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This article was published on April 14, 2020

Send in the clowns

Send in the clowns
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 quarantine compadres! One of the most interesting things about this pandemic is seeing how different countries are handling the details.

In Mexico, where I live, the army and the police are patrolling the beaches to make sure people don’t disobey the public gathering order. In the US, people have been arrested for congregating in groups and then jammed together in tiny holding cells as punishment – they’re an ironic people.

And who could forget the angry, roving mayors of Italy? But, hands down, my favorite social distancing tactic of the quarantine comes out of Indonesia.

A group of youth activists from the village of Kepuh have taken it upon themselves to dress up as spooky ghosts and wander the streets in hopes of terrifying local citizens into staying inside. Unfortunately, the ghosts have had the opposite effect: people keep gathering outside in hopes of a specter-sighting.

I give the kids of Kepuh an A for effort, but I think they should drop the ghost act. Sure, ghosts play well in most places but there’s always going to be a nutty group of believers who’ll risk anything for a glimpse at the supernatural.

That’s why I say: send in the clowns. Even if you like clowns, nobody wants to see “Chuckles the sad coronavirus clown.” Especially if he’s holding a sign in one hand that says “Stay Inside” and a bloody meat cleaver in the other. If every town had a Chuckles, we’d flatten the curve in no time.

Speaking of clowns… US president Donald Trump’s long time friend Roger Stone, a felon who dabbles in politics, recently implied that Bill Gates created COVID-19 in a laboratory so the Illuminati could microchip everyone in the US.

On the one hand, this is an obvious conspiracy theory from someone who was literally convicted and sent to prison for lying. On the other hand Bill Gates unleashed Windows Millennium on the world, so there is precedent.

By the numbers

Last week we looked at what % of the population has been tested in the three countries with the most cases as of April 7.

This week we’re revisiting the stats from week one on number of people infected and deceased globally, and comparing them with those of today. (Worldometers)

March 30th 2020: 255,294 infected, 10,556 dead

April 14th 2020: 1,948,259 infected, 121,803 dead


Tweet thread of the week

Bill Gates and the Illuminati, RIP to the handshake, and viral kicks…

  • ? Millions of IT workers in India are risking everything to keep the business world from stopping, and they might lose their jobs anyway.
  • ? The White House pandemic lead says we should never shake hands again. I couldn’t agree more. (Futurism)
  • It turns out the internet just can’t get enough Dr. Fauci. He’s become a bit of an internet hero. (Axios)
  • ? Apple maps got an update that helps you find COVID-19 testing centers.
  • ? Nice kicks? Not so much. Researchers believe COVID-19 can travel up to four meters airborne and may be spread on shoes. (SF Gate)
  • ? Not saying the two are related but… an Amazon worker tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Jeff Bezos visited.
  • ? A 44-year-old UK mom becomes the first person to receive the experimental mRNA-1273 trial vaccine for COVID-19. (New York Post)
  • ? Silicon Valley hub San Jose to build hundreds of permanent isolation shelters for local homeless population.
  • ? This medical paper seems to indicate that COVID-19 may be transmissible from corpses to humans. Yikes. (Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine)


We know, we know… there are a million articles out there on how to stay sane at home: What yoga moves to do, what sourdough bread to bake, how to pick up a phone and actually call someone… so we’re adding to the noise!

In this section, one of our writers will share one weird internet thing they’ve been obsessing over while in lockdown. Next is from TNW’s own Abhimanyu Ghoshal:

I’ve been playing guitar since I was nine, but I’m awfully rusty now. Thankfully, the internet is always there to help – and under lockdown, I’ve been using a bunch of online resources to get back up to speed, both with my playing and composing.

It’s often said the best way for musicians to improve their skills is to jam with others. I sure can’t do that while we’re under lockdown, but the internet can help with that to some degree — and you don’t even have to pester your mates to get started.

Backing tracks have helped me work on my guitar soloing and improvisation. You can find countless tunes that leave room for you to solo on your instrument of choice on YouTube. There’s something for fans of every genre, from progressive metal to funk fusion. All you need to do is search for ‘backing track’ on the site, and you’re off to the races.

Most tracks are several minutes long, so you’ve got plenty of time to noodle around. Playing along with tracks like these will help you get used to playing in time with the beat, react to chord changes, and build melodies.I recommend trying out some styles and genres that are outside of your comfort zone, so you don’t get stuck in a rut. Here, I made you a playlist of backing tracks on YouTube to help you get started.

As for composing, I’ve found this simple chord sequencer mighty handy. Just hit the Record button, choose a few chords, and then play them to see how they sound. It’s easy enough to tweak the chords you’ve selected for a better fit, and you can also fire up a drum machine (find it by clicking the wrench button) to see what your progression sounds like with a simple rhythm.

I like this app because it’s easier to map chords visually on a keyboard with it than trying different chords on a guitar. Plus, it encourages me to learn chords that I’m not familiar with. Happy songwriting!


Excuse me, there’s egg all over my face. Last week in the “By the numbers” section I printed: “United States: 1,955,040 people tested, which is 0.001 percent of the population.”

That, of course, should be: “which is 0.6 percent of the population.” This was a copy/pasting error. Thank you to the readers who pointed it out!


We’ll be back next Tuesday. Until then, try to avoid misinformation. We’ve reached the “everyone knows everything” phase of quarantine and that means misinformation is peaking.

Here’s some links to stories that probably contradict what your friends and co-workers are telling you as “facts“:

  • WHO officials say it’s unclear whether recovered coronavirus patients are immune to second infection (CNBC)
  • Some Scientists Say Just Breathing or Talking May Spread COVID-19 (Science Alert)
  • Small chloroquine study stopped after irregular heart beats detected in subjects (The Hill)

Don’t believe everything you hear. Stay healthy and take care of each other,


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