Photograph by Jun Michael Park, National Geographic
Photograph by Jun Michael Park, National Geographic
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What does it take to defeat this virus?

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By Victoria Jaggard, SCIENCE Executive Editor

Homebody that I am, one experience I greatly miss while abiding by D.C.’s stay-at-home orders is a relaxing night out at a bar. My favorite cocktail is a little-known concoction called a Blood and Sand, a sweet and smoky delight reportedly named after a 1922 Rudy Valentino movie. It’s sheer magic when a skilled bartender is familiar enough with the recipe to make a perfectly balanced drink. I’ve been attempting to recreate it at home, but it’s never quite right.

Unfortunately, this pandemic is proving to be an excellent lesson in the value of patience. As Mark Zastrow reports for Nat Geo, South Korea has been lauded for its swift and effective response in curtailing the spread of COVID-19. On April 30, the nation of 51 million reported its first day with zero new cases among the local population, thanks to widespread testing, intense contact tracing, and swift public acceptance of social distancing measures. (Pictured above, a walk-in clinic in Seoul).

These encouraging results took a hit over the weekend, though, as Korean officials scrambled to contain an outbreak tied to several nightclubs and bars in the capital city of Seoul. So far, at least 54 new cases have been reported during this spike. In response, Seoul’s mayor has ordered all bars and clubs to close, and plans to start reopening other facilities, such as schools, are being postponed, TIME magazine reports.

The good news is that South Korea already has a robust system in place to manage the flare-up, with thousands of people linked to the outbreak getting tested in a matter of days. The swift move by South Korea (and the announcement that Wuhan officials will test 11 million residents after six new cases popped up) show the challenges of defeating this persistent virus even by countries that have managed their response well.

Until scientists develop a vaccine, and until severe cases can be treated reliably, getting back out into the world will have to happen in cautious fits and starts, and everyone will have to learn to be patient.

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Today in a minute

Your future commute: More bike lanes. No-touch kiosks for fares on public transport. Those are among the changes envisioned when Americans head back to their offices after the pandemic peak. Writing for Nat Geo, Emily Sohn says future commutes may actually be healthier.

You feel OK (but you’re not): One symptom of COVID-19 is robbing many patients of blood oxygen well before they notice. Doctors are racing to understand silent hypoxia, in which patients expected to be struggling for air are instead calm and responsive, using cell phones and chatting with physicians. A simple, at-home gadget known as a pulse oximeter could help people who develop other symptoms to also monitor for silent hypoxia, but it’s not a panacea, writes Nat Geo’s Maya Wei-Haas.

What about those UFO videos? Astrophysicist Katie Mack writes that she’s not going to debunk them, primarily because she’s not motivated to do so. “The real explanation for them is almost certainly going to be something well outside my main area of expertise,” she writes for Scientific American. While she remains skeptical the craft in question have anything to do with aliens, experts interested in military aviation and atmospheric science will be best placed to do the work, she says.

Lemons from lemonade: Oil-producing states are asking the U.S. government if it could put laid-off energy employees back to work—this time plugging abandoned wells, a growing environmental problem. About 2 million of the 3 million abandoned oil wells in the nation are uncapped, Reuters reports.

From Sci-Fi to Sci: Science fiction has been an inspiration for many scientific goals and accomplishments. Video chats were a staple of sci fi for a century before their development in the late 1980s, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein inspired the discovery of modern cardiac pacemakers. Our new video series takes a look.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Up on the roof: Brooklyn Grange, located across three roofs in New York City, is among the world’s largest rooftop soil farms. The farm grows more than 80,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce per year. The farm also keeps 20 beehives on rooftops of New York City buildings, producing hundreds of pounds of honey annually. Depending on the season's floral bloom, bees can fly seven miles to collect nectar from Central Park or the High Line.

Subscriber exclusive: See the tiny tools required for the ancient art of bonsai

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This week in the night sky

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Moon meets Mars: As dawn breaks on Thursday and Friday, look for the near quarter moon posing beside Mars in the southeastern sky. From one day to the next, watch for the moon to hop from one side to the other of the ruddy-colored world. In the next few months, Earth will been getting closer to more distant, slower orbiting Mars. As a result, sky-watchers will see the red planet start to brighten. As we head for Earth’s closest approach to Mars for the year on October 13, people using backyard telescopes will get increasingly better views of Martian surface features. —Andrew Fazekas

The big takeaway

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Just the facts: Nat Geo has launched a coronavirus tracker to show what parts of the United States have increasing and decreasing cases of COVID-19 reported week by week. There is state-by-state and county-by-county data, with shades of blue marking a weekly decline, and red marking an increase. Figures are updated daily. Maps show how the United States is maintaining a peak of about 25,000 cases a day. The maps show numbers falling in several areas that were epicenters, but rises elsewhere to keep the overall tally steady.

In a few words

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On Thursday, Rachael Bale covers the latest in animal news. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Whitney Johnson on photography, Debra Adams Simmons on history, and George Stone on travel.

Last glimpses

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How does the monkeyflower do it? It seems to defy physical law with so many varieties of beauty. But old math has revealed new things about this colorful bee-welcoming flower, Katherine J. Wu writes for Nat Geo. “The color contrast makes pollination more efficient, more effective,” says Yaowu Yuan, a biologist at the University of Connecticut. Scientists are studying genetic patterns on the flowers. We’ll just enjoy them.

Above, a hybrid monkeyflower of the two species Mimulus cupreus and Mimulus variegatus (left) and the species Mimulus verbenaceus (right).

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Jen Tse and Eslah Attar. Have an idea, a link, a favorite monkeyflower? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading, and have a colorful week ahead.