A false union in science journalism

At what point does a journalist become a stenographer? Most people would say it’s when the journalist stops questioning claims and reprints them uncritically, as if they were simply a machine. So at what point does a science journalist become a stenographer? You’ll probably say at the same point – when they become uncritical of…… Continue reading A false union in science journalism

JWST and the imagination

When the Hubble space telescope launched in April 1990, I was too young to understand what was going on – but not yesterday, when NASA launched its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Every once in a while, the Hubble telescope team releases an image of thousands of stars packed into one shot, the…… Continue reading JWST and the imagination

About vaccines for children and Covaxin…

I don’t understand his penchant for late-night announcements, much less one at 10 pm on Christmas night, but Prime Minister Narendra has just said the government will roll out vaccines for young adults aged 15-18 years from January 3, 2022 – around the same time I received a press release from Bharat Biotech saying the…… Continue reading About vaccines for children and Covaxin…

The way we talk about computing power

Whenever I hear someone rhapsodize about how much more computer power we have now compared with what was available in the 1960s during the Apollo era, I cringe. Those comparisons usually grossly underestimate the difference.A Quadrillion Mainframes on Your Lap, Rodney Brooks, IEEE Spectrum And I cringe whenever I hear someone rhapsodise about computing power…… Continue reading The way we talk about computing power

Charles Lieber case: A high-energy probe of science

There’s a phenomenon in high-energy particle physics that I’ve found instructive as a metaphor to explain some things whose inner character may not be apparent to us but whose true nature is exposed in extreme situations. For example, consider the case of Charles Lieber, an American chemist whom a jury found guilty earlier today of…… Continue reading Charles Lieber case: A high-energy probe of science

Make war for the environment

Last week, India voted against a resolution in the UN Security Council to allow the council’s core members to deliberate on climate issues because, in the resolution’s view, they impinge on national security. Russia and India, among others, voted ‘against’. Russia is a permanent member so its rejection sunk the idea; India’s rejection, on the…… Continue reading Make war for the environment

Some thoughts on Robert Downey, Jr.’s science funding idea

On December 12, Iron Man, a.k.a. Robert Downey, Jr., and David Lang coauthored an op-ed in Fast Company that announced a grant-giving initiative of theirs designed to help fund scientists doing work too important to wait for the bureaucracy to catch up. Their article opened with a paragraph that, to my eye, seemed to have…… Continue reading Some thoughts on Robert Downey, Jr.’s science funding idea

Disappointing persons of the year 2021

I’m starting to think that in this day and age, you will but err when you pick individuals for traditionally ‘prestigious’ awards, prizes, recognitions, etc., probably because the sort of people who can stand out by themselves have to have had the sort of clout and power that typically comes not through personal achievement as…… Continue reading Disappointing persons of the year 2021

The foolishness of a carbon-negative blockchain

With the experience of ‘fortress conservation’, poor implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the CAMPA philosophy in India, it’s hard not to think that the idea of carbon offsets is stupid. This mode of ‘climate action’ has been most popular in the US and the EU, given that carbon offsets are essentially status-quoist: they…… Continue reading The foolishness of a carbon-negative blockchain

On The Caravan’s new profile of The Hindu

On December 1, The Caravan published a 50-page report entitled ‘Paper Priests: The battle for the soul of The Hindu’. The report – actually, as a friend put it, a big profile – has many good parts and many others, not so much, especially from the point of view of an insider: I worked there…… Continue reading On The Caravan’s new profile of The Hindu