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Middle America vs. the liberal elite: What does it mean to be all-American?

Middle America is tired of those latte-sipping liberals and their "elite media" hanging out in New York City, but Ariel Levy makes the case that Americans aren't as different from one another as they'd like to think.

Ariel Levy: There are lattes in the middle of Ohio now. When Seinfeld was on and everybody loved it, guess what? It was Jews from New York. This idea that we're so out of touch and that this culture we've come up with here is anathema to the rest of the country—guess what: we're as real American as everybody else, and sure there are more liberals here. Sure, we're used to a more heterogeneous population in New York City than what I just saw when I was reporting in Maine last week, but there was plenty of “latte,” and we're not that different, and we're not any less American.

It's also a matter of like: "Sorry about the facts." Sorry that “Big Science”, which is to say scientists, have realized that if we keep doing things the way we're doing them we are going to end the world. "Sorry!" I mean, I wish it weren't so, but it doesn't make [climate change] a liberal phenomenon. It's just beyond my comprehension.

The thing I was going to say about The New York Times is you notice that as much as the president likes to say it's fake news, the minute he goes and meets with their editors he says it's a “great American treasure”.

I mean, it is the paper of record. Now in fairness they did make some mistakes. They're humans. All that stuff around the WMDs and right after the Iraq war—that is serious stuff that happened that The Times got wrong that eroded public trust. But I don't actually think that's what's going on—I don't think that's what this election was about. I mean, we know for a fact that it wasn't. We know for a fact that there was a very targeted system for disseminating the fake news.

Long-form journalism is the only thing I've ever done—that and writing books. I don't know how to be a newspaper journalist. I think what they do is incredibly impressive, but I'm not trained to do it; I don't know how to do it. And they have a different mandate than we do. Their mandate is to attempt objectivity, and ours isn't. I mean, we are meant to tell the truth, and everything you read in The New Yorker has been fact checked more than you can believe, but the overall story I'm telling in any given—no matter what it is—it's always my version. And it's not my mandate to be without a perspective, it's not my mandate to remove myself, to have the least present authorial voice I can. That's not my mandate.

My mandate is to try to make it interesting for the reader while informing the reader, with a complete allegiance to accuracy, but I'm allowed to tell the story however I want to, and that's the luxury. That's being a magazine journalist, and that's what I love about it.

I'm never endeavoring to make myself or my point of view invisible. That's not my mandate. I'm trying to be subtle about it, because the quieter and sort of, you know—if I'm sly about it then it's more persuasive because you don't want to feel that someone has directed you to think this, that, and the other; you want to feel that you think that. But it's my job to lead you to think whatever it is I want you to.

I mean, it depends how honest the individual journalist is, and how much allegiance he or she has to the truth, to accuracy. I am not wed to making every person feel that their perspective has been represented, I'm representing my perspective when I tell a story, but every single detail in that story will be the truth. And no little falsehood is okay, ever, and we take that very seriously.

Middle America is tired of those latte-sipping liberals and their "elite media" hanging out in New York City, but author and New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy makes the case that Americans aren't as different from one another as they'd like to think—and in fact they are all bound by one thing: truth. "No little falsehood is okay, ever, and we take that very seriously," says Levy, speaking of the allegiance to truth and extreme fact-checking that happens at The New Yorker. Journalists are human, and therein lies inevitable errors, but to claim that fake news is coming from the liberal media or that climate science is liberal propaganda is very much off base, she says. Here she delves into what the journalist's mandate is, and why there's no point making up facts: reality gets you in the end. Ariel Levy's memoir The Rules Do Not Apply, is out now.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

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

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.

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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How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.

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