Why it’s important to address plagiarism

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Plagiarism is a tricky issue. If it’s straightforward to you, ask yourself if you’re assuming that the plagiariser (plagiarist?) is fluent in reading and writing, but especially writing, English. The answer’s probably ‘yes’. This is because for someone entering into an English-using universe for the first time, certain turns of phrase and certain ways to…… Continue reading Why it’s important to address plagiarism

Science shouldn’t animate the need for social welfare

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This is an interesting discovery: https://twitter.com/NYTScience/status/1485821542395224064 First, it’s also a bad discovery (note: there’s a difference between right/wrong and good/bad). It is useful to found specific interventions on scientific findings – such as that providing pregnant women with iron supplements in a certain window of the pregnancy could reduce the risk of anaemia by X%. However, that…… Continue reading Science shouldn’t animate the need for social welfare

On science, religion, Brahmins and a book

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I’m partway through Renny Thomas’s new book, Science and Religion in India: Beyond Disenchantment. Its description on the Routledge page reads: This book provides an in-depth ethnographic study of science and religion in the context of South Asia, giving voice to Indian scientists and shedding valuable light on their engagement with religion. Drawing on biographical, autobiographical, historical, and…… Continue reading On science, religion, Brahmins and a book

The Print’s ludicrous article on Niraj Bishnoi

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The Print has just published a bizarre article about Niraj Bishnoi, the alleged “mastermind” (whatever that means) of the ‘Bulli Bai’ app. I know nothing about Niraj Bishnoi; the article’s problem is that it has reproduced the Delhi police’s profile of Bishnoi and indications in that profile, provided by police personnel, of Bishnoi’s alleged deviancy sans any qualification.…… Continue reading The Print’s ludicrous article on Niraj Bishnoi

Tek Fog and science

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If you haven’t read The Wire’s Tek Fog investigation, do so right away – not just because it’s necessary preamble to this post but because it concerns you either because you’re an Indian citizen and you need to update your awareness of what the BJP is capable of or because device-hacking, which is one level of…… Continue reading Tek Fog and science

The way we talk about computing power

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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

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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

A screenshot of Iron Man in action in 'Avengers: Infinity War' (2018). Source: Hotstar

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

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