Unclear science

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Scientific papers frequently have a line to this effect, often in the same syntax: “While we know X, why Y happens is unclear.” The papers then proceed to elucidate Y. Sometimes a paper comes along that makes you ask, “Unclear according to whom?”. A few weeks ago, there was a dubious paper in Nature Communications … Read more

Real heat

top view photo of rocky shore

In the aftermath of Chicago’s infamous week-long heatwave in July 1995, the city’s residents, but including the mayor Richard Daley and his administration, couldn’t believe that so many had perished in the severe weather. They asked if the toll was “really real”. The official figure was just under 500 and an unofficial figure put together … Read more

A new science page at The Hindu

Starting today, The Hindu has a new science page, available to read in the premium e-paper edition. It will be published on all days except Saturday. I will be anchoring the page from Monday to Thursday; the Friday page will focus on health and will be anchored by my colleague Ramya Kannan; and the Sunday … Read more

What ‘The Kerala Story’ and ‘The Old Guard’ share

I was rewatching The Old Guard last week; the film is a bit of a favourite because a) Charlize Theron and b) it explores, even if in passing, the sometimes horrific terms on which science feels free to progress. But last week, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported something that … Read more

Can we ‘redistribute’ prestige?

gray ceramic mug with pink beverage

Pudding.cool has a good visual essay on the yard-sale model of economics, which shows that wealth has a tendency to accumulate more in the hands of people who are already wealthier. This is because a richer person has more opportunities to regain lost wealth than a poorer person. The wheels of the model turn every … Read more

Gender equity in retractions

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From the abstract of a fascinating study published in PLoS ONE on May 3, 2023: … this study investigated gender differences in authorship of retracted papers in biomedical sciences available on RetractionWatch. Among 35,635 biomedical articles retracted between 1970 and 2022, including 20,849 first authors and 20,413 last authors, women accounted for 27.4% [26.8 to … Read more

Marginalia: Romila on textbooks, Rapido ad, Nobel nonsense

brown black and white tiles

We may go on deleting sections of our history but in the world outside where there are multiple centres of research into the Indian past, and many scholars, there these expunged sections from books used in India will continue to be studied. They will be subjected to new methods of analyses, will be commented upon, … Read more

What about the celebrities in food ads?

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The row over Bournvita last month was spurred by a social-media influencer’s viral video of the product’s allegedly unhealthy sugar content. Following a legal threat from Mondelez International India, which makes Bournvita, the influencer deleted his video and apologised. But on April 26, the National Commission on the Protection of Child Rights issued a letter … Read more