Asteroid samples escaping from jammed NASA spacecraft


“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta said at a hastily arranged news conference.

Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

The asteroid Bennu from the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft. Credit:AP

So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday — much sooner than originally planned — for the long trip home.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

This is NASA’s first asteroid sample-return mission. Bennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of our solar system. Getting pieces from this cosmic time capsule could help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth.

Scientists were stunned — and then dismayed — on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its wildly successful touch-and-go at Bennu two days earlier.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu. The situation appeared to stabilise, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place. But it was impossible to know exactly how much had already been lost.

The requirement for the $US800 million-plus mission was to bring back a minimum 60 grams.

Regardless of what’s on board, Osiris-Rex will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March — that’s the earliest possible departure given the relative locations of Earth and Bennu. The samples won’t make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.

Osiris-Rex will keep drifting away from Bennu and will not orbit it again, as it waits for its scheduled departure.

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Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule holds until it’s back on Earth. They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that manoeuvre was cancelled since it could spill even more debris.

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” Lauretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, that’s hard. … But the good news is we see a lot of material.”

Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

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Submarine murderer Peter Madsen surrounded by armed officers after escaping Danish prison


The convicted murderer escaped jail on Tuesday morning

Danish submarine killer Peter Madsen has been seized by police on a street in central Copenhagen, after an audacious jail-break on Tuesday morning.

The 49-year-old escaped before 10am, and was on the loose for more than two hours, although he only made it about 500m from prison before he was surrounded by police. 

“The arrest operation on Nyvej is over, and an arrested person has been driven away from the scene,” police in Copenhagen said on Twitter shortly after 1pm. They said they would give further details at a press conference this afternoon.

According to the BT tabloid, the killer took a hostage in the prison who he threatened with a pistol-like object, who was reported to have been a psychologist. 

He was then seized less than a kilometre from the prison by a squad of specialist armed police officers, after a long stand-off during which he reportedly claimed to be carrying a bomb. He has now been driven back to the prison by police. 

Madsen repeatedly lied to police about what happened to Wall - Scanpix Denmark/Bax Lindhardt/via REUTERS
Madsen repeatedly lied to police about what happened to Wall – Scanpix Denmark/Bax Lindhardt/via REUTERS

“We are currently working on Nyvej in Albertslund, where a man has been arrested after an attempted escape,” the police wrote on Twitter at 11.20am local time.

“We have investigations ongoing at the site, which has been cordoned off.” But according to the BT tabloid Madsen had yet to be seized at midday, and was instead surrounded by armed police. Bomb technicians were also on the scene.

Madsen was convicted in April 2018 of murdering the 30-year-old journalist Kim Wall as she interviewed him on board his submarine in August 2017.

In a documentary that aired in September, he confessed for the first time to the killing, after having insisted during the trial that her death was an accident.

Kim Wall was murdered by Madsen after she boarded his submarine - TT NEWS AGENCY/Tom Wall Handout via REUTERS
Kim Wall was murdered by Madsen after she boarded his submarine – TT NEWS AGENCY/Tom Wall Handout via REUTERS

“There is only one who is guilty, and that is me,” Madsen said in the documentary.

In a case that made headlines around the world, Madsen had however admitted to the court that he chopped up her corpse and threw her body parts into the sea.

Before the murder, Madsen, who described himself as an artist and inventor, had made a name for himself in Denmark and internationally both for his series of self-built submarines, and for his plan to send himself into space on a self-built rocket.  



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A year on from changing a grand final, six-again calls are escaping scrutiny


Ask Penrith’s Ivan Cleary, what pleased him most about Friday night’s 20-2 victory over Parramatta and he is likely to say denying the Eels a try.

But Cleary did admit the mountain of possession and field position his team enjoyed played a role, saying it allowed the Panther to “choke them out of the game.”

The Eels defended so much last Friday they were left with little potency in attack.Credit:Getty

In other words, attack set up the victory. The Panthers had the ball for 64 percent of the game, meaning a tired Eels team, which defended magnificently, had no energy for attack.

Attack, perceived by Von Clausewitz and a cadre of coaches as the “weaker form”, even though it has the “positive object” of scoring points, has become the dominating factor in winning games in the NRL in 2020.

The new six-again rule, introduced from round 3, is the main reason.

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The penalties were four-all in the Panthers versus Eels match but Parramatta conceded eight ruck infringements to Penrith’s three.

Given that six agains average out at four per-team, per-match, that’s a disproportionate amount of possession awarded the top of the table team.

It’s not as though the Panthers are heading to a minor premiership because they concede the fewest ruck infringements.

In fact, earlier this season, they led the NRL in six-again offences and at the end of round 18, are the fifth most guilty team, with 65 conceded.

Sometimes, a team is prepared to back its defence, aware that it’s not the ruck infringements conceded but those which it “wins” that are important.

In fact, according to Champion Data, the Panthers have conceded only three more ruck infringements than they have received this season.

Since round 11, the Panthers have been enjoying possession off the opposition’s ruck infringements at an average of approximately six per game. This continuity of possession leads to momentum and, consequently, points scored.

Yet, despite their critical importance, six-again calls don’t attract much attention from commentators. This is mainly because they occur on the run and therefore avoid analysis. In fact, while run metres, errors, tackles etc are shown in half-time statistics on TV, six agains don’t rate a mention.

However, with only two rounds left and the top teams about to compete in the semi-finals, ruck infringements will play a major role, particularly if the six-again call comes late in the tackle count, ensuring an entire repeat set.

Six-again calls are certainly important to coaches. When the count is running against a team, club trainers are instructed to run onto the field and inform the team captain so he can pressure the referee.

The NRL's new six-again rule seems to escape attention - even though it's potentially game-changing.

The NRL’s new six-again rule seems to escape attention – even though it’s potentially game-changing.Credit:NRL Photos

The scoreline in the final match of round 18 – Sharks 22, Warriors 14 – sums up 2020. A team must score 20 points to win, while keeping the opposition to less than 20.

It’s not as if attack has improved radically in 2020. The top teams have merely adjusted their attack to accommodate new players and injuries. The rule change setting scrums in the middle of the field does allow a team to spin the ball to its preferred side, or exploit a perceived defensive weakness in the opposition.

But it’s the continuity of possession to the top teams from six-again calls which has resulted in the points explosion.

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The turning point of the 2019 grand final came when a referee signalled six again to the Raiders, then reversed his decision and ruled a changeover from which the Roosters scored. This single six-again call was replayed endlessly on TV for weeks.

Six agains have subsequently been written into the rule book for ruck infringements. They will have an influence on the 2020 decider, despite the rulings of the referee escaping audit and media attention.

What a difference a year makes.

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Inside the Darwin quarantine camp, where life is ‘like a holiday’ for people escaping lockdown


Over a Zoom game of Settlers of Catan, Sheree Rubinstein’s friends urged her to escape Melbourne’s lockdown and head north to join them in the Byron Shire, on the north coast of NSW.

While it was tempting, she says the logistics of escaping Victoria’s lockdown with her newborn daughter seemed impossible.

“We just thought, ‘We’re not going to quarantine in a hotel room with Goldie,'” the 34-year-old mother said.

“You know, with a five-month-old, if you’re locked in a room, it’s just too hard.”

34-year-old mother Sheree Rubinstein with her daughter Goldie.(Supplied)

But the family soon became aware of another option.

While travellers from COVID-19 hotspot areas such as Victoria and Sydney face restrictions on interstate travel, they can travel to Darwin.

Once there, they have to quarantine at a facility in the city’s rural area for two weeks, at a cost of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for a family.

Unlike hotel quarantine for international arrivals — where travellers forfeit fresh air and the freedom to exercise — residents at the Howard Springs facility are able to walk around the facility, enjoy Top End sunsets and even go for a swim.

The facility is a disused workers camp about 25 kilometres south of the Darwin CBD.

It has been owned by the NT Government since 2019 and had been sitting vacant, costing the government millions of dollars in annual maintenance.

At the start of the pandemic, in February, it was used to house Australians who had been evacuated from Wuhan.

“Once we had found out about that, then we seriously considered it,” Ms Rubenstein said.

“We then told our families, packed up our house, and within about three days we left.

‘It was almost like a holiday’

Ms Rubinstein travelled with her partner, Rod, her mother and her daughter, Goldie, to Darwin.

They were each given their own little cabin with a television and kitchenette (she shared with her daughter) and all had adjoining balconies, so they could hang out together and go for walks.

“We thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.

“Each day we did virtual Pilates classes on the balcony or we played cards at night.”

A photo of a mother lying on a yoga mat, stretching her arm out to a baby lying next to her.
Sheree Rubinstein with her baby at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.(Supplied: Sheree Rubinstein)

“We always wore our mask whenever we were outside”

She says both she and her partner were able to work remotely: there was internet access, and the cabins were air-conditioned for when it was hot during the day.

The family spent a few days in Darwin but are now on the Gold Coast, with their ultimate plan still to move to the Byron Shire, where they plan to work remotely.

‘Better than lockdown in Melbourne’

Melbourne film student Lexi Spurr had to celebrate her 21st birthday in quarantine in Howard Springs.

A photo of film student Lexi Spurr wearing a mask in quarantine at Howard Springs.
Lexi Spurr came back to Darwin after losing her job during Melbourne’s lockdown.(Supplied: Lexi Spurr)

But she still thinks her experience there was more enjoyable than living under Melbourne’s lockdown.

“You can go out for walks for 20 minutes a day, just have to keep your mask on and keep 1.5 metres from all the people around you,” she said.

“And when we had our meals and stuff, [we] were able to sit outside on our balconies and talk to our neighbours.

“It was better than my lockdown experience in Melbourne.”

Ms Spurr grew up in Darwin, but moved to Melbourne for several years before losing her job in the March lockdown.

She said she figured she’d come home and enjoy the freedoms of the Top End while continuing her studies online.

Her lockdown period gave rise to a university assignment where she took photos of fellow quarantine residents.

“Some of them were my [quarantine] neighbours, some of them I met in there and then there were a few people who I actually went to primary school with, and I just found them in there, so that was really fun as well,” she said.

A photo of a group of girls playing a game in the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
Lexi Spurr spent her quarantine period hanging out with fellow inmates.(Supplied: Lexi Spurr)

How does it compare to hotel quarantine?

Forty-one-year-old Darwin woman Kim Totham is still in Howard Springs at the end of a long journey home from overseas.

A trip to Vietnam to care for her elderly father was extended during the pandemic and since then she’s been struggling to get back to Darwin.

Cancelled flights and thousands of dollars later, the single mother-of-two has had to quarantine twice: first in a hotel room in Sydney, and now in Howard Springs.

She said her experience in hotel quarantine from Sydney was awful.

A photo of a Sydney hotel room.
Kim Totham stayed in a hotel when she quarantined in Sydney.(Supplied: Kim Totham)

“I am mentally very strong, but there’s no window, you can’t go outside,” she said.

She said she could hear the people on her floor crying or yelling out during her time in the hotel.

“They might have been stuck overseas for God knows how long and you know, now the Government’s going to ask for another $3,000 off them,” she said.

Ms Totham said returning home to Darwin was a relief, even though she had to quarantine again.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better than this,” she said.

“There’s so much freedom here compared to the Sydney hotel.”

A photo of 41-year-old Darwin resident Kim Totham in quarantine at Howard Springs.
41-year-old Darwin resident Kim Totham in quarantine at Howard Springs.(Supplied: Kim Totham)

‘I don’t know how to pay it’

Ms Totham still thinks it’s unfair she had to quarantine again on arrival in the Territory, given she went straight to the airport after finishing her quarantine period in Sydney.

She’s particularly worried about how she’s going to pay for it given she’s been out of work for months.

She said her quarantine bills in Sydney ($3,000) and now Darwin ($2,500) were making her anxious.

“In my case, I’ve got two children. I’m a single mother. I haven’t got a job. I don’t have a place to stay,” she said.

“Now it’s $5,500 and I don’t know how to pay it.”



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Tom Lynch ‘being a d****bag’ despite escaping ban


AFL 360 host Mark Robinson has called on Tom Lynch’s teammates to pull him aside and outline the hit his reputation is taking after a series of on-field cheap shots.

Lynch escaped with a pair of $1000 fines for two separate incidents in Monday night’s game against the Gold Coast Suns but Robinson says his personal brand has been tarnished.

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“If Tom Lynch was a mate of mine I would sit here right now and say ‘Mate, you’re being a d****, what are you doing? … If you don’t care what people think, no problem. But as a great mate of yours I’m telling you that everyone’s thinking you’re a d****bag for what you’re doing at the moment’,” Robinson said.

“To go up and (feign) to hit Collins (at another point in the game), that made him look like a fool. Why are you acting like this? Play hard, tough football, earn respect. At the moment he’s losing respect.

“He can live with that, that’s up to him. He’s a good person Tom but he’s just acting really badly on the field.”

Melbourne great David Schwarz also laid the boots into Lynch and his off the ball action.

“He’ll win goose of the year the way he’s going,” Schwarz said.

“I think what’s happened to Tom is he’s been told by someone at the Richmond Football Club ‘Tom, I want you to go out and be a bit more aggressive because I reckon you’re not showing enough bite.’

“I’d grab him by the throat if he was my opponent and just let it be known. Young Collins clearly didn’t enjoy it, but Lynch has been doing this for three or four weeks.”

The AFL said it would crack down on punching back in 2018 after West Coast’s Andrew Gaff struck Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw in a blow that broke the youngster’s jaw.

But once again they’ve decided not to put the foot down and another Richmond superstar will be free to line up for the team’s next game.

In the fourth quarter, Lynch left Suns defender Sam Collins momentarily hunched over before he took a mark inside 50 and kicked a crucial goal late in the contest.

Behind the goals footage showed Lynch swinging his right arm which connected to the midsection of Collins.

The AFL’s Match Review Officer Michael Christian deemed the shot as intentional conduct with low impact and body contact, which results in only a $1000 fine.

It wasn’t the only shot however that came under the microscope with a second incident occurring in the third quarter when Lynch delivered jumper punches to Suns ruckman Jarrod Witts, but again he was only handed a $1000 sanction.

It’s the latest incident for Lynch who was fined for misconduct after shoving the head of Brisbane Lions defender Alex Witherden’s head into the ground during round 10.

RELATED: AFL world reacts as star doesn’t flinch

Footage of Collins not flinching when Lynch pretended to throw his hands up drew widespread praise for the Sun and Schwarz said the Tigers forward should stop acting in a way that doesn’t suit who he is.

“It’s unnecessary because he’s a good mark, he’s a good kick, he knows how to play the game, but he’s not tough,” he said.

“He’s not a Barry Hall, he’s not a Plugger Lockett or a Derm who’s actually going to go the biff.

“If he keeps continuing to do it someone’s going to get him. Someone will line him up and we’re going to go ‘Guess what Tom? You probably deserved it.’

“Stop being a knucklehead, play the game and stop trying to be something you’re not.”

Lynch’s escape from a ban follows in the footsteps of teammate Dustin Martin being let off with a $1750 fine for striking Port Adelaide’s Tom Rockliff.

It was Martin’s second fine for striking in 2020 and left another Melbourne great in Garry Lyon slamming the AFL for not taking punching seriously.

“We’ve been told about this punching. These come into vogue and then they go out of vogue,” Lyon said on Fox Footy’s On The Couch.

“Dustin gives a little right (hand) to the neck (of Rockliff), so that’s a fine for Dustin. It’s the second fine for striking after this punch to the guts (on McDonald).

“The AFL, if you’re watching: You are condoning punching to the head and punching to the guts.

“So don’t tell us in any other way, because you’re not taking a stand and you’re not stamping out punching to the head. You are kidding yourself and don’t tell us any anything else either.”

Lyon accused the league of double standards after talking a big game, but letting the superstar off the hook.

“Don’t ever come back to us and tell us you’re taking striking seriously again as they did about a year or two ago,” Lyon said on SEN Breakfast.

“‘Oh, we want to stamp out striking, it’s a bad look for the game, it sends a really bad message’. That is disingenuous rot from the AFL.

“So, Dusty went for the third time in two years for striking on the weekend. Just punched (Rockliff) in the throat — and OK it wasn’t that hard, but is that what you want?

“If that was his first time then I can accept ‘not enough force’, but it’s the third time in two years for striking and he hasn’t missed a game.

“I’m not going to go on about it, but don’t ever come back and say, ‘Oh the look of the game is important to us and we want to stamp out striking’ because that is just rot. Unmitigated rot.”



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No escaping COVID-19 as Major League Baseball starts season



Jul 23, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler (right) on the dugout steps with cardboard cutouts of Los Angeles Dodgers fans behind him during an opening day game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

July 24, 2020

By Steve Keating and and Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Major League Baseball launched its COVID-19 delayed season on Thursday but reminders of the pandemic were everywhere, from stadiums devoid of fans to Dr. Anthony Fauci throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Washington.

In a first for MLB’s Opening Day, players from all four teams in action took a knee before the national anthem, while ‘Black Lives Matter’ logos were stenciled onto the bases and patches sewn onto the sleeve of uniforms.

After the Nationals welcomed the New York Yankees, the Dodgers hosted the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles with both teams following the lead of their counterparts on the East Coast by taking a knee while holding a 200-yard swath of black cloth.

But while the Yankees and Nationals all stood for the anthem, some players in the second game, including Mookie Betts, who signed a 12-year $364 million deal with the Dodgers earlier this week, continued to kneel, with some of those standing placing their hands on their team mates’ shoulders.

Kneeling has become a symbol of protest in the sports world with many athletes across the globe having united in solidarity behind the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

“Today, and every day, we come together as brothers. As equals, all with the same goal – to level the playing field. To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right!,” tweeted MLB.

WILD PITCH

From players wearing face masks to mandatory testing, the new reality thrust on baseball by the coronavirus was unavoidable despite high-tech efforts to provide a comforting facade with the soothing sounds of a packed ballpark piped into the television broadcast.

The coronavirus has claimed over 143,000 U.S. lives, with the country surpassing more than 4 million cases.

FOX Sports said on Thursday it would use “virtual fans” to provide the illusion of a full stadium during its broadcasts, with thousands of avatars cheering or booing at the push of a button.

Even one of Opening Day’s great traditions, the ceremonial opening pitch, was linked to the pandemic, with Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease specialist and diehard Nationals fan, performing the honors at the team’s park in Washington.

Fauci, who is often seen in public sporting the team’s logo on his face mask, donned a Nationals jersey and cap and unleashed a wild pitch, throwing up his arms as if to say: “What did you expect?”

Hours before Fauci took the mound, Washington learned it would start the abbreviated 60-game regular season without star slugger Juan Soto. The defending World Series champions said he had tested positive for the coronavirus and it placed him on the injured list, where he will stay until he has two negative tests.

The Nationals were already without veteran infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross, who both opted to sit out the season because of health concerns related to COVID-19.

The Yankees needed just six innings to beat the Nationals 4-1 after rain forced an end to the contest while the Dodgers clobbered the Giants 8-1.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Peter Cooney/Peter Rutherford)





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Escaping ‘Zoom fatigue’ is surprisingly complicated


Six days into stay-at-home orders in New York City, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., a third-grade class for Alex Freidus’s 8-year-old son started with an unusual step: a click.

Her son’s classmates and teacher appeared on the screen, smiling and waving and staring at things outside the frame. The morning group check-in, hosted on the popular virtual conferencing tool Zoom, was an attempt to approximate the social interaction the children were used to enjoying in person. During the session, which lasted just under an hour, the teacher asked the students about how they were feeling and what they had been up to at home. Every child had the opportunity to speak. Then the teacher laid out virtual lesson plans for the rest of the week.

Later that night, at the dinner table, Friedus mentioned to her son that virtual sessions would be the new routine. He frowned. “I do not like that,” he said. “It’s hard. And I don’t want to see my friends if I can’t play with them.”

In the weeks since, Freidus has negotiated with her son to get him to engage with the lessons she thinks are most critical for him. (He’s strong in math, for example, so she doesn’t push him to tune into every math lesson.) But he’s only 8. He hasn’t fully learned how to type or use a computer mouse, and she has always instilled in him that her laptop is off-limits. Online learning itself is a learning curve for him, which adds to the frustration of missing his friends.

Freidus’s son’s lamentations may ring just as true for adults starved of social interaction, let alone those who are less tech-savvy, during the pandemic. People who comply with stay-at-home orders are sacrificing in-person connection for personal and public health. For many, this has meant a transition to seemingly endless video calls.

The data already prove it out, at least for those in white-collar tech jobs: Workers are spending 29% more time in team meetings and 24% more time in one-on-one meetings than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Clockwise, the maker of a calendar assistant that optimizes employees’ work schedules. In a completely work-from-home environment, colleagues can’t drop by each other’s desks or have unplanned watercooler conversations.

Countless people have decried newfound “Zoom hangovers” or “Zoom fatigue,” calling upon experts to figure out what it is about video calls that drains us. Explanations run the gamut, as this Axios article concisely summarizes: It’s not a natural way to have a conversation. It’s difficult to make eye contact. We can see ourselves, which is distracting. Every conversation takes place in the same context—on the same screen. All of this, and more, is difficult for our brains to process. 

While all of these very real phenomena are at play, that doesn’t mean that we should place undue blame on technology for the stress the pandemic has wrought, says Microsoft researcher Nancy Baym.

“Anything that’s different, even if you like it, requires some amount of adjustment,” says Baym, who has been studying online interaction since the early 1990s and is the author of Personal Connections in the Digital Age and Twitter: A Biography, among other works. “I imagine that if we keep this up over time,” she says of virtual meetings amid social distancing, “the kinds of complaints that people have will change.”

That doesn’t mean people will be onboard once they overcome the learning curve. Olga Garcia-Kaplan, a mother of three and student data privacy advocate, says that after more than a month of school via Zoom, her 12-year-old daughter’s tolerance for learning via the medium has plummeted. She and many classmates now log on with their cameras off.

“Some of them are seeing it as an invasive medium,” Garcia-Kaplan says. “It’s a lot for them to deal with, from a privacy perspective: ‘Why do I have to show my teacher my home?’ and ‘I don’t want kids who I’m not necessarily friends with to see my home, either.’”

Garcia-Kaplan’s daughter has also expressed unwillingness to discuss “how quarantine is going” with her teacher and classmates. Her reluctance to open up in that way, day after day, indicates she’s fed up with more than just the video calls.

“There’s this idea that we’re all just going to hop onto technology and get to work, and we won’t be tired,” Baym says, “Or we’re going to hop onto technology and get to work, and if we’re tired, it’s because of the technology, rather than because the world is in crisis.” 

The emotional burden of the pandemic (if not the recent protests about racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd) may make it challenging or impossible for someone to call into meetings and classes. (So may the economic one, in the case of households that don’t have Internet connections or other digital resources.) That’s why Freidus says it’s important for people in a privileged position to speak up about potential limitations—provided they feel secure in doing so without fear of recourse.

For her part, Freidus has met with her son’s teacher and school administrators to discuss the challenges students have had adapting to the virtual classroom. She herself is a former teacher, now a professor at Seton Hall University in the department of Education Leadership Management and Policy.

“I am comfortable treating some of this work as optional, but I know all families don’t feel comfortable doing that, or don’t feel confident assessing what’s most important,” Freidus says. “I think that if enough families share their stories, schools will be better informed in terms of thinking about what’s happening for kids, what the challenges are, and how they can best support the range of situations going on.” 

The same could be said for workplaces. Some employees may feel more empowered than others to point out the caregiving responsibilities they and their colleagues are juggling while working from home.

If the technology is not fundamentally to blame—and inequality, divergent learning styles, and the pandemic itself are—that doesn’t mean people merely should grasp for another convenient scapegoat, Freidus warns.

“I also think that we cannot expect schools, or individualized instruction, or whatever extraordinary efforts that some educators can make, to solve the problem of a worldwide crisis,” Freidus says. “Part of it is saying: There is loss, and there is going to be loss.”

The pandemic is forcing part of society to engage in a new experiment—but it’s going to take real, longitudinal research to tease out how people respond to using videoconferencing tools on a sustained basis, Baym says. Right now, feelings about abrupt societal change are muddling feelings about virtually everything else. 

“I would be really wary of taking any findings about how people feel about these tools right now and generalizing to how they’re going to feel about them in the future,” Baym says. “What I see is always a process of trying to make these technologies work for us as best they can, because we yearn to be in communication with one another.”

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