UC Berkeley

Fanning the Flames: Dire Forecast for the American West

So far, the Rim Fire has been California’s worst wildfire for 2013, scorching more than a quarter-million acres in and around Yosemite and destroying more than 100 homes. Take it as a harbinger.

Field Hazard: Study linking fumigant to smaller babies raises questions

Anxiety is running higher around California’s strawberry fields after a recent study linked the birth of smaller babies to the fumigant methyl bromide: Newborns whose mothers lived within three miles of fields treated with the fumigant weighed an average of 4 ounces less at birth.

But one of the Cal authors of the paper cautioned against leaping to conclusions, noting that the precise degree of the threat to humans has yet to  be determined and that banning fumigants outright could risk decimating communities supported by the strawberry industry.

Strike a Pose: How Modeling Behaviors Can Change Your Outlook

Feeling downtrodden and powerless? Take a tip from the bantam rooster. It may be the most diminutive of chickens, but it struts its stuff like a cassowary. When it strides the barnyard, all the other fowl give it a wide berth.  And by practicing a similar swagger, you can achieve the same ends. By acting powerful you become, in effect – powerful.

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.

Baby Code: Should all newborns get genetic tests?

We like to think human beings are created equal, but strictly speaking, it isn’t quite true. Many abnormalities, from premature births to immune diseases, can afflict newborn children with no advance warning. Now a team including researchers from UC Berkeley will investigate using newly affordable genetic tests to detect complications in newborns—while also examining the ethical concerns such tests could pose.

Recipe for Success: Cal alum dishes on the Food Network

Allen Salkin has spent the majority of his career writing about the sometimes bizarre but always fascinating ins-and-outs of American culture. During his tenure at The New York Times, Salkin explored nearly every crevice of popular culture, from the Hollywood “Bling Ring” to Bernie Madoff’s beach house to the real-life adoption of Festivus—a fictional holiday featured in a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld.”

Fire Fallout: Cal expert sees “cascading” loss of wildlife

From Mount Diablo to the Sierras, a significant portion of California’s woodlands are going up in smoke. The impacts on humans are, of course, distressing. And as we’ve reported, the trend of bigger, hotter wildfires bodes to change the essential composition of California’s wildlands: Mixed coniferous forests are likely to contract, while grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands will probably expand.

Raspberry Ratified: But have such Berkeley student votes ever accomplished anything?

Janet Napolitano may have earned the support of the UC Board of Regents, but at Berkeley, the Associated Students of the University of California are not so easily swayed.

Convening for their weekly meeting, the student senators of ASUC have offered their collective assessment of the UC system’s controversial new president. And, lo, the former Homeland Security chief has been found wanting.

Behind the Curtain

Berkeley psychology professor Arthur Shimamura is unabashedly obsessed with cinema, but his day job is studying the brain. So, as both cineaste and scientist, it made sense to merge his livelihood with his passion.

Shimamura has coined the term “psychocinematics” to describe the cognitive aspects of the movie-going experience. He has a blog and a new book, Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies (Oxford University Press, 2013). For anyone who revels in the smell of popcorn and the roar of the Dolby sound system, it’s fascinating stuff.

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

Eruption Production: Cal researcher traces “heat fingers”

Many things—from relationships to assembling IKEA furniture—are not as simple as they seem on the surface. Turns out that’s the case for marine volcanoes as well. Most island chain and seamount volcanoes are found at the juncture of oceanic tectonic plates, where subduction, meaning one plate plowing under another, makes it relatively easy for magma to vent upward.  

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