From Orwell to Kafka, Markov to Doctorow: Understanding Big Data through metaphors

On March 20, I attended a short talk by Malavika Jayaram, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, titled ‘What we talk about when we talk about Big Data’ at the T.A.J. Residency in Bengaluru. It was something of an initiation into the social and political contexts of Big Data and its usage, and…… Continue reading From Orwell to Kafka, Markov to Doctorow: Understanding Big Data through metaphors

Curious Bends – macaroni scandal, bilingual brain, beef-eating Hindus and more

1. The great macaroni scandal in the world began in Kerala “‘Only the upper class people of our larger cities are likely to have tasted macaroni, the popular Italian food. It is made from wheat flour and looks like bits of onion leaves, reedy, hollow, but white in colour.’ This paragraph appears in a piece titled: “Ta-Pi-O-Ca…… Continue reading Curious Bends – macaroni scandal, bilingual brain, beef-eating Hindus and more

Tuberculosis’s invisible millions – in cases and money

Tuberculosis (TB) has killed more than a billion people in the last 200 years. That’s more than any other infectious disease in that period. And, what’s worse is that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), less than half the cases worldwide are ever diagnosed. India suffers the most. It has the highest burden of TB in the…… Continue reading Tuberculosis’s invisible millions – in cases and money

OA shouldn’t stop at access

Joseph Esposito argues in the scholarly kitchen why it’s okay for OA articles (which come with a CC-BY license) to be repackaged and then sold for a price by other merchants once they’re out in a paper. The economic incentive to reach new audiences could make that otherwise OA article into something that gets brought to…… Continue reading OA shouldn’t stop at access

A future for driverless cars, from a limbo between trolley problems and autopilots

By Anuj  Srivas and Vasudevan Mukunth What’s the deal with everyone getting worried about artificial intelligence? It’s all the Silicon Valley elite seem willing to be apprehensive about, and Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom seems to be the patron saint along with his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014). Even if Big Data seems like it could…… Continue reading A future for driverless cars, from a limbo between trolley problems and autopilots

Curious Bends – babies for sale, broken AIIMS, male gynaec and more

1. China has a growing online market for abducted babies “Girls fetch considerably less than boys, but there is still a market for them. Old social patterns have re-emerged in the market, like the sale of girls into a household where they will be servants until they and the son of the house are of…… Continue reading Curious Bends – babies for sale, broken AIIMS, male gynaec and more

The notion of natural quasicrystals is here to stay

In November 2008, Luca Bindi, a curator at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze, Italy, found that the alloy of aluminium and copper called khatyrkite could be a quasicrystal. Bindi couldn’t be sure because he didn’t have the transmission electron microscope necessary to verify his find, so he couriered two grains of it to a lab in Princeton University. There,…… Continue reading The notion of natural quasicrystals is here to stay

The Large Hadron Collider is back online, ready to shift from the “what” of reality to “why”

The world’s single largest science experiment will restart on March 23 after a two-year break. Scientists and administrators at the European Organization for Nuclear Research – known by its French acronym CERN – have announced the status of the agency’s upgrades on its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its readiness for a new phase of experiments running from now until 2018.…… Continue reading The Large Hadron Collider is back online, ready to shift from the “what” of reality to “why”

Why ‘Mein Kampf’ in 2016 will be more ‘readable’ than ever, not less

The first four fifths of this article are fascinating. It’s titled “The future of Mein Kempf in a meme world”. Though I’ve not consumed historically significant events with consistent interest, World War II has been an exception by far. And belonging to the generation I do – the so-called Millennials – I resent the article’s conclusion that when the…… Continue reading Why ‘Mein Kampf’ in 2016 will be more ‘readable’ than ever, not less

NASA readies to test history’s largest, most powerful booster for its new rocket

NASA’s massive heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, which will one day ferry humans to deep-space destinations and back, has become notorious for the scale of engineering backing it. In September 2014, agency administrator Charles Bolden had unveiled the world’s largest welder to mark the start of the SLS’s construction. Next, on March 11, NASA will…… Continue reading NASA readies to test history’s largest, most powerful booster for its new rocket