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2008 November December Stars of Berkeley

Yes He Can!

Merce Cunningham has a long history of creating works for places that don’t fit most people’s definition of a “stage.” This predilection goes back to the “happenings” he, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and others created in the 1950s. Indeed, on the Merce Cunningham Dance Company website, scheduled upcoming performances are still called “events.” This summer, […]

A Winning Relationship

Jake Heggie and Frederica von Stade discuss their musical and personal collaboration. Outside of Zellerbach Hall, the oak trees lining Strawberry Creek sway in a gentle late-summer breeze. But the dazzling weather outside can’t compete with the glow suffusing Zellerbach’s rehearsal room, where Frederica von Stade and Jake Heggie take turns describing how their lives and […]

Brussels or Bust

This is a story of Sputnik, Tivoli Gardens, Richard Nixon, and the famous 1950s TV game show, Truth or Consequences. It begins in January 1958, when the State Department invited the Cal Band to perform at the World’s Fair in Brussels, but offered no funding for the estimated $100,000 trip. A Night and Day (literally) […]

Getting at the ‘Why?’

David Simon laments the fate of newspaper journalism. David Simon, creator, producer, and writer of the critically acclaimed television drama, The Wire, was on campus in September as writer-in-residence at the graduate school of journalism. A former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, Simon took a buyout offer from the paper in 1995. By that time, he […]

Blame it on Milton Nascimento

Milton Nascimento first heard João Gilberto’s 1958 recording of “Chega De Saudade” (known in English as the jazz standard “No More Blues”) as a stargazing teenager in Três Pontas, Brazil. The classic tune introduced his generation to an uncharted galaxy of musical possibilities. “It was very new,” Nascimento writes in an email. “And it opened […]

The Stars Her Destination

A business major’s epiphany leads her to become a NASA scientist. Natalie Batalha’s worst enemy is the clock. Installed around the corner from her office at NASA Ames Research Center, a looming LED display is counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the launch of the Kepler Mission: NASA’s first attempt to find habitable Earth-like […]

Life on Mars?

A Berkeley chemist’s long-ago prediction turns out to be accurate, but for the wrong reasons. In June, U.S. space scientists announced “with great pride and a lot of joy,” that they had spotted frozen water—ice—in robotic images from the surface of Mars. The discovery confirmed a scientific prediction by a Berkeley chemist nearly 40 years ago. […]

Deus Ex Machina

Walter Wagner says the Large Hadron Collider could destroy the world. Physicists say fat chance. But is even that a chance we want to take? The switch was officially thrown on September 10. Had everything gone as planned, proton beams would right now be traveling at nearly the speed of light around a 17-mile-long looped tunnel […]

Prospecting for Education

America’s academic towers were never all that ivory, but how much private funding should the nation’s top public university have to rely on? For most Americans, California evokes images of beaches and palm trees, the Hollywood sign and the Golden Gate Bridge. People don’t hear “California” and automatically think, “The Higher-Education Capital of the World.” Yet […]

Back to Nature

The latest inventions are inspired by the world around us. Professor Robert Full is used to fielding bizarre calls: It might be the Department of Defense on the line inquiring about swimming robots, or Pixar animators wondering precisely how their cartoon critters should move. Recently a fashion design house phoned, interested in crafting haute couture fabric […]

Blown Apart

The discovery is Nobel-worthy—the universe is expanding faster and faster, driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. But who deserves the credit? “Your job as a scientist is to figure out how you’re fooling yourself,” Saul Perlmutter declares. The famed astrophysicist is sitting in the cafeteria at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, eating a falafel. Normally […]

Access and Excellence at Berkeley

Since July 1, 2006, I’ve had the best job in academia: executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley. The position, both endlessly challenging and exhilarating, is the culmination of a 37-year career as faculty and allows me to give back to the university in ways that stretch beyond research and teaching. […]