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The Berkeley Brief: Bacteria, Blockchain, and More

Blockchains and Bitcoins and Crytpo, Oh My!

Cryptocurrency is flying around the market like hot crypto-cakes—but is it here to stay? Is it the second coming of the tech wave, destined to change our lives forever?

Spanish Professor Speaks the Language of the Blues

UC Berkeley grad and Spanish professor at Diablo Valley College, Marina Crouse has recently found remarkable success in her long-forgone passion for music. With the release last month of her debut album Never Too Soon (Little Village Foundation), the late-blooming singer is starting to earn national attention. And in just a few short years Crouse has become one of the most powerful new voices in the Bay Area music scene.

High-Risk Housing Developments Fan the Flames for Wildfire

The world certainly seems more flammable these days. Thousands of homes were lost last year in Sonoma County alone, and wildfires have raged across California all summer. And not just in California: Records from the federal National Interagency Fire Center show that U.S. acreage burned in wildfires leaped from 1.8 million in 1995 to 10 million in 2017.

Tensions Rise In the Battle To Save Old Trees

The timber wars are heating up again in Northern California, this time at Rainbow Ridge, a tract of mature Douglas fir near the remote community of Petrolia in Humboldt County. As reported in California earlier this year, the property is the focus of a dispute between the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC), which intends to log it, and local residents who steadfastly oppose the proposed cutting.

Q&A: Writes Barbara Jane Reyes, “I Am Not Your Ethnic Spectacle”

As a successful, Filipina-American, experimental feminist poet, Barbara Jane Reyes is something unusual. Her poetry, which she describes as “Filipina affirming work, Filipina centric work, in which the definition of Filipina must be complex and manifold,” is being featured at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, through the month of August. She joins poet Al Robles as part of the Pilipinx American Library, a non-circulating library in the museum’s Resource Room.

The Art of Innovation: George Crow’s Path from Cal to Apple

You could forgive George Crow for declining the first time Steve Jobs tried to lure him away from Hewlett-Packard.

That was back in early 1981, when Apple was developing the industry-changing Macintosh. Crow, who would eventually be in charge of the power supply and display for the pathbreaking personal computer, didn’t know what the project was. And Jobs didn’t make a stellar first impression.

The Bears Are Back In Town (and Back On Reddit)

Being a student at UC Berkeley, one of the top public universities in the United States, can put a butterfly in even the most confident of stomachs. How will I become a doctor if I can’t pass OChem?! Is majoring in Scandinavian a mistake?! How can I get the best deals on all of these textbooks that I will probably never read?! Thanks to the Internet, these existential agonies, having long been forced to reside deep in the subconscious, have a place to manifest publicly, for better or worse.

Q&A: Roberta Grossman on the Untold Story of the Warsaw Ghetto

In 1940, a Polish historian named Emanuel Ringelblum and a group of 60 scholars, journalists, and local leaders, known as the Oyneg Shabes, set out to record Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis had taken over, and, unbeknownst to Ringelblum, a plan for the “Final Solution”—the systematic extermination of the Jewish people—was beginning to formulate.

Reading Roundup: Volcanic Umbrellas, Student Oscars, More

Volcanic Umbrella

When Mt. Pinatubo exploded in the northern Philippines in 1991, it spewed millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. For nearly two years, that sunlight-blocking plume acted as a sort of volcanic “umbrella,” cooling the Earth by almost 1 degree Fahrenheit. As climate change increasingly alters our lifestyles and embeds itself into our collective consciousness, geoengineering—in this case, humans playing volcano to replicate this cooling event—became a fascinating idea.

Don’t Mind If I Do: Mind-Controlling Fungus Infects, Hijacks Fly

As the sun set on Berkeley one evening in 2015, a fruit fly, whom we’ll call Bill, crawled his way up the tender green skin of a watermelon. Moving slowly, as if hypnotized, he reached the top of the melon, extended his proboscis and released a gluey gunk that gently adhered his tiny limbs to the fruit. His body tensed as his wings pulled up and back behind him; he was still as a statue—poised, elegant.

Reading Roundup: Probing the Sun, Draining the Swamp, and More

Hot Hot Heat

This Saturday, NASA plans to launch the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft designed to touch the edge of the solar corona, the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun. It will be the first-ever spacecraft to enter into the orbits of Venus and Mercury, a feat scientists have dreamt of for decades.

Proud Legacy: New Blackwell Hall Houses Students and Stiles

After 18 months of construction, the sidewalks have been cleared, the furniture has been moved in, and, on August 14, some 750 freshmen will be welcomed into their new Berkeley digs on the corner of Durant Avenue and Dana Street. The university’s newest eight-story residence, David Blackwell Hall, opens as the campus is pushing to house a greater portion of its growing enrollment. The new dorm is also the refurbished residence of another long-time home for Berkeley students: Stiles Hall.

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