Category Archives: UC San Diego

Surveying the Body Politic: The 2020 Election

Newly-eligible young voters are in the news and on the minds of politicos this year. States of Change, a nonpartisan project studying shifts in the electorate, estimates that Millennials presently constitute 34.2 percent of eligible voters while Post-Millennials make up another 3.4 percent. These two groups combined will virtually equal the share of eligible voters composed of Baby Boomers and the Silent and Greatest Generations; by dint of sheer numbers they could easily determine the election’s outcome – should they register and vote, which is not a given based on historical data. Eligibility and participation are very different questions.

UC San Diego Alumni brings together two commentators to provide context and insight into what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious elections in American history. Moderator Jerri Malana ’86 welcomes political expert and author Thad Kousser, Chair of the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego. They are joined by José Luz González ’20, a Chancellor’s Associates Scholar and UC-DC alumnus who graduated with a degree in Public Health. In a lively conversation the two men offer varied but complementary perspectives on the upcoming election.

Kousser, a seasoned political researcher and pundit, outlines the demographic, economic, and ideological shifts that have occurred since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and discusses how politicians and various components of the electorate have responded to those changes. González offers observations about one increasingly important component in particular, the under-25 voter. He notes that young people coming of voting age this year have recently exhibited a greater interest in politics than the previous generation or two, but stresses that it’s impossible to predict by fata alone whether that interest will translate into an increased presence at the polls in November.

Both Kousser and González also stress the outsized influence of social media on the body politic, and the difficulty in identifying reliable news sources. Other topics discussed include the influence of numerous special interest groups and the voting process itself, including the Electoral College’s role. Throw in such wild cards as deliberate misinformation, extreme partisanship, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and possible foreign meddling, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the 2020 Presidential Election. Fortunately, experts like Kousser and González help to guide us through the thicket.

Watch Tritons Tackling the 2020 Presidential Election.

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Privacy, Practicality, and Potential: The Use of Technology for Healthy Aging

That wearable fitness device on your wrist is measuring so much more than your exercise levels. Digital tools offer unprecedented opportunities in health research and healthcare but it can come at the cost of privacy. Six days of step counts are enough to identify you among a million other people – and the type of inferences that can be made from other everyday behaviors is growing rapidly.

Camille Nebeker, EdD, MS is Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine & Public Health at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. She discusses the ethical considerations of informed consent and potential harms and benefits of these technologies. She also shares ideas on how we can work together to create systems that define and encourage safe digital health research and practice.

Watch — The Digital Revolution: Ethical Implications for Research on Healthy Aging

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Our Impact on the Earth

“Mother Nature is not happy right now and she’s trying to tell us, in many ways,” says Kimberly Prather, Professor of Climate, Atmospheric Science, and Physical Oceanography at UC San Diego.

New weather patterns and events are causing concern but how do we know these changes are caused by human activity? Climate scientists are looking at trends over time to determine our impact on the planet.

Prather discusses recent CAICE studies aimed at advancing our understanding of how the oceans influence human and planetary health including novel experiments being conducted in a unique ocean-atmosphere simulator.

Watch — How Do We Know Humans are Impacting the Health of Our Planet? – Exploring Ethics

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UCSD Pascal

Starting in 1974, Kenneth Bowles – who at the time directed UC San Diego’s Computing Center – began to adapt the computer language Pascal for use on so-called “microcomputers,” precursors of today’s PCs. His primary interest at the time was a programming language that would allow students to work individually on projects without waiting their turn to do batch processing on the mainframe. But Bowles also foresaw the value of portable software that would allow programmers to write something once and run it anywhere. His solution was pseudo-code – p-code for short – an intermediate language to run on each machine and serve as a uniform translator.

Since most of his fellow computer-science faculty members were involved in more theoretical research, Bowles turned instead to students to fulfill his dream. He recruited one graduate student, Mark Overgaard, and a handful of undergraduates. At one point or another, more than 70 students were involved in the UCSD Pascal project, doing everything from writing code to shipping floppy disks to research centers around the world (for a token $15 royalty fee). In the early 1980s, the University of California sold rights to the technology to SofTech Systems, which tried but failed to convince IBM to adopt UCSD Pascal as the core operating system of its first personal computers. (Bill Gates’ MS-DOS won the IBM contract.)

Bowles gained world renown for initiating and leading this project that culminated in UCSD Pascal influencing many aspects of computing that are now ubiquitous, including modern PCs and Macs as well as Sun Microsystem’s Java language, which incorporates p-code.

Mark Overgaard and other alumni who worked on the ground-breaking language for what would later be called the personal computer gathered in recently to mark the 30th anniversary of the computer language and reminisce about the influence and legacy that Kenneth Bowles had on computing, teaching, and their lives and careers.

Watch — UCSD Pascal: Celebrating the Life and Work of Kenneth Bowles

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The Intimate and the Cosmic

La Jolla Symphony and Chorus’ December 2019 concert is comprised of three pieces that seem disparate at first glance: the premiere of Celeste Oram’s “a loose affiliation of alleluias,” Robert Schumann’s “Violin Concerto in D Minor,” and John Adams’ “Harmonium.” As LJS&C’s Music Director and Conductor Steven Schick points out, however different these compositions are stylistically – and they are very much so – they nevertheless share key thematic interests. Chief among these is an examination of how and where mystical introspection intersects with shared public experience.

Nee Commission recipient Celeste Oram’s piece blends the orchestra with improvising violin soloist Keir GoGwilt and three offstage singers dubbed “Teen Angels” in an inventive mélange of Renaissance-derived styles, popular song, postmodern modalities and other sources. “a loose affiliation…” also employs elements of theatre. What emerges is a contemplative work that simultaneously embraces both the intimate and the cosmic.

This examination of the mystical and metaphysical continues (albeit in a different form) in Robert Schumann’s concerto. Schumann’s music often expresses his concern with spirituality and how one reconciles its demands with mundane daily life, something with which the composer himself struggled. His approach to this question became increasingly elliptical as his career progressed; indeed, the “Violin Concerto in D Minor” has been dubbed “enigmatic” and “mysterious.” Seemingly conventional in style, the concerto leads the listener through intricate layers of sound meant to engage the curious mind in spiritual inquiry while appealing to more casual listeners. Virtuoso violinist Keir GoGwilt returns to the stage as the featured soloist.

Upon the 1981 premiere of John Adams’ choral work “Harmonium” one prescient critic noted that “a major new talent has arrived.” Like Oram’s piece this work experiments with form by mixing styles, and like Schumann’s concerto it expresses a concern with spirituality, in this case by setting poems by John Donne and Emily Dickinson to music. In each section Adams’ subtle modulations gradually gather energy, resulting in near-celebratory climaxes; in the final movement, based on Dickinson’s sensual “Wild Nights,” following this exultation the music subsides into a long, quiet coda as it fades from our hearing. In its original usage this piece’s title, derived via French from the Latin “harmonia,” simply means “harmony,” and the composer uses constantly shifting tonal patterns to evoke what he called “always moving forward over vast stretches of imaginary terrain.” It’s not too great a leap to dub this a metaphysical journey, or to apply that term to the concert selections as a whole.

Watch — Oram, Schumann, Adams – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

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