All posts by UCTV

Shaping Society to Fight Climate Change

Big, heavy vehicles like SUVs don’t make a whole lot of sense for most people. Your average driver isn’t going off-road. A third row of seats is very rarely necessary. They take more gas. And, if you’re hit by an SUV in a sedan, you’re more likely to die. So, why are SUVs so common? Economist Robert Frank argues it boils down to peer pressure. As some people started buying SUVs, their neighbors began to as well. It’s the core premise of his new book, Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work. Recently, Frank sat down with UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy professor Dan Kammen to discuss how this concept can be used to fight climate change.

Frank says in order to implement policies that would have a major impact on climate change we need to tackle, “the mother of all cognitive illusions.” The illusion is that requiring higher taxes of the rich would harm them in some way. Frank argues this simply isn’t true using a series of thought experiments. He asks the audience to imagine being rich in two different worlds, a high-tax world, and a low-tax world. The low-tax rich might drive a $300,000 Ferrari, while the high-tax rich might drive a $150,000 Porsche. But, in the high-tax scenario, the roads are maintained at a much higher standard. So, who is happier, the people driving Ferraris over potholes or those driving Porches on pristine streets? In Frank’s opinion, it’s clear that the Porsche owners would be happier. Frank expands on this example, explaining how we could implement higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for decarbonizing the economy, without requiring any meaningful sacrifice.

Watch The Psychology of Climate Change with Robert Frank.


Organ Failure and Replacement

Why do organs fail and what therapies are available for organ replacement?

This new series from UCSF focuses on the causes of organ failure, how to prevent loss of organ function and how we can replace organs when they do fail.

Hear from a variety of experts, including kidney and liver specialists, that are part of the UCSF Abdominal Transplant team, as well as transplant surgeons who perform liver, kidney and pancreas transplants.

This comprehensive review will give you a better understanding as to why our organs fail, and the incredible outcomes achieved with organ transplantation when organs need to be replaced. Several speakers also address the important role of living donors.

Browse more programs in Organ Failure and Replacement: Why Organs Fail and What Therapies are Available for Organ Replacement.


Transcending Turmoil

Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is the great composer’s most frequently performed and recorded work, one that often elicits complex responses in listeners. Some commentators see the Concerto as Bartók’s reflection on the turmoil that enveloped the world and his own life, while others see it as nothing less than the summation of a singular career. Whatever the interpretation, there is no doubt that the circumstances of its composition make the Concerto all the more remarkable.

Bartók and his wife reluctantly fled their native Hungary in 1940 to escape the ravages of World War II, settling in New York City. Fiercely nationalistic, Bartók was never entirely comfortable in America and found it difficult to compose. For their part Americans showed little interest in his music, and the Bartóks lived in near-poverty. To make matters worse, by 1942 Bartok was exhibiting symptoms of a debilitating illness. By the time leukemia was diagnosed in 1944 his failing health had necessitated hospitalization.

Just when a despondent Bartók was convinced his musical career had ended, conductor Serge Koussevitzky commissioned an orchestral work. A newly-energized Bartók completed the commission in eight weeks, and the Concerto for Orchestra premiered in Boston on December 1, 1944. The premiere was a success and the Concerto went on to become Bartók’s most popular piece, though he did not live to see its full impact. Béla Bartók died aged 64 in September 1945.

In terms of sonata form, the Concerto for Orchestra is an unusual work, starting with its title. A “concerto” normally denotes a large-scale composition for a solo instrument or instruments accompanied by an orchestra. An example is Schumann’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Minor. In Bartók’s piece there is no single soloist or ensemble of soloists. As he explained:

    The title of this symphony-like orchestral work is explained by its tendency to treat the single orchestral instruments in a concertant or soloistic manner. The ‘virtuoso’ treatment appears, for instance, in the fugato section of the development of the first movement (brass instruments), or in the perpetuum-mobile-like passage of the principal theme of the last movement (strings), and especially in the second movement, in which pairs of instruments consecutively appear with brilliant passages.

The five-movement Concerto has a symmetrical “arch” structure in which the outer movements frame the two even-numbered movements. The third, slow movement is the center of the arch and marks a turning point in the musical progression, which starts with the somber and introspective and evolves into the high-spirited, or what Bartók termed a “life-assertion.” There is also a surprising amount of sharp humor, as the composer transcended his trials and travails to create spirited music of great warmth and optimism that continues to resonate with audiences.

Watch Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus.


We Are CSE

From automated programming to giving computers the ability to see and be better work partners to improving healthcare and securing your internet use, discover the diversity of research and people who are the UC San Diego Department of Computer Science and Engineering with the new series – We Are CSE.

Browse more programs in We Are CSE.


Losing the Nobel Prize

When Alfred Nobel stipulated the creation of the Nobel Prize in 1895, the inventor of dynamite could hardly have guessed that the award – considered by many to be the world’s most prestigious honor – would often come at the expense of the very careers and the disciplines Nobel sought to promote. Per Nobel’s will the Prize is ostensibly awarded to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind,” but it has arguably fallen short of that commendable goal on several occasions.

In Losing the Nobel Prize, his provocative and incisive critique of the award, physicist and cosmologist Brian Keating addresses what he calls the Nobel’s “systematic biases,” noting that by its nature the Prize discourages communal efforts among scientists, and during its history has lauded such questionable pursuits as lobotomy and eugenics. Recipients have included Nazis and war criminals, but surprisingly few women. Upon reflection, perhaps not so surprising; Nobel’s will states that:

It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not. [Emphasis added]

Since its inception, only two women have been awarded the physics prize, and none in over fifty years.

Keating is uniquely equipped to offer a perspective on the Nobel Prize. He is the inventor of BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization), the most powerful cosmological telescope ever made, and co-leader of the team that conducted the BICEP2 experiments that lead to discovery of “the spark that ignited the Big Bang.” After much drama and debate that discovery was subsequently proven to be a cosmic mirage, but in the interim Keating found himself drawn into the headlong pursuit of the Nobel medal, encountering competitiveness, intrigue, and naked ambition along the way. The lessons Keating learned in losing the Nobel Prize serve as a cautionary tale about abandoning the collaborative spirit in pursuit of a near-unobtainable prize, but also as a prescription for radical, much-needed reform of the world’s most coveted award.

Following his talk Keating chats with David Brin, noted science fiction author and futurist, in a lively conversation about the nature of scientific enquiry, the merit of awarding scientific prizes, the importance of collaboration, the need for transparency, and the urgent need to improve communication between scientists, policy makers, and the general public. Above all, both men stress that those lessons learned by Keating and outlined in his book may ultimately prove to be more valuable than the prize itself.

Watch Losing the Nobel Prize with Brian Keating