US experiments find hint of a break in the laws of physics

At 9 pm India time on April 7, physicists at an American research facility delivered a shot in the arm to efforts to find flaws in a powerful theory that explains how the building blocks of the universe work. Physicists are looking for flaws in it because the theory doesn’t have answers to some questionsContinue reading “US experiments find hint of a break in the laws of physics”

On the NASEM report on solar geoengineering

A top scientific body in the US has asked the government to fund solar geoengineering research in a bid to help researchers and policymakers know the fullest extent of their options to help the US deal with climate change. Solar geoengineering is a technique in which sunlight-reflecting aerosols are pumped into the air, to subtractContinue reading “On the NASEM report on solar geoengineering”

COVID-19, due process and an SNR problem

At a press conference streamed live on March 18, the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that the body – which serves as the European Union’s drug and vaccine regulator – had concluded that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was not associated with unusual blood clots that some vaccine recipients had reported in multiple countries. TheContinue reading “COVID-19, due process and an SNR problem”

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”

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 😱”

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”

The clocks that used atoms and black holes to stay in sync

You’re familiar with clocks. There’s probably one if you look up just a little, at the upper corner of your laptop or smartphone screen, showing you what time of day it is, allowing you to quickly grasp the number of daytime or nighttime hours, depending on your needs. There some other clocks that are lessContinue reading “The clocks that used atoms and black holes to stay in sync”

Reading fog data from INSAT 3DR

At 7.57 am today, the India Meteorological Department’s Twitter handle posted this lovely image of fog over North India on January 21, as captured by the INSAT 3DR satellite. However, it didn’t bother explaining what the colours meant or how the satellite captured this information. So I dug a little. At the bottom right ofContinue reading “Reading fog data from INSAT 3DR”

The Wire Science is hiring

Location: Bengaluru or New Delhi The Wire Science is looking for a sub-editor to conceptualise, edit and produce high-quality news articles and features in a digital newsroom. Requirements Good faculty with the English language Excellent copy-editing skills A strong news sense A strong interest in new scientific findings Know how to read scientific papers FamiliarityContinue reading “The Wire Science is hiring”

A Q&A about my job and science journalism

A couple weeks ago, some students from a university in South India got in touch to ask a few questions about my job and about science communication. The correspondence was entirely over email, and I’m pasting it in full below (with permission). I’ve edited a few parts in one of two ways – to makeContinue reading “A Q&A about my job and science journalism”

How do you study a laser firing for one-quadrillionth of a second?

I’m grateful to Mukund Thattai, at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, for explaining many of the basic concepts at work in the following article. An important application of lasers today is in the form of extremely short-lived laser pulses used to illuminate extremely short-lived events that often play out across extremely short distances.Continue reading “How do you study a laser firing for one-quadrillionth of a second?”