Coby McDonald




California Magazine
Intolerable Genius: Berkeley's Most Controversial Nobel Laureate

IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.

Pacific Standard
When Sign Language Is a Superpower

When Emilio Insolera was a teenager growing up in Italy, he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. And he had the pedigree: His grandmother was an actor who ran in the same circles as famed director Federico Fellini. But when Insolera admitted his dream to his grandmother, he didn't get the response he'd hoped for.

The Good, The Bad and The Robot: Experts Are Trying to Make Machines Be "Moral"

Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. Human beings begin to learn the difference before we learn to speak-and thankfully so. We owe much of our success as a species to our capacity for moral reasoning. It's the glue that holds human social groups together, the key to our fraught but effective ability to cooperate.

California Magazine
The Chalk Market: Where Mathematicians Go to Get the Good Stuff

Filmmaker Kyung Lee never dreamed she’d become a dealer. But bringing her first feature-length documentary to fruition required money she simply didn’t have. What she did have, however, was an idea for getting high-quality product and access to exclusive clientele.

Popular Science
Nature Videos Make Prisoners Less Violent

Imprisonment in America often means complete seclusion from nature. Take the case of the maximum security inmates at Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon: they spend 23 hours a day locked in 7 X 12 foot concrete cells. The only windows face inside the unit.

'Bout That Action: How Marshawn Lynch Threw the Sports Media for a Loop

Marshawn Lynch is a jerk. And he's also a hero. He's ungrateful, immature, and stupid. And he's a genius with a heart of gold. Lynch, star running back of the Seattle Seahawks and former UC Berkeley phenom, is all of these things and more-if the various media portrayals are to be believed.

Bay Nature
What Flows Beneath Temescal -

hen Joan Marie Wood moved to Oakland's Temescal district in 1983, the neighborhood's most recognizable landmark was an X-rated movie theater called The Pussycat. Since the theater's demolition in the 1990s, the site at 51st and Telegraph has sat largely vacant: a Christmas tree or pumpkin lot during the holidays, an occasional outdoor movie screening space, but mostly just a patch of dead grass surrounded by chain-link fence.

Pacific Standard
Meet PRIME, the New App That Wants to Help Treat Schizophrenia

Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco are turning to an unlikely source to combat schizophrenia: the very people suffering from the disease. By Coby McDonald It was in 2011, after Camilo Pineda Obando moved to Pacifica, California, a small city just south of San Francisco, when his perception of reality took a sudden, dark shift.



Cal Alumni Association
The Vagabonds of Tightwad Hill Have the Best View in Sports

"This man needs an escort!" the security guard shouted, as ticketholders decked in blue and gold filed past me through the turnstiles into Memorial Stadium. I had no ticket for the sold out game against Bears' rival USC, but I had a scheme to watch it regardless.

Call of the Wild: Do Overprotected Kids Need to "Get Risky" on Playgrounds Like This?

I chickened out. That's what I remember most from my first trip to Berkeley's Adventure Playground. I was 7 years old, enthralled by the playground's junkyard-meets-Neverland, anything-goes atmosphere. There were scrap-wood forts, cobbled together towers, webs of cargo netting, old tires, and boat hulls in the dirt.

Popular Science
The Biggest Obstacle To Mars Colonization May Be Obsolete Humans

Wherever you go, there you are--even if it happens to be Mars. That's the gist of an essay recently published in the journal Space Policy. Colonizers of Mars may very well escape the grind of terrestrial life, but they likely won't escape the darker sides of their own natures, the authors suggest.


Cal Alumni Association
Back in the Game: Cal Program Helps Former Student-Athletes Graduate

When Keala Keanaaina came to Cal on a football scholarship in 1998, a career in the NFL was not on his radar. "I wasn't one of those football guys that dreamed of going to the pros," says Keanaaina. "I chose Berkeley because of its academic reputation.

Popular Science
Birds And Humans 'Talk' To Each Other To Outsmart Bees

For hundreds of thousands of years, African honey-hunters have solicited the help of tiny birds to help them locate honey. Research in the Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique has shown that both the birds and the human honey-hunters use specialized calls to attract one another, increasing the odds of finding honey.

Popular Science
This Sculpture Was Designed And 3D Printed By An A.I. Artist

Can computers make art? That's one of the questions animating the field of computational creativity, which seeks to design artificial intelligence that can replicate human creativity. We wrote recently about a Google effort to create algorithms that make original music. But what if artificial intelligence could design and make 3D objects you could actually hold in your hand?

Popular Science
When Design Is Hostile On Purpose

Unpleasant design refers to design that deters certain kinds of uses and behaviors. Examples include benches that discourage sleeping, lighting that repels loiterers, and studs on railings and walls to deter skating. Check out this gallery of images of objects and architecture intended to be unpleasant.

Popular Science
Brain-Jacked Locusts Could Be The Next Bomb Detectors

A team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have received funding from the Office of Naval Research to develop biorobotic locusts. The idea is to harness the powerful smelling abilities of the locusts for use as detection devices for a variety of applications.

How to Train Your Robot: Now They Can Follow Human Demonstrations to Tie Knots

BRETT the robot is a knot-tying whiz; it can tie an overhand knot, square knot, figure 8, and hitch. Sure, there are robots out there that drive cars, detonate roadside bombs, and even collect rock samples from the surface of Mars, but what makes BRETT special is not what it can do, but how it came by its modest talents.

Cal Alumni Association
In the Driver's Seat: When Can We Expect To Hand the Wheel Over to Robots?

Steven Shladover thinks that you, my human friend, are an excellent driver-and that fact makes his job exceptionally difficult. That is because Shladover, program manager at UC Berkeley's Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH), has spent 40 years researching automated vehicle systems. The Holy Grail of this field is the self-driving car: the artificially intelligent chauffeur that promises to one day relieve us of our driving duties.

Berkeley Architect Aims to Transform the World-One Outlandish Project at a Time

On a quiet, ordinary residential block in West Berkeley, amid boxy bungalows with manicured yards, there is a house that defies description. It's known as the Fish House, but it looks more like a many-nostrilled beetle, or a sea slug with an underbite, or perhaps something Gaudí would have designed had he been a set designer on Star Trek.

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