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”

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 😱”

Trump, science denial and violence

For a few days last week, before the mail-in votes had been counted in the US, the contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump seemed set for a nail-biting finish. In this time a lot of people expressed disappointment on Twitter that nearly half of all Americans who had voted (Trump’s share of the popularContinue reading “Trump, science denial and violence”

Ayurveda is not a science – but what does that mean?

This post has benefited immensely with inputs from Om Prasad. Calling something ‘not a science’ has become a pejorative, an insult. You say Ayurveda is not a science and suddenly, its loudest supporters demand to know what the problem is, what your problem is, and that you can go fuck yourself. But Ayurveda is notContinue reading “Ayurveda is not a science – but what does that mean?”

Vaccines for votes

A week or so ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar released its poll manifesto, the first point on which was that should the party win, it would make a COVID-19 vaccine cleared by the ICMR available for free to every resident of the state. It was an unethical move, and Siddharth Varadarajan and IContinue reading “Vaccines for votes”

A science for the non-1%

David Michaels, an epidemiologist and a former US assistant secretary of labour for occupational safety and health under Barack Obama, writes in the Boston Review: [Product defence] operations have on their payrolls—or can bring in on a moment’s notice—toxicologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, risk assessors, and any other professionally trained, media-savvy experts deemed necessary (economists too, especiallyContinue reading “A science for the non-1%”

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”

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?”

The trouble with laser-cooling anions

For scientists to use lasers to cool an atom, the atom needs to have two energy states. When laser light is shined on an atom moving towards the source of light, one of its electrons absorbs a photon, climbs to a higher energy state and the atom as a whole loses some momentum. A shortContinue reading “The trouble with laser-cooling anions”

For coronavirus claims, there is a world between true and false

In high school, you must have learnt about Boolean algebra, possibly the most fascinating kind of algebra for its deceptive ease and simplicity. But thanks to its foundations in computer science, Boolean algebra – at least as we it learnt in school – is fixated with ‘true’ and ‘false’ states but not with the stateContinue reading “For coronavirus claims, there is a world between true and false”

Atoms within atoms

It’s a matter of some irony that forces that act across larger distances also give rise to lots of empty space – although the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The force of gravity, for example, can act across millions of kilometres but this only means two massive objects can stillContinue reading “Atoms within atoms”

When cooling down really means slowing down

Consider this post the latest in a loosely defined series about atomic cooling techniques that I’ve been writing since June 2018. Atoms can’t run a temperature, but things made up of atoms, like a chair or table, can become hotter or colder. This is because what we observe as the temperature of macroscopic objects isContinue reading “When cooling down really means slowing down”

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