A cultured evolution?

Can perceptions arising out of cultural needs override evolutionary goals in the long-run? For example, in India, the average marriage-age is in the late 20s now. Here, the (popular) tradition is to frown down upon, and even ostracize, those who would engage in premarital sex. So, after 10,000 years, say, are Indians more likely to have … Read more

Plotting a technological history of journalism

Electric telegraph July 27, 1866 – SS Great Eastern completes laying of Transatlantic telegraphic cables By 1852, miles of American telegraphic wires had grown from 40 in 1846 to 23,000 In 1849-1869, telegraphic mileage had increased by 108,000 miles Cost of information transmission fell with its increasing ubiquity as well as instantization of global communication. … Read more

A case of Kuhn, quasicrystals & communication – Part IV

Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2011. This led to an explosion of interest on the subject of QCs and Shechtman’s travails in getting the theory validated. Numerous publications, from Reuters to The Hindu, published articles and reports. In fact, The Guardian ran an online article giving a blow-by-blow account of how the … Read more

A case of Kuhn, quasicrystals & communication – Part III

The doctrine of incommensurability arises out of the conflict between two paradigms and the faltering of communications between the two adherent factions. According to Kuhn, scientists are seldom inclined to abandon the paradigm at the first hint of crisis – as elucidated in the previous section – and instead denounce the necessity for a new … Read more

A case of Kuhn, quasicrystals & communication – Part II

Did science journalists find QCs anomalous? Did they report the crisis period as it happened or as an isolated incident? Whether they did or did not will be indicative of Kuhn’s influence on science journalism as well as a reflection of The Structure’s influence on the scientific community. In the early days of crystallography, when the … Read more

A case of Kuhn, quasicrystals & communication – Part I

Dan Shechtman’s discovery of quasi-crystals, henceforth abbreviated as QCs, in 1982 was a landmark achievement that invoked a paradigm-shift in the field of physical chemistry. However, at the time, the discovery faced stiff resistance from the broader scientific community and an eminent chemist of the time. Such things made it harder for Shechtman to prove … Read more

de Tocqueville & the news

That the switch from newspapers to digital handheld devices – for the purpose of sourcing all my news – is limited only by my comfort-level with technology is telling of some shortcoming of the print industry. The changing journalistic scene is a reflection of the way people engage publicly and of how public discourse has … Read more

Notes: News aggregation

Access to multiple sources of news over the internet increases aspirations corresponding to news consumption: readers don’t have to restrict themselves anymore to news that we or they think will be useful to them. Consequently, news aggregators become more than that: they are now personalized news repositories from which news is consumed. With implementation of … Read more

Problems associated with studying the brain

Paul Broca announced in 1861 that the region of the brain now named after him was the “seat of speech”. Through a seminal study, researchers Nancy Kanwisher and Evelina Fedorenko from MIT announced on October 11, 2012, that Broca’s area actually consists of two sub-units, and one of them specifically handles cognition when the body … Read more

Notes from my interaction with Dr. Kannan Soundararajan, Infosys Prize winner

My article on this interview and Dr. Soundararajan’s opinions appeared in The Hindu’s EducationPlus supplement on October 22, 2012 titled “It’s a mixed bag“. — Dr. Kannan Soundararajan is a professor at Stanford University and the director of its Mathematics Research Center. He is a recipient of the Infosys Prize for the Mathematical Sciences, the … Read more