Tek Fog and science

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If you haven’t read The Wire’s Tek Fog investigation, do so right away – not just because it’s necessary preamble to this post but because it concerns you either because you’re an Indian citizen and you need to update your awareness of what the BJP is capable of or because device-hacking, which is one level of…… Continue reading Tek Fog and science

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

Reading books, writing words

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It suddenly feels like a lot more people have been reading a lot more books. Or maybe they’re talking about it a lot more. I have one friend who went through more books in 2021 than there were weeks. And I’ve been quite jealous looking at her and others’ Instagram and Twitter feeds about all…… Continue reading Reading books, writing words

A false union in science journalism

Credit: Conol Samuel/Unsplash

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

JWST and the imagination

An infrared image of the 'Pillars of Creation' in the Eagle Nebula, photographed by the Hubble space telescope in 2014. Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA

When the Hubble space telescope launched in April 1990, I was too young to understand what was going on – but not yesterday, when NASA launched its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Every once in a while, the Hubble telescope team releases an image of thousands of stars packed into one shot, the…… Continue reading JWST and the imagination

About vaccines for children and Covaxin…

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I don’t understand his penchant for late-night announcements, much less one at 10 pm on Christmas night, but Prime Minister Narendra has just said the government will roll out vaccines for young adults aged 15-18 years from January 3, 2022 – around the same time I received a press release from Bharat Biotech saying the…… Continue reading About vaccines for children and Covaxin…

The way we talk about computing power

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Whenever I hear someone rhapsodize about how much more computer power we have now compared with what was available in the 1960s during the Apollo era, I cringe. Those comparisons usually grossly underestimate the difference.A Quadrillion Mainframes on Your Lap, Rodney Brooks, IEEE Spectrum And I cringe whenever I hear someone rhapsodise about computing power…… Continue reading The way we talk about computing power

Charles Lieber case: A high-energy probe of science

There’s a phenomenon in high-energy particle physics that I’ve found instructive as a metaphor to explain some things whose inner character may not be apparent to us but whose true nature is exposed in extreme situations. For example, consider the case of Charles Lieber, an American chemist whom a jury found guilty earlier today of…… Continue reading Charles Lieber case: A high-energy probe of science

Make war for the environment

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Last week, India voted against a resolution in the UN Security Council to allow the council’s core members to deliberate on climate issues because, in the resolution’s view, they impinge on national security. Russia and India, among others, voted ‘against’. Russia is a permanent member so its rejection sunk the idea; India’s rejection, on the…… Continue reading Make war for the environment

Some thoughts on Robert Downey, Jr.’s science funding idea

A screenshot of Iron Man in action in 'Avengers: Infinity War' (2018). Source: Hotstar

On December 12, Iron Man, a.k.a. Robert Downey, Jr., and David Lang coauthored an op-ed in Fast Company that announced a grant-giving initiative of theirs designed to help fund scientists doing work too important to wait for the bureaucracy to catch up. Their article opened with a paragraph that, to my eye, seemed to have…… Continue reading Some thoughts on Robert Downey, Jr.’s science funding idea