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This article was published on July 21, 2020

Is your brain okay?

Is your brain okay?
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hola pandemic pals,

I’ve returned from my staycation and wow, what a couple of weeks to miss. Not only have we failed to flatten the curve, but everyday brings a new record number of cases and deaths. Bottom notch work all around humanity, seriously lets give ourselves whatever the opposite of a round of applause is. 

If only someoneanyone would have told us to social-distance and wear masks, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But nope, not a single person ever said anything about staying in quarantine until the curve was completely flat

Okay I’ve just rolled my eyes so hard that I may have sprained one. Let’s just get to it. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The big news this week is that a vaccine developed by Oxford University just cleared stage one and two clinical trials and it’s looking great. There’s still a lot of work to do and more trials to conduct, but if we’re lucky there might be an actual vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of the year. 

But most of us won’t see it this year. In fact, according to Boris Johnson it’s unlikely we’ll see it next year either. The average person probably won’t get their hands on a vaccine until 2022. Medical personnel and front-line workers will likely receive the first approved doses, after that it’ll be up to the governments and pharmaceutical corporations in charge of production to decide how it’s doled out.

Here’s the ugly: right now the smart money is on planning for the possibility of a pandemic that swells well into next summer and finally starts to relent in the fall/winter of 2022. That, of course, is only if vaccines are readily available to the public.

Hopefully that won’t be the case. The disease could, theoretically, die out on its own like Trump keeps saying it will. Of course, aliens could also visit our planet this Thursday to deliver a space vaccine that cures all disease. But I think we’d be better off preparing for the scenario that most follows the current trend

Maybe it’s time to order up another season of Tiger King and reconsider the quarantine. 

By the numbers

Last week Georgina compared the length of the Houston Chronicle’s obituary section to the amount of bleach that will cure of COVID-19 (zero, it’s zero. Don’t drink bleach).

This week, let’s check back in with the ghost of pandemics past. (Data: CDC)

  • COVID-19 – 15M infected, 618K deceased
  • The “Spanish Flu” – 500M infected, 50M deceased
  • The H1N1 “Swine Flu” – 1.4B infected, 500K deceased
  • US Polio epidemic – 60K infected, 3K deceased

Tweet thread of the week

What to read

Hope shines anew, but we’d better get ready for round two…
? Oxford’s vaccine is already in stage 3 clinical trials.
? The World Health Organization just issued a guide to its guidance on COVID-19. How meta. (WHO)
? This COVID-19 timeline from NBC is like taking a trip down Memory Lane… if Memory Lane is a street in Covidville and all the stops are reminders of how poorly we’ve collectively handled the pandemic. (NBC)
? Here’s what to send to your aunt spreading fake news on Facebook: Scientists know coronavirus came from bats, not a lab. Here’s why.
? Peter Thiel’s civil-rights-skirting surveillance company, Palantir, continues to get richer off the pandemic thanks to Boris Johnson and Trump.
? A neurologist explained how coronavirus impacts the brain.
? The US braces for an end to unemployment benefits as COVID-19 rages on and the specter of an unprecedented depression looms. (NPR)
? All those COVID-inflated stocks you invested in? Yeah, get ready to lose that money. (WSJ)


In this little section, we’d like to talk about the tech that’s getting us through the pandemic. Let’s talk about my vacation!I spent two weeks getting to know this gorgeous little beast:

That’s a Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster. And it is glorious. Go ahead, take a gander:

What makes this axe so special is that it’s like having an acoustic Dreadnought and an electric Stratocaster hanging from one strap. The incredible hollow-body resonates a tone that’s unbelievable. And when you amp up and switch it to electric, it’s a friggin’ full-on Stratocaster!

When I took it out of the case and plugged in, I spent 30 minutes just playing the verse and chorus to “Glycerine” by Bush. Every time a phrase repeated I’d just flip the switch from one voice to the next (it has 5 voices with A/B tone) and my smile kept getting bigger. This thing has to be heard to be believed.

Also, it’s a technical marvel with too much going on for me to describe here. When’s the last time you had to charge your Stratocaster?

Unfortunately, like all good things, my time with this beautiful piece of art must come to an end. I’ll be sending it back to Fender in a few weeks. Stay tuned to TNW’s Plugged for a full review, coming soon. 


We’ll be back next Tuesday. And every Tuesday after that until the pandemic ends. Because we’re all in this together.

In the meantime, here’s a few links to help you manage the misinformation as the disease hits its peak:

The Center for Disease Control’s myth-busting section on COVID-19

After Recovering from COVID-19, are you immune?

John Hopkins Univeristy COVID-19 myth vs fact

Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Stay healthy and take care of each other,


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