Nature India Photo Contest 2019 now open

We are back with the annual Nature India photo contest.

This year’s theme is ‘Food’.

Say ‘food’ and everyone has a story to share. These stories could be as diverse as ‘I love pasta’ to ‘the cyclone ruined our paddy yield this year’ to ‘half my country is malnourished and the other half obese’.

These stories point to our deep-seated and lifelong relationship with food. For some food is nutrition, for some others it’s an emotion – a memory, perhaps associated with a smell, taste, place or person?

For a farmer, food may mean a farm, the seeds, the equipment, the land, the market, floods or famine or a harvest festival. For a school going child, food is the lunch box or a piping hot mid-day meal served in the classroom. For many communities, food is a social binder, intrinsically linked to the culture of their land.

For scientists, food is the metabolic, biochemical or physiological process that underlines how an organism uses its source of nutrition. For global policy makers, food is the challenge of securing nourishment for close to 10 billion people by 2050. Food is health, food is environment and many times the connection between the two.

So which face of food would you want to capture in a photograph? Which of these nuanced stories do you want to tell? For the Nature India photo competition this year, we urge you to think deeper about food, beyond just an Instagram-worthy plateful.

Think of pictures that demonstrate how food fundamentally influences or interacts with health, how food security defines the health and happiness of people or how the lack of food may result in a plethora of unwanted consequences. We would also be happy to receive entries that talk to us about the link between the food we eat and our environment, or ones that depict how balanced nutrition makes for healthy people and healthy communities.

You may also draw inspiration from scenes that portray the process and techniques of growing food, cooking it in many interesting and unique ways, of infant nutrition or the politics behind food storage and supply, or even the merits or demerits of packaging food.

The canvas is wide open.

So get set, click and send your entries by 21 December 2019!


The top three pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250, $200. The top 10 finalists will be featured on Nature India’s blog Indigenus

Entries will be judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Winners will be chosen by a panel of Nature Research editors and photographers alongside a leading Indian scientist working in the food sciences — either . The winner and two runners-up will receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2019 and a bag of Nature Research goodies (including Collector’s first issues of Nature and Scientific American and some other keepsakes). Winning entries also stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.


The contest is open to all – any nationality, any occupation, any profession. You may use whatever camera you wish – even your cell phone – as long as the photograph you send us is unedited, original, in digital format and of printable quality. Just make sure you are not violating any copyrights. Also, no obscene, provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit, or other inappropriate content please (refer to the contest terms and conditions below).

Please send your entries in jpeg format to with your name and contact details. Please mention “Nature India Photo Contest 2019” in the subject line of your email. The photograph must be accompanied by a brief caption (please see some photo captions here for reference) explaining the subject of the picture along with the date, time and place it was taken.

We will accept a maximum of two entries per person. The last date for submissions is midnight of December 21, 2019 Indian Standard Time. On social media, please use the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to talk about the contest or to check out our latest updates.

The theme for our inaugural photo competition in 2014 was “Science & technology in India”. Our themes have then covered “Patterns”, “Nature”, “Grand Challenges” and “Vector-borne Diseases”. We have received some breathtaking entries from across the world all these years. You might want to take a look at the winning entries of the Nature India Photo Contest 201420152016, 2017 and 2018 for some inspiration and to get an idea of what we look for while selecting winners.


Please read these terms and conditions carefully. By entering into this Nature India Annual photo contest (“Promotion”), you agree that you have read these terms and that you agree to them. Failure to comply with these terms and conditions may result in your disqualification from the Promotion.

  1. This Promotion is run by Nature Research, a division of Springer Nature Limited a company registered in England with registered number 00785998 and registered office at The Campus, 4 Crinan Street, London N1 9XW (“Promoter”).
  2. To enter this Promotion you must be: (a) resident in a country where it is lawful for you to enter; and (b) aged 18 years old or over (or the applicable age of majority in your country if higher) at the time of entry. This Promotion is void in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria and where prohibited or restricted by law.
  3. This Promotion is not open to directors or employees (or members of their immediate families) of Promoter or any subsidiary of Promoter. Promoter reserves the right to verify the eligibility of entrants.
  4. The Promotion is open for entries between 00:00 on 21/11/2019 and 00:00 on 21/12/2019 IST.
  5. No purchase is necessary to enter this prize Promotion and will not increase your chances of winning.
  6. You can enter this Promotion by emailing
  7. Only two entries per eligible person. More than two entries will be deemed to be invalid and may lead to disqualification.
  8. Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, illegible, corrupted or fail to reach Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Proof of posting or sending is not proof of receipt. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid. No other form of entry is permitted. Please keep a copy of your entry as we will be unable to return entries or provide copies.
  9. The prize for the Promotion consists of the following: Three cash awards worth $350, $250 and $200 for the top three entries respectively, a copy of the Nature India Special Annual Volume 2019 and a bag of goodies (which includes Collector’s first issues of Nature, November 1869 and Scientific American, August 1845; and some other keepsakes) from Nature Research.
  10. The prizes shall be awarded as follows: The prize will be decided in the week following the close of the Promotion. The winners will be notified via email. Winners will be selected by a four person panel of Nature staff, at least one of which will be independent from the Promotion, based on photographic merit, creativity, photo quality, and impact. Full names of the judging panel will be available on request. Any decision will be final and binding and no further communication will be entered into in relation to it.
  11. Ownership of entries: for consideration into this Promotion, you must sign a license to publish form granting the intellectual property rights to Nature Research for your image. This may be used in promotional or marketing material in print and online. You confirm that your entry is your own original work, is not defamatory and does not infringe any laws, including privacy laws, whether of the UK or elsewhere, or any rights of any third party, that no other person was involved in the creation of your entry, that you have the right to give Promoter and its respective licensees permission to use it for the purposes specified herein, that you have the consent of anyone who is identifiable in your contribution or the consent of their parent, guardian or carer if they are under 18 (or the applicable age of majority), it is lawful for you to enter and that you agree not to transfer files which contain viruses or any other harmful programs.
  12. The winner(s) of the Promotion shall be notified by email no more than two weeks after the Promotion closes.
  13. The winner(s) will be required to confirm acceptance of the prize within ten working days and may be required to complete and return an eligibility form stating their age and residency details, among other details. Promoter will endeavour to ensure that winner(s) receive their prizes within 30 days of the date they confirm acceptance of the prize. If a winner does not accept the prize within ten days of being notified, they will forfeit their prize and Promoter reserves the right to choose another winner(s). Promoter’s decision is final and Promoter reserves the right not to correspond on any matter.
  14. The name, region of residence and likeness of the winners may be used by Promoter for reasonable post-event publicity in any form including on Promoter’s website and social media pages at no cost.
  15. You can find out who has won a prize by sending an e-mail to or checking the Nature India blog website Indigenus (
  16. Promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend these Terms and Conditions or change the Prize (to one of equal or greater value) as required by the circumstances. No cash equivalent to the Prize is available.
  17. All personal data submitted by entrants is subject to and will be treated in a manner consistent with Promoter’s Privacy Policy accessible at By participating in this Promotion, entrants hereby agree that Promoter may collect and use their personal information and acknowledge that they have read and accepted the Promoter Privacy Policy.
  18. Promoter may at its sole discretion disqualify any entrant found to be tampering or interfering with the entry process or operation of the website, or to be acting in any manner deemed to be disruptive of or prejudicial to the operation or administration of the Promotion.
  19. Other than for death or personal injury arising from negligence of the Promoter, so far as is permitted by law, the Promoter hereby excludes all liability for any loss, damage, cost and expense, whether direct or indirect, howsoever caused in connection with the Promotion or any aspect of the Prize. All activities are undertaken at the entrants own risk. Your legal rights as a consumer are not affected.]

What’s in our browser tabs? October 2019

As editors of physics journals, we love reading the latest research papers, but we also love a bit of lunch-break science-related browsing. Here are some pieces that caught our eyes in October:

Nature and physics. In Physics Today, Melinda Baldwin recounts the highs and lows of physics research published in Nature over the past 150 years.


At APS News, Preprints make inroads outside of physics. “Recently, however, the tide has begun to shift. Since 2013, dozens of preprint servers in fields such as biology, chemistry, and sociology have popped up and garnered tens of thousands of submissions.”


Football’s concussion crisis is awash with pseduoscience, reports Christie Aschwanden in Wired. “Products that offer a “seatbelt” or “bubble wrap” for the brain claim to reduce head trauma. If only the laws of physics worked that way.”


Check out the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics 36th annual Gallery of Fluid Motion and an accompanying editorial explaining how winners were picked and giving some stats on which fluid dynamics phenomena get awarded the most.


Review with care. Writing in Science, Adriana L. Romero-Olivares gives good advice for when, and how, to comment as a referee on the level of written English of a scientific paper.

Athene Donald asks, What do we know about the research ecosystem? “There is a need for more understanding of the decisions that are taken where and by whom in the research ecosystem and what the implications of these decisions are as they ripple through higher education and far beyond. A new research institute – the Research on Research Institute, or RoRI for short – was launched this week at the Wellcome building (a key partner) in London , with a wealth of snappily short talks to illustrate the range of issues RoRI might elect to study.”

The layered cake of FAIR coordination: how many is too many?

Guest post by Alastair Dunning1, Susanna-Assunta Sansone2, Marta Teperek1

(authors listed alphabetically by surname)

1 Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands; 2 Oxford e-Research Centre, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, UK

Science is living in the era of data – the reuse of other people’s data can drive new research questions and products, and inspire new scientific discoveries. This was the motivation behind the FAIR Principles (published in 2016), which provide researchers with a framework to improve the quality of their research: making their data more Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. To turn these aspirational principles into reality, however, we need to provide researchers with FAIR-enabling tools and services that make frictionless the (complex) technical machinery of (meta)data standards and identifiers that underpins FAIR. Service providers, librarians, journal publishers and funders, among others, are actively working to deliver the next generation framework for FAIR data, which is collaborative, interdisciplinary and sustainable. FAIR has also become the (core) mission of a growing number of initiatives – especially in Europe, USA and Australia – encompassing R&D projects and programmes, institutional, national and global service provision, alliances and societies, training and educational efforts. In particular, numerous policy makers from around the world have articulated a vision of global open science and embraced FAIR as the driving principles. In Europe, for example, the vision is being realised through the ambitious European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) programme, across all disciplines. Read more

How to beat loneliness in a research career

Ramya Nandakumar, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, says research stints in a foreign land can get lonely. It’s prudent to invest in good friendships to beat the depressingly long winters, she says.

Ramya Nandakumar

Inspired by Fleming

I always wanted to become a scientist. A picture in my school textbook of  of Alexander Fleming, nestled in a comfortable corner of his laboratory, looking up into his staph plate appealed deeply to an introvert, curious young me.

Years later, this fascination took me to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi where I worked on a Masters project at the department of transplant immunology. Later, I was offered a three-month internship in Germany as part of a collaborative Indo-German project. When the calls for PhD opened, I applied and continued my research in the same lab. PhD was an extremely steep learning curve, after which I took up a postdoc at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Postdoc is the time to define your career trajectory

To make the best of a postdoc stint, it is advisable to think of it as a ‘stepping stone’ to your career of choice. Having a plan can help you leverage your postdoc to establish a career within or outside of academia. Easier said than done, though a broad understanding of where one intends to go after postdoc can enable supervisors to put you on a trajectory, if they are so inclined.

A good rule of thumb when investing in a research career is to look for a well-funded lab with an investigator preferably with students of several nationalities.

In my current lab I have colleagues from Spain, Germany, China, Iran, Greece and England. While some benefits of multiculturalism are obvious, in a divided world, it is reassuring to see that scientific research has a non-discriminatory way of accepting everyone regardless of where they are from.

It is also worth mentioning that when applying for positions, the cover letter is your best friend. Use it wisely to describe yourself and highlight why you have written to that specific Principal Investigator (PI).  Make it personal if applicable (…I heard you speak at the conference at …., I was inspired by the article you recently published.). This might help you stand out from the many applications the PI receives, especially from India and China.

During my research career, I have been challenged plenty, mostly by my own preconceived notions. Stepping out of one’s culture is a great way of questioning one’s very conditioning.

Tackling winter blues

Denmark is extremely expensive but as a researcher in a university you pay less tax (~32%) than the average Dane. With immigration rules getting tougher, it has become increasingly difficult to bring dependents to Denmark (except spouses and children under 18). Parents and family can get visitor visas but they don’t normally qualify as dependents. This could be a problem if you are the sole caregiver to ageing family back home.

Life in Denmark is lonely, a feeling compounded by the dark and depressingly long and rainy winters in this part of Europe. Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as ‘winter blues’ is quite common around here.  Good bright white light and a dose of Vitamin D can do their bit, but investing in good friendships also helps immensely. Winter blues for the trailing spouse is a reality one must consider. I came to Denmark alone and did not know anyone here. Therefore, a room in an international dormitory came as a blessing.  The shared kitchen was a melting pot of a wide array of cuisines, strong political discourses and diverse viewpoints. This is where I made most of friends I have today, friends from all over the world I share interests with despite our very obvious differences.

Take rejections in your stride

What wasn’t there in that picture of Fleming was a folder thick with rejections: failed experiments, grant rejections, soul-crushing article reviews, and numerous applications that are unfortunately symbolic of today’s research. Although Fleming looked content in his corner, research today is hardly independently run from the confines of a room. The emphasis on networking, being social and collaborating with researchers from within and outside of one’s own discipline. A successful scientist today, is as much a scientist in the typical sense, as he is a collaborator, entrepreneur and writer. These skills are essential, not just desirable any more.

[Ramya Nandakumar can be reached at]

Becoming a parent in graduate school shaped my approach to work–life balance

Karishma Kaushikan assistant professor and Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellow at the Institute of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, University of Pune, India thinks that learning to share details of her personal life at work has made her a better academic mentor.

The Kaushik family at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon.

Bryan Rupp Photography

Out of breath and running late, I entered the room to discuss my latest research updates with faculty members and graduate-school colleagues. Flustered, embarrassed and more than seven months pregnant, I proceeded with the important presentation, not mentioning the false contractions I had woken up to that morning.

It was July 2011, and I was just a year into my PhD programme at the University of Texas at Austin, after graduating with a medical degree in India. At the time, I drew strict lines between my professional and personal lives. This stemmed from the fear of being perceived as ‘not serious about science’ or ‘having a life outside the laboratory’ — something I felt was part of academic culture.

However, choosing to become a parent in graduate school meant that my academic and personal lives could no longer be completely separate. Those rigid divisions between ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ weren’t as solid as they once were.

After my child was born two months later, I continued being discrete about my ‘non-work’ life, avoiding topics related to health concerns, child-care conflicts or personal upheavals.

This came from both self-imposed and institutional pressure to operate within a system that did not account for a ‘non-conventional’ graduate student, be it a young mother or an older candidate.

I defended a major research proposal a few weeks after childbirth, silently accepted curriculum plans that scheduled teaching at 8 a.m. and continued my very heavy workload of course requirements for the PhD programme.

This made an already difficult academic career phase even more challenging. I felt like I was struggling alone professionally, and I felt isolated as one of few new parents in graduate school. I rarely spoke about my child at work, and I hesitated to share insights into the happy moments of my life outside the lab — moments such as celebrating my son’s first birthday or summer plans for a family road trip.

My approach to being open about work–life balance changed through the years of my PhD. During this time, I successfully navigated several crucial milestones in my programme and my research, both of which I had previously struggled with in the early years of my PhD.

Every small accomplishment left me feeling more sure of myself as a scientist, and I gained confidence in my ability to effectively navigate work–life balance.

I realized that my previous approach of putting work above all else, or having no time for life, was farcical, superficial and dishonest to myself and those around me. It disturbed me to think that I was perpetuating the stereotype that to be committed, scientists should have no life outside of science, when in reality I was attempting to do almost the opposite: to raise, in my son, an entire life outside of science.

I resolved to share and openly prioritize parts of my life I had previously kept hidden, including both the responsibilities I shouldered outside of work and the joys of parenthood. I formally requested that my institution reschedule my teaching to a later hour, making it clear that early-morning classes were difficult for a young mother.

I politely excused myself when meetings stretched into the late evening, saying I needed to relieve the nanny, and would catch up later. Over lunch conversations with colleagues, I shared anecdotes of my son’s growth milestones and my plans to host a dinosaur-themed birthday party.

Openly prioritizing and planning my work and life around each other greatly enhanced my competency and enthusiasm at work. My teaching reviews — based on student feedback — went from average to exemplary, The quality and pace of my research output strengthened, and accolades and recognitions for research, teaching and science outreach started coming my way.

My openness also improved my professional relationships and my understanding of the scientific community. Because I was open, others were more open with me, too. While my concerns centred around childcare and managing dual career paths with my spouse (an engineer in the private sector), I discovered that my colleagues had their own hurdles to jump: mental health, immigration concerns or financial constraints.

Today, I am very open with researchers and students in my group about the day-to-day juggling of my personal and professional roles, and I encourage them to be the same. I believe that this fosters honest and respectful professional relationships and a constructive work atmosphere in which we do not hesitate to share the need to manage personal priorities. Not only does this make us more humane, empathetic and approachable individuals, but it also, in a small but powerful way, makes academic science a more inclusive and considerate place.

[This article first appeared in Nature.]

The story behind the story: The wind knows all

This week, Futures is delighted to welcome back Beth Cato and her story The wind knows all. Regular readers will recall that Beth is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth trilogy, as well as having written a number of stories for Futures (you’ll find a full list at the foot of this post). You can find out more about her work at her website or by following her on Twitter. Here, she reveals what inspired her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing: The wind knows all

I belong to Codex, a site for neo-pro writers that provides deep friendships, publishing industry news, and numerous writing contests throughout the year. The twice-a-year flash-fiction contests are among my very favourites.

The usual contest format involves five story prompts followed by a weekend of frenzied writing and revising to produce a work of flash fiction that I hope will not prove to be an embarrassment. Often, I end up combining several prompts to prod a story from my brain. That was the case with The wind knows all.

One of the prompts called on me to randomly shuffle through my phone’s music. That brought me to a song by one of my favourite bands, ‘Dust Bowl Dance’ by Mumford and Sons. Still, the song alone wasn’t enough to build a story. I studied the other prompts and fixated on one that asked, “How do you feed a ghost?”

My writer-brain, funny thing that it is, wondered: what if the dusty wind is filled with ghosts? Not just the ghosts of people, but the very spirit of a planet?

To make things even more challenging, I resolved to make the planet into the narrator, giving it insight into every other character and control over my protagonist, Maribel. Contest feedback pointed out that Maribel needed more agency. I agreed. I made the point-of-view even more complex by limiting the planet’s control over Maribel, establishing her as an independent teen girl amid horrible circumstances.

Codex’s contests are awesome because they push me to experiment, such as with prompts I’d never use otherwise (like the playlist on my phone) or with perspectives that would be downright daunting if I gave them too much thought (like the voice of an entire planet). Sometimes those experiments don’t work. In this case, it did, and I’m happy to see The wind knows all find a home with Nature’s Futures.

Read more Futures stories by Beth:

A picture is worthThe 133rd Live Podcast of the Gourmando Resistance | Powers of observationExcerpts from the 100-day food diary of Angela MeyerThe human is late to feed the catBread of lifePost-apocalyptic conversations with a sidewalkCanopy of skulls

The story behind the story: Infringement

This week, Futures is pleased to welcome Timothy J. Gawne with his story Infringement. By day, Timothy is a neuroscientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but outside of the university, he is also author of the Old Guy cybertank novels. Here, he reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Infringement

The idea for writing Infringement came up, as so many of my writing ideas do, when I was corresponding with my genius editor brother Jonathan.  He throws ideas at me, and usually I go “that’s stupid” or “not my style” but often when I sleep on them I realize that it can work if I just do X …

Somehow the idea of a galactic copyright police came up, and I thought, what if Earth itself was infringing and had to be destroyed?  Once I had that basic idea down, the story wrote itself.

It might seem harsh to rub out an entire world with billions of (alleged?) sentient beings to protect someone’s intellectual property, but don’t we do similar things now when we deny vital medicines to countless poor people to avoid hurting the profits of the people who count?  Why should a galactic/universal civilization be any better?

The idea of an advanced civilization that can build entire planets to order is hardly new — think Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — but why would we imagine that these planets would all be custom?  Look at how many of the manufactured items we have that are mass-produced.  Perhaps Earth would be considered a classic design, far more interesting than those boring planets where everything is a sunny beach littered with diamonds.  And even as people reading the same book or watching the same movie can take pleasure from sharing their experiences, surely owners of Earth might feel the same?

Science fiction can be written at several technological levels, ranging from grounded-in-current-physics (such as The Martian, by Andy Weir) to a level where the technology is so fantastically advanced that it becomes taken for granted in a way that becomes comical (The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but also Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley, or even the old 1960s TV series Lost in Space).  Here I obviously chose the latter.

Most people who own Honda Civic automobiles are happy with them the way they are, but there are always some who want to tinker.  It’s a lot easier than building an entirely new car from scratch and, in addition, people can compare notes to see who can get the most out of a stock design.  Perhaps the same thing would happen with Earth?  Hmm, a story about a customized Earth competition, and all these hopped-up Earths come together to see who can take the grand prize of coolest Earth.  I know, someone from the reference standard Earth will be there as well, to give perspective to all the ways that Earth could have gone, if deliberately evolved by intelligences with different styles and tastes.  Let me call my brother …






The story behind the story: You will remember this

In You will remember this, Justen Russell introduces Futures to a novel alien race with a very different perspective on life from our own. A microbiologist by day, Justen has very kindly taken some time out from the lab to explain the origins of his latest tale, and the choices he made when writing it. As ever, it is best to read the story first.

Writing You will remember this

In an earlier draft of You will remember this there was a poster on the wall behind the narrator. On it a single, colourful image depicted our Solar System in all four dimensions, from the Big Bang to the heat death of the Universe. That poster, like Patrick Xu, added a little background to the world of the story, but the section it was described in did not fit nicely into the final version.

I have wanted to write this story since the I first encountered the theory of a biological arrow to time. The theory states that the Universe and everything that will happen is already determined. That we — living, conscious entities within that Universe — experience the past, present and future as a quirk of our biology and entropy. Because we form our memories by organizing molecules in our brain, at any point in time we can only remember events that occurred before those molecules were organized, i.e. we can remember the past but not the future, but both exist.

That poster with an image of the Solar System from the start of time to the end was mentioned in passing. The narrator said: “Personally, I just like the colours.” That is probably why it did not survive to the final draft. It was an artefact that was more meaningful because it was taken for granted. Pop-culture is full of scientific images, images that changed our perception of the world, images that took thousands of person-hours to create: the periodic table, Earth from space, the double helix of DNA. These images are placed on posters, screen-savers and corporate logos. They become so commonplace that they have meaning outside of the technical details they contain. The image of the Solar System in four dimensions was the same. Everyone in the story grew up knowing the Universe is determined, but not really understanding what that means. To most, the poster would have been just a pretty picture that represented an abstract idea, even though it contained in it everything that had happened, and everything that would happen. Not with enough resolution that one could see what they would be doing at 11:45 next Tuesday, but it would be understood that such precision is possible. I think the purpose of this story is to wonder what it would be like to grow up knowing such a profound truth without understanding it personally; children do not meet aliens.

It would be unsettling to talk to an alien for the first time. I know I would struggle to pass the test. My first attempt would be similar to the narrator’s, I would try to do the opposite of what was said. Afterwards, I would need to try again. The second time I would probably do exactly what was said and hope to somehow ‘trick fate’. I already know how disappointed I would be, on the third attempt, when after planning to stand there silently and ignore whatever was said I hear a prediction that I am going to do exactly that. It would take me many attempts, but I think I would eventually understand. I am afraid, however, of what truly understanding means. It would be so easy to conclude that consciousness is an illusion, that predetermination is incompatible with choice.

A large part of this story is to contend the opposite. Consciousness is making choices, even if those choices have already been made, even if those choice will always be made; they are still meaningful. If one chooses to wait before crossing the road, or chooses to run for political office, or chooses to compensate for the wind when landing on Titan’s Mayda Insula, they make that choice with the information available at the time. To always make the same choice in the same situation, with the same circumstances, and the same memories does not make one an automaton. It does not mean that one is simply a pawn to fate or swept along in the current of predetermination. It means those actions were, are, and will continue to be a part of the determined shape of the Universe. It means those choices, in their own small way, mattered.