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

On anticipation and the history of science

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In mid-2012, shortly after physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe had announced the discovery of a particle that looked a lot like the Higgs boson, there was some clamour in India over news reports not paying enough attention or homage to the work of Satyendra Nath Bose. Bose and Albert Einstein…… Continue reading On anticipation and the history of science

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

Physicists observe long-expected helium superfluid phase

Physicists have reported that they have finally observed helium 3 existing in a long-predicted type of superfluid, called the ß phase. This is an important discovery, if it’s borne out, for reasons that partly have to do with its isotope, helium 4. Helium 4 is a fascinating substance because the helium 4 atom is a boson –…… Continue reading Physicists observe long-expected helium superfluid phase

A false union in science journalism

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At what point does a journalist become a stenographer? Most people would say it’s when the journalist stops questioning claims and reprints them uncritically, as if they were simply a machine. So at what point does a science journalist become a stenographer? You’ll probably say at the same point – when they become uncritical of…… Continue reading A false union in science journalism

The omicron variant and scicomm

Somewhere between the middle of India’s second major COVID-19 outbreak in March-May this year and today, a lot of us appear to have lost sight of a fact that was central to our understanding of COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020: that the only way a disease outbreak, especially of the novel coronavirus, can be truly devastating…… Continue reading The omicron variant and scicomm

Specific impulse, etc.

One of the best rocket propellants there is is hydrolox – a combination of liquid hydrogen, the fuel, and liquid oxygen, the oxidiser. This might seem a bit unexpected because most (if not all) other fuels performing the same function are compounds, not elements – like 1,1-dimethylhydrazine. An engine that uses hydrolox as its propellant…… Continue reading Specific impulse, etc.

Is mathematics real?

I didn’t think to think about the realism of mathematics until I got to high school, and encountered quantum mechanics. Mathematics was at first just another subject, before becoming a tool with which to think intelligently about money and, later, with advanced statistical concepts in the picture, to understand the properties of groups of objects…… Continue reading Is mathematics real?

A bad review of ‘Silent Spring’

On September 27, 1962 – which is forty-nine years plus one day ago – Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published. This book is a bit special to me not directly because of its contents but because, when I was a student at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai a decade ago, Nityanand Jayaraman,…… Continue reading A bad review of ‘Silent Spring’