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Chris Hadfield
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The Stockdale Paradox: How Optimism Creates Resilience

Just as POWs developed a method to communicate by tapping a code through their cell walls, Dr. Dennis Charney says we all need a tap code to enable us to share feelings with people we can count on. 

The late Vice Admiral James Stockdale's finest hour did not come as Ross Perot's Vice Presidential candidate, which is how most Americans got to know him. Admiral Stockdale was the highest ranking naval officer to be held prisoner during the Vietnam War, and he made it through hell. 


In captivity, Stockdale was given special treatment. But I don't mean "special" in the positive sense. Stockdale was part of the so-called "Alcatraz" gang, U.S. prisoners who were held in solitary confinement. The lights in their small cells were kept on 24 hours a day and they were forced to sleep in shackles. This ordeal went on for 8 years. 

What's the Big Idea?

How did Stockdale make it?

In the video below, Dr. Dennis Charney, a psychiatrist who is looking to find new treatments for depression and other anxiety disorders, says the key survival mechanism for Stockdale and his fellow POWs was the ability to combine realism with optimism: 

The Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you're faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, 'I'm in really big trouble.' You have a realistic assessment of what you're facing. On the other hand, you have the attitude and the confidence to say, 'But I will prevail. I'm in a tough spot, but I will prevail.' That is the optimism that relates to resilience. 

Watch the video here:

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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Over 400 Ivy League courses are free online right now

With the coronavirus pandemic upending summer plans, now's the perfect time to learn something new.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Although states are reopening, coronavirus has already canceled many summer plans.
  • Ivy League universities and other course providers are offering online courses for free.
  • Free online courses cover a range of academic and personal-growth topics.
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    What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

    Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

    Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

    Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
    Strange Maps
    • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
    • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
    • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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    Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

    The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

    An eight-metre-long Whale shark swims with other fish at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on February 26, 2010 in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan.

    Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
    Surprising Science
    • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
    • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
    • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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