researchers, bodily fluids in pool water are worse than unsavory—they react with pool disinfectants, forming chemical compounds that may be hazardous to your health.

The Skinny on Body Peace and Other Campus Resources for Eating Disorders

This spring, a handful of college kids were in a basement classroom of Barrows Hall gathered round an overhead projector. On the screen, there was a meme: a photo of a half-naked model with super-imposed text that read, “Real women have curves.” One of the students scoffed and said, “She doesn’t.” Everyone laughed. At about 5’7” and weighing in at roughly 110 pounds, she really didn’t. And noticing things like that was the point of why everyone showed up—to talk about body image.

What Does the Calving of that Huge Iceberg Mean for the Planet?

The calving of an iceberg the size of Delaware from the Antarctica Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf made a lot of waves, raising concerns that it might directly contribute to sea level rise or portend a sudden acceleration in the melting of the continent’s gigantic ice cap. But the event pointed to neither scenario, says UC Berkeley Professor of Ocean, Earth, and Climate Science Kurt Cuffey.

A Family’s History Tells the Story of California’s Great Floods

The Sacramento Valley came within a skosh of true catastrophe this winter when both the main and emergency spillways at Oroville Dam on the Feather River eroded due to high water releases necessitated by torrential rains. State officials ordered an evacuation of 200,000 residents in communities below the dam, and for a few days the possibility of a 30-foot-wall of water scouring the Sacramento Valley from Oroville to the Delta was very real indeed.

Is Brown’s Massive Water Project the Right Idea Right Now?

This week’s declaration by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service that the massive Delta tunnels proposed by the Jerry Brown administration would not cause the extinction of several imperiled fish species gave a significant boost to the behemoth project. Still, other impediments must be overcome before the digging starts and the concrete flows.

When the Elephant in the Room Is a Beached Whale

What happens when the world’s largest mammal washes up dead on your local beach? Residents of Bolinas, California were faced with this question in May, when a 79-foot blue whale turned up ashore on nearby Agate Beach. According to biologists present, the necropsy (an autopsy for animals) revealed that the whale had collided with a ship and died of blunt force trauma.

Can We Learn to Grow Color? Butterfly Wings May Hold the Answer

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, humans have been buttering up the natural world for a long time. It’s often called biomimicry. Think Olympic swimmers in sharkskin-inspired suits, bullet trains shaped like kingfisher beaks, or the ubiquitous Velcro, which was famously modeled after plant burrs.  

Yet all of these examples depend on man-made materials and processes. What if we took biomimicry one step further and learned how to grow structures the way they grow in nature?

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

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