Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

A climate change study that doesn’t end in tears

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Corals from the Ofu Lagoon, American Samoa

As an Earth Systems major, I can say it’s sometimes difficult to stay positive about my choice of field because there are so many urgent and intricate problems woven into the daily fabric of life–and in order to learn how to solve them, you have to appreciate how intricate and difficult to undo they really are.  So it’s nice when conservation research pays off, especially for animals in as dire straits as corals are.

Awesome Stanford professor Stephen Palumbi–who among other accomplishments has used molecular genetics to track the incidence of marine mammal meat in canned tuna and formed a band called ‘Flagella’–has found a key difference in the genomics of heat-resistant corals from the waters of American Samoa that might be used in genetic therapy for corals worldwide, potentially saving coral reefs from the worst effects of global warming.  When water temperatures rise above a certain extent, corals get stressed and their photosynthetic partners, zooxanthellae, are expelled from the tissue of the coral, leaving it hard-pressed to manufacture enough carbohydrates without the ability to make sugars from sunlight.    Palumbi and other researchers discovered in their warm-water corals that 60 heat stress genes were activated whether or not the corals were subjected to excessive heat.  If this pattern could be transferred to cooler-water corals, it could potentially avert cases of coral bleaching from extreme heat.

This treatment, if applied, doesn’t solve all the problems coral reefs are facing in the future, of course.  Corals will still have to contend with the rising acidity in the world’s oceans due to the excessive deposition of carbon dioxide from our increasingly CO2-filled atmosphere–an acidity change that makes it harder for corals to build skeletons, because waters become less saturated with calcium carbonate.  Runaway algae growth is also a possibility and a threat, and more frequent and violent tropical storms are predicted in future years, which could be a huge challenge for coral communities to withstand.  However, finding ways to combat heat stress is a necessary first step (we are committed to further global warming, we might be able to stave off the worst ocean acidification), and Palumbi and his team have unlocked a very important discovery.

Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.

 

Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.

 

the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?

 

the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.

 

the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.

 

the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.

(more…)

Spring into Spring with the 2012 Course Guide

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Think you know all the ins and outs of spring’s awesome courses?

Story. Of. My. Life.

Ha. Think again. Here, for your pleasure, I have painstakingly compiled a list of the hands-down most awesome, useful, compelling, frightening, GER-fulfilling, enjoyable classes you could ever imagine. Remember  before Chem 31, Math 51, and IHUM… back when you applied to Stanford? Remember how you raved about how excited you were for the “engaging classes”? After reading this article, you’re going to realize you weren’t just saying that. Stanford is killing it next quarter in terms of super-interesting classes, and you have the opportunity to get in on the action. I know Camp Stanford is tempting, but after reading this article, you might actually want to bulk up your course load with some of these. And, speaking of Camp Stanford, the categories are…

Camp Stanford: Whether you’re trying to recover from the carnage of your winter course load or just getting a jump-start on summer laziness/craziness, here are the best classes to keep the thoughts of warm breezes and fun-in-the-sun swirling in your head until June…

  • EARTHSYS 180B: Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture: A course that lets “The Farm” live up to its name. Get outside and onto Stanford’s community farm and others in the area. Enjoy the sun on your neck and a little dirt on your nose. (3-4 units, multiple times)
  • ATHLETIC 80: Lifeguard Training: Didn’t snag the Google internship you wanted? No sweat. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that lifeguarding is a solid career choice for those  looking to dip their toes in the real world. Make decent cash, get the tan of your life (and hopefully not melanoma… sunblock, guys!) and know that you can save a life if need be.  (2 units, T/Th 12-2, fee)

    Once upon a time...

  • ATHLETIC 51: Beginning Golf: If you were able to make it into this class, I commend you with my highest honors. (1 unit, multiple times, fee)
  • ATHLETIC 320: Backpacking: You might have given up Stanford Sierra Camp to work for a start-up, but maybe this class can scratch your outdoorsy itch before you sell your soul for equity. (1 unit, M 7-9:30) (more…)

Living down “Jaws”: Shark Week and beyond

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

telegraph.co.uk

You may have heard that this week is Stanford Shark Week, especially if you’ve been frequenting Y2E2 or Herrin Hall.  If anyone had told me, as a high school senior applying to college, that Stanford had a week of events dedicated just to sharks, I might have taken my chances and skipped applying to those 11 other universities.  This week celebrates the passing of the CA Shark Fin Ban AB 376, which came into effect this January 1st.  California was the last of the West Coast states to ban the sale and possession of shark fins, hopefully closing the U.S. ports to the trade.  The author of the bill, Paul Fong, will be speaking at Stanford on Thursday at 6pm, and there will be additional lectures from superstar biologist Barbara Block on Wednesday, as well as film screenings on Tuesday and Friday.

Really, it’s about time sharks got some positive publicity.  They are more than simply giant toothy fish–in fact, they are an entirely different branch on the evolutionary tree, closely related to rays, skates, and the inexplicably adorable ratfish (tell me you don’t love that face!), but evolutionarily speaking are about as closely related to the bony, scaly fishes we all know as us humans are to our close cousins the lizards.  Sharks have not only some of the most impressive but also the most ancient jaws in the animal kingdom–they are the oldest creatures with jaws alive today, and there are over 300 species found in both freshwater and saltwater.  There is even a shark that lives off the coast of Greenland (creatively titled the Greenland Shark) that has on at least one occasion eaten a reindeer.  In addition to their famous eating abilities, some sharks can leap out of the water like whales, sense a millionth of a volt of electricity in water, and give birth to live baby sharks, which are called pups.

Why is it s difficult for us to appreciate sharks in the way that we admire other top predators like polar bears and wolves and birds of prey?  Do we have affection for only predators with feathers or fur?  I’m sure most reasonable people would agree that harvesting shark fins for soup is cruel.  But sharks are hardly cause for concern for most of us. They should be.  They should be a priority not just because they are endangered and useful for balancing the ecosystem but because they are unique and beautiful in and of themselves.  We don’t want the sharks to disappear before we can get the Jaws theme out of our heads.

 

 

Watch Out for the Fuzz… Why Stanford’s Arts and Humanities Aren’t as Forgotten as You Think

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Odds are, you probably came to Stanford because you’d rather slip on a hoodie than sidle into a sportcoat, prefer sunshine and band-run to wintry-mix and finals clubs, and would rather cheer for Andrew Luck than say, the Winklevii. And, odds are, if you’re even remotely techie, you chose Stanford for its knockout science and engineering curriculum… and rankings. It’s no secret that the Farm is both a Mecca and breeding ground for calculation gurus, technical whizzes, biological demigods, and everyone else who is still slightly pissed that they couldn’t take C++ to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

But not everyone destined for Stanford emerged from the womb taking integrals.For those of you who didn’t know that we have an entire quad for engineering, who mourn the death of IHum, who  spend more time in Roble Gym than in the ACSR, who actually stop at Braun on Saturday nights rather than going straight to the Row, and who otherwise prefer the scent of leather-bound books and rich mahogany to motherboards and formaldehyde – your moment has arrived.

We know who you are – even if you are in an oft forgotten niche here at Stanford. The concert halls, high-ceilinged archive and manuscript libraries, and sun-drenched studios of ivies and liberal arts colleges pulled at your heartstrings when you were in the heat of college applications. You fantasized about wearing tweed (with elbow-patches) and swirling cognac whilst ruminating over the flaws in deontological theory and debating Descartes, salon-style. You are a connoisseur of human culture, and you came here, to Stanford, hoping that just maybe you could find that same level of pained fascination with the human condition and method of expression under a red-tile roof as you might have under the buttresses of collegiate-gothic cathedral.

Oh, you knew the sacrifices you’d make. You worried that your love of Chopin, appreciation of Klimt, and obsession with Marquez would all be misunderstood, met with raised eyebrows and blank stares peering over sheaves of graph paper and physics tomes. You would be ever the outsider during O-Chem rants and the communal groans over CME. Your choice to major in English, Religious Studies, or Studio Art would be met with polite smiles and the silent judgment that you weren’t intense enough to study something technical and have no solid, foreseeable career path. Your daring choice to pursue a creative, innovative, reflective, and interpretive field is constantly challenged by those who insist your interests provide no real-world application or insurance. Others will ask you why you chose to pursue a path in arts or humanities at Stanford which, while having what are generally assumed to be “good” programs in these departments, seems to place a much greater emphasis on technologically-driven fields. With our home and history in Silicon Valley, seemingly endless scientific resources, and army of high-profile techie alums, people will probably ask you why you didn’t go to say, Harvard, to study all that “fuzzy” stuff.

To those people, you can now proudly reply that Stanford upholds the honor of having the top arts and humanities program in the world. And that we actually knocked Harvard off of its crimson pedestal to snag it. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Stanford upstaged Harvard, UChicago, The Australian National University, and Princeton for the coveted top spot among university arts and humanities programs. The leap in the rankings has been largely credited to the outstanding number of MacArthur fellows and Pulitzer winners zipping across the quad and pioneering our liberal-arts research and curriculum, in addition to our broad range of arts/humanities offerings and extensive resources.

By comparison, (according to the U.S. News and World Report) Stanford Engineering clocked in at only #2, taking a backseat to M.I.T.. Admittedly, M.I.T. isn’t exactly a mortifying rival, and obviously second place is nothing to be ashamed of,  but the fact that one of the disciplines we pay the greatest lip-service to here on the Farm isn’t comparatively the best on campus does resonate a bit ironically.

That said, I could go on at length about the fallacy of rankings and the inconsistency of the methods, variables, and formulae (as well as frequent subjectivity and manipulation) that produce them. Rankings are not all-determining and should not be the primary mechanism through which we garner our self-esteem or evaluate ourselves as a school. But they do stand as a considerable litmus test that can testify to the strength of a program and should be reflective of the attention and respect that those departments should receive from students, faculty, administration, and, of course, the general public.

So the next time you find yourself smugly worrying about the future of your friend who’s an Art History major, try to catch yourself. The arts and humanities have not been extinguished in the wake of technology and scientific advancement. Their champions claim just as meaningful a place in our culture and society as do the engineers, programmers, researchers, and inventors.  And the work produced by the left-brained talent of the world might not thrive to the extent that it does without the help of the designers, writers, artists, performers, historians, anthologists, etc. who use the context of the human condition and sensibility to establish a place for those technologies in our lives.  I applaud Stanford for acknowledging the importance of bolstering such broad fields of study, and for taking such impressive strides to strengthen its departments and cultivate extensive opportunities for intellectual exploration and discovery. Thank you, Stanford, for yet again proving that your students really can have the best of all worlds.

Out of My Element: Thoughts on the Chemistry 31 Series

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The closest I'll come to Chemistry this year: stumbling for chemcat memes...

Oh, Stanford. I could write odes about the many, many, MANY things about you that I adore: the fact that it is December and a clear, breezy, perfect 74 degrees outside, the smell of eucalyptus wafting through campus, free laundry machines, the Nutella waffles at Coupa, the Bender room, the visual orgasm that is the quad and the oval, oh… and the beyond enviable world-class education that I am receiving and the oodles upon oodles of mind-blowing opportunities that gush out of the pipeline of resources that this university affords us. Don’t get me wrong. I am high on Stanford. I still wake up every morning feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I still bike through campus and marvel about how I stumbled into this incomparable place. I still wonder how on earth I could have survived without Ike’s. And I’m not usually one to complain. But I do have one teensy, eentsy question that baffles and frustrates me about the Farm: why is the Chem 31 series only offered in the Fall quarter?!

Admitedly, it’s probably my fault. I’m sure that the “Approaching Stanford” materials mentioned how, if you’re interested in bio/premed you should consider signing up for the series. But for those of us (I’m sure I’m not alone) who weren’t 100% sure the minute we set foot on campus that the bio/premed route was our intended path and consequentially didn’t submit ourselves to Chem 31A/B/X right out of the gun… well, it seems we are a little bit screwed.

Maybe I am a little neurotic, or confused, or needlessly freaking out. Perhaps there is an obvious solution that flew over my head before or after I realized my dilemma. But it just seems pretty absurd to me that if you don’t take chem in autumn quarter of your freshman year, there is very little you can do to catch up with everyone else. Yes, you can take it in the summer. I get that. But for people who don’t want to or can’t pay for summer classes… they’re in a bit of a pickle. I guess it simply amazes me that the primary prerequisite for the core of one of Stanford’s most popular majors is only offered the first quarter of the main academic year. I’m sorry, but this seems like no-brainer. I’m fairly confident that there would be a large group of students interested in taking either the 31 A/B or 31X track starting in the winter, thus still allowing them to enroll in the bio core, or higher level chemistry classes for a premed track in the beginning of their sophomore year.

Again, I realize the importance of being organized, of putting considerate thought into your academic plan before arriving at Stanford. But people are human. People change their minds. People are unsure. For those of us who have epiphanies later in the game and don’t realize that that they want to do the bio thing until say, week four of their freshman year – should we be penalized for our realizations or changes in heart? Doesn’t Stanford encourage exploration in different areas of study during the freshman year? Isn’t that one of the main reasons we have GER’s? Isn’t that one of the reasons we don’t declare until the end of sophomore year? I simply think that this is one issue that Stanford didn’t exactly think through. And if Stanford doesn’t want to add additional quarters where this class could be offered, the university could make it loudly, explicitly, and repeatedly clear that if freshman have even the SLIGHTEST interest in maybe, possibly, conceivably studying bio or going premed that they should SERIOUSLY and ABSOLUTELY consider signing up for Chem 31 or, if nothing else, take a placement test. And – AGAIN – perhaps the university does, and it’s 100% possible that I missed it. But for those of us who need a little extra use of bold, underlined, and indented fonts and reiterated messages to hear a message, it would be abundantly helpful.

I’m hopeful that there is considerate reasoning for the rather inconvenient organization of this series. But at this moment in time, I don’t get it. It frustrates me, and it is going to be one of my more demanding scheduling issues in the future. For the sake of future frosh, I simply hope this can be resolved in a better way.

 

Kofi Annan Urges Students To Help Fight Food Insecurity

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The air is filled with the buzz of excited students rolling in through the doors of the Memorial Auditorium. I mean it is not everyday you get to hear eminent personas like Kofi Annan give inspirational talks. Well, at Stanford we get to that every other day, which is not so bad, frankly. It was quite amusing to see freshmen, who are not yet used to the awesome-ness of being at such a renowned university, shuffle in with gleeful faces while updating their Facebook status on their cellphones, bragging about such events happening, “Only at Stanford.” I should add I was among these freshmen, except that my exuberance was exponentially vivid through my comical facial expressions; bulging eyes, mouth stretched with a gloating grin as I strutted down the isle to the esteemed press area and took my seat in the second row while the remaining one thousand seven hundred and four people struggled to squeeze themselves in seats behind me. Life is good.

Now I’ll let go off my self-obsession and move to the more important part of the afternoon: Kofi Annan’s speech. This former United Nations Secretary General graced us with his presence at the occasion of the opening of the new Center for Food Security and the Environment at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International studies. Who else could be a better speaker than the very person who has initiated projects in order to aid Africa fight food insecurity?

Annan instantly won the crowd over by commenting on the, “duck hunting season at The Farm,” and how, “Luck was on [our] side.” However, more inspirational was his address regarding food security and global climate change. He draws our attention to the harrowing fact that one in seven of the world’s 7 billion people go to bed hungry. Our time is a time of great contrast. While Globalization has accelerated progress, it has not been shared equally amongst the nations. At “the heart” of the situation that the countries receiving the shorter end of the stick have to deal with, is food and nutrition insecurity. Annan deems the global climate change to be the leading cause for the decline of cultivable land and increasing food insecurity. Furthermore, he believes that African nations can play a central role in combating this dilemma since 80% of the world’s uncultivated land lies in Africa. However, Africa can only step up to face challenge if it receives help. As for now, lack of investment in research, human resource development and infrastructure in Africa has resulted in dire consequences. Africa is the only continent which can not feed itself and the prospects do not seem any better considering that its population growth is on a rise. It is imperative to help them since it is not only our moral obligation as a global community to support the unprivileged, but it is also in our interests since it will help us attain global prosperity and stability.

Annan feels that there needs to be true goodwill and effort on both local and global levels. Amongst the measures he mentioned were preventing price volatility, maintaining global food stock, reshaping global agricultural system, giving financial assistance to African women farmers and applying known techniques and tools specially in assisting African smallholder farms. Furthermore, the crux of the matter NEEDS to be handled by governments. They need to establish a broad umbrella and then, through “effective partnerships and networking” with various local and global institutions, find answers to “end hunger NOW.”

Another strategy to counter lack of food security is to be “climate – smart” and this is where the new Center for Food Security and the Environment has a key role to play. There needs to be a global initiative to deal with climate change that consists of a “fair framework based on shared values.” Annan believes that scientists are to lead the way through their research in order to diminish the negative consequences of climate change and with this Center we are now at the forefront of the scientific arena. By organizing ourselves in such a way that it is sustainable and practicable, we can even directly engage ourselves in the local community to help alleviate food insecurity. We, as students of this university with immense amount of talent should be an active part of this new initiative. As Kofi Annan aptly said, “My young friends, do not just sit on the sidelines. Use your energy, your unbounded enthusiasm to end global food insecurity.”

Why Stanford: Admit Weekend 2011

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The best place to spend the next four years of your life. (Photo cred: Molly MacKenzie)

The sun is shining brightly.  The track and fielders are thwarting gravity right outside my window, and Stanford’s very own Wind of Freedom is lilting happily through the trees.

As I write this post, gazing happily from the relative calm of the Visitor Information Center, it is easy to forget that we are about to be invaded.  Swarmed.  Rendered under siege.  But actually.  Starting this Thursday, good luck biking anywhere, ’cause we’ll all be wading waist deep through ProFros and their parents.  Oh, baby, it’s Admit Weekend season.

Welcome, ProFros, to the TUSB “Why Stanford” list.  The all-inclusive, ever-so-persuasive, quantitative canon of why you really should just click “yes” already and spend Admit Weekend living it up with your future classmates.  Using the latest and greatest metrics Stanford has to offer, I am about to blow your inquisitive minds as only a tour guide can.  Drumroll please….

5.  We Got Game:  #1 Division I Athletics Program

Come watch our BCS Bowl football team, #1 men's swimming team, women's basketball Final Four team, etc., etc.

  • Every year, the Director’s Cup is given to the #1 Div. I athletics program in the nation.  We’ve won it for the last 16 years.
  • If Stanford had been its own nation in the 20048 Beijing Olympics, we would have placed 19th in the world.
  • We have 35 Varsity sports.
  • We have extensive club and intramural sports programs, including sports as diverse as Ultimate Frisbee, inner-tube water polo, sand volleyball, and basketball.
  • All Stanford sports games (besides playoffs) are FREE to all Stanford students.
  • 83% of Stanford students participate in some sort of athletic activity.  This is because we have amazing activity and athletic course offerings.  After Stanford’s classes in sailing, fencing, and archery, you, too, can kick it like Captain Jack Sparrow.  Word.

Stanford alumna Sigourney Weaver rocks the Cardinal

4.  So Hot Right Now:  the Value of the Stanford Brand

In case you missed my earlier article on How Stanford is Redefining Cool, let me break it down for you.  Stanford has been the #1 dream school according to Princeton Review surveys for the past three years.  We have over a dozen career fairs on campus every year, because international employers respect the value of a Stanford education and swarm our campus on a regular basis to recruit our talent.  Not convinced?  How about Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck giving up a probable #1 NFL draft pick and multimillion dollar starting salary to finish out his senior year?

If you’re reading this as a ProFro, major props – you conquered a 7% admissions rate to be where you are today.  Consider, for a moment, the flip side of the coin.  32,022 students applied this year.  That’s approximately the population of Monaco.  You’re in a tremendously desirable position.  You were one of the chosen few, and you have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the best four years of your life here at Stanford.

(more…)

Access: De-Nyed

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The level of hysteria and fandom was as viscous as sodium silicate; the roar of the room louder than that of a Boeing 747 engine. People climbing over walls and through windows, and not even to make a horribly ad nauseastic Antoine Dodson reference. You would think that some sort of celebrity was talking about Sudan or directing a movie about necrophilia. Until you noticed all the bowties.

"I missed Bill Nye talk? Dang it!" (Photo Credit to Samir Junnarkar)

Yes, thanks to the Professor Scott Hubbard and the Stanford AIAA, Stanford students congregated upon Building 200 on Wednesday, regardless of major or area of academic interest, to catch an impromptu Q&A session with the Sultan of Science himself: Bill Nye the Science Guy.

(more…)

TUSGraph: Why Dates are at 6:00 PM

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

TUSB’s 2011 Spring Course Guide

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Given the hectic nature of winter quarter, you might be so overwhelmed with this quarter’s classes that you haven’t had a chance to figure out classes for next quarter.  Have no fear, TUSB is here!

The following lists include courses for even the most insatiable appetite, whether you’re looking for enriching courses in the sciences, arts, or humanities.  Hoping to check off that GER or pick up that eleventh or twelfth unit?  We can help you out, too.

Here’s to making this spring quarter the most academically exciting one yet!

Exploring the arts:

Meme overload? Now you can study up on the replication fad in pop culture.

The Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts has produces some really cool Creativity Course Guides.  Check out the full selection here.  My personal favorites are below.

(more…)

Spokeo knows your secrets – or does it?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

So, if you haven’t heard, Spokeo.com is a new website that aggregates your online data. At this point, I’ve personally been sent messages on Facebook and through multiple chat lists. But back to the main topic – in layman’s terms, Spokeo is an online phonebook that tells anyone who looks up your name where you live, your phone number, etc. Yet that comes with a big if. Many web users, when they hear of the site, have a moment of panic. Anyone in the world can find out where I live? They have a picture of my house from Google Maps? This is horrifying!

John Doe might be the generic character that no one can identify, but Spokeo can find him. And the 15,918 who also share his name online.

Except, it isn’t. The first time I looked myself up on Spokeo, I could barely find anything. Yes – my name and email address exist on the web, but I didn’t dig up anything damaging or security-threatening. Although people are worried about their privacy, Spokeo is an aggregator meaning it only collects what’s already out there. That means if Spokeo is somehow able to post your address, and phone number, that means you’ve stored private information somewhere public. Meaning, that it’s not thanks to Spokeo that everyone can find out information about your life – it’s thanks to you.

So the first step in dealing with Spokeo is really simple: take your page off of the web. While Spokeo is a little bit creepier, because it gathers all the information together, it’s really not that much different from Googling yourself (which I advise all of you to do). After you get rid of your Spokeo page, the next step is to actually make sure that information you would prefer to be private is actually inaccessible! I admit to putting too much of myself out there in the heydays of Myspace and when I first got a Facebook but  it’s different now.

In recent times, people are worrying more and more about internet privacy. With aggregator sites like Spokeo, PiplIntelius, and more (no, Spokeo was not even close to being the first site) the first step in protecting your identity online falls in your own hands. So please stop freaking out about Spokeo. I can’t say anything about  the information that can be bought (although some of the websites listed above claim that its for the most part inaccurate), but the way  people conduct themselves online is the main issue here. We’re not victims. If you want to protect your privacy, do it.

Trees and Cacti and Sculptures, Oh My!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when… he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

From the foothills to the bay....

Stanford consists of 8180 acres.  That’s mildly ridiculous.  Let me put that into perspective: if you count just Disneyland Park itself, that’s roughly 96 Disneylands.  So Stanford waaay outranks Disneyland as the happiest place on earth!  Q.E.D., right?!  But seriously, folks: we students rarely encounter the vast majority of this immense, beautiful campus with which we have been blessed.  And I think a change would do us good.

Just like Twain’s rightly-constructed boy, I implore you, the rightly-constructed Stanford student, to explore the hidden treasure concealed before your very eyes in Stanford’s beautiful outdoors.  Channel your inner Tom Sawyer and ready your treasure map, because this post is all about ‘sploring the outdoor wonders that Stanford has to offer.

Bring me a shrubbery! Ahem, tree….

No, not that kind of Tree.

We have over 27,000 trees growing on central campus.  Whaaaat?  We have so many trees that we have an online encyclopedia of them, with precise bookkeeping identifying essentially every tree on central campus.  In case you’ve ever wondered, you can check out these freakishly thorough tree maps to plan your own adventure.  Rare, old, and historically important trees can be found here, and an assortment of special gardens and alluringly flowering courtyards can be found here.  In the springtime, check out the seasonal blooms along this route of hidden treasure.   In the fall, you can see Stanford’s best fiery autumn leaves by following these instructions.  There’s even a Stanford flora and fauna podcast!

Don’t consider yourself an arboreal connoisseur?  Well, have you ever gazed longingly at the tippy-top oranges on the trees by the Post Office and wondered where to find more?  Halt your awkward fruit-gazing and check this out: a listing of all edible fruit trees on campusKumquats, tangerines, and peaches are just a few of the tasty treats you’ll be able to find around campus.  For additional help, here’s an earlier TUSB post with a partial map.  Please be courteous and leave a fair share of fruit behind for your fellow scavengers!

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve

The elusive checkerspot butterfly.

Jasper Ridge has been the site of scientific research since Stanford was opened in 1891, and to this day its researchers work “to contribute to the understanding of the Earth’s natural systems through research, education, and protection of the Preserve’s resources.”  There are approximately 60 projects going on at any given time, focusing on the four major areas of environmental and biotic change, structure of ecological communities, geology and geophysics, and direct human influences.  Current projects range from long-term studies of the checkerspot butterfly to testing of camera-trap mammal monitoring to earthquake prediction from electromagnetic anomalies.  Cool stuff!

(more…)

TUSGraph: Outsourced

Friday, January 7th, 2011

There’s some great stuff going on in the visual information world outside of my posts (hard to believe, right?). I thought I’d highlight some here.

First up is actually by a fellow Stanford student, Edward Segel. It’s a slick but simple recap of all of Pitchfork‘s album reviews from 2010, with a nice interface. If you’re like me and you hate reading words, then use this to skip the details of the Pitchfork reviews and go straight for the heart of the matter with the numerical album ratings. Well done, Edward. Pitchfork should be working harder to get a nice normal distribution.

This next one is all about color. Edgina simply posts a series of photos every day based on a color theme. The brilliant step was taken by dvdp when he noticed how awesome the time-mapped archive of all the images is. You wouldn’t be hurt by following either of those blogs.

Graphing Shakespeare is a sure way to work out both sides of your brain. These detailed script diagrams from Understanding Shakespeare are a visual and literary treat. Ditch the spark notes!.

Everyone loves it when their interests collide. Someone at Bill Sports Maps somehow found a way to nicely combine two of mine: geography and football..

A new take on people and perfection, this graphic is a great conversation starter. It’s very similar to the classic one: When you’re in college you get to pick two out of friends, school, and sleep.

Science nerds here at Stanford are constantly complaining about the scientific inaccuracies in movies, but it’s now nicely consolidated in a simple chart. Or maybe I just find this interesting after my roommate and I calculated that Iron Man would not be able to fly, even if we assumed his “hot pads” were hot enough to excite all the deuterium in the atmosphere enough to create a fusion reaction and propel him forward. Tony Stark must know something we don’t, but that’s not surprising.

Hope those will satisfy your graph cravings until the next TUSGraph. If not, stop by Sporcle!

BIO150 (a.k.a. the class everybody took last Spring) — Now Available On iTunes!

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Last Spring, world renowned neurologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky gathered over 700 students (and even some non-Stanford locals) in Hewlett 200 for a class that’s offered every other year.  With the classroom filled to the brim, students were found sitting and taking notes in the aisles of one of the largest auditoriums on campus.  Throughout the quarter, Dr. Sapolsky delved into the biology/neurobiology related to peculiar human behaviors (e.g. murder, non-reproductive sex, religion, etc.).

Thanks to Dr. Sapolsky’s determination to make the class available to just about everybody (no bio background required!), a few of the lectures from last Spring are now available on iTunes — for free!

So, if you were part of the the other half of campus that didn’t take BIO150 last Spring, or if you’ve just been dying to find something to do over Winter Break, this link will be the solution to all your worries. :]

If you don’t quite want to watch all 20 lectures, I’d definitely recommend the Introduction to Neurology II lecture (which is actually given by one of the awesome HBB TAs, Patrick House) and any of the Aggression lectures.  Happy watching!