The Slippery Slope: If Facebook bans content that questions vaccine dogma, will it soon ban articles about toxic chemotherapy, fluoride and pesticides, too?

Image: The Slippery Slope: If Facebook bans content that questions vaccine dogma, will it soon ban articles about toxic chemotherapy, fluoride and pesticides, too?

In accordance with the company’s ongoing efforts to censor all truth while promoting only establishment fake news on its platform, social media giant Facebook has decided to launch full-scale war against online free speech about vaccines.

Pandering to the demands by California Democrat Adam Schiff, Mark Zuckerberg and his team recently announced that they are now “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem” of Facebook users discussing and sharing information about how vaccines are harming and killing children via social media.

According to an official statement released by Facebook, the Bay Area-based corporation is planning to implement some changes to the platform in the very near future that may include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”

In other words, the only acceptable form of online speech pertaining to vaccines that will be allowed on Facebook is speech that conforms to whatever the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is “accurate” and “scientific.” Anything else, even if it comes from scientific authorities with a differing viewpoint, will be classified as false by Facebook, and consequently demoted or removed.

Facebook’s censorship tactics are becoming more nefarious by the day. To keep up with the latest news, be sure to check out

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Facebook is quickly becoming the American government’s ministry of propaganda

Facebook’s rationale, of course, is that it’s simply looking out for the best interests of users who might be “misled” by information shared in Facebook groups suggesting that the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, as one example, isn’t nearly as safe as government health authorities claim.

And that’s just it: There are many things that the government is wrong about, but that have been officially sanctioned as “truth” by government propagandists. If Facebook bows down to these government hacks with regards to vaccines, there’s no telling what the company will try to ban from its platform in the future.

As we saw in the case of Cassandra C. from Connecticut, the government actually forced this young girl to undergo chemotherapy against her will, claiming that the “treatment” was absolutely necessary to “cure” her of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Not only did the government deny young Cassandra the right to make her own medical decisions, but it also overrode the will of her parents, who also opposed taking the chemotherapy route. In essence, the government forced Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy at gunpoint, and now it’s trying to do the exact same thing with Facebook.

If little Adam Schiff is successful at forcing Facebook to only allow information on its platform that conforms with the official government position on vaccines, the next step will be to outlaw the sharing of information on the platform about the dangers of chemotherapy, as well as the dangers of fluoride, pesticides, and other deadly chemicals that the government has deemed as “safe and effective.”

Soon there won’t be any free speech at all on Facebook, assuming the social media giant actually obeys this latest prompting by the government to steamroll people’s First Amendment rights online. And where will it end?

“The real national emergency is the fact that Democrats have power over our lives,” warns Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.

“These radical Leftists are domestic terrorists and suicidal cultists … they are the Stasi, the SS, the KGB and the Maoists rolled all into one. They absolutely will not stop until America as founded is completely ripped to shreds and replaced with an authoritarian communist-leaning regime run by the very same tyrants who tried to carry out an illegal political coup against President Trump.”

Dog saves owner by sniffing out her cancer BEFORE she even knew she had it

Image: Dog saves owner by sniffing out her cancer BEFORE she even knew she had it

Dogs have a long history of being man’s best friend. But the story of a Newburyport Police Department officer and her blind dog from Massachusetts, doesn’t merely prove the bond between owner and pet but also proves that dogs are great at detecting illnesses.

Police officer Megan Tierney was reportedly at home with Dude, her blind border collie/Australian shepherd mix, when he started acting a little strange. According to her, she was lying in bed when Dude suddenly became focused on her chest area, placing a paw on her.

Tierney turned her attention on the spot Dude was touching and noticed a tissue swell. But to her surprise, a trip to the doctor confirmed that she has stage two triple negative invasive ductal breast cancer. And although finding out you have cancer is never an easy thing to swallow, the police officer said, “Dude found the lump, and we were never so happy because it just meant that we could get it where it was, rather than not knowing.”

It is known that dogs have a more heightened sense of smell compared to humans. Dude, being a blind dog, has greatly enhanced this particular sense which helped him detect the illness of his owner. Moreover, canines’ olfactory bulbs have 220 million scent receptors; 195 million more than that of humans.

According to dog-cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz from Barnard College, dogs can smell odors in parts per trillion. For example, in a million gallons of water, dogs can detect if a teaspoon sugar was mixed into the water. This means their smelling abilities are 100,000 times better than ours. (Related: Dogs can smell lung cancer in humans.)

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One study, conducted by the Pine Street Foundation, reflects Dude’s exceptional skill. The study involved five dogs that were given breath samples of 31 breast cancer patients, 55 lung cancer patients and 83 healthy persons. All dogs were able to pinpoint which samples came from those who were ill, with approximately 90 percent accuracy.

Can dogs really smell cancer?

According to Tammana Khare of Dogs Naturally Magazine, because of the metabolic waste released by cancerous cells, a distinct smell is also released from the human body. This significant smell can be easily traced by dogs even during the earlier stages of cancer.

Other studies suggest that canines also have the ability to smell traces of skin cancer melanoma through skin lesions, and detect prostate cancer with just a urine sample from a person who is suffering from one.

“Not only does their sense of smell make cancer detection possible, but research suggests that dogs can be trained actively to sniff out the cancer, ” the canine expert shared. “In Berlin, a group of researchers trained some dogs to detect the presence of various types of cancer, including ovarian cancer, bowel cancer, as well as bladder cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer,” Khane finished.

Although some remain to be with the whole idea of dogs being able to sniff out cancer and other illnesses, there are already some field experts who see a future where dogs will be directly used in patient care. More importantly, the special dog ability Dude exhibited helped his owner, Tierney, to manage her sickness and prolong her life.

Check out more amazing stories about man’s best friend on

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How ‘Science’ Is Used To Deceive The Public

Did you know that there was a shocking study published in the Public Library of Science Journal, that found“up to 72%” of scientists admitted their colleagues were engaged in “questionable research practices,” and just over 14% of them were engaged in outright “falsification”?[1] 

If that’s not bad enough, between 1977 and 1990 the FDA found scientific flaws in 10–20% of all the studies they audited.[2]

But it gets even worse; scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen, set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark published studies in their fields of cancer research and blood biology. What they found was shocking; only 6 of the 53 studies could be proven valid. That’s means almost 90% were flawed, yet passed off to the public as fact. [3]

In other words, there’s a lot of scientific bullshit floating around my friends.

This becomes especially concerning when we consider how “science” seems to have replaced organized religion as the new authority that should blindly be obeyed in many ways. People speak of it as if it is infallible, and anyone who questions the high priests of science are generally attacked, degraded, and dismissed as modern day heretics.

But science, just like any religion, is not a god that only speaks unadulterated Truth. It is far from being infallible and is constantly in need of being updated, upgraded, challenged, revised, and changed, for the simple fact that science is subject to the narrow confines of mankind’s tiny flawed human perception; which is forever growing and expanding — and easily skewed by things like prejudice, pride, and corruption.

In and of itself, science is obviously inanimate and can do neither good nor bad because it has no mind of its own. It is not a person, so we need to stop talking about science like it is a super hero. It is simply a vehicle that requires a driver, and the destination obviously differs from one driver to the next.

While some may have the earnest pursuit of objective Truth in mind, most can be corrupted by the pursuit of money (such as Iowa State University professor Dong-Pyou Han who is now sitting in jail for his AIDS vaccine fraud), the want of fame, or simply personal prejudice and egotistical pride. And to help remind people why they should not blindly trust “science” — or any other body of purported knowledge for that matter — I decided to write this short article on how scientific bullshit has been used throughout history to manipulate our perceptions and beliefs.

Big Tobacco & The Sugar Industry

More than half a century ago, big tobacco used science as a weapon to convince the naive and gullible about the safety of their cigarettes.

when science is used to deceive the public

A number of different medical organizations and journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)were indeed on the payrole of Big Tobacco and helped to promote their agenda through the promotion of flawed “science”.

Why Our Brain Cells Die: A Breakthrough in Fighting Neurodegenerative Diseases

  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
  • A team of scientists has discovered a common mechanism chain leading to brain cell death which involves proteins eating away at a cell’s DNA.


A team of scientists has discovered that, despite having varied causes and symptoms, most brain diseases all share a common mechanism chain leading to brain cell death. The process, aptly named parthanatos after an enzyme called PARP and the Greek god of death, involves proteins eating away at the cell’s DNA.

A nucleus undergoing parthanatos. Credits: Yingfei Wang and I-Hsun Wu/Johns Hopkins Medicine
A nucleus undergoing parthanatos.

Using lab-grown cells, the study completed the parthanatos chain. Previous studies revealed how a protein called mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is involved in the carving up of the genome housed in the cell’s nucleus. When it leaves is usual place in the mitochondria, the researchers believed that AIF itself doesn’t cut DNA.

Yingfei Wang, then-postdoctoral fellow and now assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, tested 160 human proteins and identified one called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) to work hand-in-hand with AIF.

“We found that AIF binds to MIF and carries it into the nucleus, where MIF chops up DNA. We think that’s the final execution step in parthanatos,” says director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Ted Dawson, whose earlier work together with Valina Dawson, served as the foundation of the study.


“I can’t overemphasize what an important form of cell death it is; it plays a role in almost all forms of cellular injury,” Dawson says. However, he warns that MIF’s DNA-chopping abilities have only been linked definitively to stroke. Still, he is confident it’s the right direction to take. “We’re interested in finding out whether MIF is also involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases,” he says.

Understanding the parthanatos completely opens the development of MIF-inhibiting drugs aimed at preventing, weakening, or stopping the process. The researchers are continually working on developing chemical compounds that can block MIF in lab-grown cells.


SCIENCE An Atomic Bomb went off on Earth 12000 years ago?

Ancient civilizations and pagan religions have left many marks in history with scripts, monuments and numerous objects that make us reevaluate what we know so far regarding our past and where we are going as a civilization.

One of the most important questions most of us have tried to never ask, is if we were visited in the distant past by other civilizations beyond earth. There are hundreds and hundreds of unanswered questions, but there are texts that shed much light, if not almost entirely, illuminating the path of a truly untold story.

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana offer many answers to numerous questions regarding our past, present and future.

The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. It consists of 100,000 verses divided into 18 parts or books that are equivalent to eight times the Iliad and Odyssey combined. these ancient texts are more than a historical narration. It is a combination of facts, legends stories and myths. A vast collection of didactic discourses written that were written in a beautiful language, nurturing all Hindu mythology and creating one of the major world religions: Hinduism.

Among those historical texts, we see a story of a devastation that occurred in the past, one that cannot be compared to anything else in the past, a devastation much similar to what we know today is destruction caused by nuclear weapons. Historian Kisari Mohan Ganguli, argues that the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are full of descriptions of large nuclear holocausts that are apparently of incredibly higher proportions than those at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When a student asked Dr. Oppenheimer if the first nuclear device that went off was the one at Alamogordo. during the Manhattan Project, he responded… Well … yes. In modern times, yes, of course.

The ancient Hindu text the Mahabharata:

“Gurkha, flying a swift and powerful vimana,
hurled a single projectile
charged with the power of the Universe.

An incandescent column of smoke and flame,
as bright as ten thousand suns,
rose with all its splendor.

It was an unknown weapon,
an iron thunderbolt,
a gigantic messenger of death,
which reduced to ashes
the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.

The corpses were so burned
as to be unrecognizable.

Hair and nails fell out;
Pottery broke without apparent cause,
and the birds turned white.

…After a few hours
all foodstuffs were infected…
…to escape from this fire
the soldiers threw themselves in streams
to wash themselves and their equipment.”

A second passage.

“Dense arrows of flame,
like a great shower,
issued forth upon creation,
encompassing the enemy.
A thick gloom swiftly settled upon the Pandava hosts.
All points of the compass were lost in darkness.
Fierce wind began to blow
Clouds roared upward,
showering dust and gravel.

Birds croaked madly…
the very elements seemed disturbed.
The sun seemed to waver in the heavens
The earth shook,
scorched by the terrible violent heat of this weapon.

Elephants burst into flame
and ran to and fro in a frenzy…
over a vast area,
other animals crumpled to the ground and died.
From all points of the compass
the arrows of flame rained continuously and fiercely.” — The Mahabharata


There are many other references in the Ramayana which seem to be very similar to those described in the above texts. It is very clear that these texts allude to a great holocaust that killed thousands of lives. One that can be easily traced to nuclear weapons we use today.

But is there evidence, other than the texts supporting the theory that a nuclear device went off on Earth thousands of years ago? In 1992 researchers discovered in Rajasthan a layer of radioactive ash, covering an area of about eight square kilometers, 16 kilometers west of Jodhpur. The radiation is so intense that it still contaminates the area today. Researchers excavated at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, discovering skeletons scattered throughout the area as if a sudden event occurred that devastated entire cities.

 “(It was a weapon) so powerful
that it could destroy the earth in an instant–
A great soaring sound in smoke and flames–
And on it sits death…” . — The Ramayana

The site where researchers have found skeletons and remains of radioactivity is very similar to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but with one striking difference: the radiation levels found at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were 50 times higher than the remains of the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


What really happened? Are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana really describing a nuclear device exploding on Earth tens of thousands of years ago? If so where id it come from? Ancient astronaut theorists are talking about a nuclear holocaust which happened around 12,000 years ago. An explosion that according to theories, created a crater with 2154 meters in diameter, located 400 kilometers from Mumbai.
The dating ranges from 12,000 to 50,000 years ago so researchers have a gigantic time frame to work with.


Mad Scientist Injects Himself A 3.5 Million-Year-Old Permafrost Bacteria. The Results Are Shocking!

In what sounds like a story fit for a Marvel comic, Anatoli Brouchkov, a controversial Russian Scientist has injected himself with bacteria that is 3.5 million years old, and, more astounding, has stated that this is the elusive key to “eternal life”.

Found in the Siberian permafrost, these cells have made him feel stronger and healthier than he ever has before and, he claims, have a high resistance to environmental factors and astonishing levels of vitality. It is also claimed that tests undertaken on animals have resulted in the cells showing a marked increase in physical activity and a fortified immune system.


Head of the Geocryology Department at Moscow State University, Professor Anatoli Broushkov has not succumbed to illness in two years, since he first started the experiments on himself, according to the Russian Media.

Labelled “Bacillus F”, the 3.5 million-year-old bacteria is believed to one of the key components in improving longevity in humans. Once the DNA was unlocked by Researchers from Russia, it was tested on both mice and human cells. However, Broushkov decided to become a human guinea pig and tested it out on himself. The results of this, he claims: A strong and healthy body that is resisting time better than it did before.

So what is the secret of this bacteria? Well, Bacillus F has managed to survive for millions of years in the arctic tundra of Siberia, a place known to be one of the most extreme places on Earth.

As global warming spreads across Siberia, the permafrost has started melting, and this, Broushjov believes, has caused the bacteria to infiltrate into the natural environment, getting into the water supply of local populations. He believed that there would be no danger in experimenting on himself as he claims the Yakut people have been imbibing the bacteria naturally for some time, and this race seems to have greater longevity, despite their hard living conditions. ‘I started to work longer, I’ve never had the flu for the last two years, ’ he told The Siberian Times.

As with many scientific discoveries, it is not always easy to determine how something works, and in the case of Bacillus F, Broushkov claims it is the same. However, he will continue to conduct the experiments under scientific conditions to discover the impact and of course, to identify potential side-effects.

‘If we can find how the bacteria stays alive we probably would be able to find a tool to extend our lives, ’ he explained in an interview.

This Jurassic bacterium could also be an integral factor in fertility as well as longevity in humans, say the scientists. Older female mice that were injected with Bacillus F were able to reproduce after they had ceased being able to. Also, Bacillus F also can heal plants.

Claimed to be akin to discovering the Holy Grail, Dr. Viktor Chernyavsky, an epidemiologist from Yakutsk said ‘The bacteria gives out biologically active substances throughout its life, which activates the immune status of experimental animals.’

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Is science only for the rich?

Around the world, poverty and social background remain huge barriers in scientific careers.

In science, like many other professions, better-off individuals and those educated at elite institutions such as Eton College, UK, are often over-represented.

Last year, Christina Quasney was close to giving up. A biochemistry major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Quasney’s background was anything but privileged. Her father runs a small car-repair shop in the tiny community of Millersville, Maryland, and she was the first person in her immediate family to attend university. At the age of 25, she had already spent years struggling to make time both for her classes and the jobs she took to pay for them, yet was still far from finishing her degree. “I started to feel like it was time to stop fighting this losing battle and move on with my life,” she says.

Quasney’s frustrations will sound familiar to millions of students around the world. Researchers like to think that nothing matters in science except the quality of people’s work. But the reality is that wealth and background matter a lot. Too few students from disadvantaged backgrounds make it into science, and those who do often find that they are ill-prepared owing to low-quality early education.

Few countries collect detailed data on socioeconomic status, but the available numbers consistently show that nations are wasting the talents of underprivileged youth who might otherwise be tackling challenges in health, energy, pollution, climate change and a host of other societal issues. And it’s clear that the universal issue of class is far from universal in the way it plays out. Here, Nature looks at eight countries around the world, and their efforts to battle the many problems of class in science.

United States: How the classroom reflects class divide
China: Low pay powers brain drain
United Kingdom: The paths not taken
Japan: Deepening divisions
Brazil: Progressive policy pays off
India: Barriers of language and caste
Kenya: Easy access but limited prospects
Russia: Positive policy, poor productivity

UNITED STATES: How the classroom reflects class divide

By Jane J. Lee
Quasney is lucky by global standards. She lives in an exceedingly rich country that is brimming with educational opportunities and jobs. Yet for students who share her struggles to make ends meet, the US higher-education system can pose one obstacle after another.

“It starts in high school,” says Andrew Campbell, dean of the graduate school at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Government-supported early education is funded mainly at the state and local level, he notes, and because science courses are the most expensive per student, few schools in the relatively poor districts can afford to offer many of them. Students from these districts therefore end up being less prepared for university-level science than are their wealthier peers, many of whom attended well-appointed private schools.

That also puts the students at a disadvantage in the fiercely competitive applications process: only about 40% of high-school graduates in the lowest-income bracket enrolled in a university in 2013, versus about 68% of those born to families with the highest incomes.

The students who do get in then have to find a way to pay the increasingly steep cost of university. Between 2003 and 2013, undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board rose by an average of 34% at state-supported institutions, and by 25% at private institutions, after adjusting for inflation. The bill at a top university can easily surpass US$60,000 per year. Many students are at least partly supported by their parents, and can also take advantage of scholarships, grants and federal financial aid. Many, like Quasney, work part time.

Nonetheless, some 61% of US students earning bachelor’s degrees graduate with some debt — US$26,900, on average. For those who go on to graduate programmes, tuition is usually paid for by a combination of grants and teaching positions. But if graduate students have to worry about repaying student loans, that can dissuade them from continuing with their scientific training.

Several initiatives are under way around the country to ease the way for science students from disadvantaged backgrounds, among them is the $14-million INCLUDES programme announced earlier this year by the US National Science Foundation. But for students such as Quasney, staying in science can still be a matter of luck.

One evening last year, she says, Michael Summers, a structural biologist at the university, happened to have dinner at the restaurant where she was hosting and waiting tables. That chance encounter led Quasney to join Summers’ laboratory in January, and it was a revelation. Before, she had felt that some of her professors had forgotten what it was like to be a struggling student. Summers’ lab is the exact opposite, she says. “There’s no judgements and he doesn’t discriminate.”

Her experiences have helped her to understand what she can expect when she applies to graduate school and pursues a career in research. “I’m gonna go for it,” she says. “Go big or go home.”

CHINA: Low pay powers brain drain

By David Cyranoski
It is no accident that China currently produces more science PhDs than any country in the world. To combat large-scale poverty, especially in the interior provinces, the communist government in Beijing is trying to make education equally available to everyone.

To help the poor, for example, Beijing sets tuition fees low and forbids raising them. Just 5,000 yuan (US$750) per year is enough for entry into premier institutions such as Tsinghua University in Beijing. And for those unable to come up with that sum, the country has national scholarship programmes, including tax-free loans and free admission.

Meanwhile, to help integrate China’s 55 ethnic minorities, which are also often poor, most provinces give bonus points to minority students who take the Gaokao: a university entrance examination that is the most important threshold to pass on the way to an academic career. A quota system ensures that students from remote regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet are represented at elite schools. China even has 12 universities that are dedicated to minorities.

Beneath the surface, however, the reality of Chinese science often falls short of its egalitarian ideals. Children of senior government leaders and private business owners account for a disproportionate share of enrolment in the top universities. And students hesitate to take on the work-intensive career of a scientist when easier, and usually more lucrative, careers await them in business. According to Hepeng Jia, a journalist who writes about science-policy issues in China, this is especially true for good students from rich families.

“Chinese science often falls short of its egalitarian ideals.”

As a result, says Jia, scientists usually come from poorer families, get less support from home and work under a heavier financial burden. The situation is exacerbated by the low salaries, he says. The average across all scientific ranks is just 6,000 yuan per month, or about one-fifth of the salary of a newly hired US faculty member. Things are especially tough for postdoctoral researchers or junior-level researchers “who can hardly feed their families if working in bigger cities”, says Jia. This leads many scientists to use part of their grants for personal expenses. That forces them to make ends meet by applying for more grants, which requires them to get involved in many different projects and publish numerous papers, which in turn makes it hard to maintain the quality of their work.

Many Chinese researchers escape that trap by seeking positions overseas. Thousands of postdoctoral researchers will go abroad in 2016 with funding from the China Scholarship Council, and many more will find sponsors abroad to fund them. But China has also been able to lure some of the most prominent of these researchers back home. Cao Kai, a researcher at the Science and Technology Talent Center of the science ministry in Beijing, released a survey in April that found one such returning scientist was rewarded with a stunningly high annual salary of 800,000 yuan.

But that is not the norm, Kai says. It was just one extreme case he and his colleagues raised to convince “the government to raise the salary of professors at public universities”. That, he says, would go a long way to attracting and retaining talent in science, regardless of social background.

UNITED KINGDOM: The paths not taken

By Elizabeth Gibney
For the most part, science in the United Kingdom is egalitarian — for those who have already made it their career. A 2016 study found that, unlike in law or finance, researchers from lower-income backgrounds are paid no less than their more advantaged peers (D. Laurison and S. Friedman Am. Soc. Rev. 81, 668–695; 2016).

But getting into science is different. The same study found that only 15% of scientists come from working-class households, which comprise 35% of the general population (see ‘Elite careers’). Another found that, over the past 25 years, 44% of UK-born Nobel-prizewinning scientists had gone to fee-paying schools, which educate 7% of the UK population (P. Kirby Leading People 2016 The Sutton Trust, 2016). “There’s a class barrier to the professions,” says Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association, “but it’s more extreme for science.”

Source: Laurison, D. & Friedman, S. Am. Soc. Rev. 81, 668–695 (2016)

One hurdle is aspirational. In an ongoing, 10-year study, a group from King’s College London found that most English 10–14 year olds find science interesting. But those from working-class backgrounds rarely saw it as a career — perhaps because they seldom encountered people in science-related jobs (ASPIRES: Young People’s Science and Career Aspirations, Age 10–14 King’s College London, 2013).

To tackle this, the King’s team is working with London schools on a pilot programme to show children aged 11 to 15 how science fits into everyday life — by examining the chemicals in food, for example — and how science skills are relevant in a range of jobs. Early results are promising, and the team plans to expand the programme next year.

“There’s a class barrier to the professions, but it’s more extreme for science.”

Another barrier could be that UK students who are interested in a science career often need to abandon other subjects at the age of 16. “People from lower-income backgrounds who are unaware of the range of possible science careers might see it as a high-risk gamble,” says Mathieson.

A third issue is the effect of a sudden trebling of annual university fees to £9,000 (US$12,000) in 2012. “I suspect that fees could be a massive deterrent to those who grow up in families that have to worry about the basic level of income,” says Mathieson.

The danger, she adds, is that a failure to represent all backgrounds will not only squander talent, but increasingly isolate science from society. That disconnect was apparent in the Brexit referendum in June, when more than half of the public voted to leave the European Union, compared with around one in ten researchers. “That diverging world view is a real problem,” says Mathieson, “both for the quality of research and for scientists’ place in society.”

JAPAN: Deepening divisions

By David Cyranoski
In Japan, inequalities in wealth and status do not reach the extremes found in China and India. Nonetheless, graduate education and academic research have become less attractive options over the past decade, especially for the underprivileged. Some warn that this could make research a preserve of the wealthy — with grave social costs.“It is an emerging issue in Japan,” says Yuko Ito, who researches science policy at the Japan Science and Technology Agency in Tokyo, a major science funder.

A big part of the problem is the rise in tuition fees: even at the relatively inexpensive national universities, the ¥86,000 (US$840) in entrance and first-year tuition fees students paid in 1975 would make little dent in the ¥817,800 they’ve been paying since 2005. In addition, thanks to Japan’s long economic contraction, parents are chipping in 19% less for living costs on average than they did a decade ago.

This leaves students increasingly dependent on ‘scholarships’ — which in Japan are mainly loans that need to be paid back. Half of all graduate students have taken out loans, and one-quarter owe more than ¥5 million. “Many students just can’t come up with the tuition and living costs to become researchers,” says Koichi Sumikura, a professor of science policy at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

Even for those who make it through university on loans, jobs that would make the debt worthwhile are far from guaranteed. In their prime years, between the ages of 30 and 60, one-third of university graduates earns less than ¥3 million per year. “In these conditions,” says Ito, “one would hesitate to follow an academic career.”

The social divide in higher education already shows. A crucial step to becoming a researcher is to enter a powerful institution such as the University of Tokyo, where the average income of a student’s family is twice the national average. “If this situation continues,” Ito says, “science will become something that only the rich will hold an interest in, and research will grow distant from solving current social problems.”

The government has taken stock of the issue. A government plan for ‘investment in the future’, announced on 2 August, promises to increase funding for scholarships that need not be repaid as well as to boost the availability of tax-free student loans.

But the government has yet to take up a more specific examination of the relationship between success as a researcher and economic factors, says Sumikura. “That will be an important topic in the future,” he says.

BRAZIL: Progressive policy pays off

By Jeff Tollefson
In Brazil, inequalities in wealth are extreme by almost every measure — including education. The government-run schools are so bad that they are avoided by all but the poorest families. As recently as 2014, just 57% of the country’s 19-year-olds had completed high school.

And yet there are signs of progress, especially in science, technology, engineering and medicine. In 2011, for example, Brazil created Science Without Borders, a programme to send tens of thousands of high-achieving university and graduate students to study abroad. Because students from wealthier families have by far the best primary and secondary education, they might have been expected to dominate the selection process. But by the end of the first phase this year, more than half of the 73,353 participants had come from low-income families.

“These statistics really caught us all by surprise,” says Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist who formerly headed of one of the public foundations that fund Science Without Borders.

In São Paulo, meanwhile, the medical school at the prestigious University of Campinas (UNICAMP) gives preference to admitting gifted students from government-run schools. The programme started in 2004 after research suggested that out of those with similar test scores prior to admittance, predominantly poor government-school students tended to perform better at UNICAMP than did their counterparts from private schools. The former comprised 68% of this year’s entering class.

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, who launched the UNICAMP initiative when he was the university rector, suspects that part of the answer is quite simple. “These students had more obstacles to overcome,” he says. “And when you put them in an environment where the obstacles are more or less the same, they tend to realize more of their potential.”

Brazil may also be seeing the fruits of the government’s effort to improve scientific literacy and push more students into science careers, which gained momentum after the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president in 2003. A division at the federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation focuses entirely on ‘social inclusion’, with programmes to improve public schools and promote research in fields that affect local communities, such as nutrition and sustainability.

The poor quality of secondary education remains a substantial problem that could take a generation or more to address, experts say. Nonetheless, existing initiatives could be boosting the quality of government schools enough for ambitious students to excel, says Nobre. The next question, he says, is whether these students will be able to bolster innovation in Brazilian science. “Now that they are coming into the market, we will have to start evaluating very quickly what happened to these students.”

INDIA: Barriers of language and caste

By T. V. Padma
Despite the renown of technology hubs such as Bangalore and universities such as the multicampus Indian Institute of Technology, vast numbers of talented students in India never get to realize their full potential owing to poor rural schools, language barriers and the caste system. Especially outside the cities, higher education — including science — largely remains a privilege of the rich, the politically powerful and the upper castes.

India’s national census does not collect data on caste, rural or gender representation in science, nor do the country’s science departments. Nonetheless, says Gautam Desiraju, a chemist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, it is clear that rural Indian students are hampered by a lack of good science teachers and lab facilities, and are unaware of opportunities to enter mainstream science (see The barriers are even higher for rural girls, who are discouraged from pursuing higher studies or jobs, and for girls from poor urban families, who are expected to take jobs to contribute to their dowries.

Nature special:Science in India

Many rural students are also hampered by their poor English, the language that schools often use to explain science. “Teachers from elite colleges and interview and selection committees are often biased against such students,” says immunologist Indira Nath, at the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi.

Caste — the hereditary class system of Hindu society — is officially not an issue. India’s constitution and courts have mandated that up to half of the places in education and employment must be reserved for people from historically discriminated-against classes. However, a clause excludes several of India’s top science centres from this requirement. And in reality there is an “unintentional, subtle or hidden discrimination against students from reserved categories, right from high school to college levels”, says Shri Krishna Joshi, a scientist emeritus at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi. Teachers do not encourage them as much as they do students from upper castes. As a result, he says, “poor students from reserved categories in turn often have psychological barriers and believe they cannot compete with the others”.

Still, says Desiraju, there are signs of progress. For a long time, Indian officials assumed that all they had to do was set up centres of scientific excellence and the effects on education would simply trickle down to the masses. “But now,” he says, “agencies are beginning to adopt a more bottom-up approach” that seeks to find talented people at the lowest economic levels.

At the University of Delhi South Campus, geneticist Tapasya Srivastava sees the effects of that shift. “Competitiveness for higher science education is increasing across all caste-based categories and gaps are dissolving,” she says.

“Talented young researchers are getting admissions based on their merit alone and not because of the constitutional provision,” agrees Desiraju. But there is much still to be done, he says. “Finding the right talented girl or boy in a small town or village in India is often like finding a needle in a haystack.”

KENYA: Easy access but poor prospects

By Linda Nordling

Francesco Cocco/Contrasto/eyevine

Poor students from Kenya are often interested in science, but struggle to make it a career.

In Kenya, where around 40% of the population lives on less than US$1.25 a day, class matters surprisingly little for who makes it into science. As one of Africa’s fast-growing ‘lion’ economies, the country has seen university enrolment more than double since 2011, reaching more than 500,000 last year. The government subsidizes tuition fees for poor secondary-school students who get good grades in science, and there are loans available to help them with living expenses.

At the postgraduate level, however, the lack of opportunities in Kenya means that many science hopefuls have to do part of their training abroad. “The problem for me wasn’t getting into science, it was staying in,” says Anne Makena, a Kenyan from a lower-class background with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Moi University in Eldoret. She now has a Rhodes scholarship to finish her PhD in chemical biology at the University of Oxford, UK.

“Class matters surprisingly little for who makes it into science.”

For those staying at home, the surest path to a research career is to get a job with foreign-funded organizations such as the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, or the partnership between the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the UK Wellcome Trust. But competition is fierce, and it can take years to get accepted. This is when graduates from a poorer background are more likely to give up, says Makena. They are drawn by lucrative private-sector salaries and mindful of the need to contribute financially to their families, whereas wealthier students can afford to wait.

Another source of uncertainty is Kenyan universities’ struggle to secure enough operating funds from the government. The shortfall has led vice-chancellors in the country’s public universities to propose up to a five-fold rise in tuition fees for resource-intensive courses, including science. If this happens and government subsidies do not keep pace, poorer students might forego science courses for cheaper degrees.

That would be a pity, says Baldwyn Torto, head of behavioural and chemical ecology at ICIPE, because Kenyan students from modest backgrounds make excellent scientists in his experience. “You find kids from poorer families performing equally well, if not better, than kids from wealthier families,” he says.

RUSSIA: Positive policy, poor productivity

By Quirin Schiermeier
Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russia was quickly given over to untamed capitalism and increasing inequity. Yet the country retained its socialist ideals in education: even now, Russia produces a large share of its science students and researchers from low- and middle-income backgrounds.

“There is a national consensus in Russia regarding the value of equal opportunities in education for the modernization of our country,” says Dmitry Peskov, who directs the young professionals division of the Moscow-based Agency for Strategic Initiatives, which promotes economic innovation in Russia. The country hosts some 3,000 universities and higher learning institutes, and about half of its secondary-school graduates go on to attend them. The average among all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is about 35%.

In peripheral regions such as the Urals or Siberia, where local governments are keen to develop scientific and engineering capacity, teachers identify talented students as early as ages 4 to 6. If they continue to show promise, they are encouraged to enrol at local universities, whose tuition-free programmes may focus on local needs such as agricultural technology.

Children who demonstrate exceptional skills in science, art, sports or even chess may earn admission to the Sirius educational centre in Sochi on the Black Sea. This centre, backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, was set up after the 2014 Winter Olympics to help Russia’s most gifted youths develop their talent with support from leading scientists and professionals.

Since December 2015, prospective students who succeed in local or national science competitions and maths Olympiads can also hope to secure a presidential grant worth 20,000 roubles (US$307) per month. These grants allow hundreds of students from lower social backgrounds to study at the nation’s top universities on the sole condition that they will stay in Russia for at least five years after graduation.

But despite such efforts, Russia’s science output remains relatively low. One reason, Peskov says, is the Russian science community’s isolation. For all their skills and social diversity, Russian researchers tend to speak poor English and are underrepresented in international meetings and collaborations. Uncertainty over the Russian government’s future support of science adds to the problem. “Lucrative jobs in finance, business administration or industry are much more popular among well-trained young Russians than is a risky academic career,” he notes.

World’s Smartest Physicist Thinks Science Can’t Crack Consciousnes.

String theorist Edward Witten says consciousness “will remain a mystery”.

Physicist Edward Witten: “I think consciousness will remain a mystery… I have a much easier time imagining how we understand the Big Bang than I have imagining how we can understand consciousness.” 

I’ve been writing a lot lately about consciousness, the ultimate enigma. I used to think why there is something rather than nothing is the ultimate enigma. But without mind, there might as well be nothing.

Some mind-ponderers, notably philosopher Colin McGinn, argue that consciousness is unsolvable. Philosopher Owen Flanagan calls these pessimists “mysterians,” after the 60’s-era rock group “Question Mark and the Mysterians.”

Recently, physicist Edward Witten came out as a mysterian. Witten is regarded with awe by his fellow physicists, some of whom have compared him to Einstein and Newton. He is largely responsible for the popularity of string theory over the past several decades. String theory holds that all of nature’s forces stem from infinitesimal particles wriggling in a hyperspace consisting of many extra dimensions.

Witten is optimistic about science’s power to solve mysteries, such as why there is something rather than nothing. In a 2014 Q&A with me he said: “The modern scientific endeavor has been going on for hundreds of years by now, and we’ve gotten way farther than our predecessors probably imagined.” He also reaffirmed his belief that string theory will turn out to be “right.”

But in a fascinating video interview with journalist Wim Kayzer, Witten is pessimistic about the prospects for a scientific explanation of consciousness. The chemist Ash Jogalekar, who blogs as “The Curious Wavefunction,” wrote about Witten’s speech and transcribed the relevant section. (Thanks, Ash.) Here is an excerpt:

I think consciousness will remain a mystery. Yes, that’s what I tend to believe. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent. Biologists and perhaps physicists will understand much better how the brain works. But why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think that will remain mysterious. I have a much easier time imagining how we understand the Big Bang than I have imagining how we can understand consciousness… 

Just because Witten is a genius does not mean he is infallible. He is wrong, I believe, that string theory will eventually be validated, and he could be wrong that consciousness will never be explained. I nonetheless find it newsworthy—and refreshing–that a scientist of his caliber is talking so candidly about the limits of science. For reasons that are perhaps too obvious, I like Ash Jogalekar’s take on Witten’s comments. An excerpt:

It’s interesting to contrast Witten’s thoughts with John Horgan’s End of Science thesis… The end of science really is the end of the search for final causation. In that sense not just consciousness but many aspects of the world may always remain a mystery. Whether that is emotionally pleasing or disconcerting is an individual choice that each one of us has to make.

The Next World and the Next

Award-winning sci-fi writer Alice Sola Kim imagines a beautiful and dark future world.

Lena Dunham on Alice Sola Kim’s Story and Women Innovators

Sugar-Sweet Lennys,

My father is a sci-fi nerd of the highest order. Before the Internet, that meant a closet full of dusty 25-cent paperbacks, their covers crawling with cyborgs and barren lunar landscapes and microwaves that could commence time travel. Every Saturday we would walk across then-barren Soho to the now-defunct Science Fiction Bookstore, where, desperate to be every inch his daughter, I would search for my own reading material. But even at age seven I already knew what I liked: stories about girls. And it soon became apparent I wasn’t going to find any of those here. The young-adult series, like My Teacher Is an Alien and Johnny Swift, had scrappy male protagonists traveling through space on glorified skateboards. As for the adult books, the only women I found were nude blue aliens with jaunty antennae, ready to sexually satisfy lonely space captains. I didn’t yet know about Ursula K. Le Guin or the other grand dames of sci-fi, but then again, it didn’t occur to anyone to tell me.

Science fiction is notable as a genre not just because of its escapism, but because of the way it grapples with our current reality: what are science, technology, and innovation doing to the human mind and spirit, and when they reach their inevitable full-on collision, where will that leave us humans? These are the big questions that were being contemplated in my father’s 25-cent paperbacks. But never by women. Not as writers nor as heroes.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (fun and easy acronym: STEM!) are not worlds we associate with women, yet they are full of female pioneers whose stories demand to be told. GE and Lenny have partnered on a program that doesn’t just tell you that women should be at the forefront of science and technology, but shows that they already are.

So it seems only natural that GE would also share our goal of supporting an emerging female sci-fi author as she herself wrestles with questions of science and human consciousness and whether the twain shall meet. Alice Sola Kim is a writer of uncommon philosophical depth and also great imagination. Her story envisions a world in which sick people don’t die — they enter a state of cryogenic stasis instead — but the question remains: what’s in their heads when they’ve been placed on pause? In a series of vignettes, our (gal!) protagonist slowly realizes she may not be among the living anymore, but, because of the advancements in medicine and technology, she is also not dead.

We’ve been excited about our partnership with GE from the jump — we have the chance to profile industry leaders like Beth Comstock and an all-female robotics team, and to show our Lennys just how hard women in science and tech are showing up to play. But I’m especially thrilled that my child self now has some sci-fi she can get behind. No horny three-boobed alien princesses here, just an often hilarious and sometimes painful look at a future where technology enriches our lives and yet we still can’t quite escape being human.

The Next World and the Next

By Alice Sola Kim

Franny went to college, graduated with honors. After that, she got her masters and a Ph.D, and then another Ph.D, for which she completed a thesis on the hermeneutics of online bodybuilding forums. She got tired of the humanities and went back to undergrad so she could do med school. It took a lot of time, but she had the time. She made the time.

After med school, Franny decided to get an MFA. She wrote a story about catching squid with her dad, applied, got in — it all seemed to happen so fast! Franny sat in a small conference room, waiting for the other students to arrive. She hoped at least one or five of them would be cute. A cute girl walked in and sat down across the table from Franny. Franny smiled at her, the girl smiled back, and time passed in a weird way. Franny looked at the clock, which she couldn’t see very well. Her eyes were probably blurry from all the studying. “Where’s everyone else?” she said.

The girl smiled. All she had done, this whole time, was smile. It was getting a little old. “I ate them,” she said, and opened her mouth teasingly. A drop of blood trickled out, then a spurt, then more and more and faster until the blood was gushing from her mouth. The girl was still composed, now laughing, as blood covered the floor. Franny thought, I should have never gotten an MFA, then all thought left her as she paddled frantically, the blood rising to her chest, her chin, her nose, filling her eyes—

Maria had come here through a portal in her hallway closet, and now she was on the road. She was journeying toward a mountain filled with lava in order to destroy a dangerous magical ring. There were many who would attempt to stop her, but she was stalwart, and she was with friends. There was a hot short guy, another hot short guy, a hot tall guy, a hot sociopathic detective and his hot doctor friend, and these two brothers who killed demons together (also hot), who had traveled here from the future.

One day, she awoke to find them all slain. “Run,” someone screamed into her ear, and before she could think, there was a tugging at her belt and she was run-run-running, she was running and being run so fast her feet left the ground and she fluttered like a pennant in the wind—

Jim was a good boy! He couldn’t see red or green, but what he could smell was better than any color. Pebbles, soccer balls, cats, Italian hoagies, car seats, pennies, perms. Jim had no future and was happy all the time. He lived with some friends who were tall and had very long wiggly legs with flat faces balanced on top.

One day, a friend was walking Jim through his neighborhood when, suddenly, the leash went slack. Jim looked up. His friend had disappeared. In his friend’s place was a large, dark, buzzing cloud collecting itself directly above him, thickening by the second. Jim whined.

Everyone is dreaming very busily

When Aya visited her sister, she didn’t try to talk to her.

Other visitors did talk to their stacies, leaning close to the cryocases, resting their hands on top until the cold became unbearable. As you passed, you could hear their murmurs over the unending exhalation of the machines. But there was no point in Aya talking to her sister when her sister couldn’t even talk back. It would feel very bad. It would feel like every worst fight they’d ever had, her sister so nonchalantly sullen that it didn’t even seem like she was angry — more like, Aya had just suddenly never been born, so of course her sister wouldn’t think to speak to her or acknowledge her existence. Which was when Aya would freak out and apologize, saying absolutely anything her sister wanted to hear, because she couldn’t stand glimpsing that dark, lonely universe where her sister would nothear and understand every thought Aya wanted to share with her.

Which were honestly a lot of them.

Aya’s sister was wide and long and flat like Gumby, or an Olympic swimmer. Her shoulders filled the cryocase like she could rip it out of its mooring if she turned over even once during stasis. She had the most sweetly soft look on her face, as if she was about to wake up and ask a question.

But Aya knew better. She was a materials scientist, and so were her best friends. It wasn’t like that TV show with the group of best friends where one was a chef and one was a fashion designer and one was the president and one was a ghost that lived on the Internet. Aya and her closest friends had met and banded together at school, at work, at work-related conferences. Her friend Min worked in cryostasis. She had helped to develop the plasma complex that replaced the stacies’ blood. Min told Aya that what looked like a window on the cryocase was actually a screen. “Stacies aren’t cute,” she said. “Dead is dead.” Min was not unaware of people’s feelings and sensitivities; rather, she considered them and then decided it was best to be blunt anyway, which Aya usually appreciated.

It had bothered people that they couldn’t look at the faces of their loved ones in stasis. It felt abstract and chilly and stupid to visit, like, a giant silver pill. Anything could be in there. Bad for morale, bad for funding, but it would all be even worse if the visitors saw how the stacies really looked, so instead the cryocenter had screens put into the cryocases, displaying cute, cleaned-up, highest-fidelity 3-D images of the stacies resting within.

Aya thought that it was hard to know so much.

Unlike the other stacies, Aya’s sister had a private room at the cryocenter. Aya had paid for it, and for a higher quality of care. She had a lot of money, but she spent all her time hanging out with her dead-not-dead sister and working. She loved work, but she could definitely be having more fun. Going to Belize, watching the coral rebuild. Partying in a Manhattan watermanse. She had the invitations and everything; her work had helped make it all possible.

Her sister’s room was not a nice room. There was a cot in case Aya wanted a nap alongside her sister, no window, and, despite her complaints, there were always persistent dust flurries caught around the bottom of her sister’s cryocase, the same way dust and hair collected around every crevice of Aya’s free weights. But she knew that everything was as expensive as it didn’t look. It cost a lot of money to thwart death. It was hard work to keep a body ready to be alive when all it wanted was the other thing. You had to make the body so cold that entropy would ignore it, tricked into thinking that it was out of the game and thus beyond entropy’s notice. But also, this frozen body had to be a place where life could possibly return in the future, where shoots might come up and blood would rush in.

The last time Aya spoke to her sister was right before she went into stasis. The more Aya thought about it, which was a lot, the more firmly she decided that maybe this was one of those opportunities that no one should have. Her sister had been inconsolable about the prospect of dreaming for so long. During stasis, you were meant to have a kind of brain activity that was sort of like dreaming, but more consistent. The first generation of stacies had been lost because no one had known that they needed a bunch of interesting, distracting stuff going on in their brains; like, stasis was supposed to be stasis, so who knew? But what happened to the first generation was creepy and undeniable, even though everything else had gone as it should.

“What if it’s a bad dream,” her sister sobbed. “I don’t want a bad dream. I don’t want to have anything.”

“It’s not,” Aya had said. “It won’t be. It’s not.” She said it over and over again as if quantity could compensate for quality, for actual factual information, because who even did know? There was no second generation yet.

She was so tired. She had come to visit her sister from work, where the current project was a new kind of membrane for a third round of desalination machines, through which seawater sieved and came out fresh. The old ones worked OK, but they weren’t as energy-efficient as they could be, and California was still thirsty. People were moving back in droves — she really should visit. Aya knew she been born to a dirty world. A tired world. Her mother and father had waded through it, and Aya had been born miraculously, seemingly fine despite all that, but not her sister.

And it was seeing this little sister of hers in pain, in trouble after trouble after trouble, that made Aya vow to not worship a god that was a man or a deity but instead become her own god, to study and learn so that she could grow up to remake and unmake Earth how she thought best — and it was working, wasn’t it? Aya and the women she knew were creating a better world, whether they were harvesting giant beds of genetically engineered kelp or staying the hand of death.

She loved work and she loved her sister and she could not tell which of these things was making her feel tired. It should have been neither, right? Aya lay on the cot, leaving a foot on the floor like she was drunk, and dozed off for a moment.

She heard people talking. Their voices loomed over her, pleasantly stretchy and smooth. She was still sleeping and couldn’t move.

“I’m worried about her.”

“What’s to worry about?”

“This readout.”

“It’s within normal. These variations happen. It’s a long time. Just chill. Haha, get it?”

“Ugh, please stop. I guess you’re right.”

“Look, it’s not like she’s the only one—”

Their voices kept going but now they were quieting, dwindling, as if they were getting sucked out into space. But suddenly there was a new voice.

“Do you think we should eat her?” it said, right by her ear.

Aya awoke, freezing cold. She had just had a dream, possibly the most boring dream ever, about a conversation she had had a few days ago with Min about her sister. Except in the dream, she wasn’t herself, she was her sister, unable to see or move or do anything. She could hear, even though stacies couldn’t hear anything. The dream had ended weirdly — Aya couldn’t remember how, but she felt terrible. That was the thing about dreams: They could make you feel so mad or sexy or scared even when you couldn’t remember a thing about the dream. All that remained was the animal part of your brain that was convinced something had happened.

She left her sister’s room and walked down the hallway. Sometimes people worked late at the cryolab, but tonight everyone had gone home. In the bathroom, it was so dark for a moment that the darkness had heft and texture, a goopiness, but then the lights flickered on. Aya would have preferred for the lights to have been on already. Motion-sensor lights, but ones that could predict the future and would turn on right before they detected your motion so you’d never have to be scared of the dark! She yawned so hugely her mouth threatened to eat her face.

She peed, washed her hands, tried to be kind and generous about the droopy, unpromising image reflected back at her. As she left, Aya heard a sound and turned. In the stall closest to the door, she saw a pair of bare feet drop down daintily and pivot to face her. The lights flickered off. This time the dark was definitely a thing with intention (bad) and movement (swift, in her direction).

Aya dashed toward her sister’s room and slammed the door behind her. She looked out of the little window inset in the door. There was nothing in the hallway. However, there was something in the room with her. Two women and a dog were huddled in the corner. One woman was covered in blood, one woman in dirt. The dog seemed normal, happy, even. They all looked familiar.

The dirty woman stood. “Halt,” she said, “Do not go out there. You are in grave danger.”

The three of them had been fighting for days, they said. The bloody woman, whose name was Franny, had been attacked first. She had kicked a window out and spilled into the dirty woman’s world. The dirty woman, whose name was Maria, had fought off the creature with Franny’s help, and they had been moving from world to world together, but were too late or weak to save the others from being devoured. They had just rescued the dog, whose nametag read “Jim.”

Franny and Maria did not agree on what the thing was, if it was an alien or if it was bad people or if it was a manifestation of their own minds. They just called it a thought-creature. What was clear was that at some point, they would need to fight it. But not here, not yet, not when they were cornered.

Maria said, “What you must do is find the weak point into the next world.”

“Hold on,” said Aya. There was a knock at the door.

“It’s the demon,” said Maria.

“It’s the serial killer!” said Franny.

Jim barked.

Franny said, “Open that thing.”

“No!” said Aya.

Franny glared at her and kicked the cryocase. When Aya went to stop her, she saw that the cryocase had changed. Instead of her sister, it was Aya who was lying inside, sleeping, looking like she was about to wake up and ask the question. Oh. She wondered what the question might be.

The knocking grew louder, booming against the door.

Aya was nothing if not pragmatic. She was adaptable, not a dumb person or a pushover, but someone who was fully aware of all the beautiful and dark possibilities of the world. She knew she had a very short time to mourn everything. “Wait,” Aya said. “What was it like, where you came from?”

“Adventures available to brave men and women alike. Friends banding together against evil. Many hotties,” said Maria. “I want to go back.”

“Time enough for everything,” said Franny. “Me too.”

“And yours?” they asked.

Aya told them about jets the size of mansions. Mansions floating on water in Manhattan, coral reefs corseted and bolstered back to life, skyscrapers in earthquake zones that jiggled instead of cracked. “Sure,” they said. “OK.”

She told them that the world had become harder to live in. But that it was their fault, they knew that, and they were fixing it. They were learning from their mistakes. She told them about Cassandra, her friend who loved flesh so much she could think of ways to create and shape it that had never been seen before. Cassandra had developed a comfortable polymer that protected and supported the skin. It didn’t feel like you were wearing anything, and it even flattened your eye bags. She was the most beautiful woman Aya had ever known in person, and she had a different face tattoo every week. Vain Cassandra with her sumptuous kindness, who had been burned on over half her body as a child and would have no one know what it felt like to be in such suffering.

Franny and Maria looked at each other and shrugged.

“Truly, a world of miracles,” said Maria.

“I wish I could stay,” said Aya.

“For our sakes, I hope that some of this world is real,” said Franny. “It sounds like a beautiful place. I’d take a piece of it. But we really do have to go right now.”

“I love my world,” said Aya. “I will fight for it.”

“We’ll all fight for it,” Maria said.

The door began to crack. They opened the cryocase onto a narrow gray void and each jumped in, Aya last, giving one final lingering look at her world, a world made and fixed by her and her friends and people she would never meet now, her gorgeous world which she was either dreaming up or dreaming in.

World’s Smartest Physicist Thinks Science Can’t Crack Consciousness

String theorist Edward Witten says consciousness “will remain a mystery”.

Physicist Edward Witten: “I think consciousness will remain a mystery… I have a much easier time imagining how we understand the Big Bang than I have imagining how we can understand consciousness.” 

I’ve been writing a lot lately about consciousness, the ultimate enigma. I used to think why there is something rather than nothing is the ultimate enigma. But without mind, there might as well be nothing.

Some mind-ponderers, notably philosopher Colin McGinn, argue that consciousness is unsolvable. Philosopher Owen Flanagan calls these pessimists “mysterians,” after the 60’s-era rock group “Question Mark and the Mysterians.”

Recently, physicist Edward Witten came out as a mysterian. Witten is regarded with awe by his fellow physicists, some of whom have compared him to Einstein and Newton. He is largely responsible for the popularity of string theory over the past several decades. String theory holds that all of nature’s forces stem from infinitesimal particles wriggling in a hyperspace consisting of many extra dimensions.

Witten is optimistic about science’s power to solve mysteries, such as why there is something rather than nothing. In a 2014 Q&A with me he said: “The modern scientific endeavor has been going on for hundreds of years by now, and we’ve gotten way farther than our predecessors probably imagined.” He also reaffirmed his belief that string theory will turn out to be “right.”

But in a fascinating video interview with journalist Wim Kayzer, Witten is pessimistic about the prospects for a scientific explanation of consciousness. The chemist Ash Jogalekar, who blogs as “The Curious Wavefunction,” wrote about Witten’s speech and transcribed the relevant section. (Thanks, Ash.) Here is an excerpt:

I think consciousness will remain a mystery. Yes, that’s what I tend to believe. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent. Biologists and perhaps physicists will understand much better how the brain works. But why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think that will remain mysterious. I have a much easier time imagining how we understand the Big Bang than I have imagining how we can understand consciousness… 

Just because Witten is a genius does not mean he is infallible. He is wrong, I believe, that string theory will eventually be validated, and he could be wrong that consciousness will never be explained. I nonetheless find it newsworthy—and refreshing–that a scientist of his caliber is talking so candidly about the limits of science. For reasons that are perhaps too obvious, I like Ash Jogalekar’s take on Witten’s comments. An excerpt:

It’s interesting to contrast Witten’s thoughts with John Horgan’s End of Science thesis… The end of science really is the end of the search for final causation. In that sense not just consciousness but many aspects of the world may always remain a mystery. Whether that is emotionally pleasing or disconcerting is an individual choice that each one of us has to make.

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