Inspecting nuclear warheads like they were passwords

Nuclear weapon inspectors have a weighty but tricky job. An inspecting state relies on them to verify if a weapon is a nuclear warhead, but the state whose weapons are being inspected doesn’t want to divulge too much information about the weapon’s design or performance. As David Cliff, a researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Center, … Read more

A gamma ray telescope at Hanle: A note

A gamma ray telescope is set to come up at Hanle, Ladakh, in 2015 and start operations in 2016. Hanle was one of the sites proposed to install a part of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, too. A survey conducted in the 1980s and 90s threw up Hanle as a suitable site to host telescopes because … Read more

Did Facebook cheat us?

No. There were some good arguments on this topic, swinging between aesthetic rebuttals to logical deconstructions. Here are four I liked: 1. Tal Yarkoni, Director of the Psychoinformatics Lab at University of Texas, Austin, writes on his blog, “… it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s nothing intrinsically evil about the idea that large corporations might be trying … Read more

Science Quiz – June 30, 2014

Every week, I create a science quiz for The Hindu newspaper’s In School product. It consists of 10 questions and only developments from the week preceding its day of publication (Monday). The answers are at the end. A team of Scottish scientists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest animal-built _____ in Africa in the week of June 23. According to … Read more

Looking for life? Look for pollution.

Four-thousand years on Earth and we’ve a lot of dirt to show for it. Why would an advanced alien civilization be any different? That’s the motivation that three astrophysicists from Harvard University have used to determine that powerful telescopes could look for signs of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in alien atmospheres as signs of alien civilization. “If the civilization reaches … Read more

Blogging at NYTimes and The Hindu

I’m going to draw some parallels here between the The New York Times and The Hindu in the context of Times’s decision to shut or merge up to half of its blogs (Disclosure: I launched The Hindu Blogs in December 2012 and coordinated the network until May 2014). This is not about money-making, at least not directly, as much as about two newspapers faced … Read more

Restarting the LHC: A timeline

CERN has announced the restart schedule of its flagship science “project”, the Large Hadron Collider, that will see the giant machine return online in early 2015. I’d written about the upgrades that could be expected shortly before it shut down in 2012. They range from new pixel sensors and safety systems to facilities that will double the … Read more

New results on Higgs bosons’ decay into fermions

For a boson to be the Higgs boson, it has to be intimately related to the physical process it was hypothesized in 1964 to help understand. With new results published on June 22, physicists from CERN, the lab that runs the experiments that first discovered the Higgs boson, have found that to be true, further cementing the credibility of … Read more

Science Quiz – June 23, 2014

Every week, I create a science quiz for The Hindu newspaper’s In School product. Although it is geared exclusively at school students, it should be available for adults as well because it’s a great place to find the news packaged plain and simple. The quiz consists of 10 questions and only developments from the week preceding … Read more

Spitzer has helped choose a near-Earth object the A.R.M. could bring nearer

From its perch up in space, Spitzer can use its heat-sensitive infrared vision to spy asteroids and get better estimates of their sizes. This is what the author of a study that appeared in Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 19 said in a NASA press release about the space telescope. The Spitzer was used by … Read more