Of reason and realism

Laurie Penny writes on Longreads: Remember the U.S. presidential debates of 2016? Remember how the entire liberal establishment thought Hillary Clinton had won, mainly because she made actual points, rather than shambling around the stage shouting about Muslims? What’s the one line from those debates that everyone remembers now? It’s “Nasty Woman.” What’s the visual? It’s Trump literally … Read more

To explain the world

Simplicity is a deceptively simple thing. Recently, a scientist who was trying to explain something in general relativity to me did so in the following way: One simple way to understand … is as follows. Imagine that one sets up spherical polar coordinates, so that space is described by r, theta, phi and time is described by … Read more

NYT on fire

As the world burns, is anyone paying attention to the New York Times? Because if you’re not, you should: it’s catching fire as well. On May 23, the grand old newspaper published a report by Maggie Haberman about how former Trump aide Hope Hicks has an “existential” crisis over complying with a congressional subpoena. Granted, it’s been full … Read more

Science in the face of uncertainty

In 2018, scientists from IISc announced they’d found a room-temperature superconductor, an exotic material that has zero resistance to electric current in ambient conditions – considered the holy grail of materials science. But in the little data the authors were willing to share with the world, something seemed off. Within a few days, other scientists in … Read more

The wind and the wall

I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering but I’ve always struggled with thermodynamics. To the uninitiated, this means most of the knowledge specific to mechanical engineering over other branches remains out of my reach. I would struggle even with the simpler concepts, and perhaps one of the simplest among them was pressure. When a … Read more

A century of the proton

In 1907, a New Zealander named Ernest Rutherford moved from McGill University in Canada to the University of Manchester. There, he conducted a series of experiments where he fired alpha particles1at different materials. When he found that the beams deviated by about 2º when fired through air, he figured that the atomic constituents of air … Read more

The Nehru-Gandhis’ old clothes

The following tweet has been doing the rounds the last few days: It carries an important message from India’s recent past, that a time of free-as-in-free speech actually did exist only half a century ago. It stands in stark contrast to the public political clime today, where people are jailed for sharing harmless memes and … Read more

The worm and the world

Alanna Mitchell reports in the New York Times that boreal forests in the world’s north are being invaded by worms of the species Dendrobaena octaedra. They’re decomposing the leaf litter and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, transforming these carbon-negative forests into carbon-positives. In the process, they’re also disrupting climate models that scientists had prepared to understand how climate catastrophe … Read more

The dance of the diamonds

You probably haven’t heard of the Chladni effect but you’ve likely seen it in action. Sprinkle some grains of sand on a thin metal plate and play a violin bow across it, and you’ll notice that the grains bounce around for a bit before settling down into a pattern, and refuse to budge after that. … Read more

Using ‘science’ appropriately

Ref: (Setting aside the use of the word ‘faith’) The work that some parts of CSIR has done and is doing is indeed very good. However, I feel we are not all properly attuned to the difference between the words “science” and “technology”. I don’t accuse Mande of ignorance but possibly the New Indian Express, … Read more