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.

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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?

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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, […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Are you "science literate?" Whatever that means…

Are you "science literate?" Whatever that means…

According to the National Science Board, Americans are pretty interested in science– but not all that informed about it. And in our knowledge-based society, the Board adds, this lack of understanding can have implications. But what does that mean? What don’t people know? What would they like to know? And what difference would it make? […]

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