The Science of Sustainability

Robin Marks

Robin Marks

Robin Marks is the owner and operator of Discovery Street Tours, which offers science-themed walking tours in San Francisco. She is also a long-time science writer, and president of the Northern California Science Writers' Association. She loves to climb big hills, investigate tidbits of everyday life, and do chemistry experiments with her food.

rss feed Author's Website

Robin Marks's Latest Posts

Science in Your Life: The Magic Microwave

Science in Your Life: The Magic Microwave

Why doesn’t a microwave heat my food like a regular oven?

Continue Reading

Exploring the Pulgas Water Temple area

Exploring the Pulgas Water Temple area

The San Francisco Peninsula Watershed, managed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, is home to trails that offer access to remote wilderness, Northern California geology, and opportunities to appreciate the complexity of providing 2.4 million people with a clean water supply.

Continue Reading

Exploring Angel Island

Exploring Angel Island

On October 12, 2008, Angel Island was ravaged by a wildfire. In just 2 days, 303 acres went up in smoke. We're visiting the island a year later to see how the land is recovering and learn how the fire helped one scientist unearth a bit if the island's history.

Continue Reading

Exploring the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail

Exploring the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail

Local nature lovers can enjoy the rare opportunity to hike, bike, or ride their horses through pristine stands of old growth Douglas Fir, evergreen and fragrant coastal scrub while enjoying ridge-top vistas of our watershed lands, reservoirs, the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. To protect our watershed, hiking on the trail is restricted to docent-led ventures three days a week, with advanced registration.

Continue Reading

Exploring Pescadero State Beach

Exploring Pescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach is no simple place. Scanning its expanse, you can see ocean beach, streams, grasses, cattails, bushy scrub, and tall, ancient trees. If you look more closely you can see over 250 species of birds. The landscape, especially at the water, is never the same two days in a row.

Continue Reading

Exploring Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Exploring Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Less than an hour’s drive north from San Francisco, the 2,882 acres of Samuel P. Taylor State Park is within easy driving distance of some of northern California’s most dramatic outdoor scenery. The park features a unique contrast of coastal redwood groves and open grassland.

Continue Reading

Exploring Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Exploring Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

As sure as the earth moves in Berkeley, there's a volcano just off Skyline Boulevard. Not just any volcano. This one's laying on its side with its guts exposed. At Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve, you'll find the rocky body and layered underpinnings of one of the largest volcanoes that once dotted our geologic neighborhood.

Continue Reading

Seed banking: saving both agri- and -culture

Seed banking: saving both agri- and -culture

It's more than the genes that feed us. Some have dubbed it the "doomsday vault"; others, taking a more positive tone, call it a repository of biodiversity. However you look at it, the Global Seed Vault is a fortress. Buried under almost 500 feet of Arctic permafrost, secured against bomb blasts, earthquakes, and potential thieves, […]

Continue Reading

Exploring Alum Rock Park

Exploring Alum Rock Park

Just a few minutes outside of San Jose, you'll find a place to explore 100 million years of history. Alum Rock Park, created in 1872 as the first municipal park in California, offers both ancient rocks and new geologic changes (and lots of nice trails and wildlife, too). Despite its longevity and proximity to a populous urban area, it remains one of the less-visited jewels in the Bay Area's crown.

Continue Reading

Gleaning scientific observations from ancient myths

Gleaning scientific observations from ancient myths

I had the privilege this week of interviewing Isabel Hawkins, an astronomer and director of the Center for Science Education at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. We talked about how people use evidence in science, how it is that we know what we know. Hawkins isn't your ordinary astronomer. She began her career in an ordinary […]

Continue Reading

Using life as a tool

Using life as a tool

Companies like GenoCAD allow users to piece together their own designer DNA. “Synthetic biology” seems like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? I mean, if it’s biological, it’s natural, right? And if it’s natural, then it’s not synthetic. Sure. Except that modern science has sorta blurred all those nice convenient boundaries. Nothing has demonstrated this […]

Continue Reading

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

How can you tell when someone's smile is fake? See if you can tell from the 2 images below:* A real, spontaneous smile incorporates tiny muscles around the eye that are nearly impossible to contract at will. You can see this for yourself in an exhibit called "Polite Smile, Delight Smile" part of the Exploratorium's […]

Continue Reading

Wired for wireless: the genetics of text messaging

Wired for wireless: the genetics of text messaging

I love my cell phone. We have a serious relationship. One that may be biologically predetermined. Let me explain. On New Year's Eve I brought my phone with me to San Francisco's Ocean Beach, where I traditionally go, rain or shine, to watch the year's last sunset. I was by myself, but I wasn't alone. […]

Continue Reading

Exploring Crissy Field

Exploring Crissy Field

Crissy Field is a stunning park site within the Golden Gate National Parks. Crissy Field's 100 acres of wild, windswept shoreline are a favorite place for walkers, joggers, board sailors, bicyclists, thousands of birds and even the occasional seal.

Continue Reading

Why does it matter if kids know about science anyway?

Why does it matter if kids know about science anyway?

Which is bigger, an electron or an atom? If you're reading this science blog, you probably know the right answer. And that would make you a little more informed than the average American, according to a recent National Science Foundation report. Getting kids grounded in science at a young age can go a long way […]

Continue Reading

Exploring Mt. Diablo State Park

Exploring Mt. Diablo State Park

This park is one of the ecological treasures of the San Francisco Bay Area. Every season in the park has its special qualities. Discover for yourself the mountain's beautiful wildflowers, its extensive trail system, fascinating wildlife distinctive rock formations and fossils.

Continue Reading

Below the surface of the spill

Below the surface of the spill

Oil booms at Crissy Field. Credit: fredsharplesJust two days before a container ship hit the Bay Bridge, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the waters of San Francisco Bay, QUEST web producer Craig Rosa and I were at Crissy Field beach. We were photographing pelicans and recording dogs playing in the sand for an upcoming […]

Continue Reading

World Series, uncorked

World Series, uncorked

Dave Barker of the Exploratorium gets some batting tipsWhen I think of baseball and science, I always remember poor Sammy Sosa. In 2003, he was suspended from seven games with the Chicago Cubs for using a bat that had cork in it–an illegal move, according to Major League Baseball rules. I certainly don't feel sorry […]

Continue Reading

Bird brains (a eulogy of sorts)

Bird brains (a eulogy of sorts)

Image from Wikipedia, originally from socialfiction.orgI'm in mourning: In early September, Alex the African grey parrot mysteriously died. I never met Alex personally, but I've heard him speak. Yes, he spoke. He also counted. And he could tell you which of a pair of keys was the bigger one, or the yellow one. He was […]

Continue Reading

Knowledge is ephemeral

Knowledge is ephemeral

On Labor Day at the Exploratorium, visiting artist Aeneas Wilder witnessed museum visitors toppling a sculpture he'd spent many painstaking days to create in our Seeing gallery. Earlier this summer, Aeneas carefully stacked pieces of specially measured wood, one at a time, until he'd constructed an enormous cage-like sphere. (To get a sense of its […]

Continue Reading