Science + Health

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.

The Starship or the Canoe: Where Will Our Future Adaptations Be?

IN 2015, an observatory high in the Atacama Desert of Chile detected three planets orbiting an M star, an ultra-cool dwarf, in the constellation Aquarius about 40 light years, or 232 trillion miles, from Earth. Until then, the dim star was designated 2MASS J23062928-0502285. Not such a charming name. The discoverers of its satellites, a team of astronomers who operate the Chilean observatory remotely from Liege in Belgium, took the opportunity to warm up that appellation.

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

The Buzz About the Zika Virus

Nearly a year after the Rio Olympics, babies in the city’s favelas are still being born with microcephaly as a consequence of the Zika virus. The mosquito-borne disease has been identified by the World Health Organization as a congenital epidemic of international concern, yet one seldom hears about it in the international media. That’s a far cry from the lead-up to the Games, when a steady parade of Zika headlines sparked near-hysteria.

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

What Cal Experts Are Saying About the Paris Climate Accord Exit

Today, standing amongst the vibrant natural beauty of the White House Rose Garden, Trump said America will be “getting out” of the Paris Accord, an agreement among 195 countries to gradually reduce climate change to protect nature. Feeling the heat of this decision, UC Berkeley professors take to the Internet to explain what “getting out” of the agreement will get us into.

Racism Might Be Bad for Your Heart Whether You’re Black Or White

Racism hurts the heart. Both black and white residents of counties where whites reported more racist attitudes were more likely to die from heart disease than those in areas with lower racial bias, according to a recent study from Berkeley psychology researchers. The relationship between whites’ racial bias and death rates was more pronounced for blacks, according to the study, which appeared in the journal Psychological Science last fall.

Tesla Is Breaking Records Galore. But Is the Eco Hype Overblown?

One of the best ways to flaunt your Earth-hugging bona fides these days is to buy an electric car. It shows you’re willing to put your money—a lot of your money—where your mouth is, assuming your mouth spends a fair amount of time declaiming on global warming, atmospheric carbon emissions, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and the sinister intentions of the global hydrocarbon extraction cabal. Buying a Tesla demonstrates you’re doing your part to keep our planet cool and green.

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