Whatever, We’re Probably Living In A Hologram Anyway, Says Neil deGrasse Tyson

Look around you. Your shoes, that tree, the Starbucks cold brew you’re clutching—it’s all very much right here in the real world. But what if the “real world” we live and move around in is just a computer simulation? Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, thinks there’s a very high chance that everything we know is just a hologram. He’s just one of a growing number of people who believe it.


Philosopher Nick Bostrom proposed the simulation hypothesis in 2003, and the belief has only snowballed since then. Most notably, Elon Musk and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have jumped on the nothing-we-know-is-real bandwagon. Tyson hosted the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History, which addressed this question head-on: Is the universe a simulation? At the event, Tyson was joined by panelists Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard; Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at MIT; David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at NYU; Zohreh Davoudi, a theoretical physicist at MIT; and James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland.

The opinions on the simulation hypothesis varied (Chalmers had a real mind-boggler: “We’re not going to get conclusive proof that we’re not in a simulation, because any proof would be simulated.”). Tyson himself said, “I think the likelihood may be very high. […] it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.” But whether or not everyone is in agreement about the matter, the concept is legitimate enough for the top minds in theoretical physics to meet on and parse out.

It’s Time To Meet Your Simulator

 Okay, let’s play along. Say nothing is actually real and we’re all just a bunch of cosmic holograms living out our lives in someone’s elaborate computer simulation. Who is that someone? Martin Savage, a physicist at the University of Washington, has some thoughts. Savage, along with two colleagues, published a paper that explores this issue in November 2012. In a conversation with Talk Nerdy To Me, Savage explains that the simulators may be our own descendants from the far future. Whoa. In the same way archaeologists dig up bones and other artifacts to piece together our past, perhaps future generations will have the ability to recreate simulations of how their ancestors (us) once lived. Yes, maybe your great-great-great-great-great-grandkid is studying you right this second. Hi, kiddo!

2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: Is the Universe a Simulation?

Watch the video discussion. URL:


The internet is freaking out over this spooky prediction by Carl Sagan about the future.

It’s disturbingly accurate.

 Back in 1995, everyone’s favourite astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, published a book called The Demon-Haunted World, which warned against the dangers of pseudoscience and scientific illiteracy, and encouraged its readers to learn critical and skeptical thinking.

Pretty standard stuff for a socially conscious scientist, but one passage in particular has been blowing up on Twitter this week, and it’s not hard to see why.

 Somehow, (we’re not saying time machine, but probably time machine) Sagan managed to predict the state of things as they are today – and it’s unnervingly accurate.

We’re talking the decline in manufacturing jobs; people feeling hopeless about politics; politicians refusing or unable to represent the public interest; and brilliant, revolutionary technologies that never seem to change the lives of anyone but the 1 percent.

The result? Sagan predicts people will opt for superstition and pseudoscience over reality – and even more concerning, he says the public will be intellectually incapable of distinguishing between what makes us feel good, and what’s actually true. Fake news, anyone?

Yep, this passage has got it all:

So did Sagan somehow know enough about society in 1995 that he could accurately predict what life would be like in a couple of generations, or are we all reading too much into it?

Oddly enough, the way we interpret this kind of prediction actually has a lot to do with how we interpret horoscopes – one of Sagan’s biggest bugbears.

 Horoscopes have nothing to do with reality, but they owe their enormous success to the fact that humans tend to see what they want to see.

So while we can be pessimistic about the future of society as a whole, humans are generally pretty optimistic about their individual future prospects – a concept known as optimism bias.

It’s actually an evolutionary survival tactic – and that’s something horoscopes directly tap into.

As Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist from University College London, explains for TIME:

“You might expect optimism to erode under the tide of news about violent conflicts, high unemployment, tornadoes and floods and all the threats and failures that shape human life. Collectively we can grow pessimistic – about the direction of our country or the ability of our leaders to improve education and reduce crime. But private optimism, about our personal future, remains incredibly resilient.”

Thanks to humanity’s optimism bias, you could show someone all the statistics related to divorce, cancer, and average lifespan, and more often than not, they’ll choose to believe that those negative experiences won’t happen to them.

So when we see horoscopes that tell us we’re going to meet our soulmate or get a big promotion this month, we choose to believe it, and don’t tend to go back and fact-check it – the horoscope has already done its job by making us feel good.

A similar thing goes on when we’re presented with a spookily accurate prediction of the future – part of the cognitive bias that’s wired into all humans is that we are drawn to details that confirm our existing beliefs.

As Matt Novak points out over at Gizmodo: “[I]t’s important to remember that the ‘accuracy’ of predictions is often a Rorschach test. An interpretation of a particular prediction’s accuracy usually says a lot about the people interpreting them, and their own hopes or fears for the future.”

We also need to put these predictions into context, because once you read past the viral passage, you’ll see that Sagan is kinda trying to blame the state of things in the future on… Beavis and Butthead?

“The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and DumberBeavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning – not just of science, but of anything – are avoidable, even undesirable.”

How delighted Sagan would be to know that in 2016, more young people were watching David Attenborough than The X Factor. Mind-numbing television is actually the least of our problems right now.

But even with all that said, we do have to give props to Sagan for coming up with a really cracking prediction for the beginning of 2017. Let’s hope for better things to come in the months and years ahead.


Your Brain Is Your Most Powerful Sex Organ.

Article Image

When we think of sex organs, our minds veer toward the naughty parts between our legs. But our minds should be veering to, well, our minds. The real catalyst for sexual activity is the brain — specific parts of the brain — not genitalia. That’s why sexually driven language — dirty talk — is so arousing. When partners talk dirty to each other, they’re stroking the right organs.

wealth of scientific research establishes the brain’s primary role in sexual activity. Sex drive, for example, originates in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for testosterone production in the testes. The amygdala, on the other hand, is a center for fear in the brain. Both brain regions strongly effect how we respond to dirty talk and sexual stimulation in general.

Because men have larger hypothalami, they have more testosterone. This explains why the male sex drive often exceeds those of females, why men tend to initiate sexual contact, and why men are less cautious about who they take on as sexual partners. Partners who seek a submissive role, on the other hand, are led more by their amygdala, one of the brain’s fear centers.

Dirty talk achieves arousal because it’s fine-tuned to stimulate the right parts of the brain. It feeds our need for intimate conversation and lust for sexual activity. It provides a multi-layered sexual experience that extends further than just physical touch. Dirty talk works because it’s sex through suggestion, and to our brains, suggestion can be just as powerful as full-on execution.


Chatbots for Good: Sayfe Space

A mobile app that anonymously connects refugees with chatbots and mental wellness experts to get help when in distress

Food, shelter, health, and legal is a large focus of refugee crises across the world, and organizations and technology are doing amazing things to help combat it. For example, RefAid provides a single app for refugees to find information, and connect them to the NGOs to provide it, with partners like Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, and IOM.

And though these apps and services do amazing work in that regard, what about a focus on the mental health of the refugees, specifically, the mental distress that refugees experience? Beyond friends and family, how can mental health be supported?

Sayfe Space was created to address this specific issue, providing a platform for refugees to naturally describe their problems and get the support they need by anonymously chatting with volunteers and mental health experts. A dynamic and accessible application, Sayfe Space will change the way we think about mental health and refugee crises across the world, and how we address it.

The App

Sayfe Space is a mobile app that provides a conversational user experience.

The first interaction a user experiences is a conversation with a chatbot that uses natural language processing (NLP), powered by IBM Watson, to analyze and understand the condition of the user (more on that in a bit). After analyzing the state of the user, the app offers basic support through static information available in its database (like addresses of the closest clinic).

Beyond that, the application also creates a profile for the user to match him/her with the closest-suited volunteer to support their needs. Once the volunteer and user are connected, the refugee can chat directly with that volunteer through direct chat.

The technology behind the app:

  • IBM Watson — Natural language processing and sentiment analysis
  • PubNub — realtime messaging layer powering the chat
  • JavaScript front-end
  • Python, Node.js backend

Why is this so powerful?

I connected with Claudio Lisco, one of the members of the team building Sayfe Space, and was curious about what they see as the most powerful part of the app. What impact will it make on the future? Lisco says that the app:

“combines the power of AI with the power of the crowd. In fact in the case of Sayfe Space the acronym AI is rather used as Augmented Intelligence than Artificial Intelligence as Sayfe Space still relies on human volunteers, like mental health professionals — to assist the the refugees with their personal skills and expertise.”

In a way, the chatbot “augments” both the service, and the user experience. With capabilities like 24/7 availability, language translation, and fast user profiling based on sentiment analysis, the app transcends traditional means of mental healthcare that relies solely on human-to-human, in-person interaction.

Building NLP into an App

Handling sensitive information and subjects, NLP with Sayfe Space has to get it right. There are two large challenges for building NLP into Sayfe Space.

The first concerns the quality and structure of the data that the chatbot can tap into for answers and interaction. With chatbots, they’re only as good as the bot’s knowledge base.

The second concerns humanizing the chatbot, allowing it to input in a natural way, and offer immediate comfort through both informative and sensitive responses.

The Future and Vision

The Sayfe Space team will continue to build relationships with support networks for refugees, including TechFugees and other global NGOs. Reliable and advanced chat bots, as well as a powerful network of volunteers, will be the key to providing a valuable service through Sayfe Space, so the team is continuing to concentrate on the technology, natural language processing, and user experience.

“We hope Sayfe Space can start playing soon an important role in improving the life of refugees in this critical moment. And looking further at the future we hope ore solution can extend beyond the immediate refugee’s use case to offer support to a wider audience,” said Lisco.


The ‘Love Drug” Could Be Crucial to Curbing Opioid Addictions

Oxytocin is a peptide hormone capable of sending you into a dither of sexual love and cuddle-bug instincts. It also has the potential to become a treatment for drug addiction, especially those afflicted by opioids.

A team of researchers from the University of London recently argued in the British Journal of Pharmacology that the oxytocin system should be further studied for its potential to treat opioid addiction and prevent relapses. They make their case using the data in their review of what they claim is “all the published evidence on oxytocin.”

“Our findings in the review suggest the use of oxytocin, the pro-social hormone, could be an effective therapy for the prevention of relapse to drug use in drug-dependent individuals,” said senior author Dr. Alexis Bailey in a statement. “Since the evidence is so clear, the need for more clinical studies looking into this is obvious.”

Also known by the slightly problematic moniker as “the love drug,” oxytocin is known for its effect on the brain’s reward system and on the way we process social affiliation, bonding, stress, learning, and memory. Research has shown that the oxytocin system is particularly affected by opioid use because of the role oxytocin plays in addiction: Scientists believe that addictive behavior may indicate low levels of oxytocin. The idea is that if there isn’t enough oxytocin in a person’s system, they may seek to have the feelings that oxytocin induces through external means.

Prescription opioids like Vicodin, which contains hydrocodone, have become a U.S. epidemic.

Prescription opioids like Vicodin, which contains hydrocodone, have become a U.S. epidemic.

It doesn’t look like oxytocin can be used in an abusive way or has the potential to cause addiction, which is partially why these researchers advocate for its use over other potential therapeutic drugs, like marijuana. Because addictions are linked to long-term emotional impairment and a neurochemical-fuelled drive to return to the addictive substance, a drug like oxytocin (which is nonaddictive and is linked to happiness) could be revolutionary.

“Preclinical and clinical evidence clearly indicates the potential of OT [oxytocin treatment] as an effective next generation treatment for opioid addiction and comorbid mood disorders, as well as prevention of relapse,” the authors write. “Therefore, there is a need for future clinical studies to directly assess the effect of OT-based pharmacotherapies on the different stages of opioids addictions and to determine doses that would avoid any detrimental side effects.”

Oxytocin has been used to effectively treat addictions before: In 2016, scientists found that oxytocin could curb the impulsive need to overeat. With opioid addiction causing greater harm to Americans than ever before, the great hope is that oxytocin will prove to have the same consistent effect on the people who might need it most urgently.


7 Exercises That Burn More Calories Than Running

Want to switch it up? Give one of these activities a try.
Woman after workout smiling with towel

Running is a great form of exercise. It comes with benefits both mental and physical. I’m personally a huge fan. If you’re trying to burn lots of calories with your workouts, running is a pretty good option. But if you’re looking to maximize your calorie burn or switch up your high-intensity workouts, there are plenty of other options to consider.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that there are so many great reasons to work outthat have nothing to do with burning calories or weight loss, and we’re not suggesting that your goal should be either of those things. If it is your goal, that’s totally fine, but it’s important not to overdo it or exercise compulsively. And if you’ve struggled with disordered eating or compulsive exercising, always speak with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine.

To compare activities based on calorie burn, you first have to understand MET, or metabolic equivalent.

Every type of physical activity has a MET, which is a measure of how much energy it takes to complete. The MET is based off how many milliliters of oxygen a person consumes per kilogram of body weight while doing any specific activity. One MET is roughly equal to the amount of energy it takes to sit still. You can find the MET of over 800 different activities in The Compendium of Physical Activities, a resource provided by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

“As the MET value of activity goes up, the ability to burn calories increases,” Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, tells SELF. The more intense an exercise—that means everything from running to lifting weights to washing dishes—or the harder you push yourself, the more oxygen your body needs to complete it. Which means the MET goes up, and so does the calorie burn. (Exercising at a higher intensity also increases the amount of calories you’ll burn after you stop working out, thanks to the afterburn effect.)

A variety of factors, including a person’s weight and metabolism, determine how many calories a person burns at different intensities of exercise.

The specific number of calories you burn during a particular workout depends on a handful of different things. A person’s body weight, body fat percentage, age, physical fitness, genetics, and even the environmental conditions in which they’re working out, can impact how many calories they burn, according to ACSM.

It’s nearly impossible to know exactly how many calories a person will burn during a run or other activity. We all have different bodies and metabolisms, and chances are, those above factors don’t always stay constant.

What we can do, though, is calculate the approximate calorie burn of specific activities using METs.

The formula is this: MET x body weight (in kilograms) x time (in hours) = calorie burn. This can give you a good idea of which activities are generally more efficient than others at burning calories, even if the exact number will vary a little bit.

“To compare running to another activity, it would be necessary to define the speed [of the run] and body weight of the specific person,” McCall adds. The MET of running depends a lot on the speed—for example, running at a 10 minute/mile pace has a MET of 9.8, whereas running at a 6.5 minute/mile pace has a MET of 12.8.

With some help from McCall, we calculated the calories that a 150-pound person would typically expend running a 10-minute-per-mile pace: 666 calories per hour. Then, we compared this to a handful of other activities. (Note that you might not do these activities for a full hour, but we used one hour as a standard means of comparison.)

What you’ll find is that the big calorie burners on the list have a few things in common: They use a lot of muscles throughout the body, and they can be really challenging.

Here are some exercises you might want to add to your routine if you’re trying to burn more calories:

1. Indoor cycling: Approximately 952 calories per hour

McCall notes that intensity should be at 200 watts or greater. If the stationary bike doesn’t display watts: “This means when your indoor cycling instructor tells you to turn up the resistance, you do it!” he says.

2. Cross-country skiing: Approximately 850 calories per hour

This all depends on your experience as a skier. Slow, light effort won’t burn nearly as many calories as a brisk-speed, vigorous effort will. To really challenge yourself and burn up energy? Try uphill skiing.

3. Rowing: Approximately 816 calories per hour

Again, 200 watts is the benchmark here; McCall says it should be at a “vigorous effort.” Many rowing machines list watts on the display. Bonus: Rowing is an incredible back workout too.

4. Jumping rope: Approximately 802 calories per hour

This should be at a moderate pace—approximately 100 skips per minute—McCall says. Try this jump-rope interval workout to get started.

5. Kickboxing: Approximately 700 calories per hour

Other types of martial arts, like Muay Thai, fit into this category too. When it comes to regular boxing, the biggest calorie burn comes when you’re legit in the ring (a.k.a. fighting another person). But a lot of boxing classes also incorporate cardio exercises like mountain climbers and burpees, so your heart rate ends up increasing more than you’d expect. And, hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere before you can get into the ring, right?

6. Swimming: Approximately 680 calories per hour

Freestyle works, but you should aim for a vigorous 75 yards per minute pace, McCall says. This is a little aggressive for a casual swimmer. (Butterfly stroke is even more effective if you feel like getting fancy.)

7. Outdoor bicycling: Approximately 680 calories per hour

Biking at a fast, vigorous pace gets your heart rate soaring, whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Add in some mountainous terrain and hills and the calorie burn goes up even more.


9 Things No One Tells You About C-Section Recovery

Even if yours is planned and you think you’ve done your homework, these may surprise you.

You know that C-sections are major surgery and you may have heard vague complaints from a friend that recovery was tough, possibly even tougher than she anticipated. But until you’ve had one yourself, you can’t know the entire list of weird and surprising challenges. Here, ob/gyns share all the down and dirty details about recovery.

1. Getting out of bed for the first time may hurt more than any labor pains you experienced.

Of course as a new mom you want to hop out of bed the instant you hear your tiny, brand-new bundle of love cry. But immediately after a C-section, and even up to two weeks after, it can be pretty darn painful to sit up and put your feet on the floor. While you’re in the hospital, you can avail yourself of the magic of the hospital bed, which can prop you up with the push of a button and has rails that you can use for support, not to mention around-the-clock medical care. But sadly, you can’t stay and enjoy the amenities indefinitely.

“Your doctor will prescribe you pain meds, which you should take,” Alyssa Quimby, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California, tells SELF. “That’s what they’re there for.” Once you’re home, experiment with rolling onto one side, using pillows (that Snoogle comes in handy) or asking your partner to lend a hand when you want to get out of bed.

2. Nursing after a C-section can get pretty uncomfortable.

“It can be difficult to situate your newborn in a position that you can maintain for upwards of 20 minutes comfortably when you have an incision on your lower abdomen,” Quimby says. “I encourage my patients to play around with different positions.” Many find the football hold, where you literally tuck your baby in along your forearm up to your breast like, yup, a football, to be the most comfortable post C-section, she says. (Confused? Ask your hospital’s lactation consultant for help.) You could also try a breastfeeding pillow or stack of soft throw pillows of different sizes and shapes to help get baby in a good position.

3. Going #1 and #2 may be uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

There are two different situations going on here. Peeing can burn or sting, or you may not feel that you fully emptied your bladder, because you more than likely will have had a catheter as part of standard hospital protocol prior to your epidural. (Women who get epidurals and have vaginal births may experience the same sensation.) “It’s totally normal to be irritated and should clear up in a few days,” says Quimby.

As for pooping—or rather, not pooping—there are a few possible culprits. “Pregnancy hormonestend to slow everything down digestive-wise and things don’t just miraculously return to normal immediately after delivery,” explains Angela Jones, M.D., founder of AskDrAngela.com. “So if you were having issues with constipation during pregnancy, they are not likely to resolve spontaneously once your baby is delivered.” Complicating the problem? Those pain meds. Many have a side effect of constipation. Though it’s undeniably difficult to get up and move around, even a short walk around the hospital floor can help get things moving again (ask for help if you’re feeling woozy). You can also try a stool softener, like Colace.

4. Those cute pre-pregnancy shoes you were fantasizing about wearing will have to stay in the back of your closet a little longer.

It’s very normal for your feet and legs and even hands and face to swell after any type of delivery and particularly after a C-section. During pregnancy, blood volume increases, on average, by almost 50 percent, to support your pregnancy. “Between that, and all the IV fluids you received during labor and/or at the time of your C-section, that fluid has to go somewhere,” Jones says. She recommends getting up and walking as soon as you can after surgery and drinking water with lemon to help flush it all out.

5. Forget about a good night’s sleep, starting tonight!

You just had a baby and major surgery, possibly after hours of labor, so of course you’ll be left alone to get a good night’s sleep, right? Not so, in a majority of hospitals. You’ll need to have your vitals checked (blood pressure and temperature) every three to four hours, likely for the duration of your stay. Not to mention that you now have a newborn, who won’t know the difference between day and night for weeks to come.

6. You may be left with a C-section “shelf” above the incision that is more puffy on one side…for years.

During the actual C-section procedure your obstetrician will cut horizontally through skin, your subcutaneous fatty layer, and the fascia, the tough, web-like connective tissue that surrounds all your body’s organs, explains Quimby. After delivery, your doctor stitches back your top layers, but your fascia closes on its own, which can create scar tissue. Sometimes the scar tissue develops unevenly, hence why the puffiness and tenderness can be more pronounced on one side. The scar tissue will soften over time and be less noticeable on the outside, but it may never disappear completely.

7. Itching and numbness along the scar are par for the course.

This goes back to the actual surgery itself, as well. “When your obstetrician cuts through those layers, she may cut some nerves, which can result in the loss of feeling,” says Quimby. It’s not unusual for the numbness to last for several years.

8. You’ll be sidelined for up to eight weeks.

“That means no lifting anything heavier than your baby, no pushing and pulling motions, and no deep bending until your incision heals,” explains Jones. In the real world, that translates into no carrying the laundry basket, no vacuuming or walking your dog, and no emptying the dishwasher for at least the first two weeks. Besides, you’ll have a new baby to tend to, so let your family and friends help with cooking and household chores. “You’ll also have to get used to sitting in the passenger seat for up to the first two weeks as driving is often a no-no, at least until you are comfortable looking over both shoulders without any pain and hitting the break without wincing,” Jones says.

As for exercise, walking and climbing stairs are great right off the bat. But wait a full eight weeks to make sure you’re entirely healed before you do any type of ab work, including Pilates, yoga, and even swimming. “We need to let that incision heal,” says Jones.

9. Planning another baby? A vaginal birth may still be in the cards.

Depending on the reason for your C-section, you may potentially be a good candidate for a vaginal birth after Cesarean section (VBAC). Women who had C-sections because of a non-recurring reason (i.e. breech birth, twins, fetal distress) are the best candidates, says Quimby. But even then, that doesn’t mean your doctor or your hospital will allow it. The biggest concern with VBAC is uterine rupture, which means the uterus tears open where the C-section scar is. It’s rare, but a real risk because it requires an emergency C-section and in some cases, a hysterectomy. Some hospitals simply aren’t staffed to handle VBACs and the potential complications. If that’s the case and experiencing a vaginal birth the next time around is important to you, seek out a second opinion.


Frozen Condoms for Post-Childbirth Pains Are a Thing

One dad recently shared his advice—and doctors say it’s legit.

It’s pretty much a given that you’re not going to feel amazing below the belt after you give birth to a baby vaginally. Many women bleed for weeks afterward, and the entire vaginal area is pretty swollen and sore for days after the birth. Now, one dad in Australia is opening up about a method he discovered for combatting postpartum vaginal soreness: ice packs made with…condoms.

Australian dad and blogger Martin Wanless wrote a post about his discovery on the parenting website DAD. In it, Wanless details surprising things he was sent out to buy after his wife gave birth—including condoms. “This isn’t male bravado, delusion, or wishful thinking,” he writes. “Make sure you’re stocked up on condoms. Filled with water and frozen, they’re the perfect shape to rest in between new mum’s legs and ease a bit of pain and swelling.”

Wanless insists that this is “actually a thing” and says that soon after his wife gave birth, she had a freezer full of condoms. He’s right about not being the only person to do this: Mom blogs and discussion forums are filled with women discussing the “frozen condom trick” and “condom popsicles for new moms.”

Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF that she and her colleagues used to make these for new moms in the hospital when she was in her residency. “We had a whole freezer full of them at the hospital,” she says, noting they were for external use.

After a woman has a vaginal delivery, her vulva and vaginal tissues are swollen, Streicher explains. Doctors typically recommend putting ice on the area to ease swelling, but most ice packs are bulky, uncomfortable, and don’t conform to the area well.

Amelia Henning, a certified nurse midwife at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF that the frozen condom idea is “creative” but it should not be placed inside a woman’s vagina. “The risk for infection in the postpartum period is much higher than usual, and for this reason, nothing should be placed inside the vagina until the bleeding has completely stopped and healing has taken place, which is usually around six weeks after birth,” she says.

Melissa Goist, M.D., an ob/gyn from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agrees. “We don’t typically recommend anything in the vagina for a few weeks after delivery unless it is sterile,” she tells SELF. “Condoms are not sterile, which typically is not a problem but in the immediate postpartum period, when the cervix is more dilated, it could pose an increased risk of infection.” However, she says, using a condom ice pop in the perineal area (the area between the anus and vulva), which is where women are typically sore, is fine. (Keep in mind as well that if you have a latex allergy, you’ll still need to avoid using latex condoms for this.)

The idea is a “brilliant” use of resources, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, tells SELF. “It’s definitely an innovative way for a dad to be involved with his wife’s recovery,” she says.

Women run the risk of getting a freezer burn down there if they apply a condomsicle directly to their vagina, so Streicher recommends putting a washcloth between the frozen condom and vagina for protection. Then, you can switch it out every 20 minutes or so, as needed.

While they didn’t exist when Streicher was a resident, disposable perineal ice packs—which essentially look like puffy menstrual pads—are now offered at many hospitals to women after they give birth. A new mom can simply stick it to her underwear, get relief, and throw it away afterward. But perineal ice packs aren’t cheap if you have to buy them yourself—Amazon offers some for $35 for a 24-pack. Henning says that women can also slightly dampen a regular menstrual pad and freeze it to get the same effect for less.

New moms are generally advised to use an ice pack for the first 24 to 48 hours after giving birth to help reduce swelling, but if you don’t have easy access to perineal ice packs, it doesn’t hurt to go the frozen condom route (but not actually inserting it in your vagina). “It’s a great idea,” says Shepherd.


’13 Reasons Why’ Is Not the Force for Mental Health Awareness People Say It Is

Mental health experts don’t agree with the way suicide is portrayed in the show.
13 reasons why hannah

The buzzy new Netflix show 13 Reasons Why is the streaming site’s most popular show on social media (research firm Fizziology told Refinery29 that it generated 3,585,110 tweets during its first week), and many are calling it a force for mental health and suicide awareness. For instance, some people have praised the show, saying the fictional setting (a safe, small-town-ish city) shows this could happen at any school and that sometimes a number of factors lead people to feel that suicide is their only option—it’s often not just one. Others have said it helps raise awareness about warning signs to look out for.

The show, which is executive produced by Selena Gomez, is based on the 2011 best-selling Jay Asher book by the same name. In it, teen Hannah Baker leaves behind 13 cassette tapes explaining in explicit detail why she chose to kill herself. Each tape is dedicated to one of Hannah’s peers, calling them out for the things they have done to her and ways they’ve caused her harm. 13 Reasons Why covers a wide variety of serious topics, including bullying, rape, slut shaming, depression, and, of course, suicide.

Asher told EW recently that Hannah lived in his original ending for the book—she was supposed to have overdosed on pills but then was saved at the hospital when her stomach was pumped. But he says he realized that death was necessary to raise awareness of the consequences of suicide. “Once I realized that the message of the story would be stronger and that it would definitely be more of a cautionary tale, I felt that was definitely the way to go,” he told EW. In talking about the show’s finale, Asher also told EW that they purposefully made the suicide scene in the show graphic—for the purpose of driving home the point that her choice to end her life was a bad one. “We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide,” he said.

But experts are deeply concerned that the book and the show may have the opposite of that intended awareness-raising effect, and may impart viewers with the exact wrong takeaway lessons. Ultimately, the entire premise of the story goes against all accepted best practices for how to address suicide responsibly in the mass media. ReportingOnSuicide.org is home to The Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide, which the authors created by working with with “several international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, media organizations and key journalists as well as Internet safety experts,” per their About page.

These Recommendations exist because over 50 research studies worldwide have found the way newspapers and news media covers suicide can have an impact on public health—when journalists discuss suicides in the news in particular ways, it can actually lead to a greater risk for suicides. Per the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide, journalists are taught to follow certain specific rules when discussing suicide:

  • Don’t sensationalize the suicide.
  • Don’t talk about the contents of the suicide note, if there is one.
  • Don’t describe the suicide method.
  • Report on suicide as a public health issue.
  • Don’t speculate why the person might have done it.
  • Don’t quote or interview police or first responders about the causes of suicide.
  • Describe suicide as “died by suicide” or “completed” or “killed him/herself,” rather than “committed suicide.”
  • Don’t glamorize suicide.

13 Reasons Why effectively violates every single one of those guidelines.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and each year more than 44,000 Americans die by suicide. The potential for impact on people who are already at risk for suicide is real. Of course, fiction isn’t the same as journalism. But the experts we spoke with said that all mass media has the potential to have this effect on vulnerable people—and that’s especially true for teenagers.

John Mayer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who works with suicidal teens and author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells SELF that the show is “a sad exploitation of a devastating problem among our youth. I don’t see the value in it except to sensationalize teenage suicide,” he says.

Media is powerful, especially among younger demographics that are drawn to the show, Miami-area licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, Psy.D., tells SELF. “For millennials and Generation Z, what they see in media is canon,” she says. “It can certainly glamorize suicide and lead to this copycat sort of effect.”

Phyllis Alongi, MS, NCC, LPC, ACS, clinical director at the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, tells SELF that her organization “does not agree” with many of the aspects portrayed in the show, such as romanticizing suicide, including graphic details or depictions of the suicide, inadequate and ineffective assistance from the school counselor, memorialization of the person who killed herself, and placing blame and insufficient treatment. “Hannah’s story is fictional, tragic, and not the norm,” she says. And unfortunately, teens might not recognize that by watching it.

13 Reasons Why is essentially one long suicide note that makes it seem as though, by killing yourself, you and your problems will not be forgotten. The show is narrated by a boy named Clay who is in love with Hannah and, consequently, she’s held up as a “goddess” figure (Clay watches her walk into a party in slo-mo—the kind of moment every girl wants a guy to have about her). Hannah is also a gifted poet, likable and relatable, and deeply misunderstood—and her peers keep doing horrible things to her that get worse and worse as the story goes on.

Hannah uses her suicide and the tapes to get revenge on, and gain control over, those who hurt and violated her. The tapes are like fuel for her power, boosting her posthumous status to become “the girl who completed suicide.” Hannah even calls out her guidance counselor, Mr. Porter, for failing to help her find a reason to live—essentially blaming someone else for a decision that she ultimately made for herself.

Teenagers are especially susceptible to seeing suicide depicted in such a way, and taking dangerous and inaccurate lessons from it—such as that suicide is a viable coping mechanism when you feel hopeless or in despair; that it’s a glamorous way to get the attention you’ve been seeking (by never being forgotten) or the revenge you’ve been dreaming of (by getting back at people who’ve wronged you); and that parents and guidance counselors are inept, out of touch, and unable to help you when you’re in trouble. “When we are [teenagers], our coping mechanisms are not developed, so we are left to rely on primitive defense mechanisms and our most primitive is avoidance,” Mayer says. “Suicide is the ultimate act of avoidance—avoiding life.” Knowing or hearing about suicide puts the thoughts of it in someone’s mind and creates the possibility that it’s a real choice, Mayer says, which is why he thinks the show is so exploitive.

The truth is that the show is out there, so if you have a teenager who’s watching it (and if you have a teenager, they probably are), the best option is to be super honest and direct with them about how the show is problematic and unrealistic, and also be open about what other more important lessons a teenager can take from it. Lessons such as: Suicide is a really bad way to cope with things that are going wrong in life—and there are more effective ways to solve your problems; that you really hurt people who love you if you kill yourself; and that suicide is final, and the opposite of glamorous. “If teens are going to watch 13 Reasons Why, we need to utilize the experience by focusing on suicide prevention,” Alongi says.


Apple And Google, The Next Big Pharma

The big news today is that Apple is reportedly secretly developing a dermal sensor for measuring blood glucose and the management of diabetes. It’s seems to be a sensor that works with the Apple Watch to continuously and painlessly monitor glucose levels.  Similarly, David Shaywitz reports in Forbes that Alphabet’s  (Google) new wearable is ‘significant’.  And in a world of statistics and wordsmithing, significant seems to have real meaning for a marketplace that has been driven by emotion and limited outcomes data.  Further, the Google /Novartis glucose measuring contact lens also tickles our fancy for innovation and breakthrough.

Now those with diabetes have long worried about ‘the needle’ and almost constant pricks than have come to be linked with this condition.  So a dermal monitor or contact lens could truly be a breakthrough.  From data acquisition to durability (a one week batter life) that Google innovation might also drive the shift for wearables from an ‘athletic option’ to ‘clinical imperative’.

It’s in all the papers.

But what really strikes me is the source of innovation and how it seems to come from ‘expectedly unexpected’ sources like Google and Apple.  We’re beyond the days when we’re shocked that a life science innovation doesn’t come from big pharma.  Yet and interestingly, when a Google or Amazon or Apple enter the market with a ‘significant’ innovation, the reaction is more a nod in acknowledgment than a significant surprise.  In dramatic contrast to these tech innovations, we find the pharm ‘big news’ headlines are more along the lines of soaring drug costs and executive behavior.

 Today’s model of innovation is a far cry from the ‘molasses hierarchy’ of only a few short years ago.  And it’s important to point out that much of pharma must be credited for significant advances, including areas like genomics and oncology.  And everyone seems to have their accelerator or center of excellence. Yet, in my experience, they are sometimes more a senior management imperative or a check in the box than something that actually moves fast or is focused on excellence.  For me, it seems that some of that molasses is still part of the mindset and methodology that might be responsible for the slumber. The wake up calls are coming from a wide variety of industries like retail and defined by the long empty corridors of malls.

I wonder if the innovations of Google and Apple are another wake up call for the life science industry who often times have relied on the snooze function of line extensions and extended-release drugs as the source of income and innovation.


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