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

The vaccine that was built from scratch

I have no plans to read ICMR chief Balram Bhargava’s new book, Going Viral, about the “inside story” of Covaxin’s making, and am grateful for that reason for Dr Jammi Nagaraj Rao’s quick but seemingly thorough review in The Wire Science. My lack of interest in the book itself also means I’m going to take…… Continue reading The vaccine that was built from scratch

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?

The toxic affair between Covaxin and The Lancet

That Covaxin has been leading a ceaselessly beleaguered life is no mystery – but The Lancet journal may not know that it has been pressed into the questionable service of saving the vaccine’s reputation on at least three occasions. In the latest one, for example, Bharat Biotech, some clueless media outlets and their hordes of…… Continue reading The toxic affair between Covaxin and The Lancet

60 years of ‘Tsar Bomba’, history’s most powerful nuke

This post was originally published on October 31, 2018. I republished it once in 2020 after Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy corporation, released 40 minutes of previously classified footage of RDS-220’s explosion on August 28, 2020 (embedded below). Watch this minute-long excerpt by Reuters of the explosion. I’m republishing it again, today, following the publication…… Continue reading 60 years of ‘Tsar Bomba’, history’s most powerful nuke

Is Covaxin’s WHO approval guaranteed?

I suspect after reading this PTI report that the WHO is practically helping Bharat Biotech put together a better application to have its COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, get the body’s approval for international use, instead of simply considering what Bharat Biotech chooses to submit. The overall tone of the report is mollificatory – as if the…… Continue reading Is Covaxin’s WHO approval guaranteed?

Where the atmanirbharta in spine? Truth be told, I didn’t expect CSIR chief Shekhar Mande could be so disingenuous. “India didn’t have to depend on western countries,” he says. What is this abject refusal to thank other countries for help – and preferring instead to take their help and rewriting the past to pretend we didn’t need any? Of…… Continue reading Where the atmanirbharta in spine?

The great Nobel Prize hypocrisy

Katie Langin’s report for Science on October 12 is an eye-opening account of one reason why the committees that pick every year’s Nobel Prize winners almost never pick women: because they aren’t nominated. Given the Nobel Foundation’s frustrating policy of secrecy, there aren’t many numbers available for us to work with, but Langin’s report adds…… Continue reading The great Nobel Prize hypocrisy

Are major science prizes a form of philanthropy?

The Association for the Advancement of AI conferred its ‘Squirrel AI Award’ on Cynthia Rudin, and Duke University – her employer – published a press release celebrating it. Here’s one para from the release: “Only world-renowned recognitions, such as the Nobel Prize and the A.M. Turing Award from the Association of Computing Machinery, carry monetary…… Continue reading Are major science prizes a form of philanthropy?