The names of smartness

Something leapt in my heart when I read Kangana Ranaut’s latest repartee to Saif Ali Khan’s misguided notes on nepotism and eugenics. There were many reasons for this but one in particular was to see the name ‘Terence Tao’ mentioned among the examples Ranaut picked to describe the world’s smartest people (flipside: no women on the list): You … Read more

Why Titan is awesome #9

Featured image: Four of the 66 antennae of the ALMA array. Credit: Carlos Padilla – AUI/NRAO. Editions one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight In edition #8 of ‘why Titan is awesome’, we visited a lake near Titan’s north pole, named Ligeia Mare, and how it could sport long lines of tiny – ~2 cm – waves. In a new study, scientists have uncovered evidence that … Read more

Quasiparticles: A useful perspective

Recently, an international team of researchers claimed that it had discovered particles called Majorana fermions in a topological superconductor. The international press went gaga but, unfortunately, there wasn’t much discussion on whether what had been found was a particle or a quasiparticle. Many news outlets assumed that they were one and the same – but they’re … Read more

Not for me a distinction between opinions and reportage

(Note: There’s some text beyond the postscript at the bottom.) A recent discussion with some of my peers alerted me to a need I’ve either been deaf to or just don’t buy: readers, at least some of them, prefer to be presented with a clear distinction between opinion and reported pieces on a news website. … Read more

Of armchair critics, journalists and sportspersons

You remember the criticism that former Indian men’s ODI cricket captain M.S. Dhoni received when a member of the press, Sam Ferris, asked him a question about his retirement during a presser, got invited to the front by the sportsman and got snubbed in front of everyone? Shortly after, Arun Venugopal wrote an open letter to … Read more

The remembering of Maryam Mirzakhani

Four p.m. I was blinking out of my afternoon siesta and scrolling down my Twitter feed catching up on whatever I’d missed when an RT by Thony Christie caught me quite by surprise: “Mathematics genius Maryam Mirzakhani has passed away”. It really jolted me out of my reverie. I vaguely remembered her fair, soft face, … Read more

Goopy junk

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop, a wellness brand that has recently come under fire for advertising almost-certainly pseudoscientific “lifestyle” products like $66 jade eggs for women to insert into their vaginas to strengthen their pelvic floors, put up three notes in their defence: two by doctors and one by ‘Team goop’. The ‘Team goop’ note was the usual … Read more

The photon that wasn’t teleported

Chinese researchers have teleported a photon from the Gobi desert to a satellite orbiting 500 km above the earth. — Jennifer Ouellette (@JenLucPiquant) July 11, 2017 The first time an object has been teleported from Earth to orbit, and it smashes quantum records. — MIT Technology Review (@techreview) July 11, 2017 Last month, … Read more

Maintaining cabin pressure

Call me nitpicky or misguided but, as silly as this WhatsApp message sounds…   … how many people stop to check how cabin pressure really works? Clearly the message is wrong but where does our impression that “it’s wrong” come from? Does it come from the fact that it’s an unqualified WhatsApp forward? its author … Read more

Why Titan is awesome #8

Editions one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. A new study has used radar data obtained by the Cassini probe to determine that the winds blowing on Saturn’s moon Titan aren’t that strong. This is because waves on the surface of the three largest lakes near the moon’s north pole probably aren’t that high, at least in the “early summer”. The lakes … Read more