Jill and Ziri

Jill Hopper in conversation with
Ziri Younsi

Dr Ziri Younsi is an astrophysicist at UCL, and part of the team that captured the first-ever image of a black hole. We met when I interviewed him for the 26 Leaps project at the 2019 Bloomsbury Festival. We’ve become friends, and enjoy talking about life, the universe and everything.

Note 1: March-May

Ziri first heard about the virus last November, from colleagues in Asia. Exponential laws are familiar to physicists; he knew it would spread fast. After a work trip to Singapore in January he fell ill and thinks it was COVID. His mum, a nurse, tested positive; she recovered after having oxygen.

Ziri misses a varied routine: the gym, seeing people. But likes free time; no foreign travel; the environmental benefits. He’s become more independent, doing DIY and getting rid of squirrels in attic. There’s the opportunity for existential reflection about career and purpose. He’s more resilient mentally; you can’t run away from things.

Initially he was getting up early, and very productive. But then monotony hit. He’s surprised how small things give structure in meaningful ways. Lockdown is like having fewer coat hooks in your cupboard – the space is there, but you can do less with it.

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