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Big Brain, Big Data


Today at 12:30, a research scientist from Google, a man named Tom Dean, was on campus to talk about mapping the human brain. Why a guy from Google? Because that’s an awful lot of data.

Possible Upside to Stress

We all know that stress is bad for us. Stress kills, you’ll have a heart attack, you’ll have a breakdown. Here, squeeze a little foam ball, take a walk, practice mindfulness, pet a puppy, etc., etc. —just don’t stress out. It’s bad.

Except it turns out that, maybe (so far, it’s true for lab rats), some stress is good for our brains.

Not So Much the Dead: Les Blank, R.I.P.

When the filmmaker Werner Herzog ate his shoe onstage at the old UC Theater in Berkeley, circa 1978 or ’79, Les Blank was there to film it. (The day was April 11, so this is an anniversary of sorts.) The shoe—a chukka boot, to be precise: leather uppers, gum soles—was cooked at Chez Panisse for 5 hours, after being stuffed with garlic and doused in hot sauce. (Mr. Blank was crazy for garlic

Mind over Password

In the not too distant future, hands could become obsolete. Well, at least for surfing the Web. You’ll just put on your Google Glass and log in by thinking your password.

So says Professor John Chuang and his team at the Berkeley School of Information, who have been researching the feasibility of using brainwaves as a form of computer authentication.

Genital Theft on the Rise

Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Louisa Lombard wrote a piece last month for Pacific Standard Magazine that got a lot of media attention—and it’s easy to see why. The title: “Missing Pieces: Africa’s genital-stealing crime wave hits the countryside.”

Yes, genital stealing. Or “penis snatching,” as she also calls it.

Alright, All Right

We headlined our Q&A with Berkeley historian Paula Fass, “The Kids Are Alright.” Not surprisingly, we received an email from an alert reader informing us of the mispelling, …err, misspelling. To our correspondent’s credit, she got the allusion to The Who, she just wasn’t having it. “Alright is never all right,” she wrote. Which is, in itself, pretty all right.

Berkeley’s Defenders of Marriage

As Berkeley Law (Boalt) alum Theodore Olson stood before the United States Supreme Court yesterday challenging Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, we were reminded that while California may have left gays and lesbians feeling jilted at the altar, the Bay Area’s commitment to marriage equality has not wavered.

Earth Day

With Earth Day approaching it’s a good time to remember the late evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, who earned her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1963. Margulis, who was once married to the astronomer Carl Sagan, was famous for advancing the theory of endosymbiosis to explain the origin of eukaryotic cells; in short, the complex cells arose from interactions between various bacteria. Now widely viewed as a major scientific breakthrough, the theory was attacked for many years, and Margolis never backed down in her defense of it.

Berkeley in Books: Evacuation Order #19

Julie Otsuka has been awarded the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic. Otsuka, a California native who studied art at Yale and later took her MFA at Columbia, opened her first novel, When the Emperor was Divine, in Berkeley, a few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when, by Executive Order, all Japanese and Japanese-Americans were being removed to internment camps. Here’s how it opens:


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