Disastrous hype

This is one of the worst press releases accompanying a study I've seen: The headline and the body appear to have nothing to do with the study itself, which explores the creative properties of an explosion with certain attributes. However, the press office of the University of Central Florida has drafted a popular version that …

The virtues of local travel

Here's something I wish I'd read before overtourism and flygskam removed the pristine gloss of desirability from the selfies, 360º panoramas and videos the second-generation elites posted every summer on the social media: It's ok to prioritize friendships, community, and your mental health over travelling. Amir Salihefendic, the head of a tech company, writes this after having …

The calculus of creative discipline

Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over world-building. World-building is dull. World-building literalises the urge to invent. World-building gives an unnecessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). World-building numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it …

Scientism is not ‘nonsense’

The @realscientists rocur account on Twitter took a surprising turn earlier today when its current curator, Teresa Ambrosio, a chemist, tweeted the following: https://twitter.com/teresaambrosio_/status/1187259093909757952 If I had to give her the benefit of doubt, I'd say she was pointing this tweet at the hordes of people – especially Americans – whose conspiratorial attitude towards vaccines …

IBT’s ice-nine effect on Newsweek

In his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut describes a fictitious substance called ice-nine: a crystalline form of water that converts all the liquid water it comes into contact with into more ice-nine. This is the sort of effect the International Business Times had on Newsweek, which, as Daniel Tovrov writes in the Columbia Journalism Review, went from being one of …

Ad verecundiam

That Swedish group announced today that Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer are the winners of this year's Nobel Prize for economics. Within minutes, my Twitter feed was awash with congratulations as well as links to criticisms Duflo and Banerjee had voiced in the past against the economic policies of the Narendra Modi government. …

New Scientist violates the laws of physics (updated)

A new article in the New Scientist begins with a statement of Newton's third law that is blissfully ignorant of the irony. The article's headline is: The magazine is notorious for its use of sensationalist headlines and seems to have done it again. Jon Cartwright, the author of the article, has done a decent job of explaining the 'helical …

Trouble at the doorstep

When an alumnus of the IISc wanted to organise an astrology workshop at the institute's premises in 2017, students and various members of its teaching faculty rose in protest and wrote to the director to have the event cancelled, and it was cancelled. Their voices died down quickly after and didn't emerge when astrology workshops …