The Science of Sustainability

Chemistry

Tracking Raindrops

Tracking Raindrops

We all rely on the water cycle, but how does it really work? Scientists at UC Berkeley are embarking on a new project to understand how global warming is affecting our fresh water supply. And they're doing it by tracking individual raindrops in Mendocino and north of Lake Tahoe.

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Producer's Notes: Tracking Raindrops

Producer's Notes: Tracking Raindrops

So, I was curious how scientists like Fung and Dawson, whose research leads to predictions of widespread climatic chaos and environmental meltdown, are able to cope with their frequently depressing findings. And what do they hope to do with their results?

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Producer's Notes: California's Water Future

Producer's Notes: California's Water Future

Could the future of potable water in California be in recycling wastewater? The Orange County Water District thinks so. In February of this year it opened its advanced water treatment plant, which produces 50 million gallons of potable water per day. It took them 13 years to finish the project. They spent a lot of […]

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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?

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Plastic not Fantastic

Plastic not Fantastic

Humans produce 500 billion plastic bags annually. In China, they recently banned it. Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa,Taiwan, Mumbai and India have either banned it or discouraged its use by raising taxes. And on March 27, 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the USA to ban it from large grocery stores. More […]

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Housing the Human Computer

Housing the Human Computer

A look into the science of skin. In an article this week in the New York Times, brainpower was correlated with the complexity of nerve synapses. Leading researcher Dr. Grant, who has studied the interconnectedness of neurons, likened this connection to technology; "From the evolutionary perspective, the big brains of vertebrates not only have more […]

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Vaccines: One Small Risk for a Child, One Giant Benefit for Mankind

Vaccines: One Small Risk for a Child, One Giant Benefit for Mankind

You're as likely to be struck by lightningas to have a severe reaction to a vaccine. I was reading an article in Time last week about parents not vaccinating their children. The story was about how this phenomenon is becoming more widespread. These kinds of stories are weird to me because vaccines are pretty safe. […]

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Future History: Plastic Water Bottles – take our poll

Future History: Plastic Water Bottles – take our poll

What does our use of bottled water say about us? View our 2-minute TV short "Future History: Plastic Water Bottles" to take a look from the perspective of an anthropologist from the distant future, and the take our poll below: "Do you plan to change your bottled water habits?" ( polls) Josh Rosen is Series […]

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Future History: Plastic Water Bottles

Future History: Plastic Water Bottles

What does our use of bottled water say about us? Take a look from the perspective of an anthropologist from the distant future.

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Cassini Martini:  Add Water, Ammonia, Methane; Mix Well

Cassini Martini: Add Water, Ammonia, Methane; Mix Well

Artist concept of a geyser erupting on Enceladus. Credit: David Seal.Back when I was young…okay, a previous generation might have ended that sentence with, "…I’d walk forty miles through the snow to get to school…" But I'm not exaggerating when I say, when I was young we knew next to nothing about faraway places in […]

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Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

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.

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Mercury in the Bay – Part 1

Mercury in the Bay – Part 1

You might not know it from the textbooks, but California's gold rush was also a mercury rush. Quicksilver mines near San Jose provided gold miners with the mercury they needed to separate gold from ore. 150 years later, we're still facing the consequences of gold-rush era mercury.

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Super Laser at the National Ignition Facility

Super Laser at the National Ignition Facility

It's the largest laser beam in the world and it's being built in the Bay Area. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will shoot tremendous bursts of energy at an area the size of a pencil eraser. The goal? To create fusion ignition, a potential clean energy source for the 21st century.

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Producer's Notes – Biofuels: Beyond Ethanol

Producer's Notes – Biofuels: Beyond Ethanol

A sample of switchgrass at Sandia National LaboratoriesIt doesn't need to be said that there's a heated debate about how to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions with actions that lessen our society's carbon footprint. Biofuels like ethanol or biodiesel are one option. They're touted as being carbon neutral because the CO2 they emit comes from crops […]

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Alzheimer's: Is the Cure in the Genes?

Alzheimer's: Is the Cure in the Genes?

By 2050, as our population ages, 15 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer's disease– triple today's number. Researchers at San Francisco's Gladstone Institutes have found that a gene may hold the key to a cure.

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Biofuels: Beyond Ethanol

Biofuels: Beyond Ethanol

For years there's been buzz — both positive and negative — about generating ethanol fuel from corn. But thanks to recent developments, the Bay Area is rapidly becoming a world center for the next generation of green fuel alternatives. Meet the scientists investigating the newest methods for converting what we grow into what makes us go.

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QUEST Lab: Aerogel

QUEST Lab: Aerogel

It looks like frozen smoke. And it's the lightest solid material on the planet. Aerogel insulates space suits, makes tennis rackets stronger and could be used one day to clean up oil spills.

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Producer's Notes – In the Kitchen with Aerogel

Producer's Notes – In the Kitchen with Aerogel

Scientist Alex Gash prepares the "frozen smoke." I've always loved cooking shows. There's something so satisfying about watching an expert gather, wash, peel, macerate, combine and assemble ingredients. And because of the magic of television, we get the whole enchilada neatly packaged within a half hour program. Everything's perfectly cooked, presented and served. And I […]

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SF's Hometown Bacteria

SF's Hometown Bacteria

If Chicago has deep dish pizza and Boston has cream pie, San Francisco has sourdough bread. And just like the pizza and pie, San Francisco sourdough just isn't the same outside its hometown. But that's because only San Francisco is home to a certain bacterium that bears its name– Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. Of course bread uses […]

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DNA and Love

DNA and Love

Last night, I watched a reality dating show with a seemingly wacky way of finding true love. The male searching for love sniffed the armpits of potential females. He either turned away in disgust or became quite aroused by the wafts of underarm aroma. What is so comical is that a new dating service relies […]

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