Lord of the Rings Day

Here’s wishing you a Happy Lord of the Rings Day! (Previous editions: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014.) On this day in the book, Frodo, Sam and Smeagol (with help from Gandalf, Aragon, Gimli, Legolas, Faramir, Eowyn, Theoden, Eomer, Treebeard and the Ents, Meriadoc, Peregrin, Galadriel, Arwen and many, many others) destroyed the One Ring inContinue reading “Lord of the Rings Day”

Defending philosophy of science

From Carl Bergstrom’s Twitter thread about a new book called How Irrationality Created Modern Science, by Michael Strevens: The Iron Rule from the book is, in Bergstrom’s retelling, “no use of philosophical reasoning in the mode of Aristotle; no leveraging theological or scriptural understanding in the mode of Descartes. Formal scientific arguments must be sterilised,Continue reading “Defending philosophy of science”

Protected: On crypto-art, racism and outcome fantasies

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

COVID-19, due process and an SNR problem

At a press conference streamed live on March 18, the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that the body – which serves as the European Union’s drug and vaccine regulator – had concluded that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was not associated with unusual blood clots that some vaccine recipients had reported in multiple countries. TheContinue reading “COVID-19, due process and an SNR problem”

A tale of vortices, skyrmions, paths and shapes

There are many types of superconductors. Some of them can be explained by an early theory of superconductivity called Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory. In these materials, vibrations in the atomic lattice force the electrons in the material to overcome their mutual repulsion and team up in pairs, if the material’s temperature is below a particular thresholdContinue reading “A tale of vortices, skyrmions, paths and shapes”

Reimagining science, redux

This article on Founding Fuel has some great suggestions I thought, but it merits sharing with a couple caveats. First, in narratives about making science “easier to do”, commentators give science-industry linkages more play than science-society ones. This has been true in the past and continues to be. We remember and periodically celebrate the work of Shanti SwarupContinue reading “Reimagining science, redux”

Physicists produce video of time crystal in action 😱

Have you heard of time crystals? A crystal is any object whose atoms are arranged in a fixed pattern in space, with the pattern repeating itself. So what we typically know to be crystals are really space crystals. We didn’t have to bother with the prefix because space crystals were the only kind of crystalsContinue reading “Physicists produce video of time crystal in action 😱”

Anti-softening science for the state

The group of ministers (GoM) report on “government communication” has recommended that the government promote “soft topics” in the media like “yoga” and “tigers”. We can only speculate what this means, and that shouldn’t be hard. The overall spirit of the document is insecurity and paranoia, manifested as fantasies of reining in the country’s independentContinue reading “Anti-softening science for the state”

Some good books I read recently

Since January 2020 Read Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko Every Creature Has a Story, Janaki Lenin The Writing Life, Annie Dillard Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist, Frank Close Shoes of the Dead, Kota Neelima The Overstory, Richard Powers Wild and Wilful, Neha Sinha Difficult Women: A History ofContinue reading “Some good books I read recently”

What is academic freedom?

Note: I originally wrote two versions of this article for The Wire; one, a ‘newsier’ version, was published in June 2020. I’d intended to publish the version below, which is more of a discussion/analysis, sometime last year itself but it slipped my mind. I’m publishing it today, shortly after rediscovering it by accident. Since theContinue reading “What is academic freedom?”

Magic bridges

The last two episodes of the second season of House, the TV series starring Hugh Laurie as a misanthropic doctor at a facility in Princeton, have been playing on my mind off and on during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of its principal points (insofar as Dr Gregory House can admit points to the story of hisContinue reading “Magic bridges”

SSC: Addendum

It’s wonderful how the mind has a way of cultivating clarity in the background, away from the gaze of the mind’s eye and as the mind itself is preoccupied with other thoughts, on matters considered only a few days ago to be too complicated to synthesise into a unified whole. Recap: On February 14, the NewContinue reading “SSC: Addendum”