Tracking Transit

The question at the center of Daniel Chatman’s latest paper seems like it already should have been answered: Just how much is public transportation worth to a city? Although city planning papers had examined public transit’s financial effects before, Chatman, an assistant professor of city and regional planning, found none researched the link between public transportation, worker productivity, and increased wages. That gap led Chatman to create a model that could accurately predict the financial benefits different public transit systems bring to the cities they serve.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Wrangling Big Data

Imagine a website that could offer you personalized medical advice. You could log on and input your symptoms and medical history. The program would then compare your situation to that of other people with a similar condition, perhaps analyze your genotype, consult with a few hundred doctors as necessary, and then provide you with a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

“Fund Me:” Researchers who can’t get corporate funding forced to get creative

With government funding more scarce, corporations have stepped in to underwrite an increasing amount of research in academia—as we’ve reported, industry now accounts for about 10 percent of funding for research at UC Berkeley, double the percentage it was two decades ago. But what about the iconoclastic researchers—the ones whose work is either irrelevant to, or at cross-purposes with, the profit-minded interests of corporate funders?

Holy Innovation, Batman: Using bat-like sonar, UC researchers develop way to control smartwatches with a wave of your hand

A group of UC researchers has created a small motion-detecting control device for consumer electronics that uses bat-like ultrasonic echolocation, which means…

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na… BATPHONE!

Or possibly Batwatch, or BatGPS, or Batslideshow-controller, or Batscreen with gestural interface. Really, the possibilities are endless within the realm of electronic devices you could control by waving your hand—like, say, a miniature symphony orchestra, or the stereo in the Batmobile.

Crowded Field: How crowdfunding is changing the investment world

Used to be, not so very long ago—prior to 2008, in fact—you had few options for raising money if you were low on cash and wanted to make a film or album, write the Great American (or Australian or Lithuanian) Novel, launch a killer app, or start a catering service for dogs. If you had credit cards, you could max them out. Or you could ask mom and dad for a currency infusion. Or you could…you could…well, that’s about it. With zip collateral, no bank was going to give you a loan. Venture capitalists or angel investors? Puh-leeze. You wouldn’t even register on their scopes.

Bridge Over Troubled Bolts: Cal Experts Question Whether New Bridge is Safe

As the Bay Area celebrates the opening of a new Bay Bridge—an eastern span that transportation officials are hailing as elegant and seismically secure—UC Berkeley engineers are expressing serious misgivings about whether the structure is safe. And at least one professor labels it far less stable than the old bridge. 

The Fold-Up Boat

Tell people you’ve invented “the world’s first origami kayak,” and you’re likely to be met with wry grins and chuckles. The mind runs to images of paddlers astride giant paper gewgaws, sodden and sinking in the surf. But, rest assured, the Oru Kayak is no joke: It’s a sleek, honest-to-god kayak that folds together in minutes from a single sheet of corrugated plastic, then folds again into a carrying case about the size and shape of an overstuffed garment bag.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.

Troubled Bridge

When close to three dozen anchor rods snapped on the nearly completed new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge this spring, it was just the latest in a series of controversies that have dogged the $6.4 billion project since the start.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.

Work in Progress

View the rest of the photos here

When I first got to know Joe Blum nearly 40 years ago, he was a union boilermaker working as a shipfitter and welder in the fabrication shops and shipyards of the Bay Area. Joe was a single dad and a workingman. He had dropped out of grad school at Berkeley to enlist in the progressive politics of the day, making common cause with his union mates. He hadn’t yet taken up photography in a serious way.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.


Warren Hellman was driving home to San Francisco from Stinson Beach a while back when he saw a woman hitchhiking. He pulled over. “I said, ‘Are you an axe murderer or anything?’

From the Summer 2011 The Soundtrack of Berkeley issue of California.

The Human Potential Movement

“Create your own future,” cried the new age tapes I chanced upon in a California bookstore a few years ago. Not far away, at the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, the Reverend Robert H. Schuller was singing his own gospel of “Possibility Thinking” with the help of books called Your Future Is Your Friend and Success Is Never Ending, Failure Is Never Final. Around him, the latest immigrants, from Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan, were acting with their feet on those very notions.


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