Curious Bends – homeopathy’s Nazi connections, painful science, the HepC bombshell and more

1. Standing up for the truth about homeopathy and Nazi medicine “Few people would doubt the Nazi atrocities constituted the worst violations of ethics in the history of medicine. They were possible because doctors had disregarded the most elementary rules of medical ethics. Using unproven, disproven or unsafe treatments on misinformed patients, as in alternative … Read more

From Orwell to Kafka, Markov to Doctorow: Understanding Big Data through metaphors

Big Data... right? Credit: DARPA

On March 20, I attended a short talk by Malavika Jayaram, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, titled ‘What we talk about when we talk about Big Data’ at the T.A.J. Residency in Bengaluru. It was something of an initiation into the social and political contexts of Big Data and its usage, and … Read more

Curious Bends – macaroni scandal, bilingual brain, beef-eating Hindus and more

1. The great macaroni scandal in the world began in Kerala “‘Only the upper class people of our larger cities are likely to have tasted macaroni, the popular Italian food. It is made from wheat flour and looks like bits of onion leaves, reedy, hollow, but white in colour.’ This paragraph appears in a piece titled: “Ta-Pi-O-Ca … Read more

Tuberculosis’s invisible millions – in cases and money

Tuberculosis (TB) has killed more than a billion people in the last 200 years. That’s more than any other infectious disease in that period. And, what’s worse is that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), less than half the cases worldwide are ever diagnosed. India suffers the most. It has the highest burden of TB in the … Read more

OA shouldn’t stop at access

Joseph Esposito argues in the scholarly kitchen why it’s okay for OA articles (which come with a CC-BY license) to be repackaged and then sold for a price by other merchants once they’re out in a paper. The economic incentive to reach new audiences could make that otherwise OA article into something that gets brought to … Read more

A future for driverless cars, from a limbo between trolley problems and autopilots

One of Google's driverless cars. Credit:

By Anuj  Srivas and Vasudevan Mukunth What’s the deal with everyone getting worried about artificial intelligence? It’s all the Silicon Valley elite seem willing to be apprehensive about, and Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom seems to be the patron saint along with his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014). Even if Big Data seems like it could … Read more

Curious Bends – babies for sale, broken AIIMS, male gynaec and more

1. China has a growing online market for abducted babies “Girls fetch considerably less than boys, but there is still a market for them. Old social patterns have re-emerged in the market, like the sale of girls into a household where they will be servants until they and the son of the house are of … Read more

The notion of natural quasicrystals is here to stay

In November 2008, Luca Bindi, a curator at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze, Italy, found that the alloy of aluminium and copper called khatyrkite could be a quasicrystal. Bindi couldn’t be sure because he didn’t have the transmission electron microscope necessary to verify his find, so he couriered two grains of it to a lab in Princeton University. There, … Read more

The Large Hadron Collider is back online, ready to shift from the “what” of reality to “why”

View of the LHC. Image: CERN

The world’s single largest science experiment will restart on March 23 after a two-year break. Scientists and administrators at the European Organization for Nuclear Research – known by its French acronym CERN – have announced the status of the agency’s upgrades on its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its readiness for a new phase of experiments running from now until 2018. … Read more