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Nobody Can Have It All, Including—and Especially—Women

No human gets everything they want in life, as Ariel Levy discovered in the worst possible way.

Ariel Levy: Well, I mean I think that there's this funny idea that people have, that women have that feminism somehow said that we can have it all. And feminism did not to say that. I think that the thinking that you can have every single thing you want in life is not the thinking of a feminist, it's the thinking of a toddler. And it's not just about women—not anybody can have everything they want. 

Feminism says you're fully human, you're a full human being as a woman; but the human condition is not getting everything you want in life, so it stands to reason that would apply to us too. I think that there are plenty of cultures and religions that impress that upon their adherence, and I think that ours at this moment in time is not one of them. 

I really thought that it was a worthwhile project to try to be the protagonist in my own life and that I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be like an adventurer. I mean those are the kinds of non-traditional female lives that I looked up to and aspired to emulate. And I did get to do that, I do get to do that as a writer for The New Yorker and it's great. I love it. 

But what my experience is, if you decide at 37 “I’m ready to have a family,” and anything goes wrong, as it did for me, then you've kind of run out the clock and then you don't get to do that. Then you've missed that part of life, that field of experience. So I think that that's what I was trying to say is that just, I think that there's sort of a design flaw in the human female animal, that like at exactly the moment you feel you finally might be mature enough to be equipped to take care of a person other than your own self, that is the moment when your body says, “I’m out.” And it's not the same for men. That is a woman's cross to bear. 

A couple months after it happened I was at my friends 40th birthday party and I was talking to this woman and she said, "Are you the Ariel who all the bad things happen to?" And my first thought was, How many Ariel's do you know? But then, of course, I said, "Yes I am that Ariel."

And she said, "Well, everything happens for a reason." And my response to that was like, “Well everything happens for several reasons; I'm out here talking to you because I left the living room and came onto the porch, so that's the reason this is happening.”

I mean everything of course happens for a reason and a bunch of reasons. What people really mean when they say, “Everything happens for a reason” is, “Everything happens for your own good,” which I just think is an incredibly ludicrous lullaby to sing to yourself.

I think the more important thing—It's not like “oh everything happens for a reason,” it's like, “well no, everything happens.”

Once something has happened – so for example, when I was like in the thick of my grief I would wake up in the morning and I would just feel like, “No. This is unacceptable. I don't accept this. I don't agree to this reality. I don't want my son to be dead. It's not cool with me.” I think that's one of the stages of grief, is denial—or bargaining I suppose that is. 

Anyway whatever, the point is that I don't know that everything happens for a reason, but once something has happened the sooner you admit it—like the sooner you admit, “Whether I accept it or not, this is the truth, so I better find a way to surrender to it.” I mean I think that's the trick really. 

 

"The thinking that you can have every single thing you want in life is not the thinking of a feminist," says Ariel Levy, "it's the thinking of a toddler." According to Levy, Western culture isn't telling the whole truth about the human condition: you will not get everything you want in life. Levy knows this firsthand, having lost her child in her fifth month of pregnancy, which she wrote about for The New Yorker. By choosing to be an adventurer and "the protagonist in [her] own life," Levy admits she may have left it too late to start the process of having a child at 37 years old.The biological clock, which she refers to as a design flaw of the female body, is very much a women's cross to bear, and when it went wrong for her, the much-offered popular notion of "everything happens for a reason" brought her no solace. What helped her cope after her loss — and the series of hardships that followed — was not the comforting thought of a greater good, but surrendering fully to grief. Ariel Levy's most recent book is The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir.

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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