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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Andrew Sean Greer: Becoming a Writer

Question: Why did you write your first book?

Andrew Sean Greer:  It was my first short story collection, so I did it over a number of years starting some time in graduate school when I was 23 and started publishing things up through my 20s and so I had been working on a novel and I couldn’t crack the novel form at all and I just kept doing short stories in the background and finally, I realized I had 11 of them that I was proud of and that could be a collection.  I hadn’t meant to do the pattern of publishing short stories and then a novel.  I thought I’m a novelist, I know it.  But you have to kind of write a lot of bad novels before you can write a good one, I think, so I did that.  But meanwhile, I loved the short stories I did.

Question: You’ve written plays?

Andrew Sean Greer:  Oh, yeah, I did.  They had a contest where they would, for some reason someone in  the past loved musical theater and so if you wrote a musical they would fully fund it and put it on the main stage with full costumes and a set and everything and my roommate said we should totally do that.  That would be awesome.  She’s the same one who talked me into competing to be commencement speaker, which we did together.  She always had ideas.  She thought no one else is going to try for this stuff.  So actually, one of them we wrote the night before and submitted it and we won, so two years in a row we won that prize.

Question: Do you have plans for a screenplay?

Andrew Sean Greer:  I think screenplay is hard.  I’ve tried that and it felt really difficult, like all the stuff I think I’m good at like description and internal experience and memory, you can’t do that or at least I couldn’t figure out a way.  It was action and present time and it was so literal I felt really sort of bound as a storyteller.  I think it’s a good thing for me to learn how to do.  I think I learned from it about visual storytelling, but plays you can do that a lot more because
the audience imagines half of it, the way they do in literature.

Question: What work have you done for magazines?

Andrew Sean Greer:  It was a variety of stuff.  Esquire was a fiction piece.  It was crazy.  That was the first thing I ever published and I sent it in, I was sending in dozens of stories all over the place, against the rule you’re supposed to double submit.  I just thought I’ll send them everywhere.  I had 200 rejection letters and then I got a call from Esquire.  For some reason everyone at Esquire had quit the fiction department over some scandal and the assistant was left in charge and he published my story.  You know, it was luck.  It was cold out of pile, you know, a slush pile.

After musicals, magazines, and short stories Greer has found his true voice as a novelist.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

Videos
  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

Image: metamorworks / Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
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