Berkeley in the News Archive

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Monday, 30 June 2014

1. UC Berkeley 'Science of Happiness' course attracts 50,000 online students
San Francisco Business Times (*requires registration)

An astonishing 50,000 students have signed up for a free massive open online course, or MOOC, called "Science of Happiness." The course begins in September, offered by Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center through the edX platform and taught by psychology professor Dacher Keltner and neuroscientist Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Most of the registrants have said they "belong to the Millennial Generation," aged 18 to 33, and more than 60 percent are women. "It's become clear that millennials are seeking a new model of the meaningful life," Professor Keltner says. "Our course will be a science-based platform for the lives they are creating." Full Story

2. Morning Edition: Preschoolers Outsmart College Students In Figuring Out Gadgets

A study co-led by psychology professor Alison Gopnik has found that 4- and 5-year-olds are better than college students at figuring out how novel toys and gadgets work. Professor Gopnik explains that the difference in how the two populations approach the problem is that children are more flexible in their thinking and try a variety of creative strategies. For example: "If the child sees that a square block and a round block independently turn the music on, then they'll take a square and take a circle and put them both on the machine together to make it go, even though they never actually saw the experimenters do that." Link to audio and video. Full Story

3. Op-Ed: The Myth Of the Wicked Patent Troll
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

Business professor Ross Levine, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, co-writes this commentary on the U.S. movement to reform the patent system to combat "patent trolls" -- businesses that buy patents from inventors and then sue firms that use them without payment. In fact, they say their research has found that "innovation rates have been strongest in exactly the industries that patent-reform advocates claim are suffering from 'trolls' and a broken patent system," while "innovation in these industries is matched with a rapid decline in prices." They conclude that no evidence exists that patent tolls and lawsuits are hindering innovation or the commercialization of complex technologies. Full Story

4. Blog: Our Weird Hillary Clinton Obsession

Linguistics Professor Emeritus Robin Lakoff, author of Language and Woman’s Place and The Language War, writes about our national obsession with Hillary Clinton and how it is playing out with her current book tour interviews. "In truth ... the interviews themselves are less interesting than the meta-interviews: analyses of the interviews by the punditry," she says, concluding: "Our special treatment of Clinton is based on our anxiety about women’s new roles. The fact that she has made us uncomfortable makes us treat her as an extreme case of 'woman.' All too many of our unconscious beliefs about how women talk, what they mean and who decides what they mean, come into play as we listen to her. What she may actually say is immaterial. The fact that she is in a position to say what she is saying, or not say what she is not, is what troubles her listeners." Full Story

5. Op-Ed: Business leaders worry about shrinking middle class
San Francisco Chronicle

Public policy professor Robert Reich writes about a discussion he recently had with the chairman of one of the country's biggest high-tech firms about the causes and consequences of widening inequality and what could be done about it. The visitor echoed a concern he's heard from a growing number of business leaders -- that the American middle class is the "core of our customer base" and "if they can't afford our products in the years ahead, we're in deep trouble." Professor Reich concludes: "America's real business leaders understand that unless or until the middle class regains its footing and its faith, capitalism remains vulnerable." Full Story

6. Op-Ed: Blame War, Not Safaris
New York Times (*requires registration)

Louisa Lombard, a postdoctoral fellow in natural resource economics, writes about conflict in The Central African Republic and the misdirection of Western criticism toward safari hunting during the conflict. She says that safari hunters and their hosts "are irrelevant to the war, and by staying through it they are providing a rare source of livelihood to people long neglected by the central government and now largely abandoned by everyone else." She concludes: "When the foreign aid workers in the Central African Republic pack up their NGO T-shirts and laptops and fly away to the next emergency, a few safari-lodge operators and their employees will stay behind. It would be a pity if their fragile industry collapsed, not because of the war itself but because of the misdirected criticism of Westerners trying to help." Full Story

7. China Real Time Report Blog: ‘Picking Quarrels’ Casts Shadow Over Chinese Law
Wall Street Journal Online (*requires registration)

Law lecturer Stanley Lubman writes about a forthcoming trial in China for one of the country's best known "rights defenders," who was arrested for "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Lubman says the case "dramatically illustrates the contradiction between attempts to increase legality in an authoritarian regime and that regime’s overwhelming anxiety about maintaining social stability." He says the trial seems apt to end with a harsh penalty and that "would be a sad development in the life arc of a man who has devoted himself to applying the law to defend human rights -- and a sad commentary on the state of freedom of speech in China today." Full Story

8. Upstate cities may be on wrong end of 'Great Divergence'
San Francisco Chronicle

A new study has found that many upstate New York cities are on the wrong side of the "Great Divergence" – a term coined by Berkeley economics professor Enrico Moretti to describe Americans' tendency since the 1980s to segregate themselves by educational attainment. Moretti wrote in his book The New Geography of Jobs that cities with the "right" industries and "right" jobs have been attracting the best and the brightest, while others have seen their economic fortunes dwindle. The new study (not by Moretti) found that of 363 metro areas, many in the upstate area had some of the lowest economic growth projections through 2020. Full Story

9. Obama Could Use 14th Amdt. To Raise Debt Ceiling
KTVU Online

Law professor Jesse Choper comments on speculation that President Obama could use the 14th amendment to extend the nation's debt ceiling in spite of the stalemate in congress. Professor Choper says the 14th amendment indicates that the debt of the U.S. as authorized by law shall not be questioned, and that the obscure section was added to insure the government paid its civil war debts. “It would be his last arrow in his quiver,” he says. Full Story

10. Google bores at I/O -- just the way it wanted

Sociology professor Margaret Weir comments on this year's low-key annual developer conference, compared to the more ostentatious shows of years past. "Google Glass and Google buses have become sort of targets for people who blame inequality on tech," she says. "The last things they'd want to do [with this conference] is add fuel to those particular issues." Full Story

11. Code for America is working on reducing ER calls in Long Beach using big data

A project co-authored by biostatistics professor Alan Hubbard is mentioned in a roundup of recent big data projects aimed at improving health care at emergency rooms. His project was to “develop a predictive computer model for the prognosis of trauma patients,” according to Berkeley Health Online. The model tries to better inform clinicians who are making life-saving decisions. Full Story

12. Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour leaves post with her head held high
San Francisco Chronicle

A press conference was held on campus Friday to formally announce that athletic director Sandy Barbour would be stepping down to work in a different capacity -- putting together a sports-management program through UC Berkeley Extension. "We’ve had our ups and downs, but I stand here with the firm belief that the ups have far outweighed the downs,” she said, noting the symbolic significance of the event taking place at the stadium, the retrofitting and renovation of which she oversaw. "It’s huge, because the campus has been talking about it for 30 years. A lot of people said it couldn’t be done -- but here we are.” Her temporary replacement, Michael Williams, also spoke. A former Cal wrestler and current Berkeley Foundation trustee, he said: "I don’t have interest in sports management as a profession. ... I love this university and I’m deeply committed to what it stands for. This is an opportunity to continue working on what I’ve done as a volunteer.” Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources. Full Story

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