On India’s new ‘Vigyan Puraskar’ awards

crop chemist holding in hands molecule model

The Government of India has replaced the 300 or so awards for scientists it used to give out until this year with the Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar (RVP), a set of four awards with 56 laureates, The Hindu has reported. Unlike in the previous paradigm, and like the Padma awards to recognise the accomplishments of civilians, … Read more

Hasan Minhaj’s search for the premise

photo of colored spotlights

When Hasan Minhaj spoke on his show about living through some dangerous experiences as a Muslim man from an Indian family growing up in the US of A, he wasn’t speaking the truth. He told Clare Malone of The New Yorker that his stories have “seeds” of truth”, that his comedy is 70% “emotional truth—this … Read more

A difficulty celebrating Chandrayaan 3

I’m grateful to Avijit Pathak for his article in Indian Express on August 29. After the Chandrayaan 3 mission achieved its primary objective, to soft-land a robotic lander on the moon’s south polar region, there was widespread jubilation, but I couldn’t celebrate. I felt guilty and distressed, actually, with the thought that my well-rewarded scepticism … Read more

A request to ISRO about Chandrayaan 3

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said its launch window for the Chandrayaan 3 mission is July 12-19. For now, the mission is expected to lift off on July 14 (at 2.35 pm IST). Chandrayaan 3’s mission is the same as that of its predecessor, Chandrayaan 2, with some marginal additions. It has the … 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

Something more foolish than completing phase 3 trials in 1.5 months?

That the Union government and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had entered into a more intimate, but not necessarily more beneficial, relationship became evident in 2019 when then ISRO chairman K. Sivan trotted out a series of dubious claims to massage the fate of the Chandrayaan 2 mission, whose lunar surface component had obviously … Read more

The biopolitics of Covaxin

In a new investigation, STAT has reported fresh problems with Covaxin’s approval process in India, including the phase 2 trial dropping its placebo arm in favour of one preordained to make Covaxin look good and Bharat Biotech – the maker – commencing phase 3 trials based on results from animal studies. I’m also filing the report … Read more

A story of dogs

This article in The Wire, while entirely compelling, also contains an unarticulated tension. Headline: ‘How a Missing Stray Dog Led to the Withdrawal of a Caribbean High Commissioner to India’. Excerpt: Uploaded on social media, a grainy dimly-lit video apparently shows the night-time confrontation. A man, speaking English with an accent, stands outside the gate of a … Read more

Bad responses to The Wire’s Meta reports

Note, September 18, 2023, 6:40 am: I’ve often returned to this post since The Wire retracted its ‘Meta’ reports, to see if I still stand by its contents. I do with the portions that I haven’t struck through. That said, I believe in hindsight that holding these positions alone can’t be a gainful way to … Read more