Innovation

Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert

Your journalism crowdfunding platform, Spot.Us, the first of its kind, was acquired by American Public Media in 2011 and has since been “retired.” What do you think went wrong, and what does it mean for the viability of crowdfunding for journalism in general? Read more about Why a New-Media Whiz Equates Journalism With a Tribe Wandering 40 Years in the Desert »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication. Read more about Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air

For decades, most of the strategizing about how to slow down climate change has focused on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, mainly by shifting away from fossil fuels. Other proposals range from reducing meat consumption (cattle belch massive quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas) to curtailment of chlorofluorocarbons (compounds that both retain heat and destroy atmospheric ozone) in refrigerants and aerosols.  Read more about Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air »

Color My World: Innovative Glasses Allow Colorblind to See What They’ve Been Missing

I had to see for myself why some users have called them “happy glasses”—through them, everything looks more vibrant, distinct and intense. As soon as I donned the glasses, the run-down street I was walking on in West Berkeley looked as if it suddenly had been given a fresh coat of paint, the grays dusted away. I felt as if I was inside an oversaturated Instagram photo, or Pleasantville after the town was colored in.

The color shift I experienced while wearing EnChroma Cx lenses was overdramatic—but that’s because I’m not colorblind. Read more about Color My World: Innovative Glasses Allow Colorblind to See What They've Been Missing »

Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center

Imagine a community center that’s not your typical chunk of cinderblock—instead it’s an architecturally avant garde space where neighbors gather to grow, cook and eat food. That’s the concept behind the breezy structure “Nest We Grow,” an experiment designed to connect a community’s social spaces and growing spaces. Read more about Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center »

So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics?

Passwords and humans are frenemies: We tolerate each other because we have to, but we seem to know that one will screw the other over sooner or later (as evidenced by the many security breaches of 2015). Managing our password portfolio is more maddening than ever, given that more than half of us have five or more unique passwords, and nearly a third of us have more than 10. Read more about So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics? »

Doing It Like Lincoln: These Aspiring Lawyers Kick It Old School—By Skipping Law School

When Yassi Eskandari-Qajar graduated from UC Berkeley in 2011, she was prepared to go to law school. Prepared, but not excited.

As an undergrad she had found herself drawn to social justice work, and law school seemed in her future. But that idea curdled after she consulted several law students. She didn’t even need to hear them speak: The stress and misery of their experience, she says, was practically etched in their faces. Read more about Doing It Like Lincoln: These Aspiring Lawyers Kick It Old School—By Skipping Law School »

Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren’t Color Blind on Race

Stephen Colbert’s assertion notwithstanding, none of us is color blind. Not even the blind, it turns out. That’s according to the work of Osagie Obasogie, law professor at UC Hastings who earned his doctorate in sociology from UC Berkeley. In 2005, he began interviewing more than a hundred people who had been blind since birth, asking how they understood race. Were they conscious of it? Did it shape how they interacted with people? Could blind people, in fact, be racist? Read more about Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren't Color Blind on Race »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences.

Venezuela’s Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of two international orchestras at just 34 years old, is often called the poster child for how early exposure to music and the arts can nourish and lift one toward a better life. Growing up with musician parents likely helped shape his career path, but Dudamel credits much of his success to El Sistema, a Venezuelan program started in 1975 that offers musical access to all. Read more about Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences. »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Hell to Pay: Why Aren’t We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes?

California wants to lay out some major cash for hyper-ambitious public works projects. For example, the Twin Tunnels, Jerry Brown’s retread of the peripheral canal that was defeated by voters in 1982 during his first go-round as governor. Depending on whom you talk to, this massive water conveyance scheme will cost between $25 and $67 billion. Read more about Hell to Pay: Why Aren't We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes? »

A Smoking Gun: The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Had Help

Any third grader can tell you what killed the dinosaurs: an asteroid that smashed into Earth 66 million years ago, obliterating T. Rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor, and paving the way for mammals to thrive.

But that theory was wildly controversial when first introduced in 1980 by Berkeley Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez and his son, Walter, a UC Berkeley paleogeologist. Their idea plunged the paleontology community into decades of acrimonious debate before it became the accepted explanation. Now the theory is being challenged once again. Read more about A Smoking Gun: The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Had Help »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates

UC Berkeley bioengineer John Dueber knows too well that sometimes the most important scientific discoveries have harmful consequences. Just recently, Dueber and a team of scientists discovered the final step in modifying common yeast cells to manufacture opiates. Their finding was published in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology, alongside a warning urging scientists and policymakers to work together to address the development’s possible consequences. Read more about Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices

Decades of wear and tear haven’t been kind to the 2,713 wax cylinders in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which linguists and anthropologists have used for over a century to study the languages and cultural practices of Native California. But a new project promises to revitalize these old, fragile recordings — the first of which was recorded by famed anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in 1901 — with cutting-edge optical scanning technology. Read more about To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices »

Go Small and Go Home: UC Berkeley Team Working to Create an Affordable Housing Fix

A team of Cal students is setting out to demonstrate one possible solution to the Bay Area’s gentrification and escalating housing costs: Go tiny.

By next fall, the group plans to finish building a net-zero energy, approximately 250-square-foot home-on-wheels at UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station, a 152-acre plot that the university plans to eventually transform into the Berkeley Global Campus. Read more about Go Small and Go Home: UC Berkeley Team Working to Create an Affordable Housing Fix »

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