Science & Technology

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Frickin' Robots! Folding Socks!

by Chris Thompson
Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Yes, you know you want one. The Daily Cal reports that two UC Berkeley researchers have created a line of robots that will sort and fold your socks. This comes on the, um, heels of their earlier accomplishment: robots that fold towels. Researchers Pieter Abbeel and Trevor Darrell created the project, dubbed "Sockification," as part of a contest to win $5,000 from the robotics company Willow Garage. "Of course, the ultimate goal, Abbeel said, is to make the robot be able to perform useful tasks," reports Claire Perlman. We couldn't agree more.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

UC Berkeley Human Powered Vehicle Team Rides Again

by Phil Marshall
Fri, Apr 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Between 1999 and 2001, the UC Berkeley Human Powered Vehicle team went on a tear and broke five world records for human-powered speed, but the great college team couldn’t last forever. Graduation took its toll, a faculty member had a baby, and the team disbanded. After a ten-year hiatus, it was announced last week that the once-vaunted team would ride again.

They already have the makings of a ten- to fifteen-person team, primarily composed of engineers and cyclists. “There is actually a lot of crossover between them both,” said team president James Brannon Smith.

The team will put its newly designed craft in competition for the first time on September 13 at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge. Smith is the early candidate to race the vehicle because of his experience on the Cal cycling team.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nukes Near Fresno

by Chris Thompson
Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 9:21 AM

Wow! According to the Oakland Tribune, a French company has signed a letter of intent to build at least one nuclear power plant near Fresno, at a site to be determined. The company was lured in by a group of local business owners, who go by the name, "the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group." There's one minor hurdle, in that it's actually illegal to build one in California without a federal plan to dispose of the spent fuel. But the project's backers insist that the law is archaic and will be discarded, freeing them to generate up to 3,200 megawatts of power. We've long advocated the revival of the nuclear energy industry as a means of reducing global warming; great to see someone take up the challenge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Yelp-Google Deal's Off

by Chris Thompson
Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Looks like Google won't be paying $550 million to buy Yelp after all, according to numerous reports. And get this: it was Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman who called off the deal, not the other way around. Some in the tech press think a Google rival quietly approached Stoppelman and offered him a strategic partnership of some sort that allowed him to keep Yelp independent. CNet reporter Caroline McCarthy wonders if Yelp ultimately realized that for all Google's talent, it's never really gotten social media. And Yelp's execs just didn't want to see their baby get the Knol treatment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PG&E Seeks to Extend Nuclear Power

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 12:03 PM

Pacific Gas and Electric Company wants to renew its operating license at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant through 2045, the Chron reports. The utility’s twin reactors near San Luis Obispo generate about 20 percent of the electricity used by its customers.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Chevron and Shell Refineries Are Top Two Polluters

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 5:47 PM

The Chevron refinery in Richmond and the Shell refinery in Martinez are the state’s two top emitters of greenhouse gases, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The Chevron refinery spews 4.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, followed by the Shell facility, which emits 4.6 million metric tons. Industrial sources and power plants make up 43 percent of greenhouse gas emissions statewide, compared with transportation at 36 percent.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Climate Change to Cause More Kidney Stones in East Bay, Scientists Say

by Jay Youngdahl
Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 4:37 PM

As if we did not have enough to worry about, a coalition of groups including the American Medical Association and Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, announced at a meeting in Washington this week that an unanticipated result of climate change is a likely increase in the incidence of kidney stones in many areas of the country, including Northern California. The groups met to press for curbs on carbon emissions and called on President Obama and lawmakers to incorporate health effects into considerations on tackling climate change .

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Local Chef Mixes Science With Food

by Anneli Star Josselin Rufus
Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Nicknamed "Eco-Chef" thanks to his Master's degree in ecology from San Francisco State University, scientist-turned-gourmand Aaron French has helmed the kitchen at Albany's Sunny Side Café since it opened five years ago -- and now he's also head chef at Downtown Berkeley's new Sunny Side, which opened last month.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Controversy Boils Over About PG&E Smart Meters

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 10:56 AM

PG&E's widespread installation of so-called "smart-meters" is sparking controversy around the state from residents who claim their utility bills are skyrocketing, the San Jose Mercury News reports. PG&E says there's nothing wrong with the meters, which the utility has been installing throughout the state and plans to begin implementing in Oakland in 2011. But the consumer advocacy group, TURN, is advocating for a moratorium on $2.2 billion meter program. The California Public Utilities Commission also has announced that it will require an independent evaluation of whether the smart-meters are allowing PG&E to gouge consumers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swine Flu Shots Coming too Late?

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Swine flu shots will not arrive in the Bay Area until at least the end of the month, raising questions as to whether they will do much good once they get here. The federal government had told Bay Area health officials that the vaccine injections would begin arriving today, but then said shipments will be put off until at least the end of October, according to the Chron. The delay, however, could mean that the shots will arrive after many school kids have already come down with the flu, thereby making the vaccine worthless for those children. Many Bay Area clinics, hospitals, and clinics have received the swine flu nasal spray, but it is not considered safe for pregnant women, infants, and kids with immunity problems.

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