Cal

Final Fight: Berkeley Marine’s Battle to Get his Afghan Interpreter and Family to Safety

Why do we fight? Soldiers and Marines will have varied secondary answers: for national security, or a patriotic ideal, or even because your peers were enlisting. But there is another, overriding reason. You fight for those ahead of you or behind you on patrol, for the people in your squad or platoon, for the people who are fighting for—and protecting—you.

Goodbye to the Godfather of Psychedelics: Shulgin Now “Tripping in the Cosmos”

Update: The federal government has just given special permission to a team of Marin County therapists to study whether the party drug Molly or Ecstasy—both street names for the illegal psychoactive drug MDMA—is able to reduce anxiety in people with life-threatening illnesses. (Experts caution that much of the contraban sold as Ecstasy now is mixed with other dangerous substances.) The new willingness to investigative MDMA’s therapeutic potential would have been welcome news to the man credited with synthesizing it for psychiatric use in the 1970s: Alexander Shulgin, who held a Ph.D.

Floral Flush: Ace Poker Player Antes up for Startup to Keep Struggling Florists in Business

What would be the ideal place to hone one’s skills as a poker player—the type of high-stakes player capable of winning the most prestigious tournament in the world? Vegas, you might imagine, or perhaps Monte Carlo.

Odds are you didn’t think of the UC Berkeley campus.

And what would that player be likely to do with his winnings? Buy a yacht, a Ferrari, a tiny tropical island?

Again, bet you wouldn’t guess he would use those poker profits to launch a successful startup that would become the Etsy of mom-and-pop florists.

Bones to Pick: UC Berkeley Paleontologist Entices Diverse Students to Dig Her Field

Lisa White scrunches her nose and holds a magnifying glass up to one eye to inspect a peanut-sized vial seemingly full of large tan and ivory sand grains. But a closer look reveals rods, stars and corkscrews—the 50-million-year-old fossilized shells of forams, creatures that still populate the oceans today.

The Break-Up Heard Round the World: Is There A Legal Recourse Against Comcast?

It went so immediately and intensely viral that it probably gave the Internet a case of breakbone fever. We’re speaking, of course, of the recording of a Comcast “retention” representative pleading with, browbeating and haranguing customer Ryan Block to stay with the cable service giant.

Math Rock Fans, Rejoice: A Minor Forest Has Reunited, Will Play in Berkeley

Math rock fans of the 1990s will remember A Minor Forest, the trio of Bay Area musicians renowned for their aggressive, rhythmically technical style of playing and intense live shows. (Not to mention imaginatively crass song titles like “No One Likes an Old Baby” and “Jacking Off George Lucas.”)

The Immortality Connundrum: Our Mortality May Be What Saves Us From Cancer

Want to live forever? Be a tumor. We may eventually download analogs of our brains into computers and thus achieve a certain kind of immortality, but dramatically extending the functionality of the human body is looking problematic. Cancer cells, on the other hand, can propagate endlessly.

Which once again shows that life is inherently unfair, even in death. Why should insensate and destructive carcinomas enjoy the boon of immortality while we sentient human beings are preordained to decline and ultimate oblivion?

Doing the Right Thing, or Not: What Makes People Less Likely to Be Selfish Jerks?

Some scientific studies come as revelations—biological investigations unlocking keys hidden within the human genome, statistical analyses that identify shocking trends between disparate data sets, and explorations of the cosmos that reveal truths about the very fabric of existence.

And then there are scientific studies that tell us what most of us probably knew all along.

Food, Glorious Food: Why Do So Many Cal Alums Take a Career Detour Into the Kitchen?

Paul Oprescu majored in modern American history at UC Berkeley and planned to become an academic. But he had a dream—not the kind you hold in your heart, the kind you have in your sleep. He dreamt he was making fresh pasta and selling it to students.

That, he says, was the impetus that prompted a career change: Now he owns and operates an Italian restaurant on Shattuck Avenue.

Justice Alito Rides Hobby Lobby into Summer Break

It’s always nice to go out with a barnburner.

Wrapping up a session already thick with contentious and consequential rulings from campaign finance to affirmative action, the Supreme Court ended its 2013–14 term with a bang yesterday, dropping a decision that simultaneously touches upon the issues of reproductive rights, Obamacare, freedom of religion, and the limits of corporate personhood. Predictably then, the response to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision has been explosive.

Game of Allophones: Word Whiz Creates Languages for Shows Like Game of Thrones

David Peterson has never been interested in fantasy films or literature. The 33-year-old dismisses the genre as “fantastical people who do fantastical things.” So it may be surprising to learn that for the past five years, the 2003 Berkeley graduate has been creating languages for the fantastical worlds of TV shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones and movies such as Thor: The Dark World. 

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

Reality Injection: Why California’s Whooping Cough Epidemic is Only Getting Worse

Pertussis continues to spread in California, with 3,458 cases reported between January 1 and June 10: In less than half a year, the toll of the sickened already has exceeded all reported cases for 2013. State health officials have now declared a pertussis epidemic—deeply worrisome, considering the bacterium* poses a particularly dire threat to infants. 

Pages

Subscribe to Cal