The extraordinary has become ordinary

Sven Lidin

I’m afraid this is another bleak one, and I must be honest about this, things are truly bleak. There are those who will tell you that Newton did his best work when the universities were closed down because of the plague and that getting all this time without travel and physical meetings is a blessing in disguise, allowing us to work away on our own. Well, I’m afraid they are wrong. Science is a social endeavor, and scientists are social beings. We do not work well in splendid isolation.

Still, there is hope. There are ways to make things work and, as we all experience in our daily work life we can still get interaction of sorts with students, business partners and colleagues. It is a very healthy sign of our vibrant community that the list of virtual meetings for November 2020 in the IUCr calendar of events has been full and exciting.

In our response to the pandemic, I’m reminded of the plight of one my early PhD students. During his studies, he suffered an attack of labyrinthitis, a sudden deterioration of his hearing and a grave disruption of his sense of balance, leaving him disoriented and incapacitated from vertigo and nausea, making simple everyday tasks difficult. He told me how he slowly got used to this condition and how his body adjusted. Then he was hit by a new bout of dizziness as the infection receded and his physician explained to him that this was most likely caused by his body having to relearn how to get his bearings all over again.

As the pandemic ebbs and flows, our societies and our professional and social circles are disrupted over and over again. We try to adapt, but things change quickly and with the time-lag of incubation periods, it is difficult to respond appropriately. We all get disoriented and we will continue to suffer this social vertigo for still some time to come.

The extraordinary has become ordinary.

We adapt surprisingly quickly to something that was inconceivable just 10 months ago.

This ability to adapt to change is an enormous advantage and is helping us now, but we must also be prepared for the fact that going back to what was once our normality may take time and that it may also be a challenge.

Thank you everyone for your patience in these difficult and strange times!!

23 November 2020

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