Baseball season is here, and the fans are back! Seeing people stream through the gates after a season of empty seats is like glimpsing a future without pandemic fears. The risk isn’t gone, though – new daily COVID-19 case numbers in the U.S. are still higher now than they were last September. So how many fans can teams let in and still keep everyone safe?

Until now, sports leagues had little data to go on. Some teams are keeping their stadiums less than 20% full, while the Texas Rangers plan to fill all seats for their home opener on Monday. To gauge the risk to fans and the surrounding communities, researchers Alex Piquero and Justin Kurland analyzed numbers from a large-scale – though unintended – national experiment: the 2020 NFL season.

This week we also liked articles about Black poets from Appalachia, why chocolate tastes sweet (think fermentation, not sugar) and the myth of the superhuman tech company founder.

Stacy Morford

General Assignments Editor

Some stadiums are limiting crowd numbers for now. At least one team is opening all the seats. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Baseball stadiums are filling up – but an analysis of the NFL’s 2020 season holds a warning about COVID-19 case spikes

Alex R. Piquero, University of Miami; Justin Kurland, The University of Southern Mississippi

Crowd size matters. When football games had thousands of fans in attendance, COVID-19 case numbers tended to spike within three weeks.

Underneath the shiny wrapper, a chocolate bunny is a fermented food. Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Chocolate’s secret ingredient is the fermenting microbes that make it taste so good

Caitlin Clark, Colorado State University

Sauerkraut, sourdough, beer...and chocolate? They're all fermented foods that rely on microbes of various types to transform the flavor of their raw ingredients into something totally different.

‘Untitled’ from the series ‘Imaging/Imagining.’ Photo by Raymond Thompson, Jr.

How Black poets and writers gave a voice to ‘Affrilachia’

Amy M. Alvarez, West Virginia University; Jameka Hartley, University of Alabama

Three decades after poet Frank X. Walker coined the term 'Affrilachia,' the region's poets and artists continue to create work that probes the world of a people long ignored.