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Actor
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Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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How to Solve Creative Blocks

Question: Why do some people get creatively blocked?

Rainn Wilson: I think "creative blocks" come from people’s life journeys.  If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative. So I think a lot of times when people have "creative blocks" and I know my share of friends do as well if they’re at just some stuck point.  They’re not sure what to do with their lives or their writing or their photography or their filmmaking or whatever it is that they’re doing.  I think the best advice is you have to change your life up completely; to go on a trip, to go spend a year being of service.  Be willing to take some major drastic action to get you out of your comfort zone and go inside, not outside.  Our society is all about focusing on the externals, "These people like me, I'm successful because of these people, they view me as being good and we need to take that vision and instead of expanding it outwards we need to look inside ourselves.

I think meditation helps greatly with creativity.  It doesn’t.... If it’s a pure expression of yourself no matter what it is or what medium, it’s going to shine.  It’s going to resonate.  You could look inside of yourself and you could have a canvas and you could paint a dot in it, but if that is where your creative purpose is taking you then it needs to be that dot.  Again, we’re so focused on the externals about like well he did this and he already did this and tons of people are already doing that, I need to do something new and you’re just looking outwards all the time and you’re not taking that time and that is what... a trap of technology is to just always have our vision somewhere else, somewhere else, in the future, looking outside of ourselves. And I think taking the time in the morning to connect with your breath, that's where the purest impulse comes from.

Question: Is creativity for everyone? 

Rainn Wilson:  Creativity is absolutely for everyone.  I firmly believe this.  I think if you’re the driest accountant with the plastic pocket pen protector it’s in how you interact with the world.  There is artistry in everything that we do and there is expression in everything that we do and you see that in the game of chess as you...  I used to play a lot of chess and competitive chess and study chess and as you get to the grandmasters and learn their styles when you start copying their games like the way they express themselves through...  The way Kasparov or Bobby Fischer expresses themselves through a game of chess is it’s astonishing.  You can show a chess master one of their games and they’ll say "Yeah, that is done by that player." 

So it doesn’t matter.  It’s again, about that yearning to transcend.  There is a surrender to a power greater than one’s self as every artist or scientist or thinker talks about a certain point when it’s no longer like their brain.  It’s like the ideas are like streaming through them and that can happen with anyone.  If you’re a janitor you can do it through your work or on the side or how you are with people, but this is the mission of Soul Pancake is to show that everyone is an artist.  Everyone is creative in their own way and that that creativity is a great thing.  It’s a human thing and it needs to be nurtured and it can help us go down life’s path and help us to become deeper, richer, more satisfied human beings.

Recorded November 11, 2010

Interviewed by David Hirschman

Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler

People have trouble living creatively when they don’t know who they are or what they’re about. The best thing to do if you're blocked is to make radical changes and get outside your comfort zone.

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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