Authority, authoritarianism and a scicomm paradox

I received a sharp reminder to better distinguish between activists and experts irrespective of how right the activists appear to be with the case of Ustad, that tiger shifted from its original habitat in Ranthambore sanctuary to Sajjangarh Zoo in 2015 after it killed three people. Local officials were in favour of the relocation to…… Continue reading Authority, authoritarianism and a scicomm paradox

Hard sci-fi

Come November, I will be at the Bangalore Literary Festival in conversation with Sri Lankan sci-fi author Navin Weeraratne. I am told Navin – “like you,” according to one of the organisers – is a proponent of hard sci-fi, the science fiction subgenre that draws upon legitimate scientific ideas and principles. A less obsessive reader…… Continue reading Hard sci-fi

The mission that was 110% successful

Caution: Satire. On October 2, Kailash S., the chairman of the Indian Wonderful Research Organisation (IWRO), announced that the Moonyaan mission had become a 110% success. At an impromptu press conference organised inside the offices of India Day Before Yesterday, he said that the orbiter was performing exceptionally well and that a focus on its secondary…… Continue reading The mission that was 110% successful

Fortitude

What’s the point of sweating to compose a good argument when the reader doesn’t exist who will rebut it instead of nosing around to figure out who penned it and going after them instead? This is a question worth asking but the answer is even more important. When faced with an audience addicted to ad…… Continue reading Fortitude

The alleged politicisation of science

“Don’t politicise X” has become the defence of choice for a class of scientists and public intellectuals in India whose class and caste privilege utterly blinds them to various inequities in the practice of science – as privilege is wont to do – and who labour with the presumption that these inequities, should they miraculously…… Continue reading The alleged politicisation of science

Good writing is an atom

https://twitter.com/HochTwit/status/1174875013708746752 The act of writing well is like an atom, or the universe. There is matter but it is thinly distributed, with lots of empty space in between. Removing this seeming nothingness won’t help, however. Its presence is necessary for things to remain the way they are and work just as well. Similarly, writing is…… Continue reading Good writing is an atom

Chandrayaan 2 and the Left

Since after September 7, when the Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan 2 mission failed to touchdown on the lunar surface, many writers and thinkers on the political left have been adopting a stance of the mission I find hard to stomach. Their arguments can be summed up thus: that CY-2’s mission is half-assed and should…… Continue reading Chandrayaan 2 and the Left

Scientific fact? Not good enough to be true.

Last week in India: Two scientists who coauthored two papers, along with many others from India as well as abroad, have spoken out against the conclusions of those papers even as they refused to distance themselves from their findings. As bizarre as this sounds, it may have happened because the two scientists were not prepared…… Continue reading Scientific fact? Not good enough to be true.

The fight over ISRO

My report about ISRO’s ’90-95%’ success claim vis-à-vis Chandrayaan 2 had precisely three kinds of response, split 49%, 49% and 2%. One 49% group went like this: The other 49% went like this: The remainder, which constituted meaningful engagement, was virtually residual. To add to this, K. Sivan has brought a new thing about him…… Continue reading The fight over ISRO