A very good week for very good news

This week’s vaccine news brought hope of an end to all this, though it’s not all plain sailing from here

A vaccine mural in Paris
A vaccine mural in Paris this week. Photograph: Jeanne Accorsini/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
A vaccine mural in Paris this week. Photograph: Jeanne Accorsini/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
Mark Rice-Oxley

Last modified on Fri 13 Nov 2020 07.48 EST

No doubt about the most hopeful story of the week. With much of the planet once again at a pandemic standstill (a pandstill?) and fears deepening over the economic, social, pedagogical and psychological effects of lockdown, even the slightest hint of a vaccine breakthrough was enough to set thoughts leaping ahead.

Thoughts like: how soon can we roll it out? Will we be back to normal by spring? Can I hug my mum soon? And can my kids please retrieve their adolescence now?

As ever with an Upsidey story like a vaccine, it’s not all plain sailing. So some of our journalists spent much of the week trying to figure out how things might proceed. Some of the most illuminating pieces included:

Vaccine volunteers
Vaccine volunteers. Composite: Team Halo

Of course, the Guardian does not have a monopoly on solid, explanatory journalism, so as a service to Upside readers, we also admired:

  • How do we solve the ‘cold chain’ delivery problem? (Wired)

  • When will we be back to ‘normal’? (The Conversation)

  • How does Pfizer calculate the efficacy of its vaccine? (Reuters)

  • How does the vaccine actually work? (The Week)

  • Did they delay announcement to stymie Trump’s re-election bid? (Answer: no.) (Forbes)

BioNTech headquarters in Mainz, Germany
BioNTech headquarters in Mainz, Germany. Photograph: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

There was a delightful little story-behind-the-story, meanwhile. The husband-and-wife team behind the vaccine are Germans of Turkish background. So dedicated are they to their work that they even started and ended their wedding day in the lab, with just a quick break to dash to the register office.

Our Berlin correspondent, Philip Oltermann, investigated their story, and spoke to one half of the dynamic duo.

Elsewhere this week, we enjoyed:

Sphagnum moss
Sphagnum moss, famed for its medicinal properties and absorbency, is one of the crops being grown as part of the wet farming project. Photograph: Lars S Madsen/Alamy

Lucky numbers

Almost every week, there is encouraging data from the world of renewable energy. This week we learned that newly installed capacity has hit record levels in 2020.

What we liked

This is hopeful: another breakthrough in the 40-odd-year struggle against HIV and Aids, via the New York Times.

This is lovely: instead of putting his grandfather, a veteran of the second world war, into a nursing home, Roger Gilbert took him on a bucket-list odyssey around the US before he died.

This is promising: five new UK centres to help move the country towards a circular economy.

This is utterly gratuitous: how octopuses taste with their arms, via New Scientist.

An octopus. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Where was the Upside?

With our consumer champion correspondents who reckon they have won back millions of pounds for Guardian readers over the years by fighting their consumer disputes.

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think – about the vaccine, lockdown, octopuses, or anything else optimistic. See you next week.