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Masculinity is in crisis. Who’s to blame?

Be a man? Why this once trusty advice now fails men.

MICHAEL KAUFMAN: If you went out onto the street and asked most men about their power, most men would look at you like you're crazy and, say, 'Power? Me? Are you kidding?' So why is there this disconnect between the real world of men's power, that still exists in spite of some real progress, and the experience of individual men? Well I think it's a few things. One is that when we have forms of privilege or power it tends to be invisible to us. As a man I don't have to think about certain things. I don't have to think about if I'm 30 years old going in for a job interview and someone thinking, 'Oh, 30 years old, he's probably going to become pregnant.' Even though, these days, of course, as a dad I'd be an equal parent. There's a lot of ways that men still have power it's often invisible to us.

But I think there's also something even more interesting, and that's what I think of as the paradox of men's power. The ways that we have defined men's power, the ways we raise boys to be men, come with a set of expectations that none of us can live up to. You know, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, in control, you know, make money, be the bread earner, have incredibly ripped bodies like a Marvel cartoon, not show feelings, not have feelings. And we punish boys, we punish boys for showing those feelings, for showing emotions. You know, a boy falls down and cries and you know we drag him back up, 'big boys don't cry, don't be a baby.' And so we just pummel boys and men for not living up to these impossible expectations and stereotypes of manhood. And yet as individual men we just assume, well, that's what a man is. And so there's this internal dialogue of self-doubt about making the masculine grade. And you know what that ends up being is it men end up being a bit torn apart. And I don't just mean metaphorically. I mean, you know, men die younger than women because we don't go for help, we don't go to doctors, we don't get emotional support. Men are more likely to be addicted to alcohol and other drugs, are more likely to be in prison, we're more likely to commit suicide, we're more likely to die of opioids. So all these different things are the result of a male-dominated society. It's a strange paradox. Can you imagine designing a world yourself in which your half of the species had more power, had more control, ran social institutions, random religions, ran the economy, and you set it up in a way that you'd also die younger, you'd also have all these personal failings?

Now there are some men these days who blame women on the plight the men are facing. There's some men who say, you know, the pendulum has shifted too far, men are the real victims. I don't buy it. I don't buy it at all. I don't think women are to blame for the pain, the plight, that men do feel. They've been brought up with a set of promises and expectations. You know, if you do all these things, if you just suck it up, if you just be a man you'll be rewarded. You know, you'll be work rewarded with jobs and sex and social acclaim or whatever it might be. Well, the world doesn't work like that. It doesn't work like that period, but it particularly doesn't work like that nowadays. The world has changed. And so men can't just come along assuming, well, it's still going to just all be in my favor. I mean, we've had this 8,000 or 10,000 year long affirmative action program for men, and that's the way it's been. You know, men haven't had to compete with half of the species for jobs, for positions of power or influence. We've gotten to rule the roost and call the shots. And the rug has been pulled out from under that. And it's not women to blame. It's not women to blame. It's the society that devised that whole mess in the first place.

  • Male power is a paradox, says Michael Kaufman, author of The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution.
  • Society is male-dominated, yet despite their advantages men still die younger than women, are more likely to commit suicide, to be in prison, and to be addicted to drugs.
  • There is a growing movement that blames women for the so-called attack on masculinity, but Kaufman doesn't buy it. He blames the society that established uneven power in the first place, which naturally has friction in today's world.


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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