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What 2021 will be like.

We’re collectively ready to drop-kick 2020 into the history books. But as we close in on COVID-19 vaccines and many of us anticipate climbing out of long hibernations, what will next year look like? Stanford magazine asked faculty and alumni “soothsayers” to peek around the corner and tell us what will be different (or not) in 2021. Among the predictions: You won’t go back to the same old office—if you go back to an office at all. If you haven’t gotten a dog yet, start warming up to the idea of a hamster. Your town might keep some of those parking-lot dining areas long-term. If you see a musical, you probably won’t need binoculars. And you might exercise more. (Hey, they’re not our predictions.)

What else is next for you? If you’re looking to mend your relationship with food, be kinder, let go of grudges, feel more present, or increase your resilience in 2021, check out’s Resolutions collection, which has advice from Stanford experts on these topics and more.

But first, the holiday shopping.

Stanford magazine's 2020 holiday gift guide for book lovers is here. We looked back at the new and notable books of the last 12 months and chose a title for every reader on your list, from your pre-pandemic workout buddy to your singer-songwriter housemate to your seriously sardonic sister-in-law. Need more great ideas? Check out’s Books collection. Wrap, gift, repeat.

The Axe is back. And sanitized.

Stanford football team surrounding the AxePhoto: Bob Drebin/


The Cardinal defeated Cal 24-23 in a nail-biting 123rd Big Game, maintaining the series lead (65-47-11 including the rugby years, for anyone keeping track) and bringing the Axe home from Berkeley. Just in the nick of time, too, because last week Santa Clara County issued new public health orders that restrict practicing or playing contact sports outside one’s household. So the football team headed to the Pacific Northwest to continue the season in Seattle, Wash., and Corvallis, Ore. “Our student-athletes have worked so hard to get ready for the season, and they’ve only played three games and they want to play more,” coach David Shaw told the Mercury News. “It’s up to us to keep them safe and allow them to prepare and play the game they love to play.” As of last week, men’s and women’s basketball had also relocated, while swimming and diving were able to continue training on campus.

Feast your eyes on this.

Stanford researchers did a nutritional analysis of the foods and drinks in the 250 top-grossing Hollywood movies between 1994 and 2018, including Black Panther, Avatar and Titanic, and found that we’ve been binge-watching a whole lot of sugar, saturated fat and booze. This is concerning because the comestibles we see on-screen send a clear message about what foods are common and appealing to eat, assistant psychology professor Alia Crum, the study’s senior author, told Stanford News Service. “If our favorite actors and superheroes aren’t eating salads, why should we?”

But wait, there’s more.

President-elect Joseph Biden has chosen California attorney general Xavier Becerra, ’80, JD ’84, as his nominee  for secretary of health and human services.

Stanford provost Persis Drell announced on Monday that the university will still welcome frosh, sophomores and new transfer students to campus for winter quarter. However, the arrival will be delayed by two weeks for most students, to allow the United States’ recent surge of COVID-19 cases to abate. Drell laid out a quarantine and testing regimen, and said that the university’s “experiences and outcomes this fall, coupled with the advice we have received from our medical experts, give us the confidence to move forward with these modified plans.”

There are not many essays about sea cucumbers. But that’s the creature that taught Amber Wong, ’77, MA ’78, about  change and survival.

The photoacoustic airborne sonar system developed by Stanford researchers will enable drones to do high-resolution imaging and mapping of the deep ocean—something that’s been possible with landscapes for decades but has thus far been trickier to pull off in the ocean because sound waves and electromagnetic radiation lose energy when they pass through water.

John McWhorter, PhD ’93, is best known as a cultural critic who garners bouquets and brickbats from left and right alike. But he’s really a linguistics geek at heart.

With several vaccines on the horizon, could the number of choices deter people from picking one? Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics and a member of the Centers for Disease Control’s advisory committee on immunization practices, says not likely, at least not in the short term. “I don’t think it’s going to be like a menu, like in a restaurant,” she told Bloomberg Businessweek. If there’s a choice to be made, people should follow their doctor’s advice, Lee said, as one vaccine may be better for you based on your age or other factors.

Stanford researchers have developed a low-cost, at-home COVID-19 saliva test, which is designed to detect SARS-CoV-2 within 30 minutes. Thousands of test kits are being assembled on campus for a pilot study to determine whether the test can achieve clinical-grade detection results. And volunteers are needed.

The Loop wishes you a happy and safe holiday break and will return in January. Miss us? Catch up on back issues here.

Summer Moore Batte, ’99, is the editor of Email her at

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