Exporting risk

I’m torn between admitting that our cynicism about scientists’ solutions for the pandemic is warranted and the palliative effects of reading this Reuters report about seemingly nothing more than the benevolence of richer nations not wasting their vaccine doses: Apart from all the other transgressions – rather business as usual practices – that have transpired thus far, thisContinue reading “Exporting risk”

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”

Defending philosophy of science

From Carl Bergstrom’s Twitter thread about a new book called How Irrationality Created Modern Science, by Michael Strevens: The Iron Rule from the book is, in Bergstrom’s retelling, “no use of philosophical reasoning in the mode of Aristotle; no leveraging theological or scriptural understanding in the mode of Descartes. Formal scientific arguments must be sterilised,Continue reading “Defending philosophy of science”

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”

Reimagining science, redux

This article on Founding Fuel has some great suggestions I thought, but it merits sharing with a couple caveats. First, in narratives about making science “easier to do”, commentators give science-industry linkages more play than science-society ones. This has been true in the past and continues to be. We remember and periodically celebrate the work of Shanti SwarupContinue reading “Reimagining science, redux”

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”

Magic bridges

The last two episodes of the second season of House, the TV series starring Hugh Laurie as a misanthropic doctor at a facility in Princeton, have been playing on my mind off and on during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of its principal points (insofar as Dr Gregory House can admit points to the story of hisContinue reading “Magic bridges”

What the DNA Bill needs

The following article has been published in The Wire, but since it began as a blog post and because I haven’t published anything else in a while, I’m using it here as well. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T, Forests and Climate Change has submitted its review on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) RegulationContinue reading “What the DNA Bill needs”

Pandemic: Science > politics?

By Mukunth and Madhusudhan Raman Former Union health secretary K. Sujatha Rao had a great piece in The Indian Express on January 14, whose takeaway she summarised in the following line: Science, evidence and data analytics need to be the bedrock of the roll-out policy, not politics and scoring brownie points for electoral advantages. However,Continue reading “Pandemic: Science > politics?”

Poverty, psychology and pseudoscience

From the abstract of ‘Why Do People Stay Poor? Evidence on Poverty Traps from Rural Bangladesh’, November 24, 2020: There are two broad views as to why people stay poor. One emphasizes differences in fundamentals, such as ability, talent or motivation. The other, poverty traps view, differences in opportunities stemming from differences in wealth. WeContinue reading “Poverty, psychology and pseudoscience”

“Enough science.”

Edit, 6.04 pm, December 15, 2020: A reader pointed out to me that The Guardian may in fact have been joking, and it has been known to be flippant on occasion. If this is really the case, I pronounce myself half-embarrassed for having been unable to spot a joke. But only half because it seemsContinue reading ““Enough science.””

Science prizes, wealth location and social signals

One count on which I almost always find myself to be an outlier in India is my opinion that the Nobel Prizes and their derivatives belong in the gutter. But while many people in other countries share this opinion of the Nobel Prizes, and often put their weight behind advancing this view, there are veryContinue reading “Science prizes, wealth location and social signals”