Quickly vaccinating billions of people around the globe against Covid-19 is going to be an endeavor like no other in human history.

Thousands of online gamers could help expedite the process trib.al/uXPmeIl
Some of the leading contenders — mRNA vaccines — have a very short shelf life:

🥶💉They have to be stored and shipped at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit) trib.al/uXPmeIl
These mRNA vaccines are promising because they can be created and manufactured quickly.

There’s just one catch: Once thawed, these vaccines need to be used immediately trib.al/uXPmeIl
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine candidates are mRNA vaccines.

Without a breakthrough, such vaccines wouldn’t be available at local pharmacies, community centers or libraries, as the flu shot is. They probably would never reach developing countries trib.al/uXPmeIl
It should be possible to create a longer-lasting vaccine by redesigning a bit of its genetic code, which is where the gamers come in.

Once injected into our bodies, the new code could instruct cells to create a protein identical to the exterior SARS-CoV-2 trib.al/uXPmeIl
Scientists can quite easily design an mRNA that codes for this protein.

In fact, there is an astronomical number of possible mRNAs that will work. The trick is finding an mRNA that’s built to stay effective for a long time in a regular refrigerator trib.al/uXPmeIl
This biochemical problem is currently being worked on by people around the world — by playing a game called Eterna.

Solving puzzles requires folding an RNA molecule into a particular shape. It’s a simple interface backed by state-of-the-art simulations trib.al/uXPmeIl
In recent years, the citizen science of Eterna has helped discover new methods of disease detection and gene therapy.

Once an mRNA vaccine is approved by the FDA, the work that Eterna is doing would allow the vaccine to be quickly redesigned trib.al/uXPmeIl
🕹️So why tackle this scientific inquiry with a game?

It turns out that big groups of humans are better — significantly so — at coming up with brand-new RNA structures than even the latest kinds of artificial intelligence trib.al/uXPmeIl
The game leverages the knowledge of thousands — programmers and plumbers, architects and astrophysicists, gamers and grandparents.

These diverse gamers take on weekly challenges that are created by Stanford scientists and dozens of committed players trib.al/uXPmeIl
Given the vast structural possibilities, players routinely generate RNA molecules that look like flowers, antlers, and other shapes never seen before by RNA researchers.

That’s why Eterna needs to recruit many more players. More players, more new designs trib.al/uXPmeIl
All players are critical to the function of citizen-science games.

It’s often the new players who hit upon revolutionary RNA structures — in part because they are unconstrained by the norms of biochemistry trib.al/uXPmeIl

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More from @bopinion

18 Oct
Of all the world’s billionaires, with the exception of those from China, it’s the French who have just enjoyed their most lucrative decade trib.al/VDVsgAM
LVMH boss Bernard Armault and his ilk saw their wealth balloon 439% to $443 billion between 2009 and mid-2020, fueled by Asian hunger for French luxury goods and a global real estate boom trib.al/VDVsgAM Image
Here’s how those billionaires stack up globally:

🇨🇳China: 1,100% increase in wealth
🇫🇷France: 439%
🇨🇦Canada: 238%
🇺🇸U.S.: 170%
🇮🇳India: 90% trib.al/VDVsgAM Image
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Seven months later, he is still not back to normal trib.al/nMhJr0P Image
He can’t imagine getting back on a bike and says that if he pushes himself too hard, he ends up in bed with a fever for a couple of days.

He considers himself lucky that he’s able to work. Many other long Covid sufferers cannot trib.al/nMhJr0P Image
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15 Oct
In late June, @MaxNisen highlighted what he deemed a "horrifying" chart showing massive growth in new infections in the U.S. relative to the European Union.

Now, almost four months later, that chart remains terrifying, in a completely different way trib.al/hQxu8YS
For the first time since March, the EU is reporting more new Covid-19 cases on a per-capita basis than the U.S., reflecting a second wave of virus outbreaks.

That’s even as U.S. case rates climb from an alarmingly high post-summer plateau trib.al/hQxu8YS Image
Both regions are at a dangerous moment:

❄️The virus will be harder to control in winter as people congregate indoors
🙅🏻‍♀️Resistance to renewed restrictions may make them harder to impose and enforce trib.al/hQxu8YS Image
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It’s possible 2020 will be remembered as a turning point in American history, a moment after which the nation becomes irretrievably different.

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It’s been quite the comedown over the past three decades for America’s iceberg lettuce, introduced by seed purveyor W. Atlee Burpee & Co in 1894.

So how did the so-called “polyester of greens” fall out of favor? trib.al/4iwpnC2
In 1961, Julia Child + Simone Beck’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” & Craig Claiborne’s “The New York Times Cookbook” led to the great American food awakening.

More flavorful greens entered the U.S. diet:

🌿Mesclun trib.al/4iwpnC2
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📍Lancaster, PA

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"We believe that our diversity is a strength, not a weakness. And even though there may be individuals who may not hold to that, I think the majority of Americans do," says Guy Dunham trib.al/EyXok6f
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11 Oct
Since 1979, the left has only managed to install 4 people in the White House or Downing Street:

🇺🇸Bill Clinton
🇺🇸Barack Obama
🇬🇧Tony Blair
🇬🇧Gordon Brown

The right has established two advantages: competence & intellectual dynamism trib.al/mALxUdZ
The first is a traditional advantage of conservatism.

Both Republicans and the Tories have based their electoral appeal on the idea that they will do a better job of looking after your money and protecting your country than the other guys trib.al/mALxUdZ Image
However, the right has also been more dynamic.

Since 1979, modern conservatism has produced many important ideas that have changed the political universe, from privatization to welfare reform to “broken windows” crime policy trib.al/mALxUdZ Image
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