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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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How to remember everything you read

Tips on how to intensify engagement with what you're reading.

SHANE PARRISH: I think the physical books just work for me. They work really well for note taking. They work really well for annotation. They give you something tangible. And there's something about it that I can't quite explain, right? Like, you can know something's in a book on the left-hand side of the page, between page 80 and 90. But if you're reading on a Kindle, you can't do that. So reading on a Kindle is great. I use a Kindle for traveling. But the vast majority of the reading I do, I try to do in physical books because I can write about the idea in my own penmanship. I can draw arrows, and pictures, and diagrams, and try to connect to the argument that the author is trying to make.

Because how can I agree or disagree with somebody if I don't understand the fundamental principles of the argument that somebody is trying to make? One of the ways you can deconstruct that is just sort of being actively attuned to what you're reading. I find when I read on the Kindle, I'm not necessarily as actively engaged in the book. But if I'm taking notes and I'm following along with the article, or I'm occasionally underlining a word that I don't even know what it means, and I want to go look it up later. But it means that I'm actively reading, that what I'm paying attention to, which is super important. And also one of the other things that I find easier to do with a physical book, although you can do it with a Kindle book, I call it like the blank sheet. And what we do there is before you read a book, you take a blank sheet of paper, and you write down what you know about that subject.

You can mine map it. You can write it in sort of like bullet points. And then you read maybe a paragraph — or not a paragraph. You read a chapter of that book. And that's all the reading time you have for that day. Well, now you go to that sheet and use a different color pen and you just fill in, like, what gaps did I learn? Did I learn a different terminology for the words? Can I connect it to what I've already read? And then before you pick up the book for the next chapter, you just skim the sheet. And it sort of primes your brain for what you're going to read. And I think that that's a really effective way to sort of not only build on the knowledge you have, but connect what you're reading to the existing knowledge. It's going to show you what you learned while you were reading because it's going to be a very visual distinction.

It's going to be a different color of ink. And I think that that allows you to sort of connect it to the book. And I often do that in the jacket of the book where, if I don't have a physical piece of paper, that's O.K. because I can just do it on the front cover. That is so much harder when you try to translate that to electronic. It's possible. But it's a lot more difficult.

  • One of the ways you can deconstruct an argument is being actively attuned to what you're reading.
  • To better remember content, take a blank sheet of paper and write down what you know about that subject. You can write it in bullet points.
  • When you later come back to what you're reading, go to that sheet and skim it – it will prime your brain for what you're going to read.


The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts

www.amazon.com

Amazon.com: The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts (Audible Audio Edition): Shane Parrish, Audible Studios: Books

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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