California Seaweed

Kelp cutters once harvested tons of the nearshore kelp off the San Diego County coastline, producing additives for your ice cream, beer and pharmaceuticals.

And of course, anyone who has had a California Roll or a bowl of miso soup is familiar with the centuries-old use of Nori.

But now Scripps researchers are working to uncover other value from the ubiquitous red, green and brown algae that thrives in our waters, even exploring the use of seaweed to reduce methane produced by dairy cows – and perhaps even improving their health and productivity.

Join Scripps Oceanography’s Jennifer Smith and entrepreneur Brant Chlebowski as they tell the story of their collaboration on applied aquaculture research that has sparked the formation of the California Seaweed Company.

Watch — Food, Feed and Climate Change – Emerging Opportunities for Shore Based Seaweed Aquaculture

Contrast and Concordance

In his program notes for the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus concert entitled “Bernstein Centennial,” conductor Steven Schick notes that:

At first glance, this concert program seems like a straightforward juxtaposition of light and dark: we have Leonard Bernstein’s magnificent Kaddish —his prayer for the dead— and, on the other hand, Beethoven’s genial Eighth Symphony. Tying them together— metaphorically if not musically—is Laurie San Martin’s evocatively titled, nights bright days.

As is the case with other concerts in the Symphony’s 2018/2019 “Lineage” season, those juxtapositions are more complex than is evident at first encounter.

Leonard Bernstein’s Third Symphony takes its name, Kaddish, from the Jewish hymns of praise to God. Interestingly, though frequently associated in the popular imagination with Jewish mourning rituals the word and/or concept of death is never mentioned in the text; rather, the intention is to express a continued commitment to life (chayim) and faith in God in the face of overwhelming loss. Bernstein’s music moves metaphorically through the well-known stages of grief, at times lyrical and serene and at others discordant and tempestuous, reflecting the struggles of post-Holocaust Jews to maintain their core identity and beliefs while reaching an accommodation with an often-hostile world. Bernstein dedicated this piece to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, whom Bernstein had befriended at Harvard and who was assassinated three weeks before Kaddish’s premiere. The dedication bestowed a universal sense of sorrow, mingled with hope, upon a work rooted in Jewish tradition.

The contrasts most evident in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 are with that composer’s other symphonies and the fraught circumstances of his life. The Eighth is Beethoven’s shortest symphony and the one which most closely adheres to classical norms as established by Haydn and Mozart. In comparison to his better-known symphonies, most notably the Fifth and epochal Ninth, the Eighth (which Beethoven called “my little symphony in F”) is jovial, light on its feet, and even – dare I say it – humorous. This is all the more remarkable considering that at the time he wrote it Beethoven was grappling with deafness, his estrangement from his nephew, and unrequited love. Perhaps the composer was seeking solace in familiar forms, but whatever Beethoven’s motivations his Symphony No. 8 stands as a beacon of clarity in turbulent times, both Beethoven’s and ours.

Laurie San Martin’s nights bright days takes its title from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43:

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

San Martin notes that she wrote this piece in the middle of the night, and like Bernstein’s Kaddish, nights bright days contrasts light with dark, tranquility with anguish. The small hours of the morning are frequently a time for uncertainty mixed with reflection, with the approaching dawn promising the possibility of, if not resolution, perhaps a renewed sense of confidence.

Watch — Bernstein Centennial – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

Trust in Nutrition Science

Can scientists research nutrition if they take money from the food industry? Nutrition scientist and author Marion Nestle has long been concerned about the way food company sponsorship influences (or, at best, appears to influence) the outcome of research on nutrition and health. She says that the idea that one food or food product has a big impact on health doesn’t really make sense, yet we see these claims all the time.

Marion Nestle sat down with Laura Schmidt, UCSF Professor of Health Policy, for this lively conversation that explores the conflicts of interest behind food studies funded by food corporations, the proven biases they create from the get-go, and how this directly affects the way we eat. They also talk about how to be more aware of misleading publications about nutrition and how to identify industry-funded research.

You’ll also get a preview of the upcoming dietary guidelines and hear more about global food systems. Find out how Marion knows there are industry “spies” at most of her talks – confirmation of this came about through the Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Nestle is the author of ten books, most recently “Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat” and “Food Politics 2018: Food Industry Influence on Nutrition Research.”

Watch — Food, Nutrition and Politics: A Conversation with Marion Nestle

Is it Time to Rethink the Idea of the Amoral Economic Man?

There is a widely held belief that when designing public policy or legal systems, it makes the most sense to assume that all citizens are entirely self-interested and amoral. It’s a theory known as “homo economicus” or “economic man.” But, economist Samuel Bowles argues against that belief in his book The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives are no Substitute for Good Citizens. Bowles laid out the case for his argument during a recent talk at UC Berkeley.

Bowles says there are two key reasons to move away from the economic man idea. First, he says polices that follow the paradigm can be self-fulling – making the assumption of universal amorality truer than it might otherwise be under different policies. Second, he argues that fines and rewards often do not work as intended.

The problem Bowles argues, is that incentives can “crowd out” otherwise altruistic motives people might have for any given action. He cites the classic example of a daycare that imposed a small fee for parents who showed up late. The result? Many more late parents. The thinking goes that the fee turned being late into a commodity rather than an inconsiderate action. Thus, the incentive backfired, and ended up having the opposite of its intended effect.

However, Bowles says incentives themselves are not to blame. He argues they can be designed in a such a way to encourage good civic behavior, while avoiding possible pitfalls. For example, when Ireland wanted to get rid of plastic bags, lawmakers imposed a small tax. But, they paired the tax with a huge media campaign about not trashing the Emerald Isle. Appealing to citizens better nature made the difference, and most shoppers stopped using plastic bags within weeks.

Watch — The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives are No Substitute for Good Citizens

Eavesdropping on Whales

Since ancient seafarers first heard the strange calls of whales, humans have been fascinated by their meaning – from Flipper’s clicks and trills to the long serenades of Humpbacks. Inhabiting the dark ocean depths, whales use sound in many different ways – from feeding to navigating to finding friends and family.

Join postdoctoral scholar Goldie Phillips for a captivating look into how scientists use whale calls to study whale populations.

Watch — Eavesdropping on Whales: How Whale Calls Inform Science