A collection of lasers of different frequencies in the visible-light range.

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. […]

Scientists using a 300kV cryo-electron microscope at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund. Credit: MPI Dortmund

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a technology has become more important because the field that it revolutionised – structural biology – has become more important. The international scientific community had this rise in fortunes, so to speak, acknowledged when the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to three people in 2017 for perfecting its use to […]

A photograph of multiple explosions going off together, emitting red and orange sparks and lots of blue-grey smoke.

In May, Total Film reported that the production team of Tenet, led by director Christopher Nolan, found that using a second-hand Boeing 747 was better than recreating a scene involving an exploding plane with miniatures and CGI. I’m not clear how exactly it was better; Total Film only wrote: “I planned to do it using […]

A false-colour image of the planet Venus, enveloped in clouds, taken in 2017.

Scientists have reported that they have found abnormal amounts of a toxic compound called phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere, at 55-80 km altitude. This story is currently all over my Twitter feed because one way to explain this unexpected abundance is that microbes could be producing this gas – as we know them to do on […]

The amount of communicative effort to describe the fact of a ball being thrown is vanishingly low. It’s as simple as saying, “X threw the ball.” It takes a bit more effort to describe how an internal combustion engine works – especially if you’re writing for readers who have no idea how thermodynamics works. However, […]

What does the term ‘super-spreader’ mean? According to an article in the MIT Tech Review on June 15, “The word is a generic term for an unusually contagious individual who’s been infected with disease. In the context of the coronavirus, scientists haven’t narrowed down how many infections someone needs to cause to qualify as a superspreader, but […]

A webinar by The Life of Science on the construct of the ‘scientific genius’ just concluded, with Gita Chadha and Shalini Mahadev, a PhD scholar at HCU, as panellists. It was an hour long and I learnt a lot in this short time, which shouldn’t be surprising because, more broadly, we often don’t stop to […]

On June 24, a press release from CERN said that scientists and engineers working on upgrading the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had “built and operated … the most powerful electrical transmission line … to date”. The transmission line consisted of four cables – two capable of transporting 20 kA of current and two, 7 kA. […]

Every July 4, I have occasion to remember two things: the discovery of the Higgs boson, and my first published byline for an article about the discovery of the Higgs boson. I have no trouble believing it’s been eight years since we discovered this particle, using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its ATLAS and […]

I feel a lot of non-science editors just switch off when they read science stuff. A friend told me this earlier today, during yet another conversation about how many of the editorial issues that assail science and health journalism have become more pronounced during the pandemic (by dint of the pandemic being a science and […]

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) performs an impressive feat every time it accelerates billions of protons to nearly the speed of light – and not in terms of the energy alone. For example, you release more energy when you clap your palms together once than the energy imparted to a proton accelerated by the LHC. […]

The people involved with the RECOVERY clinical trial have announced via statements to the press that they have found very encouraging results about the use of dexamethasone in people with severe COVID-19 who had to receive ventilator support. However, the study’s data isn’t available for independent verification yet. So irrespective of how pumped the trial’s […]