from the world's big
Sarah Lyall on Celebrity Culture
Question: Do the British obsess more about celebrities than Americans?
Lyall: I think Americans obsess a lot over celebrity, but, I think, the thing about Britain, you have to remember, it’s a small country. It, you know, there’s an expression that they use, saying that you punch above your weight, which means you kind of play with the big boys when you’re not such a big boy? So, Britain, you know, tries to be more of a kind of world figure than it maybe is, and so, it kind of want to do what America does, but it doesn’t have as many celebrities. It doesn’t have as many serious things to fill its paper with, papers with, as America does. So, it has this weird celebrity culture filled with not that important celebrities, actually. A lot of newspapers that it has to sell and a lot of tabloids that are completely, Hollywoodized. I mean, they’re all about kind of crap, really. And so, so you do, it’s in the culture much more. I mean, there is a kind of lack of seriousness in discourse there because of all that, I think. It’s really brought down the tone of a lot of the papers, all the celebrity stuff.
Question: What was your experience interviewing Heath Ledger?
Sarah: Sure. I interviewed him right before the Dark Knight was wrapping. I think he was in his last couple of months of filming, and he was… you know, first of all, he’s really good looking. A lot of movie actors aren’t good looking at all when you meet them, you know? They’re much smaller than you would hope they were, which is fine. I have nothing against short people, but that… But, you know, but you’re disappointed ‘cause they don’t look the same as you want them to look. And he was like a big, strapping, you know, Australian guy. He clearly was really bright, really creative, and very restless. And, you know, but charming, and charming and intelligent, and clearly having a tough time with the filming. And one of the things we’ve talked about was insomnia, because I suffer from insomnia as well, so we were sort of trading tips. So, I mean, what kind of drugs to take and what kind of, you know, techniques we used. And he, kind of hauntingly, he said, you know, “I’ve been taking Ambien, and I took one last night and it didn’t work, so I took another one, and then I only slept for an hour.” And he said, you know, “My mind is fizzing with this role. I cannot get my mind to shut up.” And he didn’t seem like he was, you know, on anything. He just seemed like he was clearly somebody who was, one of those people who gets so into his work that he couldn’t calm it down, those voices that were, you know, all excited and fizzy. And so I felt just so sad at the way he died because, clearly, he was talking about that and it clearly was a mistake, I think, because he just couldn’t get any sleep, and I know what that feels like. It’s awful. And so, it was just shocking, ‘cause he seemed… He was so full of life and so lovely, and we talked about his daughter. He was, you know, a little baby daughter. He just loved her. And it was just such a waste. It was so sad. The interview was in November… Did he die in February, was it that? I think it was pretty… So, I think, the last big interview that he did. And again, you know, I just would have had no idea, and he certainly wasn’t suicidal. He was really full of life, but it was so poignant. He was living in a beautiful rented house in London. It had, I think, 3 or 4 bedrooms. They took me on a tour. Beautiful place. And he showed me every single bed he had been. It was all [mussy], you know, all the sheets were everywhere. And he said, “‘Cause last night, I just couldn’t sleep, so I went from bed to bed, hoping I could fall asleep somewhere.” It’s just so sad. Just so sad. And, you know, you wonder if someone had really kind of taken him in hand and said, you know, “This movie is hurting your health. Let’s try to work on this,” if he could have been helped. Who knows? You know, creative people are, you can’t really… you don’t really have answers do you? You can’t really know what makes them tick. But it was just… It was a tragedy. A real tragedy.
Sarah Lyall talks about a society keen on its celebrities and Heath Ledger.
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.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- 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.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
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.
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 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
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.
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.