Press Release
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UC Berkeley welcomes visitors April 18 for Cal Day 2009

| 09 April 2009

The Year of Science, Charles Darwin's birthday, the Obama administration, and the economic crisis will be highlighted at this year's Cal Day, the annual open house at the University of California, Berkeley. On Saturday, April 18, at least 35,000 people again are expected to descend upon one of the world's most prestigious research universities, accessing museums, buildings and labs, many of which are typically closed to the public.

Admission is free to the more than 300 Cal Day events, from a children's "Dear President Obama" reading and letter-writing session to a lecture on Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle. Perennial favorites are carillon recitals and scenic views atop the Campanile, Cal Band performances, and plenty of bug, bone and other biological specimens at the campus's seven natural history museums. Entertainment will include Taiko drumming, bagpipe demonstrations, a concert from the University Symphony Orchestra, African drumming and dance, and a cable car bell ringing contest.

Cal's beloved mascot also returns to OskiLand with kid-friendly games and activities, as well as handshakes and hugs.

This year, a wealth of science-related activities celebrate both the Year of Science and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. At least 11 Cal Day events focus on Darwin or evolution, including talks highlighting evolutionary research at UC Berkeley and an exhibit on how human evolution relates to daily life.

Kevin Padian, a UC Berkeley paleontologist who served as an expert witness in the 2005 "intelligent design" trial in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, will talk with visitors about the debate between evolution and creationism. And Jere Lipps, professor of integrative biology, will retrace for his audience Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle, the ship that took the naturalist around the world, to reveal the current state of the sites Darwin visited while developing his theory of evolution.

Highlights of other science and engineering events include:

  • "What is the Large Hadron Collider?" Hear how the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, which debuted in September 2008, might unlock the secrets of our amazing universe. Marjorie Shapiro, physics professor, will give the talk from 11 a.m. to noon at 4 LeConte Hall.
  • "Are We Wired for Good?" What is the science behind happiness? Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and founder of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, will discuss intriguing new research connecting the nervous system with the human capacity for compassion, gratitude and other positive emotions. The 11 a.m. seminar will be held at 145 Dwinelle Hall.
  • "Why Are There Stars?" Associate research astronomer Steven Stahler explores new answers to an old question about the estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Hear the current understanding of how stars are born at the 2 p.m. lecture at 3 LeConte Hall.
  • "Having Fun with Robots" Clever robots make their own decisions - without remote control - as they navigate through an obstacle course that members of the audience can help set up. Scheduled for 3 p.m. at 3108 Etcheverry Hall, the event is one of several showcasing robotics research at UC Berkeley. Other related events include automated robot cars speeding through a 100-meter racetrack, a demonstration of computer programs that create robots that do battle, and a programmable robot that can climb hills and avoid objects.

In addition, transportation researchers will discuss how GPS-enabled cell phones and Twitter are transforming traffic monitoring, and let people assess their driving skills with multimedia video games that test their judgment about highway safety. Visitors will also get a chance to ride a Segway while learning its role in research aimed at promoting public transit.

Can car lovers and environmentalists co-exist? Hear what Dan Kammen, professor of energy and resources and of public policy, has to say as he discusses whether cars can fit into a clean-energy future.

Visitors can be archaeologists at a real dig, safely view the sun through a telescope, and participate in hands-on activities at the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory to learn about earthquakes. Also not to be missed are the Animal Grossology and WaterWorks exhibits at the Lawrence Hall of Science and a tour of the mission control operations center at the campus's Space Sciences Laboratory.

Kids from age 6 to 12 can join in the science-themed fun with Passport to Science@Cal, a project in which participants collect stamps as they extract DNA from their cheek cells, explore the mysteries of dark matter and attend various events in departments, labs and museums throughout campus.

In a nod to Barack Obama's landmark election to the U.S. presidency, campus historians at Cal Day will place his achievement in historical context, health policy experts will address the Obama administration's health care reforms, and political scientists will discuss U.S. policy toward Africa under the Obama administration. The "Dear President Obama" reading and letter-writing session will take place at the popular Celebration of Children's Literature book fair in addition to the fair's usual line-up of storytellers, art activities and meetings with authors and illustrators.

Experts have noted how Obama's presidential campaign highlighted the growing importance of new media in politics, a topic to be addressed by professors Henry Brady, Bruce Cain and Geoffrey Nunberg in the panel "YouTube, Blogs, Texting, the Web: How Are New Media Changing Politics?"

And in light of the current economic crisis, economists will describe how human behavior deviates from standard economic models and how people can improve their decision-making process. Cal Day visitors can also learn how economists take uncertainty into account in theory and policy.

Those who anticipate a visit to a Scandinavian country in their future may want to immerse themselves in an intense back-to-back language lesson in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. By the end of the two-hour session, students should be able to ask some basic questions and carry on simple conversations with Scandinavian locals.

Modern languages not your thing? Visitors can go to the Department of Near Eastern Studies to see how their names are written in hieroglyphics.

New and prospective students will get a special welcome at Cal Day with more than 100 events to help orient them to life at UC Berkeley. Nearly 13,000 high school students were offered admission to UC Berkeley for the 2009-2010 school year, and all are invited to an 8:30 a.m. welcome address from Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Other events include introductions to the wide array of academic study areas, opportunities to meet with faculty and current students, tours of student housing, and, of course, a crash course on Cal's traditions and fight songs.

There will also be a number of events for Spanish-speaking families interested in the admissions process, financial aid and transferring to UC Berkeley from community college.

Sports enthusiasts should note a women's tennis match against Stanford University, baseball game with the University of Oregon, and a rugby game with the University of Minnesota. Fans eager for the fall football season can take in Cal's last spring scrimmage at noon at Memorial Stadium.

Although campus parking is free on Cal Day in designated areas, spaces typically fill up early. Public transportation is the most convenient way to get to Cal Day. Free shuttle buses will take visitors to campus from the downtown Berkeley BART station, and motorized cable cars will be available for campus tours.

The complete program guide with event times and locations, maps and tour information are online at to help visitors plan their Cal Day.