It goes without saying that the pandemic sucks. But—suckiness notwithstanding—what if the pandemic is also super-charging your brain?

In February of 1665, two people in the St. Giles district of London suspiciously fell ill. Days later, they both perished. In April, three other London districts reported similar cases. By summer, it was clear to everyone: Plague had returned to London.

In order to slow the contagion, the University of Cambridge canceled its classes. Among those sent home was an undistinguished mathematician who grew up in the countryside 60 miles north of London. His name was Isaac Newton.

One day while wandering through the orchard in his backyard, Newton noticed an apple fall from a tree.* This was not the first time he had seen apples falling from trees. But this time, for some unknown reason, the mundane event struck him as interesting.

That seed of interest bloomed into one of the most influential ideas in modern civilization—the theory of gravity.

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