UC Berkeley

Engineering Sisters Design, Ship Bargain Bots to Engage Diverse Kids—Especially Girls

The two robots spin and lurch, their little electric motors whirring against each other as a bevy of kids look on, their eyes bulging and their shoulders scrunched almost up to their ears in rapt attention. A girl of about 12 with long black hair scratches her chin, smiling nervously—a smile that twists into a grimace as her robot battles too near the edge of the circular table. She talks to her robot, goads it on, giggles. When that fails, she resorts to body English, rapping her right hand against her hip three times.

Do-It-Yourself Biology? Messing Around with DNA Increasingly a Garage-Band Venture

Silicon is so passé. Those who are truly au courant in the coding world are working with carbon—specifically DNA, that most ancient and elegant of codes. Such biohacking is central to the rapidly expanding field of synthetic biology, a term that somehow seems a little threatening to many of us who are the products of the old fashioned kind of biology that’s been around since the planet first managed to gin up a few primitive prokaryotes 3.5 billion years ago.

Pedaling toward Nirvana: Bike Boosters Trying to Make the Bay Area a Cycling Paradise

On Tuesday the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition celebrated its 22nd annual “Golden Wheel Awards”—a waterfront event that gave the city’s bike boosters the opportunity to bust out their best Lycra and give themselves a collective pat on the back for another year well done. By all accounts, they had a lot of patting to do.

What Would Buddha Do? Berkeley Econ Class Covers Supply, Demand and Enlightenment

Let the bull market for college-level economics continue. Despite its daunting math, its abstract models, and its 0-for-1 track record in predicting recent worldwide financial catastrophes, economics remains one of the top 10 college majors across the country, according to the Princeton Review. That trend certainly holds at UC Berkeley where, last fall, econ was the second only to electrical engineering and computer science as most popular major. As the fall semester approaches, expect hundreds more undergrads to flock eagerly to the “dismal science.”

Final Fight: Berkeley Marine’s Battle to Get his Afghan Interpreter and Family to Safety

Why do we fight? Soldiers and Marines will have varied secondary answers: for national security, or a patriotic ideal, or even because your peers were enlisting. But there is another, overriding reason. You fight for those ahead of you or behind you on patrol, for the people in your squad or platoon, for the people who are fighting for—and protecting—you.

Floral Flush: Ace Poker Player Antes up for Startup to Keep Struggling Florists in Business

What would be the ideal place to hone one’s skills as a poker player—the type of high-stakes player capable of winning the most prestigious tournament in the world? Vegas, you might imagine, or perhaps Monte Carlo.

Odds are you didn’t think of the UC Berkeley campus.

And what would that player be likely to do with his winnings? Buy a yacht, a Ferrari, a tiny tropical island?

Again, bet you wouldn’t guess he would use those poker profits to launch a successful startup that would become the Etsy of mom-and-pop florists.

Blind No More? Berkeley Neuroscientists’ Engineered Molecule Causes Mice to See Light

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, a blind character wore a visor that helped him to see the world. With any luck, that won’t be science fiction for long.

UC Berkeley Professor Richard Kramer and his colleagues, including graduate student Ivan Tochitsky, have engineered a molecule that, when injected into the eyes of blind mice, causes them to react to light. With a little extra hardware, Kramer says, this molecule could help humans suffering from diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

Bones to Pick: UC Berkeley Paleontologist Entices Diverse Students to Dig Her Field

Lisa White scrunches her nose and holds a magnifying glass up to one eye to inspect a peanut-sized vial seemingly full of large tan and ivory sand grains. But a closer look reveals rods, stars and corkscrews—the 50-million-year-old fossilized shells of forams, creatures that still populate the oceans today.

The Break-Up Heard Round the World: Is There A Legal Recourse Against Comcast?

It went so immediately and intensely viral that it probably gave the Internet a case of breakbone fever. We’re speaking, of course, of the recording of a Comcast “retention” representative pleading with, browbeating and haranguing customer Ryan Block to stay with the cable service giant.

Math Rock Fans, Rejoice: A Minor Forest Has Reunited, Will Play in Berkeley

Math rock fans of the 1990s will remember A Minor Forest, the trio of Bay Area musicians renowned for their aggressive, rhythmically technical style of playing and intense live shows. (Not to mention imaginatively crass song titles like “No One Likes an Old Baby” and “Jacking Off George Lucas.”)

The Immortality Connundrum: Our Mortality May Be What Saves Us From Cancer

Want to live forever? Be a tumor. We may eventually download analogs of our brains into computers and thus achieve a certain kind of immortality, but dramatically extending the functionality of the human body is looking problematic. Cancer cells, on the other hand, can propagate endlessly.

Which once again shows that life is inherently unfair, even in death. Why should insensate and destructive carcinomas enjoy the boon of immortality while we sentient human beings are preordained to decline and ultimate oblivion?

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