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2006 November December Life After Bush

Waiting for Godot

A Beckett favorite is as fresh as the next hour. Barry Mcgovern remembers when the common question: “Well, shall we go?” became immortal for him. It was on a Dublin night in 1961. He was an impressionable boy of 12, already a faithful BBC viewer and a vaguely aspiring actor. On television this night the little […]

Slime Power

Fast. Efficient. Powerful. And Slimy. That’s the kind of snail Jon Wilkening wants to design. A sleek, shapely robotic snail that can move at the speed of — well, a bit faster than your typical slug. At a conference, the Berkeley mathematician saw a demonstration of MIT professor Peko Hosoi’s Robosnail. About the size and […]

Interspecies Love

You get your genes from your parents — that principle is the foundation of current evolutionary theory. But what if genes could jump from organism to organism in passing, like a contagious disease? More and more evidence suggests that this sort of thing happens regularly. Most recently, a team of Berkeley scientists has shown that […]

Political Scientist

Berkeley Chancellor and physicist Robert Birgeneau on his priorities for new research and why he’s creating a vice-chancellor position for “equity and inclusion.” Two years into his term, the chancellor speaks confidently about the initiative that he brought to Berkeley and that has drawn the largest public notice—to increase the number of underrepresented minorities on campus. […]

From Brain Cells To Bombs

On August 10, the day British authorities foiled a terrorist plot to blow up ten passenger jets, Berkeley chemist Christopher Chang was sitting in his office in Latimer Hall reading the news on the Internet. Scrolling down the page, he read that the terrorists intended to use a liquid explosive called triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a […]

The Back Roads of Burma

I had well-founded doubts about going to Myanmar (Burma). Warnings from travelers and journalists cannot be ignored. If you photograph a certain building, the wrong bridge, or anyone in uniform, you lose your film. People get detained. Then there were further misgivings about putting more U.S. dollars in the coffers of the military junta. Aung […]

A Letter to my Young Self

Thirty years after fleeing Vietnam, the author rediscovers old family letters and tries to recognize the childhood innocence he left behind. I have forgotten you—you who sang the Vietnamese national anthem with tears in your eyes and who believed that borders, like the Great Wall of China, were real demarcations, not easily crossed—you read Tintin and […]

Stalking a Killer

Will Jay Keasling’s team of synthetic biologists and Bill and Melinda Gates’s foundation find a low-cost treatment for one of the world’s deadliest diseases? Jay Keasling carries a picture in his mind of a place he has never seen, of children he has never met. But it is an image that radically changed how he felt […]

The Law: John Yoo’s war

Law professor John Yoo is an unabashed advocate for supreme executive authority—including the power to torture and detain military prisoners without charges. Does he have a point? The blunt, cruel reality is an obdurate horror. Whether the news is personal or touches everyone, there is first the terrible word. Killing waters have breached the wall. Jets […]

International: Losing minds

The next president must ask two fundamental questions: “Why are we losing on the battleground of ideas? What can we do about it?” In Autumn 2003, Donald Rumsfeld asked his top advisors a now-famous question: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring, and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, […]

Domestic: Unfinished business

A new president must restore civility before government can govern. During Dwight Eisenhower’s last years in office, one of his two top aides died; the other left Washington in disgrace. Ronald Reagan’s sixth year was mired in Iran-Contra; in their sixth years, Richard Nixon resigned and Bill Clinton was impeached. Political scientists call it the “sixth-year […]