Marcelo Gleiser

Stephen Hawking is one of those rare luminaries whose life symbolizes the best humanity has to offer.

His uncanny creativity as a theoretical physicist and his decades-long struggle with a horribly debilitating motor neuron disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease) inspired millions to revisit their bonds with science and with their personal challenges.

Two years ago yesterday, Dec. 12, nearly 200 countries came to a consensus that greenhouse emissions — mostly caused by the burning of fossil fuels — had to be drastically cut if we were to halt the planetary-changing consequences of a choking atmosphere.

As Europe was being torn apart in the early 17th century by conflicts between Catholics and Protestants — that would lead to the devastating Thirty Years War in 1618 — the German astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote:

"When the storm rages and the shipwreck of the state threatens, we can do nothing more worthy than to sink the anchor of our peaceful studies into the ground of eternity."

As a Brazilian-born scientist, it pains me to witness the devastating cuts — and proposal of future additional reductions — to the country's science funding.

The cut of 44 percent in March brought the 2017 budget for Brazil's Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications the lowest level in 12 years. Additional cuts of about 16 percent have been proposed for the 2018 budget.

Last week, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker published a satirical essay, in which he wondered whether the strange reality we live in could be some kind of computer game played by an advanced intelligence (us in the future or alien).

A mere two years after completing his daring General Theory of Relativity in 1915 — where gravity is interpreted as resulting from the curvature of space and time around a massive body — Albert Einstein wrote a daring article, taking on the whole universe under his new lens.