January 18th, 2013
10:43 AM ET

Skip Rizzo: Deploying virtual therapies for the real stresses of combat

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) -  Skip Rizzo is a wizard of the virtual world, a clinical psychologist and anything but your average lab geek. He’s also a key combatant in the U.S. military’s battle against post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Rizzo's lab is a part of The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies.

Watch CNN at 2 p.m. ET on January 27 to see a half-hour look inside Rizzo's world. Here's a primer on why he's a member of CNN's The Next List:

Why you might know him: Rizzo grabbed headlines back in 2006 with "Virtual Iraq," a virtual reality PTSD therapy for combat veterans. The treatment combines latest in gaming technology with a clinical approach to treating PTSD called prolonged exposure therapy. "Virtual Iraq" is used in more than 50 Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States.

Why he matters: Despite advances in PTSD treatment, Rizzo believes America can do more for its troops. His current effort is called STRIVE - and it's designed to prevent PTSD by intervening before a war deployment. Funded in part by grants from both the Army and Navy research communities, the 30-chapter virtual reality program will use a fully immersive, “'Band of Brothers'-like” simulation to better prepare service members for the pressures of combat before their boots hit the ground. Research trials will begin at California’s Camp Pendleton this spring.

His philosophy: Rizzo says his calling is to "take care of the folks who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms."

Oh, he's also into skull collecting: Rizzo is Harley-riding rugby player with a penchant for collecting skulls.

Why combat-related PTSD matters: One in 5 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to George Washington University. That’s nearly 300,000 veterans as of October 2012. And the social and economic costs of PTSD are immense. First-year treatment alone costs the government $8,300 per person, or more than $2 billion so far. Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012. Veterans now account for 20% of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (age 24 and younger) taking their lives at four times the rate of older veterans.

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Filed under: Gaming • Military • Science • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
November 30th, 2012
11:24 AM ET

How math can detect Parkinson’s disease

Editor’s Note: Max Little is an applied mathematician and founder of the Parkinson's Voice Initiative. Watch a 30-min profile of Little on CNN Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Little's research suggests voice algorithms can be used to detect Parkinson’s disease.

By Max Little, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The most mysterious and wonderful thing that science has discovered is that reality can be understood mathematically. Just a few simple mathematical concepts, simple enough to teach to children - such as sets, calculus and symmetry - suffice to describe most of the world around us, from the flow of water to the fundamental particles of nature and the nuclear turmoil at the heart of stars, hundreds of light-years away.

There's a beauty to mathematics. Mathematics is the language of reality.

Take sound, for example. Just two simple mathematical concepts together mean that, over a short period of time, all sounds can be broken down into waves of different frequencies. So the different textures or timbres of different sounds emerge as simple consequences of the mathematical patterns of nature. FULL POST

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Filed under: Science • The Next List
November 21st, 2012
01:09 PM ET

Need a stiff, cold drink? Try liquid nitrogen

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - This week, CNN's "The Next List" delves into the world of culinary science and gadgets as we introduce you to Dave Arnold, director of technology at the International Culinary Center. Arnold is one of the leaders of a "modernist" group of cutting-edge instructors, chefs and bartenders using science and high-tech tools to up-end traditional cooking methods.

Tune in Sunday at 2 p.m. ET to see a 30-min profile of Arnold on CNN.

Here's a primer on why he's fascinating enough to make "The Next List."

Why you've heard of him: You might have seen him cooling glasses with liquid nitrogen on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” making drinks for Martha Stewart, or maybe you might have read about him in Popular Science, Food & Wine, or the New York Times. Arnold definitely isn't camera-shy. He has lots of video demonstrations circulating online. (See one such video below). FULL POST

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Filed under: Food • Innovation • The Next List
November 17th, 2012
03:23 PM ET

Scientist aims to connect the public with nature's 'last biotic frontier'

Editor’s Note: Nalini Nadkarni is a professor, a pioneer in tree canopy research and co-founder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Watch a 30-minute profile of her on CNN's "The Next List," Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By Nalini Nadkarni, Special to CNN

“Trees are the earth’s endless efforts to speak to the listening sky.”
- Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet

Hanging by a rope no thicker than my pinkie finger in a giant spruce tree 150 feet above the ground, I survey the view of the temperate rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula below me. Although perching in this treetop may seem more like a dream for a combination rock-climber and wilderness adventurer, the forest canopy has been my arena for a lifetime of scientific research.

The forest canopy – the part of the forest high above the forest floor – has been an area of burgeoning scientific interest for the last three decades. I was among the first forest canopy pioneers who thought that climbing vertically to explore the treetops would yield scientific paydirt. The thrill of the climb drew us to develop methods of canopy access - modified mountain-climbing techniques, construction cranes, hot-air balloons.

Those early experiences were exploratory forays into an unknown scientific world, termed “the last biotic frontier." We observed new interactions. Arboreal mice pollinate flowers in the nocturnal canopy. Roots grow from the branches of trees to draw nutrients from canopy-held soils. Canopy-dwelling mosses sieve nutrients from rain that passes through canopies. Once, when I spent the night in a Costa Rican forest canopy, a nocturnal anteater walked right by my suspended cot, searching out columns of arboreal leaf-cutting ants. The ants carried leaf bits they had harvested to their subterranean nests, connecting treetops to root tips. FULL POST

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Filed under: Environment • Science • Social change • The Next List
July 5th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

African foundation meets new partners on tour of America

By Dan Ogola, Special to CNN

Editor's NoteDan Ogola is the founder and director of the Matibabu Foundation, a organization in Eastern Africa creating jobs and opportunity through healthcare. Founded in 2006, Matibabu has offered health services to over 60,000 Kenyans. It recently opened the community’s first hospital, a state-of-the art facility drawing new businesses to one of the country’s poorest regions. 

As a result of a CNN profile on "The Next List," Matibabu Foundation got invited to the recent Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University by the event organizers, Unite for Sight. As Social entrepreneurs, myself and Dr. Fred Okango expanded the scope of the trip to include contact with potential partners. Our goal was to espouse our vision of a healthy, productive, and prosperous society in Western Kenya through the efforts of an empowered community and strengthened systems.

We travelled the length and breadth of the United States from New York, to Yale University in Connecticut, to Boston and Washington D.C., to Atlanta and South Carolina, and finally to the west coast, visiting both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Filed under: entrepreneurs • Innovation • The Next List