Astrology Of January 2022 – Renewal

December 31, 2021

2022 has amazing things in store for all of us, so there’s a lot to be excited about, especially from March 2022 onwards. Of course, things don’t always get better in the blink of an eye.

January 2022’s theme is renewal. January is the transition month – from what 2021 has brought us to the sweet promises that await us on the other side of the dark Pluto tunnel of transformation.

The most important astrological event of the month is Lunar Nodes switching signs: the North Node moves into Taurus, and the South Node moves into Scorpio.

The Lunar Nodes only switch signs once every year and a half, so this ingress is very important because it will activate completely different areas of our lives. What used to be important to us in the past 18 months when the Nodes have been in Gemini and Sagittarius will now take a back seat, as new themes are requiring our focus.

Another important theme in January is the Pluto conjunctions with our personal planets. In December 2021 we already got a taste of Pluto, with 2 Venus-Pluto conjunctions.

In January 2022, Mercury is in a conjunction orb with Pluto for almost the entire month, and on January 16th, 2022 we also have our yearly Sun-Pluto conjunction.

This is a lot of Pluto energy! If you remember, we had a stellium in Capricorn back in 2020 so this Plutonic energy is not entirely new to us, however there’s a big difference now.

Back in 2020 we had the outer planets in Capricorn. Outer planetary energy is collective and outside our control. Life happened TO us.

However, in January 2022 it’s the personal planets – Mercury, Venus and the Sun that go through Pluto’s purgatory fire of transformation. Things now get personal, transforming us at a core, identity level.

This is a strong renewal energy, inviting you to get to the bottom of who you really are, so you can find your true power, stripped of Ego. Pluto is asking you to transform in ways you’ve never done before, Pluto is asking you to go all the way through… it’s this time, or never.

These conjunctions happen in Capricorn, and Capricorn speaks for structural change. Is not just some things that will change here and there, it is about re-arranging everything at a systemic level. On the other side of Pluto’s transformation, a completely new YOU will emerge.

January 2022 is a transition month. There is hope on the horizon but to get there we still have some important work to do. Venus and Mercury are both retrograde in the underworld dealing with stuff that has been deeply buried but that needs our attention now.

January 2nd, 2022 – Mercury Enters Aquarius

On January 2nd, 2022 Mercury leaves Capricorn and enters Aquarius.

Normally, Mercury feels pretty good in Aquarius, because it shares its intellectual and airy qualities of communication, expansion, and freedom of movement. However Mercury is now slowing down and preparing to go retrograde. Mercury is also applying to a conjunction with Saturn.

Mercury is now less chatty than your usual Mercury in Aquarius, asking us to become more reflective and more intentional about our communication.

January 2nd, 2022 – New Moon In Capricorn

On January 2nd, 2022 we have a New Moon at 12° Capricorn. The New Moon is part of a Capricorn stellium reinforcing the Renewal theme, and fueling our ambitions for the New Year.

The New Moon in Capricorn positively aspects Uranus, so the universe is on our side. It’s not only OK to dream big in 2022 – it is strongly encouraged! This is the best time to set your intentions for 2022, so you may want to wait with your New Year’s Resolutions for a couple of days.

January 9th, 2022 – Sun Conjunct Venus In Capricorn

On January 9th, 2022 Sun is conjunct Venus in Capricorn. In the heart of the Sun, Venus officially begins a new 18-month cycle. Sun conjunct Venus is a rebirth of the heart. Our heart chakra realigns with the Solar Plexus. Our values realign with who we truly are.

There are parts of ourselves that used to define us in the past – and some of these parts may no longer be relevant, they may no longer serve our growth. But there is also a part of us that never changes. And we should not forget about it either, because that’s our essence, who we truly are, behind layers and layers of conditioning.

Beginning of cycles are very powerful, so you really want to take your time to tap into this powerful renewal energy of the Sun-Venus conjunction to get crystal clear about who you really are and what it is that you truly want.

This is not necessarily a time to make bold movements, to make important decisions, since Venus is still retrograde. This is however a time to understand what really matters, what’s truly important.

January 14th, 2022 – Mercury Goes Retrograde In Aquarius

On January 14th, 2022 Mercury goes retrograde at 10° Aquarius. Stationary Mercury is square Uranus, triggering the Saturn-Uranus square that influenced us at a collective level throughout 2021.

There may be some important announcements and revelations about themes connected to the Saturn/Uranus square. The approach to the pandemic may change, there may be some revisions and new perspectives being considered.

Since Mercury is retrograde, this may not be the final direction, but it’s important to pay attention to what happens when Mercury goes direct because it may open our eyes to something that has been overlooked in the past.

January 16th, 2022 – Sun Conjunct Pluto In Capricorn

On January 16th, 2022 the Sun is conjunct Pluto at 26° Capricorn. This is the time of the year to surrender our Ego to whatever the higher Pluto truth requires from us. We not only have the but also Mercury and Venus all conjunct Pluto from December to early March.

There’s a lot of Pluto energy, inviting us to transform at a core, structural level. If you’re still unsure about what all these Venus and Mercury Pluto transformations exactly require from you, pay attention to anything that happens, any download or any aha moments you may have around January 16th.

Some insights about ourselves, about who we really are, can be hard to take in. But as soon as we surrender to whatever this truth is, the exact thing we’ve been terrified of becomes our greatest ally.

January 17th, 2022 – Full Moon In Cancer

On January 17th, 2022 we have a Full Moon at 27° Cancer. The Full Moon is opposite Pluto, reinforcing the transformation and renewal themes of this month.

If you’ve been feeling the Pluto pressure, but also stuck with no clear options on what’s the next step, the Full Moon in Cancer will give you that outside perspective. You’ll be able to step out of yourself and look at things from a witness perspective.

Things will suddenly become clear, and you’ll know exactly what you need to do.

January 18th, 2022 – North Node Enters Taurus, South Node Enters Scorpio

On January 18th, 2022 we have one of the most important events of the year. The Lunar Nodes change signs. The North Node leaves Gemini and moves into Taurus, and the South Node leaves Sagittarius and moves into Scorpio.

At a collective level, there emphasis will shift from Gemini-Sagittarius themes (movement, travel, education, laws) to Taurus-Scorpio themes (values, finances, possessions).

At a personal level, you want to look at the houses ruled by Taurus and Scorpio in your natal chart to see which areas of your life will be impacted by this transit.

January 18th, 2022 – Uranus Goes Direct

On January 18th, 2022 Uranus goes direct at 10° Taurus, so we will have an intensification of Uranian energy. Some sudden changes, announcements, revelations can turn our lives upside down.

Since the North Node is now in Taurus activating Uranus for the whole year, we’d better get used to Uranus’ liberating energy.

Some Uranian-driven changes may come at a shock, but if we’re really honest to ourselves we know that these changes only happen to get us unstuck from situations that we’ve been complacent with for too long.

January 20th, 2022 – Sun Enters Aquarius

On January 20th, 2022 Sun enters Aquarius. Happy birthday to all Aquarius people out there! 2021 was an intense year for many of you, and you all deserve a good pat on the shoulder. Your rulers, Saturn and Uranus have just come out of their 3rd (and final square) so relief will come soon!

January 23rd, 2022 – Sun Conjunct Mercury In Aquarius

On January 23rd, 2022 Sun is conjunct Mercury at 3° Aquarius and a new Mercury cycle begins.

Sun-Mercury cycles are great times to start a new Mercury project, and since the conjunction happens in Aquarius, this may be something connected to communication, technology, social media, friends, networks and groups of people.

Pay attention to any news and downloads that come around January 23rd, because this will be a relevant theme in the next 3 months.

January 24th, 2022 – Mars Enters Capricorn

On January 24th, 2022 Mars leaves Sagittarius and enters Capricorn. Mars is exalted in Capricorn so the next couple of months are a great time to get intentional about what it is that you want to achieve.

Mars in Capricorn will give you that extra stamina and persistence so you follow through with your projects, no matter what.

Mars is in interesting company in Capricorn, rubbing shoulders with Venus and Pluto. This trio is dynamite. Venus, Mars and Pluto will fuel our desires to levels we have never experienced before.

We may want something so badly, so obsessively, that no one will stop us from getting it. With Venus, Mars and Pluto in Capricorn no mountain is high enough.

January 26th, 2022 – Mercury Re-enters Capricorn

On January 26th, 2022 Mercury retrograde re-enters Capricorn to finish what he has started in December 2022.

Mercury is conjunct Pluto for a record of almost 3 weeks so you can bet that whatever Mercury has to do in Capricorn will be an intense, all consuming endeavour. Get ready for some intense revelations and remember that the truth will piss you off first, but it will eventually set you free.

January 29th, 2022 – Venus Goes Direct, Mercury Conjunct Pluto

January ends on an intense note. Venus goes direct and on the same day, Mercury retrograde is conjunct Pluto at 26° Capricorn.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, things will change for the better, and we’re almost there. Just a little bit more of Pluto shedding and uncovering our truth. In February, March and especially in April we will see the fruits of our intense labor.

Join The Age Of Aquarius Community

If you liked this forecast, you will love our monthly Age Of Aquarius forecast that includes astrology and tarot readings for each ascendant sign.

Every month we have a New Moon Goal setting ceremony so if you want to set powerful New Year’s Resolutions by following our proven New Moon goal-setting process, that’s another incentive to join us.

More reasons to become an Age Of Aquarius member? From January 6th to January 9th we will run a Vision Board challenge inside the Age Of Aquarius community forum. Have fun and get your vision board done in alignment with your natal chart and the 2022 transits!

Join us and grab the “Welcome 2022” bonuses before they expire here:

To Life: Vanessa’s Wedding Surprise

usnaviusnavi My surprise for my wife Vanessa on our wedding day. All of Vanessa’s close friends and family rehearsed for a month in secret, leading up to the reception. What we lack in polish, we hopefully make up for in joy and love. In any event, everyone in this video has one thing in common: We’d do anything to show Vanessa how much we love her. A heartfelt thanks to all our friends and family who participated. Special thanks to Alex Lacamoire, who went above and beyond on the music tip, Sara Miller, for her incredible patience and choreography, Andy Blankenbuehler for letting us use his studio, and Films by Francesco, for filming and putting this together so quickly and beautifully. And thanks to Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick, for writing an unbelievably good song. L’Chaim!

(Courtesy of Dan Rather)

Replace the Fleeting by the Everlasting – Erica Georgiades

Erica Georgiades  (

“There is only an ETERNAL NOW”
(Letter 12, Chron. ed./Letter 6 Barker ed.)
 In this short presentation, for the 146th International Convention of the Theosophical Society, Erica Georgiades discusses the mystical utterance and philosophical idea that eternity is in the present, in the now. The idea that the past is meaningless because it is gone, the future is meaningless because it is not yet here is linked to a worldview known as presentism. In contrast, the idea that past, present and future are full of meaning is connected to a worldview known as eternalism. Eternalism is anti-meaninglessness and supports the notion that the past and the future are as meaningful and important as the present. She also discusses why many mystics and philosophers thought that the present, an instant, a moment, is impregnated with eternity. For instance, Krishnamurti thought that eternity is holy, sacred, and divine; Kierkegaard thought eternity is the fullness of time and the present. Blavatsky linked eternity to duration, meaning timeless. She closes by inviting you to shift from the idea that the present is the only thing that matters as part and future are gone, to the idea that the present, the now, is impregnated with eternity.

Love evolves and death isn’t worth your worry – life lessons from an 88-year-old

An intimate and artful slice-of-life portrait, Inga captures the routines and reflections of an 88-year-old woman named Inga Boysen. Framed as a peek into her daily life and careful reflections as she records a memoir in a notebook, this documentary by the Danish-born, Norwegian-based filmmaker Uffe Mulvad follows Boysen through everyday routines of waking, writing, exercising and bathing in a nearby lake. Her memoir is presented in two chapters. The first is about love, and how over time it evolves from something electric and unreasonable to something more calm, negotiated and sustainable. The second is a reflection on the bittersweet nature of old age. Like Boysen’s daily swim, the short film makes for a brief-yet-nurturing encounter.

Director: Uffe Mulvad

Producer: Jonathan Langelund 3 August 2021 (

Top UCSF Doc Says That We Could Be in ‘A Pretty Good Situation in February’ Where COVID Is ‘Like the Flu’


An optimistic but data-rich tweetstorm from UCSF Department of Medicine chair Dr. Bob Wachter — one of several this week — lays out the case that we could be on the verge of finally subduing the COVID-19 menace, albeit after a very rough January.

SFist had the pleasure of interviewing UCSF Department of Medicine chair Dr. Bob Wachter this week, in our analysis of whether we should go to New Year’s Eve parties. (His assessment? “I wouldn’t do it.”) Wachter has become something of a Twitter phenomenon over the course of the pandemic for his insightful tweetstorms that lay out complicated medical theory in digestible language. And a Wednesday Wachter tweetstorm has gone viral in a good way, as the esteemed physician declares, despite the dire current situation with an explosion of Omicron cases and the return of new restrictions, that “I’ll take you to my Happy Place, with some thoughts on why we could be in good shape – and maybe even great shape – in 6-8 weeks.”

The full 24-tweet thread is definitely worth a complete read, but we’ll unpack the highlights. And the “Happy Place” thread begins in a Sad and Terrified Place, noting that “Case rates are skyrocketing”, “hospitalizations are going up fast,” and that “there are shortages of key tools, including testing (both PCR & antigen).”

But Wachter bets his bottom dollar that tomorrow (actually February) there’ll be sun. Around Tweet 8 of 24, he points out that “With Omicron this infectious, many vaxxed people will get mild breakthrough cases,” but that on the flip side, this “should leave them even more protected vs. another infection.” He adds that “virtually all unvaxxed people, unless they’re being uber-careful, will get infected shortly,” which may bring some schadenfreude, but is a scary proposition for hospitals and front-line workers.

Nonetheless, the likely medical outcome here is that “In any case, society’s overall immunity to Omicron should be far higher in 4-6 weeks.”

But a giant (albeit overdue) increase in access to COVID tests, plus the arrival of the treatment pill Paxlovid will further help us through the slog of the, let’s just call it now, post-New Year’s surge. We are likely in for a very awful January, but per Wachter, “in a month we could find ourselves with an outpatient pill that lowers hospitalization & mortality rate of high-risk patients by ~90%.”

He cites credible data that Paxlovid “lowers chance of a severe case to 1/10th of what it would have been”

Which brings us to a pair of run-on sentences that are absolute music to our ears: “By early February, we could be in a place where Covid is, in fact, ‘like the flu’ – with the vast majority of the U.S. protected through vaccines or recent infections, folks at higher risk having ready access to an oral treatment that markedly lowers their risk, and a healthcare system no longer stressed to the point of perilousness – for both Covid patients & others needing our services. At that point, allowing folks to go ‘back to normal’ might be a reasonable posture – while recognizing that higher risk people – or those who have contact with them (eg, parents of unvaxxed toddlers, people who live or work with the immunosuppressed) – may logically choose to continue their cautious behavior, such as masking and avoiding crowded indoor spaces.”

Obviously, we’ve been headfaked before on the supposed “end of COVID.” But Wachter is one of the smartest people in the field, he’s not running for office nor is he partisan, and he makes an excellent case that “I think the likeliest outcome is a pretty good situation in February.” That’s something we would all cheer for.

But you have a part in making the Happy Place happen. As Wachter advises, “It’s time to be more careful – to avoid crowded indoor spaces (sorry, New Year’s Eve).”

Link to tweets:

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – New Year’s Resolution – 1968 45rpm

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New Year’s Resolution


Otis Redding, Carla Thomas


New Year’s Resolution

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Probable Impossibilities: Physicist Alan Lightman on Beginnings, Endings, and What Makes Life Worth Living

By Maria Popova (

How our cosmic improbability confers dignity and meaning upon our shared existence.


Probable Impossibilities: Physicist Alan Lightman on Beginnings, Endings, and What Makes Life Worth Living

“What exists, exists so that it can be lost and become precious,” Lisel Mueller, who lived to nearly 100, wrote in her gorgeous poem “Immortality” a century and a half after a young artist pointed the world’s largest telescope at the cosmos to capture the first surviving photograph of the Moon and the first-ever photograph of a star: Vega — an emissary of spacetime, reaching its rays across twenty-five lightyears to imprint the photographic plate with a image of the star as it had been twenty-five years earlier, immortalizing a moment already long gone.

And yet in a cosmological sense, what exists is precious not because it will one day be lost but because it has overcome the staggering odds of never having existed at all: Within the fraction of matter in the universe that is not dark matter, a fraction of atoms cohered into the elements necessary to form the complex structures necessary for life, of which a tiny portion cohered into the seething cauldron of complexity we call consciousness — the tiny, improbable fraction of a fraction of a fraction with which we have the perishable privilege of contemplating the universe in our poetry and our physics.

In Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and Endings (public library), the poetic physicist Alan Lightman sieves four centuries of scientific breakthroughs, from Kepler’s revolutionary laws of planetary motion to the thousands of habitable exoplanets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission, to estimate that even with habitable planets orbiting one tenth of all stars, the faction of living matter in the universe is about one-billionth of one-billionth: If all the matter in the universe were the Gobi desert, life would be but a single grain of sand.

One of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original watercolors for The Little Prince

Along the way, Lightman draws delicate lines of figuring from Hindu cosmology to quantum gravity, from Pascal to inflation theory, from Lucretius to Henrietta Leavitt and Edwin Hubble — lines contouring the most elemental questions that have always animated humanity, questions that are themselves the answer to what it means to be human.

Building on his lifelong passion for harmonizing our touching human partialities with the fundamental reality of an impartial universe — our hunger for absolutes in a relative world, our yearning for permanence in a universe of constant change — he writes:

As we have struggled through the ages to fathom this strange and wondrous cosmos in which we find ourselves, few ideas have been richer than the concept of nothingness. For to understand anything, as Aristotle argued, we must understand what it is not. To understand matter, said the ancient Greeks, we must understand the “void,” or the absence of matter.

Because we are self-referential creatures — the consequence of being creatures with selves, itself the consequence of consciousness and the ceaseless electrical storm of neural firings that gives rise to our sense of self — no void troubles us more than that of our own mortality: the notion of our absence from the scene of life. It is difficult enough to grasp how somethingness could have arisen from nothingness — how the universe can exist at all. It savages the mind and its animating selfhood to consider that everything — including the subset constituting the particular something of us — could dissolve to nothingness.

Art by Derek Dominic D’souza from Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman

It is a discomposing notion — even for a physicist without delusion about the materiality of life, with a soulful reverence for the poetry of existence. Lightman closes his essay on the science of nothingness with a sentiment of touching, inescapable humanity:

What I feel and I know is that I am here now, at this moment in the grand sweep of time. I am not part of the void. I am not a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum. Even though I understand that someday my atoms will be scattered in soil and in air, that I will no longer exist, I am alive now. I am feeling this moment. I can see my hand on my writing desk. I can feel the warmth of the Sun through the window. And looking out, I can see a pine-needled path that goes down to the sea.

Another essay, titled “Immortality,” explores this irreconcilable dissonance between the creaturely and the cosmic — the dissonance from which we make our most symphonic art as we try to fathom our existence. Lying in his hammock one summer day, Lightman observes:

A hundred years from now, I’ll be gone, but many of these spruce and cedars will still be here. The wind going through them will still sound like a distant waterfall. The curve of the land will be the same as it is now. The paths that I wander may still be here, although probably covered with new vegetation. The rocks and ledges on the shore will be here, including a particular ledge I’m quite fond of, shaped like the knuckled back of a large animal. Sometimes, I sit on that ledge and wonder if it will remember me. Even my house might still be here, or at least the concrete posts of its footing, crumbling in the salt air. But eventually, of course, even this land will shift and change and dissolve. Nothing persists in the material world. All of it changes and passes away.

Robert Fludd’s pioneering 1617 conception of non-space, long before the notion of the vacuum existed in cosmology. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

And yet, in an echo of one of the book’s subtlest yet profoundest undertones, Lightman challenges our binary view of life and death. With an eye to consciousness — “the seemingly strange experience” that furnishes “the most profound and troubling aspect of human existence” — he argues that death is not the life-switch in the off position but the gradual dimming of consciousness, of our experience of aliveness, through the deterioration of its physical infrastructure.

Ever since Cecilia Payne discovered the chemical fingerprint of the universe, we have known that the atoms we are made of — seven thousand trillion trillion atoms in each of us, on average — were forged in the furnace of faraway stars. We know, too, that every cell in our bodies — the tendons that stiffen our fists and the cortices that kindle our tenderness — is made of atoms. Lightman writes:

To an alien intelligence, each of us human beings would appear to be an assemblage of atoms, humming with our various electrical and chemical energies. To be sure, it is a special assemblage. A rock does not behave like a person… When we die, this special assemblage disassembles. The atoms remain, only scattered about.

Art by Dorothy Lathrop, 1922. (Available as a print.)

That special assemblage is what we call consciousness. A century after Virginia Woolf observed that “one can’t write directly about the soul [for] looked at, it vanishes,” Lightman writes:

The soul, as commonly understood, we cannot discuss scientifically. Not so with consciousness, and the closely related Self. Isn’t the experience of consciousness and Self an illusion caused by those trillions of neuronal connections and electrical and chemical flows? If you don’t like the word illusion, then you can stick with the sensation itself. You can say that what we call the Self is a name we give to the mental sensation of certain electrical and chemical flows in our neurons. That sensation is rooted in the material brain. And I do not mean to diminish the brain in any way by affirming its materiality. The human brain is capable of all of the wondrous feats of imagination and self-reflection and thought that we ascribe to our highest existence. But I do claim that it’s all atoms and molecules. If the alien intelligence examined a human being in detail, he/she/it would see fluids flowing, sodium and potassium gates opening and closing as electricity races through nerve cells, acetylcholine molecules migrating between synapses. But he/she/it would not find a Self. The Self and consciousness, I think, are names we give to the sensations produced by all of those electrical and chemical flows.

If someone began disassembling my brain one neuron at a time, depending on where the process began I might first lose a few motor skills, then some memories, then perhaps the ability to find particular words to make sentences, the ability to recognize faces, the ability to know where I was. During this slow taking apart of my brain, I would become more and more disoriented. Everything I associate with my ego and Self would gradually dissolve away into a bog of confusion and minimal existence. The doctors in their blue and green scrub suits could drop the removed neurons, one by one, into a metal bowl. Each a tiny gray gelatinous blob. Stringy with the axons and dendrites. Soft, so you would not hear the little thuds as each plopped in the bowl.

An understanding of death as “the name that we give to a collection of atoms that once had the special arrangement of a functioning neuronal network and now no longer does so” renders the boundary between life and death more like a shoreline redrawn by the receding tide pool than like a coastal cliff dropping off into the abyss. And yet even as a scientific materialist with no mystical inclinations and no belief in an afterlife, Lightman remains what we all are — fundamentally human in our special assemblage of atoms — and gives voice to that fundamental humanity with uncommon splendor of sentiment:

Despite my belief that I am only a collection of atoms, that my awareness is passing away neuron by neuron, I am content with the illusion of consciousness. I’ll take it. And I find a pleasure in knowing that a hundred years from now, even a thousand years from now, some of my atoms will remain in this place where I now lie in my hammock. Those atoms will not know where they came from, but they will have been mine. Some of them will once have been part of the memory of my mother dancing the bossa nova. Some will once have been part of the memory of the vinegary smell of my first apartment. Some will once have been part of my hand. If I could label each of my atoms at this moment, imprint each with my Social Security number, someone could follow them for the next thousand years as they floated in air, mixed with the soil, became parts of particular plants and trees, dissolved in the ocean and then floated again to the air. Some will undoubtedly become parts of other people, particular people. Some will become parts of other lives, other memories. That might be a kind of immortality.

Art from Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, 1750 — the first book to describe the spiral shape of the Milky Way. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

As if it were not staggering enough how tiny a fraction of space life animates, Lightman observes that it also animates a fraction of time — not merely in terms of the transience of any one life, but in terms of all life occupying only a slender slice of the totality of time in the universe, as the discovery of cosmic acceleration has revealed. The cosmic brevity of “the era of life” is bookended on one end by the slow condensation of colossal gas clouds into the first stars that forged the first atoms large enough to form complex structures, after the universe had already existed for about one billion years, and bookended on the other by the eventual death of all stars when they burn out in several thousand billion years, leaving behind a dark lifeless expanse of pure spacetime.

Here we each are, each existence a summer day suspended in the hammock of spacetime.

And yet even in these cold unfeeling cosmic facts, Lightman finds reason to swell the brevity of existence with the warm feeling of kinship that makes life worth living. With an eye to his grain-of-Gobi-sand analogy, he writes:

Life in our universe is a flash in the pan, a few moments in the vast unfolding of time and space in the cosmos… A realization of the scarcity of life makes me feel some ineffable connection to other living things… a kinship in being among those few grains of sand in the desert, or present during the relatively brief era of life in the vast temporal sprawl of the universe.


We share something in the vast corridors of this cosmos we find ourselves in. What exactly is it we share? Certainly, the mundane attributes of “life”: the ability to separate ourselves from our surroundings, to utilize energy sources, to grow, to reproduce, to evolve. I would argue that we “conscious” beings share something more during our relatively brief moment in the “era of life”: the ability to witness and reflect on the spectacle of existence, a spectacle that is at once mysterious, joyous, tragic, trembling, majestic, confusing, comic, nurturing, unpredictable and predictable, ecstatic, beautiful, cruel, sacred, devastating, exhilarating. The cosmos will grind on for eternity long after we’re gone, cold and unobserved. But for these few powers of ten, we have been. We have seen, we have felt, we have lived.

Light distribution on soap bubble from Les phénomènes de la physique by Amédée Guillemin, 1882. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

Complement these fragments of Lightman’s altogether luminous Probable Impossibilities with physicist Brian Greene’s Rilke-inspired reflection on how to fill our transience with maximal aliveness and Maya Angelou’s Sagan-inspired ode to the cosmic specialness of our humanity, then revisit a Borges-inspired meditation on chance, the universe, and what makes us who we are.

Tarot Card for 2022: The Princess of Wands

The Princess of Wands

This card represents dynamic passion – for life in general. If it comes up relating to an inner energy then it will indicate that you are overcoming old fears, breaking out of old patterns, and setting yourself free. There will be confidence, decisive action, an assertive leap forward into the heart of your life. It will often come up to indicate that you have broken through habitual limitations and restrictions, thereby freeing off your power to be used constructively.

It can indicate a spiritual breakthrough, which will always include the courage to face your fears, and see them for what they truly are. One strange fact about unacknowledged fears is that they take on the darkest, most horrifying shape with which your subconscious can imbue them. Yet when you drag them out into the light of day, you suddenly realise that what you were so scared of might a) never happen; b) not be as bad as you thought it would be when you feared it; and c) you’ve probably got what it takes to deal with it anyway!

If the Princess of Wands comes up to indicate a person, then she will be strong, forceful, determined, unswerving… and perhaps a touch bossy! She is a faithful and trustworthy friend, whose insight and perception will often steer you in the right direction. She will be energetic and enthusiastic about life, with a big personality.

As a partner she’s independent, sometimes a touch stubborn, but loyal and caring. These are often career women, and usually wait till later on to start families. She will be experienced, and intelligent, though regularly you find that such young women have had to learn most of their lessons the hard way.

As an enemy she’s dangerous – she’s usually outspoken, and unafraid to express her anger. If you manage to make an enemy of one of these women, you need to think very carefully about how that happened. Mostly their engagement with life is so total that they don’t waste time on negative pursuits. All the Wand people place morality and ethics high on their list of priorities. They are honest decent people with a strong code of behaviour to which they adhere faithfully.

This card will rarely come up to indicate an event – she almost always shows either another person in your life, or an aspect of self.

The Princess of Wands

(via and Alan Blackman)

Is Omicron Just Covid “Evolving to Become the Common Cold”?

What Science Tells Us About the Future of the Pandemic

umair haque · Dec 28 ·

Image Credit: Lauren Leatherby

Is Omicron just Covid evolving to become the common cold? Right about now, you’re hearing that from a dozen places or more. Herehereherehere, and here. But is it true? Or is it just a myth? I want to share with what science — actual science — has to say. You can form your own conclusions. I am not going to take a “side.” If you’re the kind of person who wants to pick sides, then you are politicising science, and in my estimation, you are a fool. Please go where fools go. Read pundits at the New York Times, who fly into a rage every time I write things like this, and call me names, instead of engaging with the science.

I am not on any side. I am only here to try and think through the science. That is all I am going to do, and you can join me if you want to learn something, too. If not, please don’t read this, and go away.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Do viruses “evolve to become less severe”? That is the pop theory this particular one — Omicron is evolving into the common cold — is based one.

“There is a widespread belief that infectious diseases evolve to become less virulent, leaving many hopeful that Omicron will be less severe for everyone, regardless of age or vaccination status. This is false. Viruses do not necessarily get selected to be milder or more severe.”

That’s Dr William Hanage, professor of the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard and the co-director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He is saying that the pop theory is false. It is a myth that viruses “evolve to become less severe.”

You should note that plenty of the people spreading this myth are not epidemiologists. They are pundits, or talking heads, or doctors, or all three. But they appear to have a poor understanding of epidemiology and virology.

Wait, you might say. Come on. That’s not right. Viruses do evolve to become less severe. Don’t they?

Think it through. If “viruses evolve to become less severe,” we would never have needed vaccines. Remember all the terrible diseases of…not so long ago. Polio was nearly eradicated in the 70s. The eradication of smallpox — probably humanity’s greatest achievement — only happened in 1977. They’d been around for millennia. And they had never evolved to “become less severe.” They just went right on killing and crippling and disfiguring people.

If you think about it, in fact, just using the knowledge in more or less everybody’s mind, there is no example whatsoever of a virus “evolving to become less severe.” Go ahead, just think about what you already know about any virus there is. Did any of the following evolve to become “less severe”? HIV? Nope. Hepatitis? Nope. Rabies? Nope. In fact, HIV and Ebola grew to become more severe over time. What Dr Hanage is trying to point out — despite the myth pundits are peddling — is precisely correct. Viruses don’t evolve to become less severe.

So why do we think they viruses “evolve to become less severe”? Well, it appears to be wishful thinking, which ends up making us fall prey to selection bias. We see a milder wave of a pandemic, and we interpret it as “evolution.” But when a worse wave arrives, we tend to discount that one. In this case, we see the movement from Delta to Omicron as evidence of “evolution.” But evolution is not what is happening here. At least not scientifically — it just appears to be. So what is happening here?

Wait. So why don’t viruses “evolve to become less severe?” Here’s Dr Hanage again. “If virulence (the severity of the disease) is not connected to transmission (the factor that makes a virus successful or not) there’s no real link between the two in most real situations. The great majority of Covid transmission occurs before people become seriously ill, and so the virus has already moved on.”

Now think about polio and smallpox. If you got polio, you’d get crippled years or decades later. You’d get the virus in childhood, but not get disfigured until adulthood. The virus had “moved on.” Smallpox was different — it proceeded swiftly in terrible outbreaks which would kill scores of people in towns or villages or cities, and then rise again and again. Those are two poles of viruses not “evolving to become less severe” for different reasons — because the virus “moves on,” as Hanage says, or because the outbreak burns itself out, but not before travelling elsewhere. Both mean that the selection pressure on the severity of the virus is relatively small, and so it does not evolve to become less severe.

Viruses don’t evolve like we do. This myth is easy for us to believe in because we apply our own understanding of evolution to viruses. But viruses are not like us. We don’t need a host. They do. They aren’t sexually reproducing to seek some kind of fitness advantage. They’re just out there replicating and recombining. Not just in us, but sometimes with us — that is what retroviruses do, write themselves into our DNA.

And there is little evidence that recombination is favoured by natural selection to create advantageous genotypes.” That is, viruses recombine because it’s what they do. It’s not because recombination is “favoured by natural selection.” That is what they are.

That is what I mean when I said viruses are not like us. It’s a really alien concept to wrap your head around. Viruses just swap genes, in a kind of alien free for all. Sure, there are chemical preconditions and so forth. The point is that are really not like us. We can’t and don’t recombine. We have kids — two of us. Viruses? The “virosphere,” as virologists call it, is an alien world, of beings which are existentially Schrodingeresque, not really alive but not not alive either, recombining in the quadrillions, each of them able to acquire stuff from others, and then jump across species. Viruses aren’t like us at all. And that is why they don’t evolve like us — meaning cellular organisms, especially vertebrates — at all, either. Our primary evolutionary mechanism is sexual reproduction and mutation. Theirs is recombination. We couldn’t be more different.

In fact, viruses evolve…us. If you really want to understand evolution and viruses — and us — then the slightly creepy but also weirdly cool fact is that viruses evolve us.

“Viruses have been proven to be drivers of evolution (Villarreal and Witzany, 2010), including the human genome, which by at least 45% is composed of sequences related to retroviruses. In addition, endogenized retroviruses supplied the syncytin genes that are essential for the development of the mammalian placenta, and allowed the growth of embryos without its rejection by the maternal immune system (Dupressoir et al., 2012).”

This is related to the fact that viruses don’t “evolve to become less severe.” If anything, the opposite happens. We evolve to outcompete or cooperate with them, sometimes by fusing with them. Think of how those “endogenized retroviruses” literally allow us to have kids, allowing the maternal immune system not to reject embryos.

In the really big picture, we co-evolve with viruses. Viruses don’t evolve to “become less severe.” That is a far more accurate view of how evolution really works.

Now let’s come back to Covid.

So why does it look like Omicron is just Covid becoming the common cold? Are my eyes lying to me?!

Think of the flu. Even that hasn’t “evolved to become less severe.” It still affects millions people a year, killing almost a million. People at risk. Like elderly people and the immunocompromised. What saves their lives? Flu shots. The virus didn’t evolve to become less severe. We just developed vaccines. And we have to redevelop them every single year.

A big, big part of why Omicron appears to be Covid “evolving to become less severe” is that we have vaccines. So for those who are vaccinated, it does not end up producing severe symptoms, on average. But that isn’t “evolution,” it’s science.

And it’s science that has a few implications, too. One is that we need our shots to keep on holding against new variants.

You probably think that a booster shot protects you from Omicron forever. You’re wrong. You probably don’t know what the latest data says. I don’t blame you. It’s brand new. Even booster shots hit under 50% efficacy in ten weeks. Presumably, after that — which is all the data we have so far — it falls farther and faster.

Let me say it again. Covid boosters hit 50% efficacy in ten weeks — which is all the data we have so far. In other words, there’s evidence of rapid declines in the efficacy of boosters.

Meanwhile, we have plenty of evidence that you can be reinfected with Omicron. Add those two facts up, and it means that people will keep on getting Omicron after their booster efficacy wanes. Every three or four months or so, because, just as boosters had lower efficacy than first doses, so even fourth and fifth shots will offer less and less protection, too.

Until we have a vaccine specifically against Omicron, we’re going to face reinfection. Even if it’s “mild,” or just like a “cold,” because many of us are vaccinated, not because of “evolution,” we’re going to keep getting it.

And by that time…maybe you can guess what I’m going to point out next…there’s probably going to be another variant.

Why is that? Because the danger of every Omicron case isn’t just that you get ill. I’ve had Omicron, and for me, it was….weird. I woke up with a bad case of vertigo. The room was spinning. Then I proceeded to have something like the flu for about a week. But what science tells me is that the problem here isn’t just that — how sick (or not) I get. It’s that every case of Omicron helps produce the next variant.

And if you understand the science above, because Omicron isn’t Covid “evolving to become the common cold,” the next variant could go either way.

Here’s what Dr William Haseltine, doctor, PhD, and former professor at Harvard Medical School, has to say in his new book, Variants. He is perhaps the single smartest mind on this topic, and I’m going to show you why.

“The existing literature on coronaviruses already tells us they can recombine…in fact, this process is likely how SARS-CoV-2 came to be born, in the ant-eating mammals knowns as pangolins. There are unpublished reports that recombination among SARS-CoV-2 variants occurs.”

“Give the high prevalence of both SARS-COV-2 and other cold-causing viruses at this time, I suspect all the events above have either already occurred or inevitably will.” Did you get that? Dr Haseltine seems to have predicted Omicron.

Now that’s shockingly smart. Haseltine figured out something that affected the entire world, as far as I can tell, first.

Where will the next variant come from, and what will it be like?

So where does the man when who predicted Omicron think the virus will go? He’s monitoring immunocompromised patients. Because they are where new variants appear to emerge, something like — and I hate to say this, but there is no other way to put it — petri dishes for mutation and recombination.

“In some instances of Covid infection, lingering symptoms may last for months, often in immunocompromised individuals. This allows the virus to effectively adapt within a single patient over time, resulting in potent mutations to the Spike protein and larger genome, particularly in cases when the patient receives any sort of antiviral drug. Here we examine one such case of a 72-year-old patient who was infected continuously for two months, as detailed by Truffot et al.”

You should read that article — it’s published in Forbes, of all places. It’s very detailed, and you’ll come away with a much, much better understanding of the science — and the stakes. Here’s what Dr Haseltine goes on to say.

“Position 493 is interesting as well. Until recently, Q493R in the Spike protein was an uncommon, highly antigenic mutation. Gideon Schreiber described a number of receptor-binding domain mutations for antigenicity, one of which was at positions 493. He described Q493H as a highly antigenic mutation. The Q493R and Q493H mutations are both neutral to positive charges, indicating Q493R should have a similar effect. This means transmissibility for variants that carry this mutation is much higher. The only instance of Q493R in variants of concern is the current Omicron variant which is reigniting Covid-19 infections throughout the world. Its observation in an individual immunocompromised patient is notable, to say the least.”

Haseltine is literally watching new variants be born in immunocompromised people.

“This is not the only instance of dangerous mutations developing within an immunocompromised individual. There is a long history of these patients, many of which we have analyzed, including the London, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Italian patients. Recently a 58-year-old patient who underwent a six-month-long infection developed a few questionable mutations in the Spike protein as well, in this instance, E484G and F490L in the receptor-binding domain and several deletions in the N-terminal domain. These mutations all aid in the transmissibility and immune resistance of major variants.

Emphasis mine. What is Dr Haseltine watching for? Well, understanding viral evolution, he understands that a new variant could go either way. It could be relatively benign, or even milder than Omicron. Or it could be really deadly, recombining, as he warned recently, with elements of MERS and SARS, which have mortality rates of 40% and 15%. Or it could be something entirely novel — like the mutations described in the above paragraph, which appear to elevate transmissibility and severity.

Haseltine is monitoring immunocompromised patients as patient zeros for new variants of Covid. Precisely because there is no guarantee whatsoever — certainly not by “evolution” — that a new variant will be milder. That is because Covid is not “evolving to become the common cold.” It is just evolving. And we can’t say what direction — or jump, leap, sudden recombination or mutation — it’s evolution will take.

That’s the science. As far as I’ve read it and know it. Virologists and epidemiologists are welcome to weigh in. I’ve tried to be careful not to take a side. To commit the fool’s mistake of politicising science. Science is the closest thing we have to eternal, objective truth in this fragile world. None of us should sully it with the callow stupidity of politics, as our leaders do — and pundits do, too.

Read the above carefully. Reflect on it. I’m not telling you anything. I’m just sharing science with you, my reading of it, my interpretation of it. I have no motive or agenda. I would rather have fewer people who really engage to read this post, than more who don’t. I care about disco and art and fashion — but I also read and love science. Here is what it tells me.

It seems it’s a myth that Omicron is Covid “evolving to become the common cold” or “evolving to become less severe.” That is not how viruses evolve. It isn’t how any of them, from polio to smallpox, ever have.

The danger now is of complacency. We will assume that Omicron is Covid evolving to become the common cold, hear that myth repeated back to us a hundred times a day, believe it because it’s what we want to be true, and then get angry and defensive when it’s challenged.

Meanwhile, our leaders, being who they are, irresponsible, imbecilic, incompetent, will seize on this comfortable narrative, which acquits them of a problem to solve. Pundits will force it along, grinning all the while, because they are to science what clowns are to libraries. The world will assume that “Covid is over” because it’s “become the common cold” — and few will question whether that’s actually true or false.

But believing that myth is an error and a mistake. It’s sheer dumb luck — or recombination probability — that Omicron is milder, not the invisible hand of “evolution,” and we’re probably not going to get lucky forever.

Meanwhile, wiser minds, like Drs Haseltine and Hanage will stay vigilant, for the next variant. Because having actually understood the science, they know there is no guarantee it will be better — or worse. There is only the guarantee it will come, and that guarantee is Omicron itself, spreading, mutating, recombining explosively. Our boosters decline in efficacy, and our protections weaken. They are guarding all of us from the uncertain future into which we blindly walk. We should be listening to the wise among us, not the callow, the ones who tell us what we want to hear.

But we’re human. When have we ever done that?

December 2021


umair haque

Eudaimonia and Co

Eudaimonia & Co