The Bay Area is synonymous worldwide with high-tech innovation. Meanwhile, its students have some of the lowest math and science scores in the country. Quest takes a look at the state of public school science education in California, and asks how the state can nurture a homegrown workforce equipped to take on 21st century challenges.
Last week's deadly earthquake in Japan and last month's devastating temblor in New Zealand have put quake-prone California on alert. While Bay Area residents would rather not think about the possibility of another major quake, the region is surrounded by active faults. One East Bay fault has scientists especially concerned.
Proposition 7 is all about renewable energy generation. The initiative requires all utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2010 and 50 percent by 2025 and speeds up approval of renewable energy plants. You would think most leading environmental groups would be on board — but many are not.
Imagine traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about two-and-a-half hours, without getting on a plane. That's the idea that could become reality this November. A $10 billion bond project is on the ballot to build high-speed rail. With higher gas prices and concern about climate change, supporters hope the time is finally right to approve this massive mass-transit project. But technical and political obstacles remain.
It's that time of year again. Temperatures are hot, so we're cranking up the air conditioning. That means more electricity from the power grid, more greenhouse gas emissions, more global warming and — with warmer temperatures — even more air conditioning! There are a few ways to halt this vicious cycle, one of which starts with a makeover for the machine itself.
Taking the energy from plants and making a gasoline alternative to run our cars has great promise but there are huge problems to solve. The next answer may not come from Saudi Arabia but from a UC Berkeley lab, a Silicon Valley start up or a local researcher working in the jungles of Costa Rica.
When you order your double latte to-go at the corner coffee shop, the empty cup and lid may end up in a giant pit of plastic ocean litter off the coast of California. Some cities and counties are so concerned about the garbage in the so-called North Pacific Gyre that they've passed ordinances to try to limit the amount of plastic in our lives.
Forget solar panels – how about having your own wind turbine? Your own solar thermal power generator? Your own geothermal well? San Francisco homeowners are some of the first to experiment with these DIY home-energy technologies, and they are getting some help from the city to do it.
Earlier this year a report came out showing that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals — everything from ibuprofen to birth control pills — are showing up in America's drinking water. Today, water agencies and consumers are still grappling with some unanswered questions: Do these tiny amounts of drugs pose any health risk? And if so, what can we do about them?
Hot, dry conditions have made this one of the worst fire seasons in California history. With firefighters and equipment stretched thin, hundreds of remote blazes are left to simply burn. Is this a sign of fire seasons to come, and are we prepared to deal with it?
An age-old environmental crime has become an increasing problem. Poachers illegally hunt down everything from abalone to black-tailed deer, on private lands, parks and wilderness areas. But catching poachers can be tough because of California's vast size, so state fish and game wardens are trying something new.
Local, organic, fair trade… Consumers looking for a sustainable diet face a lot of choices and recently, another one has been added to the list: low-carbon. But it turns out reducing your meal's carbon footprint isn't so easy.
Since 1995, astronomers have identified more than 200 new planets, but these planets aren't in our solar system. Known as exoplanets, they're the planets orbiting other suns and Bay Area scientists are leading the search. QUEST reports on some of the latest efforts to find new planets– and maybe even life– in outer space.
Scientists predict we'll be seeing hotter conditions and drier forests in the near future. The Summit Fire that's been burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains is likely a part of that trend. QUEST talks to Malcolm North with the U.S. Forest Service. He says any area that's burned before is vulnerable to burning again, including the coast range and Sierra Nevada.
Server farms – those huge collections of computers that run the networks of Google, Yahoo, and other companies – are enormous users of energy. QUEST looks at efforts to make the information superhighway more efficient.
With gas prices rising, parking a headache, and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, more and more San Franciscans are cycling. What are cities like San Francisco doing to help people who want to pedal rather than drive?
Dr Jane Hightower was one of the first Bay Area doctors to start diagnosing mercury poisoning in her patients. In this audio clip, she explains how to know if you might be getting too much mercury from the fish you eat. And, she tells us what she feeds her 10-year old twin boys. (Hint: No tuna fish sandwiches in the Hightower home.)
Last week, we took a look at how mercury enters the San Francisco Bay. This week: Now that it's here, how is it affecting us? Quest talks to local fisherman, a physician, and a Bay ecologist to find out how we're contending with the Bay's worst toxin.
It's often said dogs and their owners resemble each other. Now, researchers at UC-San Francisco are looking for those connections on a whole new level. They're searching for the genes that cause common psychiatric problems in humans – by looking at the DNA of dogs.