I’d say, “Happy New Year,” but I’m not sure it’s been all that happy? I hope you’re all hanging in there—and that the end of 2021 turns out to be better and more hopeful than the beginning.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a distraction, read on . . .
Covid Transmission in Cars
For The New York Times, I wrote about what scientists are learning about the risk of coronavirus transmission in cars. As I noted, “A typical car, of course, does not carry nearly enough people to host a traditional super-spreader event. But cars come with risks of their own; they are small, tightly sealed spaces that make social distancing impossible and trap the tiny, airborne particles, or aerosols, that can transmit the coronavirus.”
But a new study of airflow inside cars suggests some things we can do to help mitigate the risk. The key is to open the windows—but not necessarily the windows you might expect. For more details, check out the full story. (And if you want to go straight to the study, that’s available here.)
An Explosion of Science TV
Back in September—so, you know, approximately 20 years and 500 news cycles ago—my editor at Undark, for whom I typically write book reviews, emailed to see if I was interested in taking on a new challenge: TV reviewing. There were a handful of interesting new science shows on Netflix, he told me. Perhaps I’d be interested in writing about them?
A “few” turned out to be an understatement. Netflix, I discovered, has invested in a staggering amount of original science content. As I ultimately wrote:
In 2020 alone, the streamer launched a show dedicated to science experiments for children; a globe-trotting docuseries about “the hidden science of everything;” a show that purports to answer questions about human behavior by subjecting 100 volunteers to a variety of social experiments; an exploration of what life might look like on other planets; shows about child development, the science of sex, and the Challenger disaster; a docuseries about doctors and another about surgeons; a docuseries about pandemics and another about the coronavirus specifically; a show devoted to testing an assortment of survival gear; an investigation of misconduct by two drug lab chemists; a celebrity travel show that focuses on health and sustainability; two science-adjacent shows about wellness and alternative medicine; and at least four wildlife shows, including one about an Australian koala rescue, one about small critters, one about strange animal behaviors, one about wildlife at night.
The surge in science shows is heartening, but the execution—perhaps unsurprisingly—is uneven. There are some absolutely wonderful new shows—shows that really reinvent what science TV can be. But there are also some real disappointments, including at least one that I found potentially dangerous. Read more at Undark.
Some tips for socializing outdoors during a pandemic winter
From the dystopia files: Due to the pandemic, people are now being evicted via Zoom
What Japan can teach us about designing for disaster
What microbes are living on a da Vinci?
The trauma of surviving a wildfire
Maybe a pandemic-related exodus is exactly what cities need
On the other hand, when the wealthiest move away, it can wreck cities’ budgets
“If I could ask Marie Kondo any question, it would probably be: ‘Why do I still feel like shit?’”
How to improve the air quality in your home
A long time coming: The American Institute of Architects is forbidding members from designing “spaces intended for execution or torture, including for prolonged periods of solitary confinement.”
Poor ventilation in schools was a problem long before the pandemic.
Bonus Interspecies Animal Content
Take care of yourselves,
The Great Indoors is out now! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, IndieBound, or your local independent bookstore. (And if you’ve already read the book, please consider leaving an Amazon rating or review!)