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Hop on the election roller coaster. 

“Like a growing number of prominent American leaders and scholars, we are increasingly anxious that this country is headed toward the worst post-election crisis in a century and a half,” reads an opinion piece in Politico co-written by Larry Diamond, ’73, MA ’78, PhD ’80, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Research conducted by Diamond and his co-authors found that growing numbers of both Democrats and Republicans say they think violence would be justified if their side loses in November. The best hope for tamping down the potential for violence following the election, the researchers say, is for Congress to immediately appoint an independent, bipartisan commission to ensure a legitimate election outcome. “Its mission would be to reaffirm and defend our democratic norms, especially the critical principles that every valid vote should be counted and that political violence is never justified in the United States.”

Come what may after November 3, there is some positive voting news right now. The Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project conducted a battleground-state survey that, while highlighting Democrats’ and Republicans’ (usually different) worries, showed that citizens overall believe that their votes will be counted. And Stanford undergraduates Sean Casey, ’22, and Liana Keesing, ’23, co-directors of nonpartisan StanfordVotes, told the Stanford News Service that summer and fall efforts to get undergraduate students to register to vote have resulted in Stanford’s becoming the most registered university in the nation. (Incidentally, Casey and Keesing have never met in person. Because pandemic.)


Just in time for Halloween, the stanfordianus spider.

There are a bunch of species that share the Stanford moniker. They were discovered by Stanford researchers, sometimes on university land; they range from spiders to seaweed; and Stanford magazine rounded them up. So if you ever find yourself raising your eyebrows at some incarnation of the Tree, just be glad our unofficial mascot isn’t a Mushroom.


A million-dollar moment.

“Paul, it’s Bob Wilson. You’ve won the Nobel Prize.” That’s what professor emeritus Bob Wilson said as he knocked (very early in the morning) on the door of his neighbor and Nobel co-recipient Paul Milgrom, MS ’78, PhD ’79. The pair received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats. “Their insights into bidding and pricing have become integral to our modern economy,” says Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “Their work is a shining example of the ways in which both fundamental discovery and its application to practical solutions make enormous contributions to modern society.” Poet Louise Glück, a visiting professor in Stanford’s creative writing program, has won the Nobel Prize for literature. In a CNN opinion piece, Stanford lecturer Richie Hofmann describes what Glück’s work means to him, saying her poems “preserve intimacy, privacy and interiority in an age of constant broadcast, rapid news cycles and shameless self-promotion.”


It’s hypertension season. And not because it’s 2020.

Trees with fall colors on a campus street. Hoover Tower is in the distance.Photo: Chor Seng Tan, PhD ’19.

You may have to pry the cinnamon-maple lattes from our cold, dead hands, but it turns out autumn isn’t really a thing—at least to our bodies. Michael Snyder, chair of genetics at the School of Medicine, studied the molecular data of 105 (admittedly Californian) people over four years and found that the human body really only recognizes two seasons: inflammation season (springish) and hypertension season (winterish). So as the days become crisp, snuggle up and enjoy your spiked blood pressure with a dash of increased acne. Shh, look at the pretty leaves.


Stanford will rename campus spaces named for David Starr Jordan.

Following review by a committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni of requests from the psychology department faculty and the Stanford Eugenics History Project to rename Jordan Hall, the university’s Board of Trustees and Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne have approved a recommendation to remove David Starr Jordan’s name from campus spaces and also take actions to acknowledge and educate the community about Jordan’s contributions to Stanford.

Jordan, the university’s first president, was called out as an innovative educator and central player in the founding of Stanford. He also was a leader in the eugenics movement and, according to the committee’s report, disparaged a broad swath of human populations and forcefully articulated views on a hierarchy of races, ethnicities and cultures. Jordan “made monumental contributions to the founding and development of Stanford, which are rightly celebrated,” Tessier-Lavigne told the Stanford News Service. “But, as the committee reported, Jordan was an equally powerful and vigorous driving force for beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the values of our campus community, and he leveraged his position as president to advance them. Those two facts were central to my decision to endorse the committee’s recommendations, as was the fact that the actions recommended by the committee do not seek to erase Jordan’s legacy, but rather to put it in proper perspective and to recognize his history on our campus in new ways.”

Jordan’s name will be removed from Jordan Hall, home of the psychology department; Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars; and Jordan Way in the Stanford Medical Center. Included in the efforts to more fully explain the range of Jordan’s legacy and contributions are plans for an informational plaque in Jordan Hall and other historical displays and educational programming. A statue outside Jordan Hall of Louis Agassiz, who had no direct connection to Stanford and argued against Black equality, will be relocated. The committee’s full report is available to read.


Feel better about your body.

You might think of body image as having to do with weight and shape, but it’s also about other aspects of your physical appearance, in which age, face and gender play a part. And—no surprises here—most of us have something about our appearance we’d like to change. “Negative body image beliefs are deeply entrenched for some people and changing these thoughts, for some, can be very challenging,” says Stanford Medicine psychologist Kristine Luce. Some things that Luce says will help: Embracing counterattitudinal media that feature people of various body sizes, shapes and ethnicities; making the conscious choice not to engage in conversations about appearance and bodies—yours or anyone else’s; and keeping in mind that body image isn’t static. “Throughout life we move along a continuum of how we perceive ourselves. Regardless of how we feel about it at any given moment, we can have a full and meaningful life in the bodies we have.”


But wait, there’s more.

Before you fire up your Keurig, consider the cultural significance of that smooth, sealed shape in your hand. “Coffee pods, AirPods, nap pods, laundry detergent pods: Today it seems like every product, at every scale, comes in the form of a pod,” writes Mitch Therieau, a PhD candidate in modern thought and literature, in an essay for The Baffler. And the podification of everything, he says, looks different when you’re quarantined in one.

Condoleezza Rice, who became the eighth director of the Hoover Institution in September, discusses Hoover’s mission in the 21st century and the challenges facing the nation and the world.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, PhD ’06, will vote from the International Space Station, thanks to a Texas law that allows astronauts to vote from space using a secure electronic ballot. “I think it’s really important for everybody to vote,” Rubins says. “If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground too.”

Horse stables, culinary school and an organic cranberry bog are just a few of the places Stanford students are spending this year instead of in class. This year, 378 frosh alone are taking a gap year.

Laughing gas is no laughing matter. While carbon dioxide and methane are the biggest human-related drivers of global warming, nitrous oxide emissions are rapidly increasing due to large-scale farming and cattle ranching, a new study finds. “We care doubly about nitrous oxide because it stays in the atmosphere a long time—typically a century or more after release,” says study co-author and earth system science professor Rob Jackson.

Health departments around the country are seeking volunteer COVID-19 contact tracers. Here’s what it’s like to be one. And just in case you need it, here’s a refresher on what to do if you test positive for the virus.


Summer Moore Batte, ’99, is the editor of Stanfordmag.org. Email her at summerm@stanford.edu.

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