In our new era of nearly unparalleled upheaval, as a pandemic ravages the bodies of some and the minds of nearly everyone, as the associated economic damage disposes of the livelihoods of many, and as even the promise of democracy fades, the people whose lives were already on a razor’s edge — who were vulnerable and isolated before the advent of Covid-19 — are in far greater danger than ever before.
Against this backdrop, many of us are scanning the news for any sign of hope, any small flicker of light whose gleam could indicate that everything, somehow, is going to be okay. In fact, there is just such a flicker coming from those who have been through the worst of it and have made it out the other side.
I spoke with Rafael Rodriguez of Holyoke, Massachusetts, on a
Over the past few months, the phrase “social distancing” has entered our lexicon. Many of us have found ourselves separated from family and friends—or at least from our normal social lives. As humans grapple with pandemic-induced isolation, science is starting to offer insight into what may be happening in our brains when our social contact with others is dramatically reduced.
That insight happens to come from a place with more penguins than people.
Tim Heitland of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Germany spent 14 months in Antarctica between 2016 and 2018. When he returned, daily life felt overwhelming—everything from the colors and vegetation to all the other people. Part of the shock may have come from returning with a different brain than the one he left with.
While the members of Heitland’s crew conducted research on the earth’s iciest continent, they themselves were