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Karen Abbott reads from First Ward Ball,

Karen Abbott: I’ll read a little bit of a scene from the First Ward Ball, which was the sort of . . . which I wish somebody would start having again. It was the . . . It was the annual party that the Levee District threw for itself. It was the chance for everybody to be as disgusting as they wanted to be with impunity, and they could just celebrate themselves. And this went on year after year until 1908 when the reformers got increasingly agitated about this and wanted to shut it down. And they were, in fact, so upset about it that a week before the ball was to take place they blew up the building. And of course the first word that the Levee District people wanted to have their party anyway. So they were undeterred and decided to go along with the festivities. So I’ll just read a short little excerpt from that then. “Unbelievable, this traffic. Trolleys stalled all along Wabash and State. Automobiles and cabs parked askew. Carriages lined in an endless chain. Fifteen thousand men, women, and children darting through the frigid December night curious for a glimpse of the strange procession – the painted ladies in their furs and extravagant hats, wide brims circling their heads like miniature rings of Saturn lifted above the mass, moving slowly toward the coliseum. The Everleigh sisters heard the cries, ‘They’re here!’ and watched the crowd part as if by Moses’ hand for their … Behind them and behind their 30 butterflies followed the lesser levee attractions, and they were all out tonight – Frankie Wright, madam of a brothel called “The Library”, so called an ironic homage to six unread books she’d stacked on a shelf; Big Jim Colisemus’ white slavery partner Maurice Van Beever and his wife Julia; Big Jim himself and his wife Victoria; terrible Johnny Torio, big Jim’s new bodyguard just imported from the Five Points neighborhood of New York City. Years later Torio too would import another Five Points gangster, a young comer named Alphonse Capone whose first job entailed buzzing madams to warn them of imminent raids. And there was Vic Shaw and her white slaver husband, Roy Jones, squeezed by her side. Policemen encircled the sisters and their girls, protecting them from groping hands as they entered the coliseum, a spiraling urban castle with … and turrets – Chicago’s answer to Madison Square Garden. Inside felt like a racing heart thrumming and pulsing to its own erratic beat. So close was the press, the … Herald noted, that even those already drunk were forced to stand erect. Thirty thousand people in a venue meant for half that number lunging and thrashing, bodies colliding. Mouths screamed through nickel store masks. Women wilted and collapsed to the floor. ‘…way! Dame fainted!’ was a frequent cry, and then were lifted and passed hand to hand crowd surf style to a growing pile of weary bodies in a tucked away corner. The air was damp with breath and sweat, the floor slick with spilled beer ankle deep. Men dressed like women; women dressed like men; androgynous revelers dressed like jockeys, clowns, Indians, gypsies, and page boys; madams with fur capes flung over bare shoulders; harlots in slick skirts, peek-a-boo waists, bloomers, and even bathing suits causing the Tribune to quip, ‘Mighty little suit of any kind.’ And one notorious …dressed like a nun.…knew what came next. The band struck up the Everleigh Club’s theme song, “Stay in Your Own Backyard” in honor of the sisters’ arrival. This was the one night of the year where the parameters of their own back yard shifted and stretched; when they took to the same dance floor as the pimps, and white slavers, and cretins who would never be permitted past the club’s doors; when any ignorant observer who knew nothing of levee hierarchy might fail to distinguish themselves from the rest. It was a reminder panting quietly in her ear of how low they once were; all those indignities that had to be wrapped in lie after lovely life; wrapping too thick now to ever tear open.”

Recorded On: 1/22/08

Karen Abbott reads from First Ward Ball.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

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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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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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.