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

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

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?

The Nobel Prize, its men and climate change

The sciences part of this year’s Nobel Prize announcements have concluded. These are the new laureates: Physics – Syukuro Manabe 🇯🇵 🇺🇸, Klaus Hasselmann 🇩🇪 and Giorgio Parisi 🇮🇹Chemistry – Benjamin List 🇩🇪 and David W.C. MacMillan 🇬🇧Medicine/physiology – David Julius 🇺🇸 and Ardem Patapoutian 🇺🇸 I have yet to come across a more overt…… Continue reading The Nobel Prize, its men and climate change

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 very…… Continue reading Science prizes, wealth location and social signals

Caste, and science’s notability threshold

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…… Continue reading Caste, and science’s notability threshold

Review: ‘Salam – The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ (2018)

Awards are elevated by their winners. For all of the Nobel Prizes’ flaws and shortcomings, they are redeemed by what its laureates choose to do with them. To this end, the Pakistani physicist and activist Abdus Salam (1926-1996) elevates the prize a great deal. Salam – The First ****** Nobel Laureate is a documentary on Netflix…… Continue reading Review: ‘Salam – The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ (2018)

Two sides of the road and the gutter next to it

I have a mid-October deadline for an essay so obviously when I started reading up on the topic this morning, I ended up on a different part of the web – where I found this: a piece by a journalist talking about the problems with displaying one’s biases. Its headline: It’s a straightforward statement until…… Continue reading Two sides of the road and the gutter next to it

Why do we cover the Nobel Prize announcements?

The Nobel Prizes are too big to fail. Even if they’ve become beset by a host of problems, such as: Long gap between invention/discovery and recognition, A large cash component given to old scientists, Limiting number of awardees to three, Not awarding prizes posthumously, Not awarding prizes to women, especially in the sciences, and Limiting…… Continue reading Why do we cover the Nobel Prize announcements?