Human Behavior

Can’t We All Get Along? Case Studies of Racial Tensions In and Around Progressive Berkeley

Science tells us that race is in our heads, not in our genes; it’s all a social construct.

It’s an observation that seems to illuminate everything and nothing at once. It makes it sound so arbitrary and trivial—a trick of the mind. And yet history tells us that race has mattered enormously. And the news emphasizes how much it still matters today in terms of what researchers call “life outcomes”: Your chances of securing a loan, for example; or of getting a good education; or of being shot by the police.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Hell to Pay: Why Aren’t We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes?

California wants to lay out some major cash for hyper-ambitious public works projects. For example, the Twin Tunnels, Jerry Brown’s retread of the peripheral canal that was defeated by voters in 1982 during his first go-round as governor. Depending on whom you talk to, this massive water conveyance scheme will cost between $25 and $67 billion.

Out of the Gate: Laughing Through Tears

In 1966, the same year that I finished my studies at UC Berkeley, the psychology department made a scientific breakthrough. A graduate student discovered that watching an extremely graphic film documenting the subincision rites (the ritual cutting of the undersides of the penises) of Australian aboriginal boys could raise stress levels, particularly in men.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today?

It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.

So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Little Pink Houses: Berkeley Staff Cartographer Sets Out to Map the Heart of a Neighborhood

For years, Darin Jensen ’99, lecturer and staff cartographer in UC Berkeley’s Geography Department, has taught his students to create neighborhood maps that don’t merely identify the streets and avenues, hills and creeks where they live, but capture the quality of life that is lived there. Students would take to the streets in search of “dominating social and cultural institutions” such as churches, health clinics, art, parks, and ethnic groceries. Each map was to depict one or two of those elements, to look at each element in isolation.

From Shock-and-Awe to Fun-and-Awe: Cal Vets Discover the Healing Waters of Rx Nature

Rat summed it all up to Mole in the The Wind in the Willows:

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing… about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ‘em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it….

Co-Opted: The Ultimate Berkeley Housing Ad—From a ‘Sustainably-Karmic” Community

Hours ago, craigslist posted an online ad seeking housemates for a space that does not promote “ableism, consumerism, negativism, positivism, homophonia, slut shaming or sham slutting.” Applicants need only forego TV, microwaves, doors, and all scented products (yes, foods included, people!)—and they must be non-speciesist in their welcoming of fellow tenant Gaia, the 8-foot-long monitor lizard.

Sex, Drugs, Revolution: 50 Years On, Barbarians Gather to Recall The Berkeley Barb

The inaugural edition of The Berkeley Barb hit streets on Friday, August 13, 1965—incendiary times. It was the first days of the Watts riots, and the conflict in Vietnam was beginning to play out in living rooms on the nightly news. That week TV viewers watched as American GIs casually torched Vietnamese villages with their flamethrowers and Zippo lighters. Meanwhile, all across the United States, disillusioned young men were beginning to take those Zippos to their draft notices.

Turbo-Charging the Hunt for ETs: This Will Give our Decade a Shot at Cosmic Stardom

In the 3.5 billion-year history of life on planet Earth, a century seems barely mentionable and a decade seems insignificant—but the new revelation of a project involving a Russian billionaire, three UC Berkeley researchers and $100 million just may have laid the groundwork for this decade’s shot at eternal distinction.

Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is “Mind Reading” Deception Detection Sci-Fi—or Science?

Ever since the inception of our species, humans have wanted to peer inside each other’s minds. A major reason we want to do this is because we lie. We lie a lot, and on the whole, we are quite good at it. The capacity for deception is possibly one of the most significant cognitive gifts we received through evolution.

But it turns out that we lack an equal genius for spotting deception. Instead we keep trying to capitalize on technology—hoping it can do the detecting for us.

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