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30% of children received trust issues from 'Santa'

Are parents being naughty or nice?

Photo credit: Mike Arney on Unsplash
  • New survey looks at how former children feel about being lied to by parents about Santa.
  • 72 percent of former believers keep the Santa myth alive for their own kids.
  • At press time, about 1,200 people have taken the survey.

"During the last two years I have been overwhelmed by people getting in touch to say they were affected by the lack of trust involved when they discovered Santa wasn't [SPOILER ALERT] real." These are the words of psychologist Chris Boyle of the University of Exeter in the U.K. Boyle's in the midst of conducting an online survey that documents adults' feelings about their parents having lied to them about Jolly Old St. Nick when they were little.

His concern is whether the Yuletide conspiracy had an impact on its believers' trust once it was exposed. While the survey's still ongoing, he's gathered about 1,200 responses so far and is sharing his preliminary findings. Some of the kids were quite crushed.

According to the results, one in three respondents wishes that he or she still believed in Santa. Some of this is no doubt due to a longing to return to childhood, and missing that little bit of extra motivation to be a good boy or girl, at least according to the 32 percent of respondents who said so.

And, of course, who doesn't miss all those "elf-crafted" gifts to be unwrapped?

What former believers now say

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What the survey is showing thus far about that long-ago (hopefully) moment of truth:

  • A third of respondents recall being upset
  • 15 percent of these people felt betrayed
  • 10 percent of them felt angry
  • About a third say the revelation has resulted in continuing trust issues

Boyle says, "As much as this research has a light-hearted element, the responses do show a sense of disappointment and also amusement about having been lied to."

Oh, the suffering

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Parents' primary job may be to create a protective environment in which wee ones get a pass from life's harsher truths and complexities for a few years so they have a chance to advance developmentally before facing the reality. At best, it's a follow-your-dreams, happy, you-can-do-it world. Santa's hardly the only make-believe visitor in this simple, easily digestible reality. From fairies to light sabers, children are encouraged to stretch their imaginations. Of course it makes no sense that a guy in a sled with flying reindeer has time to deliver presents to believing children all over the world in one night, regardless of what NORAD says.

Boyle has been wondering about this for a while. He and his colleague Kathy McKay wrote an essay called A Wonderful Lie in 2016 that asked, "Is the world so bad that we decide that it is better to spend around 10 years lying to children about a large jolly man who gives presents to all children with the help of mythical creatures, because it makes for more enjoyment at Christmas?"

For many of us, the answer is obvious: Absolutely. In fact, Boyle's survey revels that 72% of these now-adults do the same thing for/to their own kids.

So. Trust issues. Really?

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It's not hard to guess that the negative impact of finding out about Mr. and Mrs. Claus may depend on how old one is when the truth finally comes out. Research says most of us wise up at 7 or 8. On the other hand, we know of one child who reluctantly gave up her fantasy at the ripe old age of 12. "I sort of knew. I didn't want to know." Certainly, there's got to frequently be an element of wanting to believe if kids buy their parents' highly questionable explanations for chimney-less houses, flying reindeer, the on-again-off-again presence of Rudolph, the gift-distribution math, and the different Santas — or are they his "helpers"? — at each store .

Since the survey's still open to the public as of this writing, feel free to share your feelings and memories about the day you left your own personal Christmas fantasy behind. Assuming you have.

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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