Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Friday, 21 July 2017

1. Exotic Physics Glimpsed for First Time in Lab Crystal
Scientific American

Peering into a crystal at IBM Research in Switzerland, a team of physicists has spied an "axial-gravitational anomaly" effect, which they theorize occurs in immense gravitational fields like those near a black hole, similar to conditions just after the Big Bang. "This anomaly is so hard to measure that even indirect evidence is a major breakthrough," says team member Adolfo Grushin, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley's Condensed Matter Theory Center. He says the "behaviour of the current as we change the magnetic field is exactly what the theory of the axial–gravitational anomaly predicts," and he figures that understanding how the anomaly manifests itself should open up new physics.
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2. Catastrophic engineering expert asks: Is Oroville Dam leaking?
Sacramento Bee (*requires registration)

The Oroville Dam may be "facing a breach danger from a serious and a dangerous form of a slow-motion failure mode" due to persistent leaks in the main dam, warns a report issued by civil engineering professor emeritus Robert Bea, of Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. The 124-page report summarizes the results of an investigation he conducted with a team of volunteers, including retired state dam safety and water officials. They reviewed historical photos, videos, and state and federal inspection reports, concluding that the reassurances of dam officials belie a more serious problem. A key finding is that sensors embedded in the dam to detect leaks or internal shifting of dam fill quit working years ago. "That's scary. But it pays to be afraid," Professor Bea says. "That doesn't mean you tremble and quake and crawl in the closet and suck on your thumb, but you have to understand there's something here that's potentially very harmful." Professor Bea issued the report with an urgent call for an independent investigation of the dam's soundness.
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3. Op-Ed: Electronic monitoring isn't kid-friendly
Sacramento Bee (*requires registration)

California's juvenile offenders are frequently getting caught in a cycle of repetitive incarceration for minor violations of parole policies, write the authors of a new study by Berkeley Law and the East Bay Community Law Center. The problem is attributed to unreasonable rules that many counties are applying to juveniles wearing GPS monitors, and some of the rules "undermine rehabilitation by preventing social activities that help kids thrive." For example, in some counties, monitored youth cannot work, play sports, participate in afterschool activities, or have any visitors except immediate family. Since there's no statewide policy in place, the rules are determined on a county level, and that has led to an inconsistency in which, for example, some kids might have to remember just 10 rules, while others are expected to follow more than 50. They conclude: "Our report ... highlights how little is known about the effectiveness of GPS monitoring. While there is growing consensus that incarcerating young people is harmful, electronic monitoring is no panacea. Cycling in and out of juvenile hall for monitoring violations undermines stability when it is needed most, disrupting school, family, jobs and other rehabilitative activities. ... Alternatives to incarceration are badly needed. But we owe it to young people and their families to make sure they are utilized fairly and responsibly." For more on this, see this coverage at Berkeley Law. Stories on this topic have appeared in hundreds of sources.
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4. UC Berkeley offers to waive venue fee for right-wing speaker
Washington Post (*requires registration)

In the interest of free speech on campus, Chancellor Carol Christ has approved an offer to waive the venue fee for former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro to speak on September 14, the date the Berkeley College Republicans student group requested. The group had wanted a room that could accommodate 500 people, but all the venues that were both large enough and free of charge for student organizations were booked, so, according to campus spokesman Dan Mogulof: "The event will either take place in a smaller venue or the university will foot the bill for a larger venue that's available. ... All the details will have to be worked out with them, but I'm optimistic." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including the Washington Post and Berkeleyside.
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5. After Ann Coulter controversy, UC Berkeley rolls out new policy for inviting speakers
East Bay Times (*requires registration)

Although it won't be in place soon enough to manage current negotiations over finding a suitable time and place for a visit by conservative speaker Ben Shapiro, campus officials are drafting a new policy aimed at getting ahead of future disputes when student groups invite controversial or incendiary speakers to visit the campus. The policy action was spurred by several recent speaker engagements, which had to be cancelled due to threatened violence, despite campus officials' wish to preserve freedom of speech values on campus. The policy is likely to require eight weeks advance notice on space requests, accompanied by publicity materials. If campus police decide the event will require significant security measures, the student group will need to meet with police at least six weeks before the event.
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6. Blog: Building better preschools -- but for which kids?
Brown Center Chalkboard (Brookings Institution)

"Few policy ideas rival the popularity of spreading preschool about the land," writes education and public policy professor Bruce Fuller, adding that "prickly questions continue to nag advocates of universal pre-K entitlement." Discussing his and others' research on the issue, he concludes: "For now, our new findings show how certain facets of quality may widen the punch packed by quality pre-K programs ­– lifting not only poor children but also peers raised in more secure homes and neighborhoods. Fellow scholars report similar results for local samples in Boston and Tulsa. ... But then again, if we verify that pre-K is lifting a wider range of children, including those situated in America's colorfully diverse middle class, have we arrived at the optimal policy for narrowing early gaps in children's growth? Or will we find that pre-K acts to simply reinforce disparities put in place by differing family practices and neighborhood inequities–much like the effects of stratified public schools?"
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7. Letters to the Editor: Sacramento Bee's focus on 50-mile farmworker rule, and Shawn Hubler's Texas take
Sacramento Bee (*requires registration)

Responding to the editorial, "With the best of intentions, a California rule leads to dropouts and splits families" (July 16), public health lecturer Harry Snyder writes: "Thanks to The Sacramento Bee for highlighting the unfairness of a Housing and Community Development Department regulation, which impedes the education of migrant farm worker children. Forcing families to choose between making a living and their children's future when a rule has become outdated is a failure of our government. This is an example of regulatory overkill we hear about when businesses are told, 'Don't pollute our air or water.' When California's children and our future are being harmed we hear, 'This is too difficult; we can't change anything.' That's nonsense. Definitions are drafted to solve problems every day by people who want to make things better."
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8. Op-Ed: It doesn't matter that an Arab will play Aladdin
Al Jazeera

Weighing in on Disney's announcement that it will remake the cartoon fantasy Aladdin, and the attendant controversy over who will play the roles of Aladdin and Jasmine, Khaled Beydoun, a University of Detroit Mercy law professor affiliated with Berkeley's Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, writes: "For the diverse groups of people that hail from the Middle East, the region that inspires the story and setting for Aladdin, the film renews a range of concerns. Aladdin, the film and its aggregate franchise, is not only a material embodiment of Orientalism -- the system that reduces the Middle East, and its elaborately diverse peoples, cultures and faiths, into a backwards monolith -- but also an enterprise that generates extravagant profits from perpetuating these misrepresentations. ... Therefore, while who plays Aladdin and which actress assumes the role of Jasmine deserves attention, the bulk of the concern and criticism should be concentrated on the story's inherent Orientalism and racism."
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9. Commentary: How Fear of Falling Explains the Love of Trump
New York Times (*requires registration)

Sociology professor emerita Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, is quoted in a commentary about Trump supporters' socioeconomic fears. The passage says: "Hochschild has studied Americans whom she calls 'the elite of the left-behind.' Her findings shed light, I think, on the concerns of some of the voters who tipped the balance for Trump last year. Hochschild wrote to me that common refrains among these voters were 'America's heading downhill' and 'I think our kids are headed for hard times.' In these conversations, she said: 'it wouldn't take long before another topic spontaneously came up, blacks, their problems, their call on government help. At the bottom of the imagined slide was the situation of blacks -- teen single moms, kids out in the street at night, slacking off in school, drugs, drink. So, yes, the feeling was, 'if we don't turn this thing around, that could be us.'"
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10. Book Review: How Inequality Erodes the Foundation of Modern Societies
New York Times (*requires registration)

Reviewing two new books, public policy professor Robert Reich says: "The greatest threat to Western liberal democracies in the future is more likely to come from extreme inequality than from Islamic extremism. This is because inequality erodes two foundation stones of modern society -- openness to new ideas and opportunities, and a conviction that all citizens are morally equal." The books he discusses are The Fate of the West by Bill Emmott, and One Another's Equals: The Basis of Human Equality by Jeremy Waldron. Professor Reich concludes his review saying: "These two insightful books suggest that if we don't recommit ourselves to political equality, we will become ever more closed, authoritarian societies. Economic elites should understand this. As Emmott notes, without openness, the West cannot thrive. But without equality, the West cannot last."
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11. Alert: Mountain lion seen in Berkeley
Berkeleyside

Campus police have warned the community that a mountain lion was spotted east of the Clark Kerr Campus track on Wednesday. Several sightings of mountain lions have occurred in the hills above the campus in recent years. This article includes tips for avoiding mountain lion encounters, reducing the chances of an attack when they are encountered, and what to do if attacked.
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12. Relax with 40 free, soothing hours of 'Planet Earth' courtesy of the BBC
USA Today

For anyone who would love to relax with nature videos unpolluted by the narration or talking heads of nature documentaries, BBC is offering 40 hours of raw footage with just their natural sounds from its Planet Earth series on its Earth Unplugged YouTube channel. Viewers may choose from four 10-hour installments, categorized as Island, Jungle, Desert, and Mountain. The series is part of BBC Earth's Real Happiness Project, based on a study conducted by the BBC and Berkeley psychologists. The study found that watching nature documentaries can make people feel happier. For more on the research, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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13. Forum with Michael Krasny: Pioneering Astronomer Jill Tarter on 'Making Contact' with Alien Life
KQED Radio

Alum Jill Tarter, who has spent 40 years searching for extraterrestrial life as a cofounder of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, joins the forum to talk with journalist Sarah Scoles, whose new book, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, profiles the history and science of Tarter's work. Link to audio.
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14. Environment: These 7 Easy Energy-Saving Hacks Can Save Consumers Hundreds of Dollars Every Year: So Why Aren't Americans Doing Them?
AlterNet

A roundup of household energy-saving tips includes the suggestion that people turn off their computers, instead of leaving them idle or in sleep mode. They add the following alternative: "If letting your computer run 24/7 is a habit you're simply not going to break, you could at least donate its processing power when you're not using it to SETI@home, a scientific experiment based at UC Berkeley that uses internet-connected computers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data. ... If you don't want to help save Earth's environment, maybe your computer can find an alien civilization that will welcome all the climate refugees your inaction helped to create."
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