UC Berkeley

Knotty Circumstance: How That Shoelace Study Went Viral

The study that would become a media sensation started innocently enough. It was about ten years ago, when a 4-year-old naively asked her father, “Why do shoelaces come untied?” and said father, who happens to be Oliver M. O’Reilly, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, couldn’t come up with a good explanation, even after watching myriad YouTube tutorials. “It seemed like a great mechanics problem and no one had solved it.” Read more about Knotty Circumstance: How That Shoelace Study Went Viral »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Bugged About Privacy

Our lives have been so augmented—or subsumed—by interconnected cybernetic devices that it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate what we’ve gained.

And lost.

We can now communicate cheaply and easily, and on a variety of media, with almost anyone anywhere in the world. We can find whatever fact we want, buy any item, monitor our homes, our finances, our children, our physical fitness, all with a few swipes on a screen. We can entertain ourselves for hours, albeit at the risk of eyestrain. Read more about Bugged About Privacy »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

In Flew Enza: Remembering the Plague Year in Berkeley

In 1918, America was at war and students arriving at the University of California in the fall of that year found their campus transformed. From the Center Street entrance, the view of the hills was now obscured by large new barracks and the dark smoke issuing from the powerhouse gave the place the look of a factory. Everywhere young men wore the khaki uniforms of the various military outfits represented on campus—the Student Army Training Center, the School of Military Aeronautics, the Naval Unit, and the Ambulance Corps. Read more about In Flew Enza: Remembering the Plague Year in Berkeley »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Zen and the Art of Bug Repair

If you ever owned an old air-cooled Volkswagen, chances are you also owned a copy of the “Idiot’s Guide,” or at least knew about it. Its real title was How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot “with complete spelled wrong on the cover,” one joker put it, “so you know it must be good.” In fact, the title was an allusion to The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton. Read more about Zen and the Art of Bug Repair »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Berkeley Faculty Members Sound Off On Proposed Boycott

On Wednesday afternoon a letter was emailed to all UC Berkeley faculty, encouraging them to boycott all classes and campus activities from September 24th to the 27th—the dates in which Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and Stephen K. Bannon have been invited by a small, conservative student publication called the Berkeley Patriot to speak on campus. Read more about Berkeley Faculty Members Sound Off On Proposed Boycott »

Physics Monopole-y: A Key to a Unified Theory of Everything?

Eighty-six years ago, physicist Paul Dirac theorized the existence of magnetic monopoles; that is, magnet poles that exist independent of each other. Not north and south together. North. And south. Separately.

Nearly a century later, Felix Flicker, a Berkeley theoretical physicist and post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Norman Yao, is working to help prove Dirac’s theory. “There was this sort of philosophical point I was thinking of,” Flicker says. “You can’t have the left end of a stick without the right end, can you?” Read more about Physics Monopole-y: A Key to a Unified Theory of Everything? »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

An Entomological Etymology

Over the centuries, bug has become an astonishingly versatile little word, with roughly six common meanings and 170 slang uses. But why? Where did the word come from and how did it manage to so infest the English language?

The question was buggin’ me, so I called up Geoffrey Nunberg, renowned linguist and professor at the Berkeley School of Information, to see what he could tell me. Read more about An Entomological Etymology »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Opening a New Chapter

On a late morning in July, 17 days after formally beginning work as Berkeley’s 11th chancellor, Carol Tecla Christ sat in her sunlit office in California Hall, reflecting on the meaning of her new job title. “It’s essentially a representational role,” she said. “As the chancellor, you’re the storyteller-in-chief.” Read more about Opening a New Chapter »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

What I Hope to Achieve: A Letter from Chancellor Christ

In my first months as chancellor, I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys. I remember vividly the first one I made to California to take up my faculty position here. I was a young, freshly minted Ph.D.; I drove across the country with a friend, and it was the first time I had been west of the Mississippi. Indeed, it was the first time I had been west of Philadelphia. Read more about What I Hope to Achieve: A Letter from Chancellor Christ »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

A Disruption in The Force: Peter Nicks’s New Documentary Has a Hella Big Plot Twist

Pete Nicks thought he knew what he was getting into when he started filming the Oakland Police Department in the fall of 2014. The department had long been under the thumb of a federal judge due to a series of lawsuits exposing poor management and pervasive abuses, but the OPD had a new chief who seemed poised to reform the troubled department.   Read more about A Disruption in The Force: Peter Nicks’s New Documentary Has a Hella Big Plot Twist »

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