Science

Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti

More than 550 Berkeley students take your course Drugs and the Brain every year. What do you hope your students take away from the class?

Respect for the power of drugs, and specifically that all drugs are poisons as well as medicines. This is embedded in the ancient Greek word pharmakon. The origin of our words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology, it means both medicine and poison. While the ancients appreciated this dual property of drugs, it is often overlooked, even forgotten, in contemporary society.

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing

Yesenia Guitron knew something was wrong at the bank branch where she worked. She was getting complaints from customers—many from Mexico and undocumented—that they were being charged for accounts they had never opened and were receiving debit cards they had never requested. Guitron, a personal banker at a local Wells Fargo in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, began to realize that some of her colleagues, under intense pressure to open accounts, were doing so without customers’ knowledge.

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice 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.

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

Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays

Eugene Chiang became a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley in 2001 with the intention of contemplating the stars. But when he took on the role of writer, producer, director, prop/costume designer, and actor for the department’s annual holiday play, he became one himself, at least within the department.

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.”

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.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Giving Credence: Why is So Much Reported Science Wrong, and What Can Fix That?

In January, David Broockman, then a political science Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, found something unusual about a study he and fellow student Joshua Kalla were trying to replicate. The data in the original study, collected by UCLA grad student Michael LaCour and published in Science last December, had shown that gay canvassers, sent door-to-door in California neighborhoods, could, after a brief conversation about marriage equality in which the canvassers disclosed their own sexual orientation, have a lasting impact on voter attitudes on the subject.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things

Robert Glushko’s job is to think about the organization of, well, everything: Ikea, zoos, spice racks, even crime families. He tries to get at the concepts behind how and why we arrange things, and what makes certain arrangements better than others. Take a bus, for example, says the UC Berkeley School of Information professor—it’s really just a vehicle traveling on a series of points on a graph. “If you replaced it with a spaceship, it wouldn’t matter,” he says. The ideas behind plotting a route would be the same.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Can’t We All Get Along? Case Studies of Racial Tensions In and Around Progressive Berkeley

Science tells us that race is in our heads, not in our genes; it’s all a social construct.

It’s an observation that seems to illuminate everything and nothing at once. It makes it sound so arbitrary and trivial—a trick of the mind. And yet history tells us that race has mattered enormously. And the news emphasizes how much it still matters today in terms of what researchers call “life outcomes”: Your chances of securing a loan, for example; or of getting a good education; or of being shot by the police.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Printer Jam, Will Robinson

As a science fiction motif, the Robot Apocalypse ranks right up there with the Zombie Apocalypse. And, it seems, it’s more likely: anyone who has browsed Ray Kurtzweil’s work on the Singularity—the point at which computers achieve true intelligence, and discover their interests aren’t necessarily congruent with our own—may find the meteoric pace of cybernetics innovation a little disconcerting.

Pages

Subscribe to Science