Once the warmer weather arrives, heady and heavy fragrances can feel too overbearing for sunny spring days. by Lisa Niven
Something soft and subtle feels far more alluring, which is where the latest innovations of the perfume world come in. Byredo leads the pack with its clever brush-on Kabuki Perfume, whilst Jo Malone London has launched its first ever hair mist in time for sunnier days. And for laundry that smells just as good as you, look to Diptyque's multi-use Eau Dominotée, which can be spritzed onto your skin or added to your washes as you see fit. Shop the best below.
Now this is clever. Byredo has taken three of its most beloved fragrances - Blanche, Gypsy Water and Bal D'Afrique - and turned them into micro-fine powders, diffused onto the skin with a stylishly-packaged kabuki brush for a veil of subtle scent.
Byredo Gypsy Water Kabuki Perfume, £42. Available at Byredo.co.uk.
Tom Ford's Soleil Blanc fragrance is the perfect olfactory interpretation of sun on skin, with notes like amber, jasmine and coconut combining to create the most summery of scents. Now you can wear it all over, with a 150ml body spray perfect for throwing in your beach bag.
Tom Ford Soleil Blanc Body Spray, £44. Available at Selfridges.com.
Everyone appreciates a good multi-use product, and Diptyque's versatile Eau Dominotée is designed to be used on both skin and fabric - just add a capful to your laundry, or spritz generously onto your body post-shower. A rose-focused scent with the subtlest hint of patchouli, it's a perfectly pared-back spring scent.
Diptyque Eau Dominotée Multi-Use Fragrance, £55. Available at Libertylondon.com.
Jo Malone London
Hair mists are a great way to wear scent in a softer, more subtle way come spring. Jo Malone London's Star Magnolia hair mist comprises star magnolia blossom, lemon and sandalwood, and the packaging is picture-perfect.
Jo Malone London Star Magnolia Hair Mist, £38. Available at Jomalone.co.uk.
So there was no job, no food. Children, most of them, became very malnourished, like this. Transcript by Hawa Abdi (HA) and Deqo Mohamed (DM) : Mother and daughter with Pam Mitchell (PM)
Deqo Mohamed: So as you know, always in a civil war, the ones affected most [are] the women and children. So our patients are women and children. And they are in our backyard. It's our home. We welcome them. That's the camp that we have in now 90,000 people, where 75 percent of them are women and children.
Pat Mitchell: And this is your hospital. This is the inside. HA: We are doing C-sections and different operations because people need some help. There is no government to protect them.
DM: Every morning we have about 400 patients,maybe more or less. But sometimes we are only five doctors and 16 nurses, and we are physically getting exhausted to see all of them. But we take the severe ones, and we reschedule the other ones the next day. It is very tough. And as you can see, it's the women who are carrying the children; it's the women who come into the hospitals; it's the women [are] building the houses. That's their house. And we have a school. This is our bright -- we opened [in the] last two years [an] elementary school where we have 850 children, and the majority are women and girls.
PM: And the doctors have some very big rules about who can get treated at the clinic. Would you explain the rules for admission?
HA: The people who are coming to us, we are welcoming. We are sharing with them whatever we have. But there are only two rules. First rule: there is no clan distinguished and political division in Somali society.[Whomever] makes those things we throw out. The second: no man can beat his wife. If he beat, we will put [him] in jail, and we will call the eldest people. Until they identify this case, we'll never release him. That's our two rules. The other thing that I have realised, that the woman is the most strong person all over the world. Because the last 20 years, the Somali woman has stood up. They were the leaders, and we are the leaders of our community and the hope of our future generations. We are not just the helpless and the victims of the civil war. We can reconcile. We can do everything.
DM: As my mother said, we are the future hope, and the men are only killing in Somalia. So we came up with these two rules. In a camp with 90,000 people, you have to come up with some rules or there is going to be some fights. So there is no clan division, and no man can beat his wife. And we have a little storage room where we converted a jail. So if you beat your wife, you're going to be there. So empowering the women and giving the opportunity -- we are there for them. They are not alone for this.
PM: You're running a medical clinic. It brought much, much needed medical care to people who wouldn't get it. You're also running a civil society. You've created your own rules, in which women and childrenare getting a different sense of security. Talk to me about your decision, Dr. Abdi, and your decision, Dr. Mohamed, to work together -- for you to become a doctor and to work with your mother in these circumstances.
HA: My age -- because I was born in 1947 -- we were having, at that time, government, law and order. But one day, I went to the hospital -- my mother was sick -- and I saw the hospital, how they [were] treating the doctors, how they [are] committed to help the sick people. I admired them, and I decided to become a doctor. My mother died, unfortunately, when I was 12 years [old]. Then my father allowed me to proceed [with] my hope. My mother died in [a] gynaecology complication, so I decided to become a gynaecology specialist. That's why I became a doctor. So Dr. Deqo has to explain.
DM: For me, my mother was preparing [me] when I was a child to become a doctor, but I really didn't want to. Maybe I should become an historian, or maybe a reporter. I loved it, but it didn't work. When the war broke out — civil war -- I saw how my mother was helping and how she really needed the help, and how the care is essential to the woman to be a woman doctor in Somalia and help the women and children. And I thought, maybe I can be a reporter and doctor gynaecologist. So I went to Russia, and my mother also, [during the] time of [the] Soviet Union. So some of our character, maybe we will come with a strong Soviet background of training. So that's how I decided [to do] the same. My sister was different. She's here. She's also a doctor. She graduated in Russia also. And to go back and to work with our mother is just what we saw in the civil war -- when I was 16, and my sister was 11, when the civil war broke out. So it was the need and the people we saw in the early '90s -- that's what made us go back and work for them.
PM: So what is the biggest challenge working, mother and daughter, in such dangerous and sometimes scary situations?
HA: Yes, I was working in a tough situation, very dangerous.And when I saw the people who needed me, I was staying with them to help, because I [could] do something for them. Most people fled abroad. But I remained with those people, and I was trying to do something -- [any] little thing I [could] do. I succeeded in my place. Now my place is 90,000 people who are respecting each other, who are not fighting. But we try to stand on our feet, to do something, little things, we can for our people. And I'm thankful for my daughters. When they come to me, they help me to treat the people, to help. They do everything for them. They have done what I desire to do for them.
PM: What's the best part of working with your mother, and the most challenging part for you?
DM: She's very tough; it's most challenging. She always expects us to do more. And really when you think [you] cannot do it, she will push you, and I can do it. That's the best part. She shows us, trains us how to doand how to be better [people] and how to do long hours in surgery -- 300 patients per day, 10, 20 surgeries, and still you have to manage the camp -- that's how she trains us. It is not like beautiful offices here, 20 patients, you're tired. You see 300 patients, 20 surgeries and 90,000 people to manage. PM: But you do it for good reasons.
DM: Thank you.
HA: Thank you very much.
PM: Thank you both
‘A biographical orrery – intricate, complex and fascinating’ The Observer By Dave Sobel
‘A peerless intellectual biography. The Glass Universe shines and twinkles as brightly as the stars themselves’ The Economist.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with a captivating, little-known true story of women in science
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or human computers, to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the women turned to studying images of the stars captured on glass photographic plates, making extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what the stars were made of, divided them into meaningful categories for further research, and even found a way to measure distances across space by starlight .
El Salvador makes history as first nation to impose blanket ban on metal mining by Nina Lakhani in Mexico City
El Salvador has made history after becoming the first country in the world to ban metal mining.
Lawmakers in the water-parched country passed the ban in a unanimous vote on Wednesday, declaring El Salvador a mining-free territory.
The decision followed a long and bitter struggle to protect the Central American country’s diminishing water sources from polluting mining projects.
Campaigners holding banners with the now famous “No to mining, yes to life” slogan celebrated inside and outside the legislative assembly in the capital, San Salvador.
“The vote is a victory for communities who, for more than a decade, have relentlessly organised to keep mining companies out of their territories. The prohibition ensures the long-term ecological viability of a country already considered one of the most environmentally vulnerable in the world,” said Pedro Cabezas, from International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador.
Wednesday’s vote, which was expected by both sides to be much closer, builds on a rising tide of popular opposition to environmentally destructive projects across Latin America, where partial bans have been implemented in Costa Rica, Argentina and Colombia.
El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Latin America and, while rainfall is plentiful, holding on to the water is a major issue because of unsustainable farming practices and inadequate industrial controls that have led to widespread soil erosion and the almost total destruction of its forests.
More than 90% of El Salvador’s surface waters are estimated to be polluted by toxic chemicals, heavy metals and waste matter.
The water crisis has steadily deepened since the pro-business Arena Party granted an array of permits for mineral exploration.
Momentum around a ban had been gathering pace since October last year, when an international tribunal threw out a claim by a multinational mining company to force the Salvadoran government to pay out millions in compensation for refusing to let it dig for gold. The company had backed the campaign opposing the ban, promoting the benefits of responsible mining.
But the claim by OceanaGold that it was unfairly refused permission to start digging at its El Dorado mine, in the Cabañas region, was dismissed as without merit and the firm was ordered to pay El Salvador $8m towards legal costs.
The ruling marked the end of a long-running, bitter dispute that had been blamed for delaying concrete measures to tackle worsening pollution and water shortages.
National polls have consistently reported that the vast majority of Salvadorans wanted a ban and earlier this month thousands of people took to the streets in support of the bill, which was backed by the Catholic Church, academics and civil society groups.
Jen Moore, the Latin America programme coordinator at MiningWatch Canada, said the victory would encourage other countries to stand up against the muscle of mining giants.
“The Salvadoran people and leaders made huge efforts to weigh the short-term benefits with the long-term risks to their water, environment and social wellbeing … and despite the efforts of a company to try to blackmail the country, they showed it is possible to win against significant odds.”
In 2009, the newly elected left-wing FMLN government initiated a de facto moratorium on metallic mining amid growing anger in threatened rural communities.
In the Cabañas region, where the El Dorado mine is situated, resistance mounted after community station Radio Victoria launched a campaign opposing mining in 2008.
Cristina Starr, from Radio Victoria, said: “Today water won over gold. This historic victory is down to the clarity and determination of the Salvadoran people fighting for life over the economic interests of a few.”
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The DNA - Infertility gene in GMO Corn and Rise in use of contraception. Think Corn Free Birth Control.
Think Corn Free Birth Control. More women than ever use family planning, says the UN, and having one child fewer could dramatically curtail the global population by 2030 By Liz Ford
The number of women using contraceptives in developing countries has soared to record levels in recent years, such that projections for global population growth could be cut by as much as 1 billion over the next 15 years.
The latest figures by the UN show more women than ever now use family planning, with some poorer regions recording the fastest pace of growth since 2000.
In 2015, an estimated 64% of married women, or women living with a partner, aged between 15 and 49, were using modern or traditional forms of family planning. In 1970, the rate was 36%.
The population division of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Undesa) predicts high rates of contraceptive use in Africa over the next 15 years; a region with the largest demand but least access to modern contraceptives.
Undesa’s projections for global population range between 8 billion and 9 billion by 2030.
“The UN projections of population growth already give us an idea of the impact that increased access to family planning could have. If by 2030 the average family size is just one child fewer, then by 2030 the world population is estimated to be approximately 8 billion rather than 9 billion,” said Jagdish Upadhyay, head of reproductive health commodity security and family planning at the UN population fund (UNFPA).
“Evidence shows that women who have access to family planning choose to use family planning, often resulting in smaller families, higher educational achievements, healthier children [and] greater economic power as well as influence in their households and communities,” said Upadhyay.
“If all actors can work together to provide women in every country with the means, which is their right, to voluntarily exercise yet another right to freely determine their family size, then we are likely to see a significant slowing of global population growth.”
In Nigeria, one of the countries predicted to see the biggest population growth over the next few decades and with a contraceptive prevalence rate of 16%, an increase of one percentage point in the use of modern contraceptives would mean about 426,000 more women would be using family planning.
'Stop making sex a taboo': young people speak out on family planning
Upadhyay said many countries, particularly those in west Africa which has a high unmet need for contraception, could potentially reap the demographic dividend: a boost to the economy that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependants.
However, he cautioned that despite the successes of the past 40 years, huge, and sustained, investment in family planning is needed to keep up with demand and meet the needs of women who are unable to access services.
Julia Bunting, president of the Population Council, said: “To impact population projections will require real commitment from countries like Nigeria to invest in high quality, voluntary family planning programmes to expand access to contraceptives.
“The timing, scale and pace of those efforts will determine the magnitude of impact on population projections.”
According to Undesa figures, 142 million married women or those living with a partner, who would like to avoid pregnancy and use a modern form of contraception, are unable to access them. When single women are included, the number rises to 225 million.
Africa has the highest unmet need, with an estimated 33% of women using contraceptives in 2015. East, central and south Africa are expected to increase coverage over the next 15 years, but over that time its large youth population will be reaching reproductive age.
Sarah Onyango, a senior adviser for service delivery at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said continued increases in contraceptive use could have an impact on population figures, but the trend requires more detailed analysis.
“Over the next 15 years, we’re going to see growth in contraceptive use and demand because an increasing number of women of reproductive age will require contraceptive services,” she said.
At an international summit on family planning in London in 2012, donors pledged $2.6bn ($1.8bn) to improve access to contraceptives for 120 million women and girls by 2020.
Last September, world leaders promised to ensure universal access to family planning by 2030, repeating a pledge they had made in 1994.
At an international summit on family planning in London in 2012, donors pledged $2.6bn ($1.8bn) to improve access to contraceptives for 120 million women and girls by 2020.
Last September, world leaders promised to ensure universal access to family planning by 2030, repeating a pledge they had made in 1994.
With a carefully halting structure, this is an elegantly condensed reflection on psychological scarring and healing Analysis:
By Carol Rumens
The Lake of Memories
like broken chairs
in a room.
A room stands
for the ceremony
The self builds
darkness and light
Time winds through
the lake of memories
in frozen tongue.
Howard Altmann’s work may be new to many, so a little biography would not go amiss. The poet and playwright was born and raised in Montreal, but has lived for many years in New York City. His poems are published on the Poetry Foundation website, and in Poetry, The Poetry Review and Academy of American Poets; more are forthcoming in Boulevard, Little Star, Southwest Review and elsewhere. This week’s poem, The Lake of Memories, is from his second collection, In This House, published by Turtle Point Press). He has recently completed a third collection, Notes in the Dark, described by John Ashbery as “a quietly brilliant achievement”.
The “house” in Altmann’s poems is rarely a protected personal enclosure: its doors and windows are open to infiltration by inhuman nature and passing time. It may, as in Night & Day, have more in common with human skin than with bricks and mortar: “A man in a room / is a house in a field.” In the poem Field, an impregnably shuttered building that “has sealed its windows and removed its signs” symbolises religion. Even a day is a kind of building in Gravity: “the day’s architecture collapses” and the poet finds himself “walking over words”. In title poem In This House, the speaker “can hear a home / knocking at a door / left unlocked for years”. The home finds him in an unhomely but welcoming space, “at the top of some ridge /… / with my walls / building solitude out of trees”. That poem, too, features a mysteriously potent, almost decipherable lake, its shimmering surface turned by the wind “into Braille for the half-standing trees”.
The inside-outside fusion explored in The Lake of Memories is made clear by form as well as imagery. The tercets are linked, their stanzaic borders opened by the use of anadiplosis. This kind of daisy-chain technique, linking the last and first lines of each triplet by a repeated word, slows the poem’s forward-impulse to a tentative, step-by-step sort of movement.
“Voices sit / like broken chairs / in a room. // A room stands / for the ceremony of impermanence. // Impermanence cracks / the façade / of self.” Voices that resemble broken chairs are hardly reassuring: they are damaged (by the distortions of time and memory?) and, although they “sit” in the room as if settled and at home, they are not to be relied on. The pairing of solidly end-stopped statements with their uncompromising finite verbs (sit, stand, crack) contrasts with the threat of disintegration. Yet the third stanza already makes a concession: the cracking of the “façade of self” might not be destructive, after all, but the necessary prelude to enhanced consciousness. And so it seems that a new process is initiated and concerns the building of “walls / of healing”. This may primarily be a psychological process, but it also suggests the biochemistry involved in the healing of physical wounds.
The imagery in stanza six suggests that the wounds are historical and their healing long-term. It reminded me of History, a poem nearer the beginning of the collection, in which the speaker recounts: “When he was a young man / at Auschwitz / my father leapt out of line / for a potato / and was saved by a bell / that never rang. / Sixty years later he stands / in his place / by his mother’s tomb – / the only tomb – containing / his hunger for memory.”
While The Lake of Memories can stand by itself, to read the collection chronologically is to sense a reprise of that earlier memory-infused narrative in compressed, symbolic form. The process implied in the last tercet is a strange combination of movement and stasis: “Time winds through / the lake of memories / in frozen tongue.” The phrase “frozen tongue” has many overtones: unsatisfied or thwarted hunger, a language no longer communicative, perhaps no longer spoken, a decision not to speak. There’s a paradox in the idea that such a tongue can “wind through” the lake, somehow alive despite its frozenness. But the future nonetheless seems to have been brought into being by the transformative concept of the wounds forming a bridge.
Wounds heal by a complex, gradual process that includes some connective action not dissimilar to bridge-building. The final scar might be seen as a bridge of regenerated skin cells. Altmann’s poem seems to contain in its slow-paced metaphors the awareness of such a a process.
Poem of the week: Backyard, Hoboken, Summer by Alvin Feinman
5 Movie Villains Who Hate Holiday Cheer More Than Scrooge by ROSE CURIEL
Ah, holiday movies. There's nothing better this time of year for that warm, fuzzy feeling. But what would any heartwarming tale be without a dastardly character (or two) making trouble along the way? (Frankly, they'd be pretty boring.) So let's pay homage to the underappreciated heroes of the season: the villains!
Mr. Potter, It's a Wonderful Life
Cranky old Mr. Potter is so preoccupied with counting his dollar bills that he simply won't cut George Bailey a break. Not only does he refuse to give George handouts, but when $8,000 for the Building and Loan goes missing, Mr. Potter secretly stashes it for himself! Does the man have no soul?
Eddie, Christmas Vacation
Cousin Eddie is the worst kind of holiday villain: the relative who comes to visit and won't leave! When he's not emptying sewage in the Griswold's front yard, he's kidnapping Clark's boss. But we'll forgive him since the guy actually means well.
The Abominable Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
He may not be the brightest yeti, but what the Bumble lacks in smarts, he makes up for with persistence. He won't stop chasing down Rudolph and his glowing red nose, and later traps the reindeer and his family in a cave. Not to worry, there's a happy ending, of course: by the end, he's putting the star on the Christmas tree.
The Grinch, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch wants nothing more than to steal the children of Whoville's toys to prevent Christmas from coming. But what else do you expect from a creature with a heart two sizes too small?
A Case for Agent Maria Hill aka Koko
Report by By Veronique Greenwood and Cassandra Willyard
LIANGFANG ZHANG IS ONE OF THE 10 MOST BRILLIANT PEOPLE OF 2016 - Date August 11, 2016
Tiny, man-made spheres called nanoparticles can shuttle medicines to diseased tissues with incredible precision. But they all face a common challenge: The immune system sees the virus-size particles as threats, and eats them before they can reach their target. Previously, researchers had tried to dupe the immune system, with only limited success. So Liangfang Zhang borrowed a design from nature. He removed the membrane from a red blood cell and snipped it into pieces that he used to envelop nanoparticles. Because the membranes come pre-loaded with proteins that tell the immune system to back off, the cloaked particles slip past the body’s defenses.
But Zhang still needed to steer the medicine to the site of injury or infection. To do that, he upgraded red blood cells for platelets—cells that congregate where wounds occur. Zhang and his colleagues shrouded nanoparticles in platelet skins, loaded them with antibiotics, and then injected them into mice infected with a drug-resistant staph infection. They saw dramatic effects. Although the nanoparticles contained just a sixth of the standard dose, they proved far more effective than a conventionally delivered antibiotic.“That shows the power and the promise of targeted delivery,” Zhang says.
The worm that gave the world symmetry The prototype of all 'two-sided' animals on earth has surfaced...
Written By Tim Radford Edited By Isabel Cutter
An Anglo-Spanish team of scientists has discovered the oldest living ancestor of the bilateral world. Any creature from poker players to partridges, from aardvarks to aphids with right and left hand sides, is cousin to a tiny flatworm that first lived on Earth 530 million years ago.
The acoel lives in sand or mud below water, the world over. It dines on microbes, and has spent most of the past 500 million years keeping out of sight.
At first, the scientists of the University of Barcelona and London's Natural History Museum, did not know how to classify it as it seemed to have no defining characteristics.
In the US journal, Science, they report today that it was the first two-sided creature to make its bow in a world occupied until then largely by blobs, such as the ancestors of sponges and jellyfish.
It was the missing link in the ancestry of creatures which have fronts and backs. 'They have always been simple and they have been on the planet a very long time,' said Tim Littlewood, of the Natural History Museum. 'If we are going to understand how we all came about we need to look at these as well.'
Life began on the planet more than 3 billion years ago but for the first 2 billion years was occupied only by single-celled bacteria.
About 600 million years ago came the first multi-celled animals. They had soft bodies and left behind few traces; by the arrival of the first animals with shells and bones, evolution was well advanced. The origin of most living creatures is a mystery, but scientists using DNA analysis been able to order groups of creatures.
They were surprised to find that acoels were the ancestors of everything else with two sides.
'They have very little going for them,' said Dr Littlewood, adding that biologists had little to get their teeth into when it came to classifying the animals. 'But if you were to say, 'I want an archetypal body plan to start with, what am I going to build on?' this would be a good one to start with.'
Causes of tinea fungal infections Tinea fungal infections are caused by a particular type of fungi, called dermatophytes, which live off keratin.
Keratin is a tough, waterproof tissue found in many parts of your body, including your skin, hair and nails. This explains why fungal infections mostly affect your skin, scalp or nails. source NHS Choices
ASTROPHYSICIST ADAM FRANK'S NEW BOOK MIXES COSMOLOGY WITH HUMANITY. HOW DOES OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNIVERSE AND COSMIC TIME INFORM OUR DAILY LIVES? ESPECIALLY IF TIME IS AN ILLUSION? By Adam Frank
....We interrupt your Sunday from the parallel time zone Sunday 9th ours 11th October 2016 the science of time
The "rebels" who fight the Big Bang theory are mostly attempting to grapple with the concept of time. They are philosophers as much as cosmologists, unsatisfied with the Big Bang, unimpressed with string theory and unconvinced of the multiverse. Julian Barbour, British physicist, author, and major proponent of the idea of timeless physics, is one of those rebels--so thoroughly a rebel that he has spurned the world of academics.
Julian Barbour's solution to the problem of time in physics and cosmology is as simply stated as it is radical: there is no such thing as time.
"If you try to get your hands on time, it's always slipping through your fingers," says Barbour. "People are sure time is there, but they can't get hold of it. My feeling is that they can't get hold of it because it isn't there at all." Barbour speaks with a disarming English charm that belies an iron resolve and confidence in his science. His extreme perspective comes from years of looking into the heart of both classical and quantum physics. Isaac Newton thought of time as a river flowing at the same rate everywhere. Einstein changed this picture by unifying space and time into a single 4-D entity. But even Einstein failed to challenge the concept of time as a measure of change. In Barbour's view, the question must be turned on its head. It is change that provides the illusion of time. Channeling the ghost of Parmenides, Barbour sees each individual moment as a whole, complete and existing in its own right. He calls these moments "Nows."
"As we live, we seem to move through a succession of Nows," says Barbour, "and the question is, what are they?" For Barbour each Now is an arrangement of everything in the universe. "We have the strong impression that things have definite positions relative to each other. I aim to abstract away everything we cannot see (directly or indirectly) and simply keep this idea of many different things coexisting at once. There are simply the Nows, nothing more, nothing less."
Barbour's Nows can be imagined as pages of a novel ripped from the book's spine and tossed randomly onto the floor. Each page is a separate entity existing without time, existing outside of time. Arranging the pages in some special order and moving through them in a step-by-step fashion makes a story unfold. Still, no matter how we arrange the sheets, each page is complete and independent. As Barbour says, "The cat that jumps is not the same cat that lands." The physics of reality for Barbour is the physics of these Nows taken together as a whole. There is no past moment that flows into a future moment. Instead all the different possible configurations of the universe, every possible location of every atom throughout all of creation, exist simultaneously. Barbour's Nows all exist at once in a vast Platonic realm that stands completely and absolutely without time.
"What really intrigues me," says Barbour, "is that the totality of all possible Nows has a very special structure. You can think of it as a landscape or country. Each point in this country is a Now and I call the country Platonia, because it is timeless and created by perfect mathematical rules."
The question of "before" the Big Bang never arises for Barbour because his cosmology has no time. All that exists is a landscape of configurations, the landscape of Nows. "Platonia is the true arena of the universe," he says, "and its structure has a deep influence on whatever physics, classical or quantum, is played out in it." For Barbour, the Big Bang is not an explosion in the distant past. It's just a special place in Platonia, his terrain of independent Nows.
Our illusion of the past arises because each Now in Platonia contains objects that appear as "records" in Barbour's language. "The only evidence you have of last week is your memory. But memory comes from a stable structure of neurons in your brain now. The only evidence we have of the Earth's past is rocks and fossils. But these are just stable structures in the form of an arrangement of minerals we examine in the present. The point is, all we have are these records and you only have them in this Now." Barbour's theory explains the existence of these records through relationships between the Nows in Platonia. Some Nows are linked to others in Platonia's landscape even though they all exist simultaneously. Those links give the appearance of records lining up in sequence from past to future. In spite of that appearance, the actual flow of time from one Now to another is nowhere to be found.
"Think of the integers," he explains. "Every integer exists simultaneously. But some of the integers are linked in structures, like the set of all primes or the numbers you get from the Fibonacci series." The number 3 does not occur in the past of the number 5, just as the Now of the cat jumping off the table does not occur in the past of the Now wherein the cat lands on the floor.
Past and future, beginning and end have simply disappeared in Barbour's physics. And make no mistake about it, Barbour is doing physics. "I know the idea is shocking," he says, "but we can use it to make predictions and describe the world." With his collaborators, Barbour has published a series of papers demonstrating how relativity and quantum mechanics naturally emerge from the physics of Platonia.
Barbour's perfect timeless arrangement of Nows into the landscape of Platonia is the most radical of all solutions to the conundrum of Before. But his audacity reveals an alternative route from this strange moment in science's history. In an era in which the search for quantum gravity has multiplied dimensions and the discovery of dark energy has sent cosmologists back to their blackboards, all the fundamentals seem up for grabs. Barbour is willing to step back even further and offer "no time" as a more basic answer to the question "What is time?"
This is an excerpt from Adam Frank's book About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang_, newly available in paperback. It's from a chapter titled "The End of Beginnings and the End of Time," discussing radical alternatives to the Big Bang. BOOM