Splainer

Tuesday, November 24 2020


Dive In

I've never witnessed a year in language like the one we've just had. The Oxford team was identifying hundreds of significant new words and usages as the year unfolded, dozens of which would have been a slam dunk for Word of the Year at any other time. It's both unprecedented and a little ironic—in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.

That’s Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Dictionaries, explaining why his company failed to choose a single Word of the Year—but instead has come up with an entire list dubbed ‘Words of an Unprecedented Year’. These include: bushfires, Covid-19, WFH, lockdown, circuit-breaker, support bubbles, keyworkers, furlough, Black Lives Matter and moonshot. Oddly, not on the list: the way overused ‘unprecedented’. OTOH, there is only one Oxford Hindi Word of the Year: samvidhan (constitution). The reason: “Constitution embodies the spirit of the country and the year 2019 was witness to the spirit of the constitution being embraced across segments of the society.”

Big Story

Oxford vaccine offers hope for the world

The TLDR: AstraZeneca disclosed the data from its late stage trials of the Oxford vaccine. It is 70% effectivebut a modified version offers 90% protection. The performance may not seem as dazzling as that of Pfizer and Modernawhich showed 95% efficacybut this vaccine may yet prove to be the most effective in protecting the world’s population. Also: This is brilliant news for Indians!


The basic deets

Here’s how this vaccine works. 

  • Scientists took a weakened version of the common cold virus from chimpanzees. They modified the virus so it can’t grow in humans. 
  • Then they added the genes of the spike protein from the coronavirus. 
  • When injected, our cells start to produce only the spike protein (not the virus itself). 
  • Our body detects its presence and produces antibodies and killer T-cells that attack the infection. 
  • These remain in our body protecting us when we encounter an infected person.


What’s different: The use of modified cold viruses is a fairly established medical technology—already used in vaccines for TB, malaria and Ebola. In comparison, Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines which have never been developed before.

 

Ok, now tell me about its trial data

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Trump is finally gone
  • Kerala does a U-turn
  • WhiteHat Jr wins court battle
  • Mt Everest pays the price
  • The maternity trap

 

A list of curious facts

  • How Hollywood is shooting kissing scenes in the time of Covid
  • Did you know that your house plants are constantly in motion?
  • North Korea is training kamikaze dolphins
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