Simanaitis Says

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ON POST-PANDEMIC NORMALCY PART 2

YESTERDAY, WE SHARED insights about post-pandemic normalcy from a professor of psychological science, public health, and medicine. Today in Part 2, young scientists focus their thoughts on the year 2040.

Why 2040? Science asked young scientists to imagine a future news story concerning the coronavirus. The choice of 2040 may seem way off, but note that it’s only as far in the future as many of us recall the most recent turn of the century. Here, in quoted passages, are tidbits from “News from a Postpandemic World,” Science, July 3, 2020.

Environmental Optimism. “Today, scientists confirm that 1000 previously endangered species have been removed from the Vulnerable list. Biodiversity renewal has been under way since the COVID-19 pandemic 20 years ago led many governments to reevaluate their priorities…. COVID-19 claimed many lives, but the political and environmental changes the pandemic inspired have likely saved many more by protecting the world’s biodiversity.”—Joel Henrique Ellwanger, Department of Genetics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Food. “Today, cell-based meat consumption has surpassed farm-produced meat for the first time. The transition began with… the COVID-19 outbreak. With thousands of workers packed into poorly ventilated and unhygienic facilities, meat processing plants were hotspots for the SARS-CoV-2 virus…. Cell-based meat has been growing in popularity ever since, as traditional meat became ethically and environmentally unpalatable.”— JiaJia Fu, Whittle School and Studios, Washington, D.C.

This and the following image by Zoë Van Duk.

Funding Science. “This newfound prioritization of science was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made clear that the previous conception of military force is impractical when the enemy is invisible and formidable. The unprecedented redirection of financial resources to scientific communities … gave science a well-deserved space in governance.”— Mpho Diphago Stanley Lekgoathi, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, South Africa.

Testing and Tracing. “This weekend, at the Coachella 2040 music festival, three aerosol biosurveillance sensors detected a SARS-like virus in the air. Smartphone tracing… identified two potential index cases. The CDC outbreak prevention team mobilized regional contact tracers to intercept and test both individuals within an hour of first detection.”— Michael Strong, Center for Genes, Environment, and Health, National Jewish Health and University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver.

However… “Workers at major corporations staged a walk-out today, the 20th anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, to protest what some have deemed invasive monitoring…. With the 2029 advent of low-cost RNA wastewater screening by smart toilets and ubiquitous wall-mounted infrared heat sensors, infected employees could be pinpointed before displaying acute symptoms…. The debate rages on in our courts and on the Giganet about whether the public good is served by exposing the ‘viral status’ of the few.”—Michael A. Tarselli, Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, Oak Brook, Illinois.

Scientific Conferences. “Last week’s 15th annual Pan-global Remote Integrated Sciences Meeting (PRISM) attracted more than 100,000 attendees from more than 160 countries. Scientists, educators, students, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and industry experts… logged on to the online venue, enabled by virtual reality.”

“Many junior scientist attendees were surprised to learn that such events were nearly unheard of before PRISM… ‘My advisor told me that when she was a grad student, big conferences were all held in person…. Can you imagine having a giant conference like this in some random convention center, with tens of thousands of scientists spending hundreds of dollars on fuel-inefficient flights and hotel booking, lugging around printed posters and just milling around for a week trying to find the optimal talks to attend. Insane.’ ”— Yifan Li, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley.

Yep, I remember doing that. And at times it was insane. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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