Of socks in black-holes and wasted stone tablets

Dennis Overbye, one of the New York Times‘s star science writers (the other being Carl Zimmer), had a curious piece up November 19 about why “we should leave some mysteries alone” and what mysteries he would like to leave alone personally. He wrote, Jim Peebles, the famed cosmologist at Princeton University, once told me that … Read more

The trouble with activism as expertise

There are two broad problems I’ve seen so far with writers/journalists quoting activists in science, health and environment stories as experts. (This post deals entirely with the Indian context.) First: Who has time for activism? The answer almost always is someone on the mainland, far away from the place to which their activism actually applies, … Read more

Understanding the proton’s mass – and then the universe’s

You are taught in school that protons and neutrons are particles. However, unless you get into physics research later in life, the likeliest way you are going to find out that they are technically quasiparticles is through the science media. So here it is. 😄 Setting aside their electric charge, protons and neutrons are very … Read more

Engineering a way out of global warming

After its licentious article about Earth having a second moon, I thought National Geographic had published another subpar piece when I saw this headline: Small Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming for Years The headline is click-bait. The article itself is about how regional nuclear war, such as between two countries like India and Pakistan, … Read more

A fair trial

BBC News Africa undertook an excellent investigation to reveal that a group of men who killed four unarmed civilians – two women and two children – in 2015 belonged to the Cameroonian military. Fourteen journalists worked on the story, together with Amnesty International, using Google Earth imagery, satellite images, social media, prior news reports and … Read more

On the New Yorker’s ‘EDS doctor’ story

A fascinating tale in the New Yorker: Michael Holick, a medical researcher and doctor at the Boston University, Massachusetts, has been finding that many American families that have had their babies taken away from them because State Services suspected abuse are in fact up against a little-known disease, called hypermobile Ehler-Danlos syndrome (EDS). The story typically goes … Read more

A culture of communication

Srinavasa Chakravarthy, presumably a mathematician going by a reference in his post, penned an open letter for TH Read about how Indian scientists … rarely follow the scientific work of [our] Indian colleagues, perhaps because such attention has no practical and material consequence. Thus, we constantly face what is popularly called a double whammy. As it is, the Western academics … Read more

NatGeo clickbait

A National Geographic article published on November 6 carried a surprising headline: Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’ The lede followed through: Earth’s moon may not be alone. After more than half a century of speculation and controversy, Hungarian astronomers and physicists say they have finally confirmed the existence of two Earth-orbiting “moons” entirely made of dust. This … Read more

Twitter ≠ reality

Behold: Vijaya Gadde is the “Legal, Policy and Trust and Safety Lead at Twitter”. Her replies are to Indian right-wingers on Twitter demanding to know why Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saw fit to be photographed holding a poster with the words “Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy” on it. Her copy-pasted apology, while clarifying that the picture wasn’t … Read more

Dead animal pics

I think the media needs to adopt a rule about not displaying raw footage of dead animals, especially if they’re in a poor state. It’s gross, undignified and triggering – but most of all, it’s used to convey a very narrow-minded view of a complex problem. The gross factor ties into the question of dignity: … Read more