Glen Martin

Editor’s Note: We’re on the Road to…Somewhere

When I was a kid, it seemed like all adults smoked. Cigarette butts littered the sidewalks, the stench of stale tobacco clung to the upholstery, and ashtrays were everywhere. We made ashtrays in art class as gifts for our parents.

Back then, people smoked in their offices, their cars, and on airplanes. On airplanes! In California these days you can’t even light up in a bar.

What happened?

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

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.

Don’t Get Down, Get Outside: How Awe-Inspiring Nature Heals

About three years ago, UC Berkeley psychology PhD candidate Craig L. Anderson started investigating the components and implications of awe. Not the bad kind of awe—the sort you might experience if a mushroom cloud suddenly loomed on the horizon. But the good kind, specifically the variety associated with nature and all its manifold wonders: A sunset on a South Pacific atoll, icebergs calving from an Alaskan glacier, a hike through alpine meadows. Or in Anderson’s case, river-rafting.

Reading Roundup: Facebook, Fires, Fashion, and More

Freaky Fires

While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.

It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.

Should Our Pets Be Vegans, Too?

It’s a cruel world, but a new Berkeley start-up aims to make it just bit kinder and gentler. Wild Earth, a company spearheaded by biohacking wunderkind Ryan Bethencourt, is working up a line of fungus-based pet foods. It’s the kind of venture that, at first whiff, lends itself to some Anthony Bourdain like lampooning: It’s not enough that you don’t want to eat anything with a face. You don’t want your dog to do any face-eating either.

Reading Roundup: Bridges, College Admissions, Border Identity

UC Berkeley is consistently ranked one of the best research universities in the world, but what happens to researchers after they leave?

Earlier this month, four Cal grads—four! Can we get a Go Bears?!— were featured in the Lehigh Research Review for their remarkable work in sustainable infrastructure, college admission economics, and discourses on border identity.

Check out their research below to find out what these Berkeley grads-cum-Lehigh professors have been up to since they left the den.

Hot Topic: What Do We Really Know About Volcanoes?

Ongoing volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala are leading to speculation that volcanism in general may be on an upswing. The anecdotal evidence, at least, is tantalizing: There have been about 25 major eruptions around the world from 2000 to 2018, compared to 65 for the entire 20 th Century.

Burning Question: Can California Prevent the Next Wildfire?

Santa Rosa and Sonoma County officials are now in the post mortem phase of the North Bay fire storms, asking what could’ve been done to avoid the tragedy and what can be done in the future to prevent similar conflagrations. Discussions largely have focused on tighter zoning and fire ordinances. Those are appropriate areas to focus on, say many wildfire experts, but municipalities and counties inevitably face pressures that make effective wildfire risk reduction difficult.

I Thought I Knew What It Was Like to Be Displaced. I Was Wrong.

As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee. Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.

Or at least, like an evacuee, which can feel distinctly refugee-esque to a citizen of a developed country who has never been forced to leave home and possessions due to conflict or natural catastrophe.

Should We Be Worried About Rogue AI? We Ask the Experts.

Technoscenti titans Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have gotten into a bit of a tiff lately, with Musk repeating warnings that rapidly developing artificial intelligence (AI) poses an existential threat to humanity, and Zuckerberg countering that such concerns are much ado about not much.

Bob Bea Takes Us on a Deep Dive Through His Dire Oroville Report

Like everyone else, Robert Bea was appalled when almost 200,000 Californians living below Oroville Dam were ordered to flee for their lives on February 12.  The evacuation was necessitated by severe erosion of the dam’s primary and emergency spillways caused by massive releases of water following torrential winter rains. But unlike most citizens, Bea knew the incident wasn’t engendered strictly by the vagaries of nature or an act of God. Human error was at play.

What Does the Calving of that Huge Iceberg Mean for the Planet?

The calving of an iceberg the size of Delaware from the Antarctica Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf made a lot of waves, raising concerns that it might directly contribute to sea level rise or portend a sudden acceleration in the melting of the continent’s gigantic ice cap. But the event pointed to neither scenario, says UC Berkeley Professor of Ocean, Earth, and Climate Science Kurt Cuffey.

Is Brown’s Massive Water Project the Right Idea Right Now?

This week’s declaration by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service that the massive Delta tunnels proposed by the Jerry Brown administration would not cause the extinction of several imperiled fish species gave a significant boost to the behemoth project. Still, other impediments must be overcome before the digging starts and the concrete flows.

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