Science + Health

Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots

Punk rock, which was big during the years writer Sam Quinones spent at UC Berkeley, turned out to be more than just the background noise of an undergraduate life.

For Quinones, who double-majored in economics and American history, it provided an opportunity. He produced several punk shows while he was a student living at the now-shuttered Barrington Hall co-op, bringing in well-known bands such as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. “They were probably the biggest shows ever at Barrington Hall,” he said. Read more about Opium Dreamland: Reporter Sam Quinones on Heroin, Pills and his Punk-Rock Roots »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Like Fungi in the Bank: Sierra Nevada Forests Invest in Fire-Withstanding Fungi

The Rim Fire, sweeping through the Sierra Nevada in 2013, rendered 257,000 acres of vegetation into ash, razed whole stands of trees, and ranked as the third biggest wildfire in California history. But the conflagration also sparked a discovery, if you happened to be a mycologist running a field experiment in the area. UC Berkeley Ph.D. Read more about Like Fungi in the Bank: Sierra Nevada Forests Invest in Fire-Withstanding Fungi »

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Retraction Action: Science Fraud Is Up, but More Retractions Could Be a Good Thing

Scientific retractions are on the rise. In 2001 there were 40 incidents in which published results of scientific research were retracted, but in less than a decade that number had ballooned to 400. And yes, the publication rate had also increased during that time, but by only 44 percent—not nearly enough to explain away a tenfold jump in retractions.

So why is this happening? Read more about Retraction Action: Science Fraud Is Up, but More Retractions Could Be a Good Thing »

Bench Press for Success? Research Finds We See Muscle Men as Leaders

You can dress for success all you want, but if you’re a male, you might want to also make sure you hit the weights. A new study finds that people are more willing to perceive leadership qualities and confer status to men who are muscular.

As for females, the study suggests being buff doesn’t make a difference. Read more about Bench Press for Success? Research Finds We See Muscle Men as Leaders »

California’s Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons

The drought may not have caused California’s water crisis, but it’s certainly brought it to the attention of a public largely uninterested in it until government fiat made shorter showers and dead lawns de rigueur. State water demand has outstripped supply for decades. Water rights claims for the massive State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project outpace average annual supplies by at least five fold. Read more about California's Water System Leaks Like a Sieve—How To Save Millions of Gallons »

Kill the Suckers: Would a Mosquito Apocalypse Be a Catastrophe or a Godsend?

When I was growing up in Queens, NY, mosquitoes tortured us all through the muggy summers. I ran around with pink splotches of calamine lotion covering my arms and legs. The cold of the lotion soothed the itch for about seven seconds. Never stopped me from scratching. We hated mosquitoes. We wanted them to disappear—not just from Queens, but from the face of the earth. Read more about Kill the Suckers: Would a Mosquito Apocalypse Be a Catastrophe or a Godsend? »

Heat Wave: Does State’s Slip into an Early Spring Mean El Niño Rains Are Almost Over?

All the recent sunshine and budding crocuses and gentle zephyrs may feel like the current El Niño is over, that we can bid adieu to the pounding rain, the surging rivers, the landslides, the Sierra blizzards, the stranded motorists on Donner Summit. Don’t bet on it. Read more about Heat Wave: Does State's Slip into an Early Spring Mean El Niño Rains Are Almost Over? »

All’s Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water

The drought gets a lot of undeserved blame for California’s water crisis. Naturally, four dry years have exacerbated the problem, but the real culprit is the state’s Gold Rush–era water law, which has allowed landowners to sink wells that suck ever deeper and drier— unfettered by any accountability to their neighbors, their region, or the state. Historically low groundwater levels have resulted, spawning all kinds of Wild West drama. The Central Valley is sinking! A thousand Tulare County wells go dry! Read more about All's Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water »

It’s Elementary: Berkeley Can Bask in the Glow as More Elements Hit Periodic Table

The recent inclusion of four new elements to the periodic table was cause for the clinking of champagne glasses at places where people cook up such exotic stuff, including Berkeley. One reason is that credit for some of these latest discoveries goes to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was itself birthed out of UC Berkeley. Read more about It's Elementary: Berkeley Can Bask in the Glow as More Elements Hit Periodic Table »

Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference?

In the short but statistic-fueled period after every recent U.S. mass shooting, the gun control debate is roused from its intermittent slumber. Whether the victims are in grade-school classrooms in Sandy Hook, on a college campus in Oregon, at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, or attending a holiday party in San Bernadino, the results have become predictable. Gun control advocates plead for tighter restrictions that might curb violence. Read more about Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference? »

Straw Into Gold: New Way to Retrieve CO2 From Air and Recycle It Into Useful Products

Turning an undesirable substance into something valuable seems like the plot of an old fable, but UC Berkeley researchers Chris Chang and Omar Yaghi may have done just that. Their invention, covalent organic frameworks, or COFs, can transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into a useful building block for biodegradable plastics, fuel, and more.

Chang likens COFs to TinkerToys, though at a nano scale. They consist of strings of carbon crystals that are special in their unique porosity, as they can be custom tailored to capture the chemical of choice. Read more about Straw Into Gold: New Way to Retrieve CO2 From Air and Recycle It Into Useful Products »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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