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OMG, Omicron

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.

Wernher von Braun

For the past year and a half, if anyone wanted, they could look to see how science is being done just by looking up research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If pandemics were a reality show… Now season 3 is upon us, cursing us with another variant. Like the beginning of finding out about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and finding out about the Delta variant, science is trying to figure this one out. I know that it’s frustrating that no one knows the answer right away, but one thing people miss about science is that it isn’t about knowing everything, but it’s about finding things out. And in order to find things out, we need time. However, in a pandemic, time is an enemy. What some people get wrong is that this is confused with “science is the enemy” or “those other people are the enemy” or “this country is the enemy”. Let’s skip the philosophical part and say that basically, we’re afraid of the unknown, especially if the unknown can maim/kill us.

Although science is more about questions than answers, it can and does generate light that we can shine on the unknown. For example, every Mars rover. Because of my science background (where I spent an extremely long time trying to figure out which science field I wanted to be in, while taking every science class there was), I can go through research articles and figure out what’s what. Here’s a controversial idea: every person should take a class on how to look up scholarly articles on any topic in high school. (While we’re here, let’s open up a school and call it “School of Hard Knocks”, in which every class is directly applicable to real life, such as How to Do Your Taxes, or 50 Cheap, Simple, and Healthy Meals). Anyway, for an average person without a science background (which I also once was, in the early 2000s), what sources are there for just plain facts and neutral ground?

So far, here is the general answer:

I’m happy to see that BBC is in the center, because a long time ago, someone told me that if I wanted to find something neutral, a good point of view to consider would be from people outside of the country. I mean, how good are we at being objective about the aquariums we’re swimming in? And I’m also happy to see Reuters next to BBC. What was interesting was that I had thought The Economist was more right leaning than it was. Finally, it’s nice to know others I haven’t thought of, like Associated Press, to add to my bookmarks.

So what about Omicron? Do we need a booster shot for that? How bad is it, compared to what’s happened already? The answer is, We don’t know… yet.

Now, once again, the world is watching as researchers work nights and weekends to learn what a new variant has in store for humanity. Is Omicron more infectious? More deadly? Is it better at reinfecting recovered people? How well does it evade vaccine-induced immunity? And where did it come from? Finding out will take time, warns Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust: “I’m afraid patience is crucial.”

‘Patience is crucial’: Why we won’t know for weeks how dangerous Omicron is

Talking about sources wasn’t random. I liked this article for its readability, its short length, its international tidbits, and that it shares knowledge (PCR, GISAID database, structural biology mapping) without sensationalizing or politicizing anything. In this day and age, it’s like gold.

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