The first space nation, Asgardia, is accepting applications for citizenship. But is it a hoax?

Now’s your chance to become part of an exciting new venture. Or to think about it. Maybe just think about it for now.


If you believe that the technology to live in space will be available to you within your lifetime; if you agree with the political philosophy outlined by the ‘World Passport’; if you find yourself in China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, or Brazil with a hankering to take to the stars, then perhaps you should consider becoming a citizen of Asgardia, an organization that hopes to be the first ‘country in space.’

What do you need to do to become a citizen of Asgardia?

Read the Asgardian Constitution. If you agree with it, then you can apply.

Where is Asgardia located?

 Stubenring 2/8-9, 1010 Wien, Austria.

How big is Asgardia?

They currently claim around 200,000 citizens -- many of them Russian.

Where will Asgardia be eventually?

Asgardia seeks to live in space stations circling the earth and on a moon base, perhaps in the next twenty-five years. There are no current designs for the space stations or moon base at this time.

An artist's depiction of Asgardia. Flickr user CarlosR38

That’s it? All I need to become a citizen of Asgardia is to read something and then apply?

Once you join -- and they are accepting applications -- they ask for your information: where you live, your education, the best way to contact you, and that’s pretty much it. 

The Independent has reported that Asgardia might consider an IQ test for prospective citizens, but the potential of citizens having to take an IQ test sets up a decent (and relevant) follow-up question.

Is this all a scam?

There’s not an implausible chance. Outsiders being offered IQ tests and then being told that they either have ‘just the intelligence’ needed for a ‘special project’ or that there’s something wrong with them that only someone else can fix -- as Scientology has done for years -- sounds like a scam.

The website Stop Fake -- a collection of Ukranian journalists seeking to point out Russian propaganda -- notes that Asgardia “encourages people to buy shares in its joint stock company, Asgardia AG and invest in their own cryptocurrency.

There’s also a not implausible chance that this might also be a Russian thing.

The… Russians?

The Russians. The current President of Asgardia -- Igor Ashurbeyli -- is the former head of the arms manufacturer that made the missile that shot down MH-17. Despite the ideals espoused by Asgardia -- “Access to outer space should be a human right,” he told the crowd at Asgardia’s launch in Vienna -- he thinks Russia should be ruled by a Tsar. (He also noted that -- per Stop Fake once again -- “Asgardian women are the happiest because 84 percent of the population are men.” It’s a tone that seems more in line with the Asgardian complaint regarding ‘ethical boundaries’ regarding research and science, as one writer noted.) One of the country’s claimed ‘citizens’ is the official portrait painter of Vladimir Putin.

But what do you do if you still want to live in a new country? 

The Canadian Dennis Leigh once said—and it’s something the Scottish writer Alasdair Gray co-opted and made famous—“Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation,” and there’s no reason why that still can’t hold true for you.

And there’s no reason to think that a new country won’t emerge in your lifetime either: we have seen independence votes in Quebec, Catalonia, and Scotland, and there’s no reason to think that something like that -- hopefully pursued with kindness and care -- won’t happen again.

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Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.