Cal Culture

Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods

It is a curious thing to consider that UC Berkeley, a school notably lacking a marine biology program, has produced not one, not two, but three published studies on the venerable octopus within the last year. But then octopuses, too, are curious to consider. They have three hearts; blue, copper-based blood; regenerating tentacles; and a level of sentience unique among invertebrates.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Fire Fight: FEMA Yanks Fuel Reduction Funds After Conservation Group Wages Legal Battle

Next month will mark the 25th anniversary of the Oakland Hills Fire, the epochal conflagration that started on October 19 and, driven by strong northeasterly winds, burned more than 1,500 acres over three days, killing 25 people and destroying some 2,500 homes and 400 apartments.

Anyone who lived in the Bay Area at that time will recall the massive column of smoke that rose from the East Bay during the day and the walls of flame that limned the topography of the hills at night. Those three days felt nothing short of apocalyptic.

Dreamboat: Nonprofit Builds Tall Ship For Kid-Sailors

Back in the day—way back in the day—young people went to sea to seek fame and fortune, or at least escape the boredom and poverty of the crofter’s hut or the squalor of early factories. But while the commercial sailing fleet is long gone, it remains more than a vivid memory in the Bay Area, where a dedicated crew of mariners isn’t just taking young people down to the sea in ships—they’re building a ship that will take them down to the sea in style, a tall ship based on the designs of a legendary 19th century naval architect.

A Day at the Races: Law Prof Jesse Choper Finds Thrills, Cheap Entertainment Playing the Ponies

Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper first got into horse racing in 1969, when he and his friend’s father, a district attorney outside of New York, took a trip to the track. At first, Choper didn’t really get the appeal: “I never did understand how a person who worked really hard, I mean long hours, would take off a whole afternoon in the middle of a week to go to the races…. But then I did.”

Starring Role: Berkeley Astronomer Turns Department Politics Into Holiday Plays

Eugene Chiang became a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley in 2001 with the intention of contemplating the stars. But when he took on the role of writer, producer, director, prop/costume designer, and actor for the department’s annual holiday play, he became one himself, at least within the department.

Mind Boggled: Berkeley Prof Is a Board Game Addict

Daniel Acland’s addiction to tabletop games began when he was a child, starting with the gateway game: Monopoly— “arguably the worst-designed board game ever to achieve commercial success,” he said. As a professor of public policy at Berkeley, his gaming experience often intersects with his expertise. For instance, in a brief analysis of Monopoly, Acland says the game sells because it allows people to “bicker, and trash-talk one another, and to watch as, once again, one totally undeserving player, for absolutely no justifiable reason, utterly destroys all the others.”

End Your Summer On a High Note: Bear Music Fest

The weekend of September 9, the Cal Alumni Association’s family camp, The Lair of the Golden Bear, hosts its inaugural musical festival, Bear Music Fest. Part of a typical all-inclusive Lair weekend, the festival performances will take place across two of the three primary campsites, and feature artists representative of the Bay Area music scene.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

Don’t Freeze: Targeted Violence Training Teaches Students to Act

Since 2000, at least 160 “active-shooter” incidents have occurred in the United States, according to an FBI study from 2000-2013. And shootings have become more frequent—from 6.4 incidents annually in the first seven years of the study, to 16.4 in the last seven. Like many institutions, the University of California has responded by making training available.

What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia?

In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.

“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.”

Who Gets to be a Woman in the Olympics?

The debate raging about testosterone tests in track and field will come to an ugly climax in Rio, and reasonable people on both sides agree it is unfair that the ugliness has landed squarely on the shoulders of women like South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya.

The People’s Museum: Evelyn Orantes Connects Oaklanders with the OMCA

When Evelyn Orantes studied history at UC Berkeley, she lived just a few blocks from the Oakland Museum. To her and her roommates the museum seemed as inaccessible as a castle, complete with moat. The Class of ’99 had gotten involved with Chicano politics while at Berkeley, so when she finally went to the museum for its Day of the Dead celebration, it wasn’t to enjoy but to see how OMCA was co-opting the Mexican holiday.

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