Thought Starters

Thought starters: coronavirus special

Find below recent reports and commentary on coronavirus and its impacts that have helped me get a better grasp of what is going on in the world around us.

Many of us are scrabbling for answers when it comes to coronavirus. Ed Young looks at what we do know about the virus and also why their remains considerable uncertainty and in some cases confusion despite the considerable efforts of the scientific community. Definitely worth your time:

The coronavirus not only co-opts our cells, but exploits our cognitive biases. Humans construct stories to wrangle meaning from uncertainty and purpose from chaos. We crave simple narratives, but the pandemic offers none.

David Conn, Felicity Lawrence, Paul Lewis, Severin Carrell, David Pegg, Harry Davies and Rob Evans have written an extensive report for the Guardian on Britain’s response (or lack thereof) to the coronavirus pandemic. This provides a valuable companion piece to Jonathan Calvert, George Arbuthnott and Jonathan Leake’s report detailed previously.

Nature has produced an illustrated guide to the different avenues being pursued for a coronavirus vaccine:

The spread of coronavirus epidemic provides a indicator of the increasingly global world we now live in. The data visualisation from Nextstrain shows how the virus has spread but also the regions at the periphery that have so far been comparatively unaffected.

Coronavirus has led some commentators to question the dominant role of cars in our urban spaces and the often marginalised position of pedestrians and other active travellers. Here’s Tom Vanderbilt writing for The Atlantic:

The message is clear: The storage of empty vehicles is more important than the neighborhood’s fundamental mode of transport. Which is why some of the tensions that have flared during the coronavirus crisis—over runners using the sidewalk, or pedestrians using the bike lane—are particularly tragic. These confrontations are often ascribed to some personality flaw of the runner or pedestrian herself—she’s rude or entitled—rather than seen as an indictment of the misguided system that pits two people on a narrow sidewalk against each other in the first place. No one yells at a parked car, and the driver who scuttles by in the road gets a free pass, even as his driving imposes noise, pollution, and elevated climate risk upon those around him.

Similarly as coronavirus forces many of us to work from home, Catherine Nixey takes a closer look at the office and its inevitable ups and downs:

It’s too early to say whether the office is done for. As with any sudden loss, many of us find our judgment blurred by conflicting emotions. Relief at freedom from the daily commute and pleasure at turning one’s back on what Philip Larkin called “the toad work” are tinged with regret and nostalgia, as we prepare for another shapeless day of WFH in jogging bottoms.

Header image: Artist and His Model, 1926 by Pablo Picasso from the Picasso and Paper exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

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