Curious Bends – affordable cigs, notes from Fukushima, a destructive bladder craze, and more

Marlboro cigarettes. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

1. Despite rising taxes, cigarettes in India have become more affordable “Over the past few years, the Indian government has been stepping up efforts to reduce tobacco consumption by hiking taxes on cigarettes. In February, finance minister Arun Jaitley proposed raising the duties even further by at least 15%. Despite this, the WHO report shows that … Read more

Why the F-91W keeps ticking

The Casio F-91W. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re one of the millennials, you’re expected to not know about the Casiotron almost by definition – but you probably do. It was a Casio digital watch first sold in October 1974, and its claim to fame was that it was “computerised”, able to calculate the number of days in a month (but not … Read more

GSLV D6 is a confidence booster

The GSLV Developmental-flight 6 launch by the Indian Space Research Organisation on August 27 was three things: the launch of the GSAT 6 satellite for the Indian military, the fifth successful launch of a GSLV rocket, and the second successful test-flight of the indigenous cryogenic upper-stage engine. The satellite is a two-tonne behemoth that’s too heavy … Read more

Roundup of missed stories – August 26, 2015

Too many things to do at work this last week, so much so that I missed writing/blogging on a bunch of articles and papers that in other circumstances I’d have loved to discuss. Here they are, rounded up in the chance that you might find one of them interesting and consider taking the debate surrounding … Read more

Conflicts in the Middle East are bringing down NOx emissions

Two years ago, a study in Science put a detailed analysis behind an idea that had already taken root on a lot of people’s minds: that the unfavourable weather conditions climate change was creating around the world could be related to the world’s growing tendency toward conflicts. The study’s authors weren’t saying that bad weather … Read more

GitHub hit by DDoS attack

The collaborative coding platform GitHub became the subject of a DDoS attack on August 25, its second this year after having been targeted by a massive attack in March. The issue first appeared at 3.05 pm IST, according to GitHub’s status log, when administrators began inspecting “connectivity problems”. By 4.08 pm, the issues were identified to … Read more

Curious Bends – tumour twin, ethical non-vegetarians, fixing Indian science, and more

Apologies for the unplanned summer holiday, but we’re back! 1. Was the tumour inside her brain her twin? (Audio) She moved from Hyderabad to do her PhD at Indiana University and began​ ​experiencing headaches and suffering from​ ​sleep disorders. Co-workers​ ​and friends would speak to her, only for the sentences to get all​ ​garbled. She was in … Read more

Not all waterworlds can host life

An illustration of an ocean planet with two natural satellites. Credit: Lucianomendez/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

During its formation, Venus was in the Solar System’s habitable zone – much like Earth is now. Scientists think its surface contained liquid water, and its atmosphere was somewhat like Earth’s. Maybe there was life, too. However, as the levels of carbon dioxide kept increasing, its atmosphere became opaque, trapping most of the heat reflected … Read more

ACAT in the wild

The software working behind the robotic voice of Stephen Hawking was released for public use on August 18 by Intel, the company that developed it. Although principally developed for Hawking, the ‘tool’ has since been made available to many other people suffering from motor neurone disease, an ailment that gradually but steadily deadens the neurons that … Read more

A stinky superconductor

Levitation of a magnet atop a superconductor. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The next time you smell a whiff of rot in your morning’s eggs, you might not want to throw them away. Instead, you might do better to realise what you’re smelling could be a superconductor (under the right conditions) that’s, incidentally, riled up the scientific community. The source of excitement is a paper published in … Read more