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Weekend mini-essay test
Scientists, like the rest of us, have abruptly abandoned their plans in the face of Covid-19. The urgency of the pandemic has pushed many institutions to cast aside their established priorities, discarding samples and redirecting manufacturing plants. Coronavirus has subsumed their work and, due to a heightened sense of urgency, the lives of those doing the research.
Dozens of promising studies and treatments were halted on the cusp of completion, and many must wait until after the pandemic to be finalized. Scientists are learning to pivot, fast (✦ a Quartz member exclusive).
In Germany, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine who usually study mouse brains came together with the Göttingen University Medical School to create a diagnostic testing center in five weeks. The collaboration allowed health officials to identify and contain several outbreaks in Göttingen.
Scientists at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria were researching both Lassa fever and malaria when the country’s first Covid-19 case was recorded on Feb. 27. They immediately put their work on pause and pivoted resources, but ultimately resumed some of their existing research to make sure other infectious diseases—and their possible interactions with coronavirus—weren’t being ignored.
Israel’s Migal Galilee Research Institute had already been studying a coronavirus that infects chickens, and threw what they already knew into a nonstop effort to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.Meanwhile, the Jenner Institute in the UK put all other vaccine production on hold to devote itself entirely to this new challenge.
Science has never before been redeployed and advanced at such a rapid pace. Researchers accustomed to plodding their way through research proposals, meticulous grant applications, and journal reviews have discovered they can mobilize and switch focus at high speed. They have picked up new skills, developed pandemic protocols, and upended their schedules.
Now that these abilities have been unleashed, laboratories are unlikely to fully revert to old habits. If and when their coronavirus work is done, they’ll have an enormous backlog of still important research waiting for them. —Olivia Goldhill
✦ Quartz members can read more about science’s pandemic pivot in this week’s field guide. ✦
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Five things from Quartz we especially liked
This one’s for the birds. Endemic to Colombia’s Antioquia region, the Antioquia brushfinch hadn’t been seen in 47 years, and was thought extinct—until an amateur birder rediscovered the species in 2018, alive but critically endangered. Alex Ossola looks at why saving the brushfinch means saving an ecosystem that’s economically critical for the region. This is an evocative reminder our actions have significant ripple effects in the natural world. —Kira Bindrim, executive editor
Good made-for-TV movies. Really. Entertainment reporter Adam Epstein is so good at going beyond the box office to cover Hollywood. This piece uses alternative data from on-demand platform rankings and Rotten Tomatoes reviews to show how smaller films are filling the void left by a season or two without any blockbuster releases. And as a bonus, I picked up a few new titles to check out. —Max Lockie, deputy news editor
Who’s in your bubble? There’s no 100% safe way to expand your social group in a pandemic. But if total lockdown isn’t sustainable any more, it’s important to choose your new network wisely to limit your exposure and slow the spread of Covid-19 for everyone. Let Katherine Foley and Amanda Shendruk explain some strategies—with the help of an Oxford sociologist and Kevin Bacon. —Katie Palmer, science and health editor
A better way of doing business. American textbooks notoriously emphasize white men at the expense of everyone else—and management history is no exception. I was so grateful to read Lila MacLellan’s engaging dive into early Black US business leaders who espoused the importance of cooperation and consensus-building, and the management professors working to restore such leaders to their rightful place in history. —Sarah Todd, senior reporter, Quartz at Work
Bonding through technology. The loneliness of a lockdown may be hard to deal with, but the thought of opening your home, even to a new dog, can add to the anxiety. So, as Niharika Sharma reports, Indians are virtually adopting pets. For just around $40 a month your pet will be taken care of by volunteers, and you can video chat with your furry online friends daily. —Itika Sharma Punit, co-editor, Quartz India
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The 19th century imagining of videoconferencing equipment sounds…doable, actually. George du Maurier’s fictional telephonoscope, according to David Goran at The Vintage News, included “Long paper funnels to the ends of which were connected flexible tubes for insertion into the listener’s ears.” Add an unobtrusive microphone somewhere, maybe throw in some Bluetooth functionality, and that’s not too far from our current reality. Learn more about the telephonoscope, Zoom fatigue, video game meeting space alternatives, and more in our Quartz Weekly Obsession on videoconferencing.
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For Members: Work has changed
Feeling that Zoom fatigue? Or maybe you’ve leaned way in and can’t imagine a life of commuting in real pants anymore. We’ve put together a lot of resources to help Quartz members get their minds around what work will look like in the near future.
- Will hastily reconfigured offices be safe?
- Will fancy perks still exist?
- What’s up with elevator tickets?
- Who’s even going to want to go back to an office?
✦ Not sure if your future involves a Quartz membership? Try one for free for a week, then see what Future You thinks.✦
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Five things from elsewhere that made us smarter
A vicarious celebration of Juneteenth, past and present… Not all Americans were aware of Juneteenth—the annual celebration of June 19, 1865, when Black Texans learned of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—before this year. Now, amid a reckoning with America’s racist history, Juneteenth may be on the verge of becoming a national holiday, and corporate brands are suddenly on it. Evocative essays like this beautiful New York Times piece by Brianna Holt are now all the more vital. Holt invites readers to join a Juneteenth parade of her Texas childhood. “It’s the one day each year that I’ve been able to exist, unapologetically and unproblematically, in a space surrounded by people who have my growth in their best interest,” she writes. —Lila MacLellan
…But, for some, it conjures up mixed feelings. In this raw recounting for the Washington Post, chef Lazarus Lynch unpacks the conflicting emotions he feels around Juneteenth: It’s a day of celebration, while also a grim reminder of how white people were responsible for both enslavement and delayed emancipation. This year, there are more reasons for both sorrow and hope, with horrific police killings giving rise to a renewed movement for change. Will this Juneteenth be different? Let’s make sure it is. —Liz Webber, senior news curator
Get your kids to watch this. One of journalism’s biggest challenges is figuring out how to reach young people, and teenagers need high-quality information to help them navigate an immensely challenging world, especially right now. The BBC’s My World has produced an excellent series of short videos that capture the complexity of the Black Lives Matter protests, but also make the issues comprehensible. —Hasit Shah, deputy editor, global finance and economics
Rethinking the foundations of biology. Even the most basic biology courses belabor the fact that cells are the only place in which DNA—our genetic blueprints—gets translated into useful proteins. But as the result of a haphazard mistake, Juan Pablo Tosar, a scientist based in Uruguay, discovered that this process may occur outside of cells as well. The discovery, though preliminary, could upend conventional biological wisdom, writes Roxanne Khamsi for Nature, and would show that our cells may be communicating with one another in ways unconceived since the discovery of genetic material itself. —Katherine Ellen Foley, science and health reporter
Recall the bliss of an amazing dinner out. There’s a unique pleasure in eating food that someone else has made, second only to an impactful experience at a restaurant itself. Nights like these—nonexistent for me at least, since the onset of the pandemic—are when we embrace our capacity for joy, when we open ourselves to be changed by others. This package in the New York Times, compiled from seven different writers, will make your mouth water and your heart long for the before times. —Alex Ossola, special projects editor