Monday’s Iowa caucus, the first major contest in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, will finally take place after a long campaign that began for some candidates back in early 2019.

But for every candidate who is the focus of the campaign, there’s an army of staffers both behind and in front of them, organizing events, signing up supporters, drafting remarks, driving around the state.

Those campaign workers face uncertainty as much as the candidates do, reports political scientist Barbara Trish, who has spent months interviewing campaign staff. “The question of just what will happen to them after the Feb. 3 caucuses wafts through the air, carrying with it a subtle message about the state of democratic politics,” she writes.

Also this week we featured stories about the folklore of knocking on wood for luck, why woodpeckers don’t get concussions and how unlikely it is you’ll accidentally harass someone.

Seth Barnes, a staffer for Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, makes calls to potential voters, Jan. 29, 2020. KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Iowa caucuses: It’s not just candidates who face uncertainty – it’s their campaign workers, too

Barbara A. Trish, Grinnell College

What will happen to campaign workers after the Feb. 3 caucuses? It's a question that's in the cold Iowa air, carrying with it a subtle message about the state of democratic politics.

Knocking on wood may be a holdover from the pagan days of Europe, when tree spirits were believed to bring luck. saiful bahri 46/

Why we knock on wood

Rosemary V. Hathaway, West Virginia University

The curious history of a ritual meant to ward off bad luck.

Male pileated woodpecker. FotoRequest/

How do woodpeckers avoid brain injury?

Joanna McKittrick, University of California San Diego; Jae-Young Jung, University of California, San Francisco

Pecking holes in a solid wood tree trunk would give you a headache, if not serious brain damage. What special assets allow a woodpecker to do it?

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