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As California Burns, Experts Anticipate a “New Normal”

Tens of thousands of Californians have evacuated as massive fires, driven by intense winds, rage in both Northern and Southern California. The Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise, grew to 70,000 acres overnight. It sent up a pall of smoke that has triggered air quality advisories across a large swath of the northern part of the state, including the Bay Area. In the South, two fires—the Hill and Woolsey fires—are being fanned by Santa Ana Winds and have forced some 75,000 homes to be evacuated in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

What’s The Deal with Daylight Saving Time?

Older than Red State versus Blue State, older than the Montagues versus the Capulets, humankind’s primal combat is the age-old conflict between the Night Owls and the Early Birds.

Night Owls, of whom (full disclosure here) this writer is one, are sophisticated folks who believe the pleasure of staying up late is exceeded only by the pleasure of sleeping in the next morning—or the next afternoon, if it comes to that. Their hero is Elvis Presley, who famously said, “The sun’s down and the moon’s pretty; it’s time to ramble.”

Polling in PJs: A Day in the Life of an Election Worker

Tonight, I’m cleaning out my garage. Not because it’s dirty or cluttered, but because I’m expecting a lot of guests tomorrow. I need to move some boxes, sweep the floor, finally put those pots and pans on the shelf. I also need to set up the tables, lay out the reading material, and hang some signs. Cleaning is deceptively relaxing; tomorrow has the potential to be hectic, and there’s a lot at stake. I don’t know exactly who’s going to show up—certainly some people I’ve never met before—but I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Slender Man: A Perfect Monster for Our Time

In 2014, Slender Man, the shadowy Internet meme in formalwear who inspired two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin to lead their friend into the woods and stab her 19 times, caused a widespread panic. Adults everywhere saw Slender Man’s influence—albeit fictional and web-based—as a potential threat to the wellbeing of their children and themselves.

The Cost of Cobalt

Cobalt has been valued for centuries for the deep blue color it imparts to ceramic glazes and glass. Its current value has little to do with such stuff, however. Cobalt is sought today because it’s a critical element in lithium ion batteries, the devices that power our cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles.

After the Playa: Decompressing with Burning Man’s Lawyer

Every morning on the playa, Ally Deraps wakes up in her trailer and stumbles outside into the dust to make breakfast, joining friends climbing out of tents and teepees for a bowl of oatmeal in the shade. She chooses an outfit for the day, usually something bright or themed. Then, around 10:30, she grabs a can of coffee and her Motorola radio and hops on her playa bike (furry purple seat, powder blue frame, strung with colored lights and sparkly pipe cleaners) for the 20-minute commute across Burning Man to work.

Beauty Is in The Eye of the Beholder (of Kidney Stones)

Amethyst, rose quartz, garnets, pearls…kidney stones? That’s right—it might just be time to add a lesser known formation to the list of gemstones you might want for your engagement ring. Turns out, those uncharming urinary deposits that affect more than ten percent of people across the globe are surprisingly interesting, beneath their rough exterior.

Q&A: The Most Toxic Town in America

Located in the high desert of eastern Washington along the Columbia River, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has played a crucial role in global war and peace for more than half a century. It’s also the most heavily contaminated nuclear site in the country—one that few people know about.

ShakeAlert Is Shaking Things Up In Earthquake Detection

Today, millions of people practiced their “drop, cover, and hold on” for the Great California ShakeOut. The annual earthquake drill, held a day after the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, celebrated its 10th birthday—with a twist. This year, for the first time, ShakeOut partnered with ShakeAlert 2.0, an earthquake early warning (EEW) system created in collaboration with the Seismology Lab at UC Berkeley.

The Ethics of Hunting Down John Doe

Last month’s arrest of NorCal Rapist suspect, Roy Charles Waller, sent shockwaves across the Cal campus and the state. Waller, after all, was a longtime employee of UC Berkeley’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety, and his capture resulted from a new forensic tool that promises to solve many cold cases: open-source genealogical databases.

Kuwa Bora, or Friendly Advice From a Fellow Mzungu

Dear Melania,

I hear you’re going to Kenya—that’s great! Kenya has a special place in my heart. It was my home for a year while I worked at a remote field site studying baboon social behavior. Not unlike your job at the White House, I’d dare to say.

This Cal Grad Is Out to Change The Rules of Comedy

Comedian and Cal grad Zahra Noorbakhsh is a self-described “pork-eating, alcohol-drinking, premarital sex-having, bisexual feminist Iranian Shi’a Muslim.” That is, she doesn’t fit neatly into any one box.

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