Two books

When thoughts turn stale, read a book. I’m reading two at the moment, which is telling. Patriots and Partisans by historian Ram Guha, an accessible narration of the historical roots of modern Indian national politics. Flights by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, a work of fiction that I noticed because of its beautiful cover and then for … Read more

Satire: Ducks in water could increase oxygen content

According to Biplab Deb, the chief minister of Tripura, the oxygen content of water will increase if ducks swim in it. [Satire begins here] This is a sensational new discovery that has drastic implications for Earth’s future. The lawmaker’s thinking suggests it might have something to do with duck-farts. There are thousands of water bodies … Read more

The editor, the writer and the exclusivity

Do all editors share that excoriating sensation that carves through one’s gut when one sees one’s writer writing for another publication? Of course, “one’s writer” is unjust phrasing because writers don’t belong to editors and are free to write for whoever they please. However, this isotropic sea of writer-editor relationships is more suitable for the … Read more

Absolute hot

There’s only one absolute zero but there are multiple absolute ‘hots’, depending on the temperature at which various theories of physics break down. This is an interesting conception because, while absolute zero is very well-defined and perfectly understood, absolute hot simply stands for the exact opposite not in a physical sense but in an epistemological … Read more

War and peace

I asked a friend earlier today if he would be interested in explaining the observation of Lyman-alpha lines in anti-hydrogen to an audience of high-schoolers.But will high-schoolers ever be able to understand what Lyman-alpha lines in anti-hydrogen are? In other words, when will 17-year-olds ever be expected to know this? They won’t. Not knowing what … Read more

The spades

Donald Trump When you criticise a person, you naturally take into account their office and assess whether you know all that you need to to come to your conclusions. For a long time, this ‘stop and assess’ step prevented mediapersons, who generally like to be careful, from calling Donald Trump an outright liar or an … Read more

Landing over Chennai

Chennai is my favourite city to land in an airplane over. The runway at its Meenambakkam Airport is oriented such that planes often have to land after manoeuvring themselves over the Bay of Bengal, approaching the city over the Marina beach. As a result, especially at night, it becomes evident how Chennai ‘originates’ from its … Read more

On the banner on the ISRO homepage

The ISRO homepage has been hijacked by an almost-full-page banner soliciting readers’ comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. A friend was understandably irked by this and wanted to know if it could be discussed in an article. This is annoying for sure. The ‘Click here’ link opens another tab and loads a … Read more

Failing Sarabhai

We are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society. Normally this kind of comment would be a platitude. In fact, it still is except for … Read more

High-temp. superconductivity, hype cycles and peer review

TL;DR – Journalists are already more accountable than the publishers of scientific journals are. If scientists find journalistic review of the scientific literature to be lacking, help them improve instead of completely disabling them from doing it. *** The recent conversation about preprints, motivated by Tom Sheldon’s article in Nature News, focused on whether access … Read more