Human Behavior

Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things

Robert Glushko’s job is to think about the organization of, well, everything: Ikea, zoos, spice racks, even crime families. He tries to get at the concepts behind how and why we arrange things, and what makes certain arrangements better than others. Take a bus, for example, says the UC Berkeley School of Information professor—it’s really just a vehicle traveling on a series of points on a graph. “If you replaced it with a spaceship, it wouldn’t matter,” he says. The ideas behind plotting a route would be the same.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Are Journalism Schools Just Whistling Past the Graveyard—or Resuscitating the News Biz?

The keynote speaker at the 2014 commencement of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism—an elite institution that prepares students for a profession in which the prospects are, let’s face it, a little touch-and-go at the moment— was a former small-time drug dealer and heavy-duty coke addict who had been in and out of rehab five times, a “fat thug” (in his own words) who’d been known to beat women and wave a gun around on occasion.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Rising from Ashes Like a Phoenix, Burn Survivor Aims to Lift Others With Her

Kiki Vo and two of her four sisters scurried down the dirt road leading from their family’s hut in Hiep Thanh, Vietnam, a flickering kerosene lamp lighting the way past sleeping chickens. The sisters were on a mission to smuggle some late-night candy from their mother’s shop after a day of studying. They whispered about the possibility of rain the next day, imagining they could shed their clothes and run wild in the downpour.

Pet Therapy: Students Increasingly Bringing “Emotional Support” Animals to College

Americans have not only embraced the Shultz dictum that happiness is a warm puppy: They’re applying it to warm rabbits, kangaroo rats, pot-bellied pigs, cockatiels and ferrets. And for that matter, to decidedly tepid ball pythons, Cuban rock iguanas and Chilean rose hair tarantulas. The issue here isn’t the type of beastie; it’s that animals equate to happiness, whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or in the stressful milieu that is the modern academy. An increasing number of students believe they benefit from having pets for emotional support or comfort.

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.”

The Selfless Quarterback: Cancer Intercepted Joe Roth’s Career, Not His Enduring Legacy

In 1975, two years before Tom Brady was born, another Golden Boy burst upon the football scene. He was a Cal quarterback named Joe Roth, and he had it all: looks (6-foot-4, with wavy blond hair and, in the words of his girlfriend, Tracy Lagos McAllister, “a super-cute smile”), brains, and an abiding Catholic faith that led him to take the Golden Rule seriously.

After Star Prof Resigns, UC President Calls for Rethinking Sexual Harassment Policies

In the wake of astronomy professor Geoff Marcy’s resignation—after a campus finding that he had been sexually harassing female students for years—University of California President Janet Napolitano says there’s an “urgent need to review University policies that may have inadvertently made the investigation and resolution of this case more difficult.”

Crammed into Berkeley’s Housing Zone, Students Get Creative—and Desperate

The stereotypical student has long had a meager existence—subsisting on rice and pasta, living on the cheap in order to binge on swanky textbooks later. But for students in Berkeley, the most expensive U.S. college town according to Realtor.com, finding a place to live in a highly competitive rental market requires particular creativity.

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