How to slow time; zombie forests; hands off the krill

March 14, 2023

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Time is whizzing by.

When your Zoom meetings crawl by but you lose two hours to TikTok in the blink of an eye, blame your inner clock. Many of us feel like time speeds up as we age, but experts say people of all ages have been feeling that way ever since the long, blurry days of pandemic lockdown. We seem to feel busier now, or perhaps we want to make up for lost time—changing our “felt time.” “The pace of life is insane these days,” behavioral scientist and Graduate School of Business professor Jennifer Aaker, PhD ’95, told the Wall Street Journal. Aaker and other researchers suggested ways to stretch out our days (in a good way), including giving time to someone else (that means call your mom). Aaker said that while it seems counterintuitive, giving time away gets you out of your own head, which can make you feel like you have more time. If you can’t muster the fortitude for a family FaceTime, try finding awe in whatever’s outside your window. Research shows that focusing 10 minutes per day on things that fascinate you can improve your well-being.

They call them zombie forests.

They’re the standing dead: trees in the Sierra Nevada. In a Stanford-led study, researchers discovered that about a fifth of all Sierra Nevada conifers are mismatched with the climate around them and likely to be supplanted by different species after one of California’s increasingly frequent wildfires. As the climate warms, conifers are establishing themselves in higher, cooler elevations. But the temperature is changing three to five times faster. The trees are “cheating death, in a way,” said lead author Avery Hill, PhD ’22. When a disturbance event (like a wildfire) eventually strikes, species that are better adapted to the new climate will begin to dominate the landscape. The study’s first-of-their-kind maps show the rapidly changing landscapes, where more adaptive wildfire management could help direct forest transitions for the benefit of ecosystems and nearby communities.

Button, button, who’s got the button?

A series of buttons on numbered squaresPhoto: Kathleen Smith

Stanford now has in its possession nearly 1,000 buttons from a 20th-century German manufacturer. The collection contains samples made of brass, copper, iron, and glass. Some may say they’re not as exciting as stamps, but what are you rocking these days? Zippers? Drawstrings? That’s what we thought. The catalog is now among the more than 12 million carefully selected items used for research and teaching at Stanford—and that should burst your buttons.

Missing the points.

If you sleep soundly at night after using your credit card points toward your favorite SoulCycle class, Chenzi Xu and Jeffrey Reppucci are here to gently rouse you with an air horn. “When you book a hotel room or enjoy entry to an airport lounge at no cost, poor consumers are ultimately footing the bill,” they said in a New York Times opinion piece published earlier this month. Xu, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Business, and Reppucci, a graduate student, explained that while demand for rewards is going up, so is the cost of offering them. New studies have shown that credit card companies offset those costs with higher interchange fees—the roughly 2 percent charge merchants pay on every credit card transaction. The U.S. has some of the highest credit card processing fees in the world, and merchants typically pass the costs on to consumers, which means everyone who doesn’t get reward points helped fund your Mardi Gras weekend. The highest rewards are often available only to those with a high incomes, high credit scores, and high credit limits. It’s estimated that every year, $15 billion in reward value is redistributed from poorer, less educated, diverse communities to wealthier, more educated, less diverse communities. A bill that would increase competition among credit card companies, which could lower interchange fees, was unsuccessful last year but may be reintroduced.

War torn.

When organic walnut farmer Craig McNamara, ’73, began writing his memoir, he thought it was going to be about agriculture. But as he wrote, he realized that what he really wanted to write about—and understand—was his father, Robert McNamara, the U.S. secretary of defense who was broadly considered the architect of the Vietnam War. The younger McNamara’s book, Because Our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, from Vietnam to Today, explores his life as the son of a man he grew to view as a war criminal but whom he also loved. Despite a fraught relationship, Craig McNamara’s father ultimately helped him purchase the farm that now drives his efforts in agriculture and land stewardship, which he views as fundamentally political acts. “My father helped me put into practice something I had studied and dreamed of doing,” he told Stanford. “I could not have done it without him.”

But wait, there’s more.

University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Law School dean Jenny Martinez have issued an apology to Kyle Duncan, a judge with the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who was invited  by the Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society for an event Thursday titled “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter.” Dozens of student protesters, including LGBTQ+ rights supporters, disrupted the event, which Martinez said violated the school’s policies and commitment to free speech.

When a person meditates, beneficial neurotransmitters are released and fast brain waves (which are linked to stress) slow down. Stanford magazine asked experts what happens when we’re “in the moment” and how to get started.

Anat Admati, GSB professor and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, spoke with NPR about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and what it says about the stability of the U.S. banking system.

On Saturday, a drawing of Adolf Hitler and multiple swastikas were discovered on a whiteboard attached to the door of a student's room in FloMo. Stanford's Department of Public Safety is investigating the matter and believes the drawings were intended to intimidate the student. In a letter to students, administrators said that Stanford wholeheartedly rejects antisemitism, racism, hatred, and associated symbols, “which are reprehensible and will not be tolerated.”

Less than two days after the February 6 earthquake in Turkey, Istanbul native Alp Akiş, ’21, was on the outskirts of the disaster zone with a new job: “fixer” for BBC News. His role as a local journalist is to organize key logistics and help translate for foreign correspondents, who often need help understanding and navigating an unfamiliar region, Akiş told the Stanford Daily. “I think it’s great that they’re seeking out context and that help and those resources from local reporters.”

The university-wide Committee on Funding for Energy Research and Education is seeking community participation as it examines and reports on the issues raised by Stanford’s accepting funding from fossil fuel companiesAlumni and others are invited to comment online or attend a meeting with a committee representative.

In the Southern Ocean last year, as a rare supergroup of approximately 1,000 fin whales dined on their favorite food source, massive industrial super-trawlers followed them, scooping up the same krill. (There is rising demand for the crustaceans for use in dietary supplements and as feed for farmed fish.) The endangered whale population has been recovering for the past few decades, but researchers warn that the lack of restrictions on commercial krill fishing could threaten that progress.

Stanford women’s basketball has earned their 35th consecutive NCAA tournament bid. They’ll play their first match in Maples Pavilion on Friday.

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