Make the world go away

Is anyone else exhausted?

It seems the world has gone a bit mad these last few weeks. Whether it’s the devastating inhumanity on display worldwide or the outrageous technical advances that tempt us to seek guidance from the “godbots,” we, the people, need a minute.

Complexity swirls around us as we grope for simple solutions to humanity’s mounting crises, whether it’s deadly attacks in the Middle East to violent rampages at home. We need cures for cancer, solutions to medical debt, and a way to keep the Earth from burning us alive. As a species, we’ve got a lot on our plate right now.

This issue of Michigan Today reflects the breadth of issues on the table and some of the possible solutions to make life better (or at least more interesting). But as our Climate Blue columnist Ricky Rood reminds us, we must get comfortable with complexity if we expect to solve anything. In his latest column about wildfires, Rood revisits a framework he’s been developing to navigate the myriad complications of an evolving climate. Every question begets another question. Every answer begets another answer. (Oh, so you’re happy we had a rainy spring with tremendous growth? Guess what: A dry summer and fall could turn those lush greens into deadly fuel for next season’s uncontained blaze…)

Nothing is cut and dried anymore, except vegetation, I guess.

Time for the amazing comeback

Psychedelics are back on the serious researchers’ collective radar (decades after Timothy Leary ruined it for everyone), as clinicians strive to rescue us from a host of pesky mental health issues that — for some reason — won’t abate. If mind-altering drugs are not your jam, a U-M professor of psychology and psychiatry offers a more down-to-earth approach in Mood Lifters, an accessible program for individuals who seek help, but who shun or can’t afford traditional therapy.

As President Ono attempts to calm campus tensions, we are reminded of Michigan’s longstanding relationship with contentious clashes on the Diag as Jim Tobin flashes back to the early 1900s when controversial anarchist “Red Emma Goldman” riled up the students she considered “pampered parasites.”

Today’s researchers sound the warning bell and encourage us to prepare for the crippling costs of dementia care while others delight in a revolutionary treatment for liver cancer that uses noninvasive sound waves to kill tumors. And it may seem old-school, but U-M’s acquisition of 70K specimens at the U-M Museum of Zoology could lead the way to the next big cure. There’s nothing like a snake coiled into a jar of alcohol to remind you that a university’s work is never done.

And while darkness may put up a good front, the sun always finds a break in the clouds. Just ask the members of Michigan’s Solar Car Team, Astrum, who came back from 32nd place at the start of last week’s 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge to finish fourth in the end. As one of the students said after the team’s early setback, “We could not afford to mope around and just let stuff happen to us.”

As much as we may want to hide from the world right now, we need to listen to that young Wolverine. But, seriously, can we just have a minute?
(Lead image: Solar Car Team Astrum in Australia, 2023. Credit: Levi Hutmacher)


  1. Richard Burns - MS 1954, Zoology.

    Authoritarianism rears its ugly head. I’m optimistic, as a Christian, but not expecting to seee smooth waters anytime soon. When I was on campus, we had the red scares and HUAC hearings, with ill fortune for Drs. Nickerson and Markert.. I remember sharing a pretty general revulsion for Sen. McCarthy and the Kit Clady hearings, but the feeling in our Zoology Dept. was far from unified.


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