University of California

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.”

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.

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

What’s It Take to Get a Parking Spot Around Here?

I owned a bright orange 1973 VW Bug for 30 years. I loved and in many ways “identified” with it. I parked it on campus almost every day as close to the physics buildings as I could, and students and colleagues knew I was in when they saw the car.

Five Questions for Joyce Carol Oates

There may be one thing that you and Donald Trump agree on: Both of you seem to love Twitter. Since October 5, 2012, you have tweeted nearly 58,000 times and have a staggering 180,000 followers. Why do you find Twitter such a compelling medium for self-expression?

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.

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.

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 24 th to the 27 th —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.

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?”

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.

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 11 th 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.”

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.

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

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