Book: “The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World”

The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World

Lynne McTaggart

The book you hold in your hands is revolutionary, a groundbreaking exploration of the science of intention. It is also the first book to invite you, the reader, to take an active part in its original research. Drawing on the findings of leading scientists on human consciousness from around the world, “The Intention Experiment” demonstrates that “thought is a thing that affects other things.” Thought generates its own palpable energy that you can use to improve your life, to help others around you, and to change the world.In “The Intention Experiment, ” internationally bestselling author Lynne McTaggart, an award-winning science journalist and leading figure in the human consciousness studies community, presents a gripping scientific detective story and takes you on a mind-blowing journey to the farthest reaches of consciousness. She profiles the colorful pioneers in intention science and works with a team of renowned scientists from around the world, including physicist Fritz-Albert Popp of the International Institute of Biophysics and Dr. Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology, medicine, and neurology at the University of Arizona, to determine the effects of focused group intention on scientifically quantifiable targets — animal, plant, and human.

“The Intention Experiment” builds on the discoveries of McTaggart’s first book, international bestseller “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, ” which documented discoveries that point to the existence of a quantum energy field. “The Field” created a picture of an interconnected universe and a scientific explanation for many of the most profound human mysteries, from alternative medicine and spiritual healing to extrasensory perception and the collective unconscious. “The Intention Experiment” shows you myriad ways that all this information can be incorporated into your life.

After narrating the exciting developments in the science of intention, McTaggart offers a practical program to get in touch with your own thoughts, to increase the activity and strength of your intentions, and to begin achieving real change in your life. After you’ve begun to realize the amazing potential of focused intention, and the times when it is most powerful, McTaggart invites you to participate in an unprecedented experiment: Using “The Intention Experiment” website to coordinate your involvement and track results, you and other participants around the world will focus your power of intention on specific targets, giving you the opportunity to become a part of scientific history.

“The Intention Experiment” redefines what a book does. It is the first “living” book in three dimensions. The book’s text and website are inextricably linked, forming the hub of an entirely self-funded research program, the ultimate aim of which is philanthropic. An original piece of scientific investigation that involves the reader in its quest, “The Intention Experiment” explores human thought and intention as a tangible energy — an inexhaustible but simple resource with an awesome potential to focus our lives, heal our illnesses, clean up our communities, and improve the planet.

“The Intention Experiment” also forces you to rethink what it is to be human. As it proves, we’re connected to everyone and everything, and that discovery demands that we pay better attention to our thoughts, intentions, and actions. Here’s how you can.


How aspects build on each other

May 29, 2023 (

Aspects are never random; they form in a particular order.

The trine follows the square. The trine is not just a random occurrence; the trine is the result of integrating the tension of the square.

What used to be difficult at the time of the square is now easy. We’ve now mastered the lesson of the square and turned it into a skill or a talent.

But the trine can be “too much of a good thing”. After the trine, we find ourselves in search of a new challenge. Furthermore, here comes the next aspect, the opposition.

Not only do aspects follow a natural sequence, but they also happen at clearly defined moments in time.

Let’s say you have a Venus-Jupiter sextile in your chart. This sextile aspect tells something not only about the nature of the aspect (friendly) but also about the timing of the aspect.

A sextile only happens after conjunction (the beginning of a planetary cycle), so a sextile is more mature than the conjunction, just because the 2 planets in sextile had more time to hang around each other.

Opening Vs Closing Aspects

To make things even more interesting, we have so-called “opening” sextiles and “closing” sextiles. An opening sextile happens very early in the cycle, whereas the closing sextile happens at the very end of the cycle.

Recognizing this natural order of aspects, understanding their cyclicity, will help us make sense of the aspects in our natal chart in a unique and very detailed way.

While both the opening and the closing sextile symbolize opportunities, the opening sextile will have a slightly different quality compared to the closing sextile.

The opening sextile represents new, fresh opportunities that help us move outside of the inertia of the conjunction. The opening sextile has a 3rd house energy, while the closing sextile has an 11th house energy.

Both the opening and the closing sextile share the friendly, 3rd/11th house energy, but if the opening sextile is more about opportunities we bring in by learning new skills, the closing sextile is more about what we do with others, the opportunities that emerge when we build something in a group or community.

There are similar subtle differences between the opening and the closing trine, the opening and closing quincunx, and the opening and closing semi-sextile.

If this topic drew your interest, we invite you to join our upcoming webinar “Aspects And The Hero’s Journey”.

In the “Aspects And The Hero’s Journey” webinar we will cover:

  • What aspects are and how they show up in our lives as thought patternsbehaviors, and external circumstances
  • An overview of the main astrological aspects: conjunction, semi-sextile, sextile, square, trine, quincunx and the opposition through the lens of the Hero’s Journey
  • The subtle difference between sextile vs. trine, square vs. opposition, using Mars and Neptune as an example
  • The difference between opening and closing aspects
  • Q&A and chart examples

The webinar happens on Tuesday, May 30th, at 12:00 EDT (24 hours from now). You can join live, or watch the recording:

>>Aspects And The Hero’s Journey<<

The Astro Butterfly School

The Astrology Of June 2023 – Jupiter Conjunct North Node

Astro Butterfly May 29, 2023

Welcome to June! Can you believe we’re almost mid-year?

In June 2023 we have the opportunity to mend some of the ‘damage’ of the tense, fixed Grand Cross we had in the last week of May.

We have 2 key aspects in June: Jupiter is conjunct North Node, and Jupiter is also sextile Saturn. These are 2 amazingly supportive aspects that could lead us onto a path of growth and discovery.

With Jupiter conjunct the North Node of purpose, there’s a strong pull to walk the path of our purpose. The North Node will draw us in, pulling us into the unknown. We want to experience something deeper, something more meaningful.

Just like Coelho’s Alchemist, we feel the call to adventure.

What about Jupiter sextile Saturn? The sextile is a supportive aspect – but unlike the trine, which brings things effortlessly (sometimes so effortlessly, that we don’t even notice them and we miss the boat), the sextile is the opportunities we consciously create.

With Jupiter conjunct North Node and sextile Saturn, opportunities will abound – but it’s up to us to say YES to the call.

Let’s take a look at the most important transits of the month:

June 1st, 2023 – Jupiter Conjunct North Node In Taurus

On June 1st, 2023 Jupiter is conjunct the North Node at 3° Taurus, opening new doors of opportunities for us. This is a unique chance to embark on a new journey!

Jupiter and the North Node have quite a bit in common. They are both growth-oriented, forward looking energies. Jupiter wants to find a higher meaning, and the North Node is our actual purpose in life. When Jupiter and North Node meet, opportunity meets readiness.

Jupiter and the North Node meet in a conjunction once every 12 years, but not in the same sign. So most of us get to experience 1, or maxim 2 Jupiter conjunct North Node transits in the same sign in a lifetime.

This time, Jupiter and North Node will highlight the Taurus sector of your life, bringing a unique set of opportunities, not to be missed.

June 4th, 2023 – Full Moon In Sagittarius

On June 4th, 2023, we have a Full Moon at 13° Sagittarius. The Full Moon is trine Mars in Leo and square Saturn in Pisces.

What happens when we have both a tense (square) and a harmonious (trine) aspect? Do these aspects annul each other?

Aspects never annul each other – they build on each other. So when we have both a tense and a harmonious aspect, the tense aspect is the “trigger”, and the harmonious aspect is the “ally”.

In this case, our trigger is Full Moon square Saturn. Something Saturnian (e.g. our application is delayed, the washing machine breaks down, we have a conflict with a family member) brings something to our conscious attention.

Once we know what the problem is (Saturn square) we then take our ally (Mars in Leo) by hand to help us solve the problem. The Mars trine suggests that the best approach at the Full Moon is to take bold (Leo) action (Mars).

At the Full Moon in Sagittarius, we want to stand our ground and take action despite frustration, delays and hindrances. What exactly requires your attention depends on the houses in your natal chart that this lunation casts a light on.

June 5th, 2023 – Venus Enters Leo

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have ALL your attention? Lights, camera, action, drums… applause… On June 5th, 2023 Venus enters Leo!!!

This Venus in Leo transit is even more important than your regular Venus in Leo transit because Venus will go retrograde in the sign in late July.

This means we will have a record of 4 months of Venus in Leo this year. If you didn’t know what Venus in Leo is all about, you will definitely find it out in the following months.

The unhealthy expression of Venus in Leo is hubris and a flair for drama. The positive expression of Venus in Leo is emotional honesty. Your feelings, wants and desires are as important as anyone else’s.

June 11th, 2023 – Pluto Re-Enters Capricorn

On June 11th, 2023, Pluto re-enters Capricorn.

In the last few months, we all got a taste of Pluto in Aquarius. But big shifts like Pluto changing signs take a long time, so there’s always some back and forth movement to integrate the change.

Pluto will spend 7 months in Capricorn (will re-enter Aquarius in January 2024). The following months are a good time to reflect on the “Pluto in Capricorn” chapter of our life, tie loose ends and reflect on what we want to do differently in the next 20 years of our lives.

June 11th, 2023 – Mercury Enters Gemini

On June 11th, 2023, Mercury enters Gemini. Mercury has spent a very long time in Taurus! We are now all ready for something new, and something new we get: Mercury in Gemini is playful, lighthearted, and loves to crack some jokes.

Gemini is Mercury’s home sign – this means Mercury in Gemini is a natural with everything “Mercury”. No matter what your communication style is, when Mercury is in Gemini your communication becomes more articulate, eloquent, and clear.

Mercury in Gemini is a great transit for connecting with others, doing research, writing, or exchanging ideas.

June 17th, 2023 – Saturn Goes Retrograde

On June 17th, 2023, Saturn goes retrograde at 7° Pisces. This is the first time Saturn retrogrades in the sign of Pisces, so you want to pay attention to what kind of themes transpire around the station.

Planets’ changes of direction are very important: when a planet stations direct or retrograde, it spends an usual amount of time at the same degree of the zodiac, thus drawing our attention to a particular area of our life.

Think of your daily walk in the park. You normally walk at a steady pace every day. One day you stop at a particular spot; perhaps your phone rings, or you wait for your dog.

And because you stopped, you start paying attention to your surroundings. You notice a particular building, or a tree, or someone sitting on a bench – things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

That’s exactly how a planetary station works.

Saturn’s station at 7° Pisces will draw your attention to a particular topic connected to your Pisces natal house, OR, if you also happen to have planets around 7° Pisces (or around 7° in other signs) Saturn’s station will become particularly relevant.

June 18th, 2023 – New Moon In Gemini

On June 18th, 2023, we have a New Moon at 26° Gemini. The New Moon is square Neptune (at 27° Pisces). The New Moon ruler, Mercury is strong in domicile and sextiles Venus in Leo.

This New Moon in Gemini can come with a development that may leave us baffled – something like “How didn’t I see this coming?”.

But every change of circumstances is an opportunity. Something better will come your way IF you leave behind unrealistic expectations, reframe your perspective, and pay attention to the here and now.

June 19th, 2023 – Jupiter Sextile Saturn

On June 19th, 2023, Jupiter (at 7° Taurus) is sextile Saturn (at 7° Pisces). Jupiter sextile Saturn is one of the best transits of the season.

This sextile is especially important since it’s the first aspect of the famous Jupiter-Saturn cycle that started in December 2020 at 0° Aquarius. Back in 2020, an Aquarius seed has been planted.

However, when we have a conjunction, we don’t necessarily see anything concrete happening. A conjunction is like the dark New Moon – things are happening in the background, but we may not be aware yet of what’s going on.

Now with the sextile, things will come to light. A concrete opportunity will present itself.

June 21st, 2023 – Sun Enters Cancer

On June 21st, 2023, Sun enters Cancer. Happy birthday to all Cancers out there!

When the Sun enters Cancer we have the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

No matter where you live, June 21st is one of the most important days of the year. The Sun is either at the highest point in the sky, or at the lowest. This marks a culmination – a point of “no return”. We either have the longest day, or the longest night of the year.

Things are about to shift. Our priorities may change. On this magical day, tune in and reflect on where you’re at a crossroads in your life. The universe will guide you on the next course of action.

June 26th, 2023 – Mercury Enters Cancer

On June 26th, 2023, Mercury enters Cancer. Towards the end of June, Mercury joins the Sun in the sign of Cancer. Mercury in Cancer brings emotional sensitivity to our communication.

We don’t just spare words right, left and center. What we say means something. Ruled by the Moon, Cancer is not only our emotions: it’s our gut instinct. Mercury in Cancer invites us to trust our instinct and rely on emotional intelligence to make decisions.

What We Look for When We Are Looking: John Steinbeck on Wonder and the Relational Nature of the Universe

By Maria Popova (

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will,” Baudelaire wrote — something Newton embodied in looking back on his life of revolutionary discoveries, only to see himself appearing “like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” What we are really recovering from childhood in those moments of discovery and exaltation is a way of looking at the world — looking for a glimpse of some small truth that illuminates the interconnectedness of all things, looking and being wonder-smitten by what we see.

That is what John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968) explores in some lovely passages from The Log from the Sea of Cortez (public library) — his forgotten masterpiece that turns the record of an ordinary marine biology expedition in the Gulf of California into an extraordinary lens on how to think.

John Steinbeck

On a collecting expedition in the tide pools of coastal Mexico, Steinbeck considers what it is we really look for when we are looking:

As always when one is collecting, we were soon joined by a number of small boys. The very posture of search, the slow movement with the head down, seems to draw people. “What did you lose?” they ask.


“Then what do you search for?” And this is an embarrassing question. We search for something that will seem like truth to us; we search for understanding; we search for that principle which keys us deeply into the pattern of all life; we search for the relations of things, one to another, as this young man searches for a warm light in his wife’s eyes and that one for the hot warmth of fighting. These little boys and young men on the tide flat do not even know that they search for such things too. We say to them, “We are looking for curios, for certain small animals.”

Then the little boys help us to search.

Tide pool creatures from A Naturalist’s Rambles on the Devonshire Coast by Philip Henry Gosse, 1853. (Available as a print and as stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

But the children do something more than help the grown men search — they help them see; they help them find the only thing worth looking for. Steinbeck writes:

Small boys have such sharp eyes, and they are quick to notice deviation. Once they know you are generally curious, they bring amazing things. Perhaps we only practice an extension of their urge. It is easy to remember when we were small and lay on our stomachs beside a tide pool and our minds and eyes went so deeply into it that size and identity were lost, and the creeping hermit crab was our size and the tiny octopus a monster. Then the waving algae covered us and we hid under a rock at the bottom and leaped out at fish. It is very possible that we, and even those who probe space with equations, simply extend this wonder.

How reminiscent this last sentiment is of Dylan Thomas’s poem “Being But Men,” how consonant with G.K. Chesterton’s insistence that our task in life is to dig for the “submerged sunrise of wonder.”

Couple this fragment from The Log from the Sea of Cortez (public library) — which is a remarkable read in its entirety — with the pioneering neurophysiologist Charles Scott Sherrington on the spirituality of wonder, then revisit Steinbeck on hopecreativitythe art of receiving, and his timeless advice on love.

Dead Stars: Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s Stunning Love Poem to Life

By Maria Popova (

We know that the atoms composing our bodies and our brains can be traced back to particular stars that died long ago in some faraway corner of the cosmos. We know what will happen to our own atoms when we ourselves die. Still, something in us quivers with incomprehension at the notion that every single one of our capacities — love and mathematics, the bomb and the Benedictus — is the churn of discarded stardust. And yet it is precisely this fact that renders us miraculous — creatures of matter, capable of seeing beauty, capable of making meaning. This is our inheritance. This is the bright star of resurrection lighting up our exquisite aliveness.

U.S Poet Laureate Ada Limón channels this cosmic destiny of ours in her splendid poem “Dead Stars,” found in her collection The Carrying (public library) and read here by the poet herself during her altogether wonderful lecture at Portland’s Literary Arts, to which I have added the requisite benediction of Bach.

by Ada Limón

Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
            Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.

I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.

We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
      the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.

It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
      recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.

And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
      Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.

But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
      of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising —

to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
      what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.

Look, we are not unspectacular things.
      We’ve come this far, survived this much. What

would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?

What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
      No, to the rising tides.

Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?

What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain

for the safety of others, for earth,
      if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,

if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,

rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?

Complement with the uncommon astronomer-poet Rebecca Elson’s “Antidotes to Fear of Death” and “Let There Always Be Light (Searching for Dark Matter),” then revisit the poetic physicist Brian Greene’s Rilke-lensed reflection on how our creaturely limitations give life meaning.

The Challenge of Closeness: Alain de Botton on Love, Vulnerability, and the Paradox of Avoidance

By Maria Popova (

The hardest thing in life isn’t getting what we want, isn’t even knowing what we want, but knowing what to want. We think we want connection, but as soon as contact reaches deeper than the skin of being, we recoil with the terror of vulnerability. There is no place more difficult to show up than where marrow meets marrow. And yet that is the only place where two people earn the right to use the word “love.”

Our avoidance of that terrifying, transcendent place holds up a mirror to our most fundamental beliefs about life and love, about what we deserve and what we are capable of, about reality and the landscape of the possible. That is what Alain de Botton explores in this animated essay probing the psychological machinery of avoidance in intimate relationships — where it comes from, how to live with it, and where it can go if handled with enough conscientiousness and compassion.

In The School of Life: An Emotional Education (public library) — the book companion to his wonderful global academy for skillful living — De Botton explores the deeper dimensions of avoidance and how to live with it, both as its proprietor and its partner. Recognizing the paralyzing fear of hurt, rejection, and abandonment at the heart of avoidance, he writes:

One of the odder features of relationships is that, in truth, the fear of rejection never ends. It continues, even in quite sane people, on a daily basis, with frequently difficult consequences — chiefly because we refuse to pay it sufficient attention and aren’t trained to spot its counter-intuitive symptoms in others. We haven’t found a winning way to keep admitting just how much reassurance we need.


Instead of requesting reassurance endearingly and laying out our longing with charm, we have tendencies to mask our needs beneath some tricky behaviors guaranteed to frustrate our ultimate aims.

Avoidance is one of the commonest ways of hedging against our fear of rejection and hurt — a coping mechanism for disappointment that we developed when the people first tasked with caring for us let us down. De Botton writes:

We grow into avoidant patterns when, in childhood, attempts at closeness ended in degrees of rejection, humiliation, uncertainty, or shame that we were ill-equipped to deal with. We became, without consciously realizing it, determined that such levels of exposure would never happen again. At an early sign of being disappointed, we therefore now understand the need to close ourselves off from pain. We are too scarred to know how to stay around and mention that we are hurt.

With an eye to the undertow of vulnerability beneath all avoidant patterns, he adds:

If this harsh, graceless behavior could be truly understood for what it is, it would be revealed not as rejection or indifference, but as a strangely distorted, yet very real, plea for tenderness.

A central solution to these patterns is to normalize a new and more accurate picture of emotional functioning: to make it clear just how predictable it is to be in need of reassurance, and at the same time, how understandable it is to be reluctant to reveal one’s dependence. We should create room for regular moments, perhaps as often as every few hours, when we can feel unembarrassed and legitimate about asking for confirmation. “I really need you. Do you still want me?” should be the most normal of enquiries.

Complement with philosopher Martha Nussbaum on how to live with our human fragility and Hannah Arendt on how to live with the fundamental fear of love’s loss, then revisit Alain de Botton on the importance of breakdownswhat makes a good communicator, and the key to existential maturity.

After Covid-19, can mRNA vaccines help with cancer as well?


Q&A — Immunologist and cancer researcher Özlem Türeci

The pandemic put the technology, long in development, to the test. Here’s a look at the status of its application to cancer and when it might reach patients.

By Tim Vernimmen 

05.25.2023 (

Vaccines against Covid-19 were delivered with remarkable and unprecedented speed. The ones pioneered by Moderna in the US and BioNTech in Germany introduced the lay public to a new kind of shot: one that includes mRNA, the nucleic acid that normally carries genetic instructions from the cell nucleus to the part of the cell where proteins are made.

How could this novel technology have come together so rapidly?

In fact, the approach had long been in the works, although it was not initially intended to prevent viral disease. Rather, it was focused on treating cancer, explains Özlem Türeci, cofounder and chief medical officer of BioNTech, the company that developed the Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer.

Cartoon portrait of Özlem Türeci


Immunologist and cancer researcher Özlem Türeci

Cofounder and chief medical officer, BioNTech

The anti-cancer rationale goes like this: Since each tumor contains a multitude of genetic mutations that do not occur elsewhere in the body, this should in theory allow our immune system to recognize and destroy those cells. Alas, tumors are known to suppress the immune system. In response, scientists have developed various drugs and treatments to stimulate the immune system in cancer patients.

But another problem is that many tumor mutations slip through the net. So some researchers have proposed a more focused approach to alert immune cells to cancer mutations they do not spontaneously target — something more like a vaccine, which usually works by exposing people to an inactivated pathogen or some of its signature molecules. This primes the immune system for immediate action should the active pathogen show up. In a similar vein, the scientists reasoned it might be possible to present the patient’s immune system with specific bits of cancer tissue, to train it to attack the tumor more vigorously.

The benefit of using mRNA for this job is not just that it can be manufactured relatively quickly, but that it is also very flexible. The genetic signature of a tumor is different in every person and, as time progresses, it continues to change. This means that vaccines would ideally be tailor-made, and repeatedly so — an expensive and time-consuming proposition if one is manufacturing bits of key tumor protein in the lab, which was a very common way of producing vaccines before mRNA arrived. Proteins are built from a score of different amino acids, have complicated three-dimensional structures and tend to clump together when something goes wrong.

So, what if we could just make specific pieces of mRNA instead, inject them into the body, and let the cells build the corresponding proteins themselves? Wouldn’t that be much easier?

In the approach BioNTech developed, explains Türeci, mRNA can be injected into the body and targeted towards the lymph nodes, where it is translated into protein by immune cells known as dendritic cells. These cells then display the protein on their surfaces, where they train the T cells that patrol our tissues to find and eliminate any intruders that display the same signature.

This schematic illustrates how an mRNA vaccine can help the body fight cancer cells. The mRNA carries instructions for making little pieces of protein that are produced by tumor cells. When the mRNA is taken up by dendritic cells of the immune system, the protein pieces (antigens) are produced and displayed on the surface of the dendritic cells. This display trains T cells to respond to the new antigen with an attack against the tumor. In a natural situation, the tumor itself releases bits of cancer debris (shown as little brown blobs) that are taken up by dendritic cells to train T cells. However, the immune system doesn’t react to all kinds of tumor antigens. The mRNA vaccine can train the body to target tumor antigens it normally doesn’t respond to. The result is a more effective attack against cancer cells.

The Covid-19 pandemic put the strategy to the test: Within a year, two highly effective mRNA vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus were developed, tested and rolled out — one from Pfizer-BioNTech, one from Moderna, each slightly different. Both vaccines contained the code for making a stabilized version of the spike protein that the virus uses to get into cells. The spike protein code was inserted into mRNA with a backbone that had been optimized by decades of research. This mRNA was then packaged in specific lipids to ensure it would reach its lymph-node destination.

Türeci, who coauthored an article about mRNA vaccines against cancer for the Annual Review of Medicine in 2019, recently talked with Knowable Magazine about the development of mRNA vaccines for cancer and how close they are to reaching patients, for whom new therapies are sorely needed.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

When did you start developing cancer vaccines, and why did you think mRNA would work best?

This did not happen overnight. It was a decades-long journey that started in the 1990s. We had a vision that was considered science fiction at the time: We wanted to develop cancer vaccines to shrink tumors. Every patient’s cancer is unique, because it is the result of random mutations, so we wanted to develop individualized vaccines that would activate the patient’s immune system against their own tumor.

We tested various approaches and identified mRNA as the one with the highest potential for the purpose of developing truly individualized cancer vaccines. Synthetic mRNA is produced by a simple process, and it looks very much like natural mRNA. It delivers the blueprint of the protein — the vaccine antigen — for the body’s cells to produce.

Yet we also realized that significant improvements would be needed. Over the past decades, we have addressed these shortcomings.

Our discoveries led to the mRNA technology platform that we use today for our product candidates against cancer, infectious diseases and other severe diseases. In addition to our own research in the 1990s, a small group of other scientists also worked on mRNA. Our advances as well as theirs provided the tailwind for the broader scientific community.

What have been the most crucial breakthroughs that allowed you to get to this point?

The fundamental problem of mRNA was its low potency. Even large doses of mRNA produce little protein and, consequently, had little effect. That is why, in the late 1990s, few in the industry believed in mRNA as a new class of drugs; mRNA vaccines tested at that time elicited poor immune responses.

Our team spent years researching each element of the mRNA backbone and discovered various modifications that increased the stability of the mRNA and its translation into protein. This way, we created mRNA backbones with a more than thousandfold increased efficacy to trigger immune responses.

The next piece of the puzzle was to find out how to get the mRNA vaccine to the right cells in the body, and which cells these might be. In 2004, we made an interesting observation: The direct injection of an mRNA vaccine with our improved backbone into a lymph node elicited a much stronger immune response than injection of mRNA into the skin or muscle, which were the commonly explored routes.

Why would it be so much more effective to inject the mRNA directly into the lymph nodes?

We realized that directing mRNA vaccines into dendritic cells in the lymph nodes had to become a critical part of the solution. In the years that followed, we explored various methods to deliver mRNA to these specific locations in the body, and discovered that mRNA vaccines encapsulated in a particular lipid nanoparticle — a technology we have developed and that we call RNA lipoplexes — were specifically taken up by resident dendritic cells in lymphoid tissues.

These cells are the high-performance trainers of the immune system and can mediate particularly strong immune responses. We found that they have a specific mechanism to engulf foreign bodies and use them to train the immune system. Vaccine-induced T-cell responses were extremely strong and eradicated large tumors in mice. So, with these discoveries and optimizations of our technology, we went back to the bedside, to the patient.

Images show four mouse lungs with successively more intense coloration at day 3, 11, 14 and 17. This is control mice. On the bottom, another set of four lungs show some coloration on day 3 but they are clear on the subsequent days. These are from mice treated with the mRNA vaccine. On right are photos showing control lungs with a lot more tumor growth than lungs from treated mice.
These images display the results of an mRNA vaccine experiment in mice. On the left are images of lung tumor tissue over time. The tumors consist of cancer cells that were engineered to be bioluminescent. In control animals that did not receive the mRNA vaccine, the tumors continued to grow. In animals that received the vaccine, the tumors shrank and were often no longer detected at 11 days or later. The pictures on the right show the lungs of mice that didn’t (top) or did (bottom) receive the vaccine. The lungs are stained with ink, then the tumor tissue was selectively bleached, resulting in a light blue color for tumor tissue.CREDIT: ADAPTED FROM L.M. KRANZ ET AL / NATURE 2016

How exactly did you make the step from humans to mice?

We started human studies and pioneered, in 2015, the first systemic delivery of mRNA nanoparticle vaccines to humans. In a portion of our patients with treatment-resistant melanoma, we could observe shrinkage of tumors with the vaccine, alone or in combination with immune-stimulating medication. We published these findings in the journal Nature in 2017. They provided the blueprint for the development of highly effective mRNA vaccines.

These advances allowed us to come closer to our original vision of cancer vaccines tailored to the patient’s tumor. The approach involves genomic analysis of a patient’s tumor by next-generation sequencing to find the cancer-specific mutations by comparison to the patient’s normal tissue. This set of cancer mutations is unique for every patient. We then select a number of mutations that provide the highest likelihood for the immune system to recognize the cancer and design a vaccine tailored to the patient’s individual cancer mutation profile.

How many people have been treated with your mRNA cancer vaccines so far?

With our individualized vaccine candidates, we have treated more than 450 patients. These are designed to target mutations that are unique to the patient’s specific cancer. We also have a number of personalized off-the-shelf mRNA cancer vaccine candidates. These candidates consist of a fixed combination of mRNA-encoded non-mutated tumor antigens that are known to frequently be produced within specific cancer types. We are currently investigating these candidates in clinical studies — for example, in patients with advanced melanoma, prostate cancer or head and neck cancer — and have treated more than 250 patients so far.

This has all been in the context of clinical trials. The way treatments are developed within the regulatory framework is to go cancer by cancer, and independently for every line of treatment, for every cancer.

Our oncology pipeline currently counts 20 programs in 24 ongoing clinical trials, of which five candidates are in advanced clinical trials. For BNT111, an mRNA vaccine candidate for the treatment of advanced melanoma, we have received FDA fast track designation in the US. These designations are intended to facilitate and expedite the development of new drugs and vaccines for the treatment or prevention of serious diseases that have the potential to address unmet medical needs.

One of the challenges with personalized medicine, creating a specific treatment for one particular patient, is how to organize its official approval, since every patient gets a different product. Do you think we will need some legislative change there as well, or not necessarily?

Very early on, we started discussions with regulatory authorities. What is important, we believe, is that the process of manufacturing, and the mRNA backbone, stay the same. Within this frame, we just exchange the code for the cancer mutations.

The aim of such a framework would be that irrespective of the sequence of the mutations used to individualize a vaccine, if everything else stays the same, a complete approval process for an individualized version of the vaccine may not be required again, provided that the general product has been approved by the authorities for a certain tumor type. This is our aim, and I believe we are on the way to land there. This is new territory also for regulators, and we all need to learn.

Why has cancer been so difficult to cure, and is there a fundamental reason why you think mRNA vaccines could provide a way forward where other approaches haven’t?

The reason why cancer is so difficult is that it is a really complex disease. It is different in every person, and it shapeshifts over time. Because mRNA vaccines are versatile and can be manufactured on demand, we can personalize them. We can define the individual cancer fingerprint — its mutation profile — and design a specific vaccine to address these mutations.

And if the patient relapses because the cancer has changed, we can adapt the treatment accordingly, similar to how we are able to adapt our mRNA Covid-19 vaccines to new viral variants of concern.

The body does often produce immune cells that target a tumor. Why doesn’t it make the right ones — or enough of them — to suppress it? Why does it need help from a vaccine?

First of all, tumors have all sorts of tricks to suppress our immune cells, across the body but also within the tumor itself. In addition, many of the altered structures of the tumor are still recognized as part of the body, so they are tolerated by the immune system. Therefore, the ideal targets for the immune system are those in the tumor’s mutanome: the mutations that accumulate over time in cancer cells.

But only a tiny portion of those is recognized by spontaneously occurring, circulating T cells. With our mutation-based vaccine candidates, we aim to use the potential of the mutanome to help T cells get started.

Still, we find that we often need something to overcome the strong immune suppression from the tumor. These might be immune modulators such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, or chemotherapy, which results in the death of cancer cells, that can push the effect of a vaccine towards stronger activity.

One of the reasons you were able to act so fast when you realized that we had a pandemic on our hands was that in developing cancer vaccines, there is always time pressure, since an untreated tumor is growing every day. How far have you come in compressing development time, the time you need to get the vaccine into the patient, and how much further do you think you can go?

The process — starting with genome analysis of a patient’s tumor and ending with on-demand manufacturing of this customized mRNA vaccine ready to administer — has been a race against that specific patient’s growing tumor. Since 2014, we’ve made custom vaccines for hundreds of cancer patients in our clinical trials and shipped them worldwide. Back then, the process took us three to five months for each patient. Now we are at three to six weeks, and I would expect that we’ll become stable around three weeks at some point.

Do you think mRNA cancer vaccines will eventually be able to help everyone? Or are there some tumors that will always be out of reach?

In principle, we expect that cancer vaccines can be used universally, as there is currently no reason why there should be a tumor type that would not be approachable by this concept.

Having said that, I want to make clear that it would be a very romanticized view to think that we’ll have a cancer vaccine that will solve all problems. Again, cancer is a very complex disease.

However, cancer vaccines may be a potent option in the future that could complement the therapy toolkit and help to better treat patients with cancer.

Tim Vernimmen is a freelance science writer based in Antwerp, Belgium. He was grateful to receive a series of mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and realized he had never exactly understood how these vaccines worked before conducting this interview.

Isaac Newton had two birthdays

Posted by Deborah Byrd and EarthSky Voices

January 4, 2023 (

Isaac Newton: Strong-faced clean shaven man with very wavy, shoulder-length brown hair.
Isaac Newton via Wikimedia Commons.

Isaac Newton, born January 4, 1643

Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643, at Woolsthorpe Manor House in the United Kingdom. Newton became a mathematician, physicist and astronomer. He is now world-famous as a scientist who helped us understand the universe through his discoveries, that became the basis of many scientific principles.

Newton published his insights in three famous volumes titled the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), often referred to as simply Principia, which is, by all accounts, a masterpiece. In this work, Newton states his three laws of motion, which today form the foundation of classical celestial mechanics. Principia also lays out Newton’s revelations about gravity.

Small book, open, with portrait of Newton on left page and Latin title in red and black on right page.
Copy of the 3rd edition of Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1726) at the John Reynolds Library in Manchester, England. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year! And it makes a great gift.

Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

While they’re called laws, they’re really descriptions of fundamental truths about our physical universe.

1. An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force. This is the law of inertiaRead more about Newton’s First Law of Motion.

2. When a force acts on a mass, it produces acceleration. The greater the mass of the object being accelerated, the greater the amount of force needed to accelerate the object. Read more about Newton’s Second Law of Motion.

3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Read more about Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

Newton’s revelations about gravity

Remember the story of the apple falling on Newton’s head? While not necessarily true in all its details, Newton apparently observed an apple fall from a tree and began thinking that, in order to fall on the ground, the apple was accelerated from zero when it hung on the tree.

So according to his Second Law of Motion, acceleration is produced when a force acts on an object. Newton must have thought, what is that force? Then he came to understand this force as what every school child today knows as gravity.

Newton’s great revelation was that the force of gravity doesn’t just extend to the tops of apple trees. If an apple tree were as high as a mountain, for example, the apple would still fall. The force would still be operating. Newton’s insight was that the force of gravity extends much farther … to the moon. Thus, he recognized that the orbit of the moon around Earth is a consequence of the force of gravity.

Indeed, the force of gravity extends throughout space. Today, physicists refer to Newton’s ideas about gravity as the universal law of gravitation.

Other scientists refined discoveries of Isaac Newton

Others who followed Newton – particularly Albert Einstein – refined our understanding of gravity. In fact, the most accurate description of gravity today is in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which asserts that gravity is a consequence of the curvature of space-time.

Fascinated by Newton’s revelations about gravity? Check out this 15-minute video:

Other contributions by Newton

If Newton had only contributed his three Laws of Motion and his understanding of universal gravitation, we’d have remembered him as one of the world’s greatest scientists. But Newton didn’t stop there. He also built one of the first practical reflecting telescopes, contributed to the invention of calculus, and explored how white light can be broken up into a spectrum of colors by a prism, thereby laying the foundation for much of modern astronomy.

Yet Newton himself knew how much more remained to be discovered. He is known to have said:

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Newton had 2 birthdays

One curious fact about Isaac Newton is that you can say he had two birthdays, ten days apart. You may have previously seen Newton’s birthday as December 25, 1642. That reference is beginning to change, and now it’s more common to see Newton’s birthday as January 4, 1643. The difference is because, when Newton was born, England was using a different calendar than the rest of Europe.

The rest of the continent had already adopted the Gregorian calendar, which is the same calendar we use today. However, at the time of Newton’s birth, the English were still using the Julian calendar, which lagged ten days behind because of a faulty method of accounting for leap years. (Coincidentally, 1642 was the year that Galileo died).

So Newton himself would have said his birthday was December 25. But everywhere outside of England he was born on January 4. Read more about Newton’s birthday discrepancy.

A flat grid with a planet pushing it down into a pit-like configuration.
Einstein’s 1916 theory of general relativity didn’t replace Newton’s theory of gravity. But it did change our understanding of gravity so that now we know massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which passing objects feel as gravity. Artist’s concept via NASA.

Bottom line: Isaac Newton could claim two birth dates, but now we celebrate his birthday as January 4, 1643. Newton’s work in gravity and the laws of motion form the basis of much of today’s understanding of physics and astronomy.

Posted January 4, 2023 in Human World

Deborah Byrd


About the Author:

Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

EarthSky Voices


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Members of the EarthSky community – including scientists, as well as science and nature writers from across the globe – weigh in on what’s important to them.

America’s Mystical Inheritance with Ronnie Pontiac

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove May 28, 2023 Ronnie Pontiac was the personal research assistance for Manly P. Hall at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles. He is author of American Metaphysical Religion: Esoteric and Mystical Traditions of the New World. Here he focuses primarily on the colonial period of American history, emphasizing the influence of 17th century Rosicrucian tradition. 00:00:00 Introduction 00:14:47 Thomas Morton 00:26:50 Pre-colonial America 00:32:43 John Winthrop the Younger 00:43:43 Rosicrucians 00:58:58 Roger Williams 01:02:13 Conclusion Edited subtitles for this video are available in Russian, Portuguese, Italian, German, French, and Spanish. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in “parapsychology” ever awarded by an accredited university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980). He is also the Grand Prize winner of the 2021 Bigelow Institute essay competition regarding the best evidence for survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death. (Recorded on May 14, 2023)