The Science of Sustainability

Archives

Investigating Darwin's Legacy

Investigating Darwin's Legacy

This year marks Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. One of the iconic fossils that supports Darwin's theory of evolution is called the Archaeopteryx and it was recently flown out to Stanford University for an unusual test. Scientists are bombarding this dino-bird with high-tech gadgetry to unlock even more information about how we came to be here.

Continue Reading

Putting a Price on Nature

Putting a Price on Nature

As the economy struggles, a lot of people are thinking about prices these days. That's the focus of a new project at Stanford University, too, but their aim is to put a value on something that's never had a price tag – nature.

Continue Reading

Birds vs. Planes

Birds vs. Planes

Following the recent crash landing of a U.S. Airways jet into the Hudson River, QUEST takes a look at local efforts to avoid collisions between planes and birds. Every year pilots in the U.S. report more than 7,000 bird strikes. The Sacramento International Airport has one of the highest incidences of bird strikes in the nation, thanks to its location next to the Pacific Flyway.

Continue Reading

New Life for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

New Life for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Soon after Barack Obama is sworn in as President next week, he is expected to reverse the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The resulting boom in this cutting-edge medical technology will benefit California's research institutes in a big way.

Continue Reading

Last Minute Rules

Last Minute Rules

The Bush Administration has recently passed dozens of so-called "midnight regulations" – last-minute rules and amendments. Many of those new laws affect the environment, including a change to the Endangered Species Act that has California environmentalists deeply worried.

Continue Reading

Building Blocks Go Green

Building Blocks Go Green

Some of the most common building materials – drywall, steel, cement – are among the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturing them requires vast amounts of energy. Now, several Silicon Valley start-ups are looking for cleaner solutions and some of their efforts are drawing major venture capital.

Continue Reading

Dialing in on Traffic

Dialing in on Traffic

Drivers are increasingly looking to their cell phones for advice on steering clear of heavy traffic. New technology from UC Berkeley uses cell phones to plot traffic patterns, giving a real-time picture of how long it takes to get from place to place. QUEST takes a ride with an early adopter.

Continue Reading

Get the Soot Out

Get the Soot Out

That black, sooty exhaust from old diesel trucks may be a thing of the past. A landmark decision expected next week at the state Air Resources Board would mean California truckers must retrofit their diesel rigs at a price tag of about $5 billion. The cost is high, but given the health complications from diesel emissions, air pollution regulators feel they can't afford not to act.

Continue Reading

UCSF Researcher Wins Nobel Prize

UCSF Researcher Wins Nobel Prize

UPDATE: Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California-San Francisco, on Monday was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for solving the mystery of how chromosomes protect themselves from degrading when cells divide. Blackburn was featured in this December QUEST radio report about the aging of HIV patients.

Continue Reading

Food Safety

Food Safety

Recent scares over melamine-laced cookies from China and salmonella-tainted Mexican jalapenos have raised stark questions: Who's monitoring the safety of imported food? And does the system work?

Continue Reading

Oil Spill Anniversary

Oil Spill Anniversary

It's been a year since 53,000 gallons of oil from the Cosco Busan cargo ship spilled into the San Francisco Bay. More than half of that heavy bunker fuel is still around. Now, one challenge is trying to put the long-term effects of the spill into dollar terms, and then seek a settlement with the ship's owners. Officials say this work may set the national standard for handling man-made crises.

Continue Reading

Closing the Science Gap

Closing the Science Gap

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.

Continue Reading

The Hayward Fault: A Tectonic Timebomb

The Hayward Fault: A Tectonic Timebomb

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.

Continue Reading

Big Solar on the Ballot

Big Solar on the Ballot

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.

Continue Reading

Fast Trains

Fast Trains

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.

Continue Reading

Air Conditioning Reinvented

Air Conditioning Reinvented

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.

Continue Reading

Designer Biofuels

Designer Biofuels

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.

Continue Reading

Sea of Plastic

Sea of Plastic

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.

Continue Reading

Beyond Solar: Do It Yourself Home Energy

Beyond Solar: Do It Yourself Home Energy

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.

Continue Reading

Drugs In Our Drinking Water

Drugs In Our Drinking Water

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?

Continue Reading