Science + Health

Well in Control: Berkeley Startup Helps People Find Out What They’re Drinking

Two factors that contributed to the poisoning of tens of thousands of Washington, D.C., residents through their drinking water in the early 2000s—lead pipes and a disinfectant called chloramine—continue to coexist in countless water systems nationwide, including in the Bay Area. But not to worry, says UC Berkeley water expert and engineering professor David Sedlak; they’re safe when properly managed, which happens in the vast majority of public water systems. Read more about Well in Control: Berkeley Startup Helps People Find Out What They’re Drinking »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Breathing Easier: A New Device Could Help Detect Asthma Attacks Before They Start

To a very real degree, Charvi Shetty’s future was molded by her college roommate. Or rather, her roommate’s health.

“She had asthma,” says Shetty, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a bioengineering degree in 2012 and took a master’s in biomedical imaging from UCSF in 2013. “She had to use an inhaler six times a day. She told me that her childhood memories were of going to the ER, not Disneyland or the beach, and she was never allowed to play outside because of her allergies. Asthma controlled her life.” Read more about Breathing Easier: A New Device Could Help Detect Asthma Attacks Before They Start »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods

It is a curious thing to consider that UC Berkeley, a school notably lacking a marine biology program, has produced not one, not two, but three published studies on the venerable octopus within the last year. But then octopuses, too, are curious to consider. They have three hearts; blue, copper-based blood; regenerating tentacles; and a level of sentience unique among invertebrates. Read more about Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Fire Fight: FEMA Yanks Fuel Reduction Funds After Conservation Group Wages Legal Battle

Next month will mark the 25th anniversary of the Oakland Hills Fire, the epochal conflagration that started on October 19 and, driven by strong northeasterly winds, burned more than 1,500 acres over three days, killing 25 people and destroying some 2,500 homes and 400 apartments.

Anyone who lived in the Bay Area at that time will recall the massive column of smoke that rose from the East Bay during the day and the walls of flame that limned the topography of the hills at night. Those three days felt nothing short of apocalyptic. Read more about Fire Fight: FEMA Yanks Fuel Reduction Funds After Conservation Group Wages Legal Battle »

Nobelist Randy Schekman Is Not Resting on His Laurels

When Randy Schekman looks up from his computer screen, which he now spends more time staring at than petri dishes, his eyes sometimes fall on a faded copy of Cell displayed nearby. The issue is dated June 17, 1994, and the cover depicts a swarm of magnified vesicles—tiny sacs that transport molecules inside cells—resembling a crowd of miniature suns. Read more about Nobelist Randy Schekman Is Not Resting on His Laurels »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.” Read more about Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor. »

Picture of Suffering: Charles Briggs Documents Rabies and Disease in Venezuela

Venezuela, whose citizenry and economy have both been unhealthy, is enduring yet another economic collapse, which has triggered yet another outbreak of disease. This time, it’s malaria. During the first six months of this year, 125,000 cases have been reported—a health crisis the government has tried to minimize, if not repudiate, and not for the first time. Read more about Picture of Suffering: Charles Briggs Documents Rabies and Disease in Venezuela »

What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia?

In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.

“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.” Read more about What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia? »

Why Don’t We Do It in the Tree? New research sheds light on frog lovin’

Generally speaking, frogs are a lusty and uninhibited bunch. When it comes to lovin’, most ranids prefer an orgiastic approach. They congregate in tepid ponds in huge numbers, the females laying masses of gelatinous eggs, which the males then inseminate. Typically, the males grasp the females with the forelimbs to stimulate egg extrusion. So many frogs can get into the act that they sometimes form huge “mating balls” of quivering amphibian flesh. Read more about Why Don’t We Do It in the Tree? New research sheds light on frog lovin' »

Your Brain on Carbon Dioxide: Research Finds Even Low Levels of Indoor CO2 Impair Thinking

In the mid-2000s, William Fisk, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, stumbled upon two obscure Hungarian studies that challenged common assumptions about the air indoors. The studies suggested that, even at relatively low levels, carbon dioxide could impair how well people thought and worked. Read more about Your Brain on Carbon Dioxide: Research Finds Even Low Levels of Indoor CO2 Impair Thinking »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Whooshing into the Future: Aiming to Make Speed-of-Sound Commutes a Reality

Remember pneumatic tubes, those compressed-air pipelines that whisked plastic canisters from basement mailrooms to penthouse boardrooms? Imagine being in one, traveling at more than 700 mph. You could make the round-trip from San Francisco to LA in a little over an hour. That may sound like science fiction, but it could one day be a reality thanks to the efforts of engineering students at UC Berkeley and elsewhere. Read more about Whooshing into the Future: Aiming to Make Speed-of-Sound Commutes a Reality »

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

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