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2008 March April Mind Matters

Will Second Life Survive?

San Francisco based Linden Lab set out to build virtual reality hardware; instead the company ended up creating an entire virtual world. Freed from the laws of physics and suburban propriety, in Second Life your house can float, your neighbors might be elves, and you are welcome to go about your business as a giant […]

China’s Alaska

Hundreds of miles west of the Great Wall, amid desert camels and canvas-covered yurts, it’s natural to wonder: “Can I really be in China?” Geography can play tricks with you on a modern journey along the ancient Silk Road. On one day in the exotic city of Kashgar, the wooden doors of a concealed family compound opened […]

How to Choose A President

Forty years after the 1968 reforms, the nominating contests in both parties are more exciting and competitive. In keeping with the zeitgeist of “power to the people,” 1968 killed the already decaying system for nominating presidential candidates. In that year both major political parties changed their rules to replace selection of their nominee by the party’s […]

Do You Have Free Will?

It’s an unseasonably warm spring day on campus and you’ve got a hankering for an ice cream cone. Will you pick chocolate or something more exotic? Standing indecisively, you look up to see a crazy little dog named Russell catching a ball in midair. Russell’s well known around Berkeley. He’s a robot and he fetches […]

Sax Man

Jazz legend Sonny Rollins is still improvising—brilliantly. Often hailed as the last jazz immortal, 77-year-old tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins has helped shape the course of American culture for more than half a century with his brawny tone, gift for thematic improvisation, and uncanny skill at exploiting rhythmic freedom. Beyond his pervasive influence as a player, […]

Family Violence

It was the insects that got to her first. Sylvia Sellers-García says family legend has it that even as a baby in Central America, the bugs made quite an impact on her. “They are very different from insects here,” says Sellers-García, a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American history at Berkeley. “They are un-ignorable.” She remembers […]

Nurture into Nature

Can changes based on nutrition, toxics, or a mother’s touch be biologically inherited? Darlene Francis, clad in a blue zip-up hoodie and running shoes, is talking about the frontal cortex, decision-making, and high-stress profiles in rats, when she suddenly shifts the focus to poor, single, inner-city moms—that is to say, stressed-out humans. Working with rodents, the […]

Minding The Brain

New discoveries suggest a networked brain that loves to make a break rules, and thrives on mistakes, in search of a deeper truth. In a San Francisco operating room, a sterilized saw circles the skull. The bone casing is removed, revealing the brain, pulsating beneath a pitiable slurry of blood. The patient is awake, with no […]

Mind Medicine

Scientists have launched the largest study to date on whether meditation can produce positive changes in the brain, right down to the molecular level. At the Shambhala Mountain Center, a 600-acre Buddhist retreat nestled at 8,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, UC Davis neuroscientist Clifford Saron and his team were busy gathering what amounted to more […]

Faking It

Second Life—a 3-D virtual environment—offers its “residents” a chance to invent a whole new life for themselves. Can it deliver on that promise? Of the more than 11 million people signed up as “residents” of Second Life, roughly half a million spent at least an hour a day in that world in December. Through avatars they […]