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

On AWSAR, Saransh, etc.

The Indian National Young Academy of Sciences has announced a “thesis competition for PhD students” called ‘Saranash’. A PhD student will have three minutes, and three slides, to describe their work via video, and winners stand to receive Rs 10,000, Rs 6,000 and Rs 4,000 in cash, for the first three places. It’s a good…… Continue reading On AWSAR, Saransh, etc.

The problem with rooting for science

The idea that trusting in science involves a lot of faith, instead of reason, is lost on most people. More often than not, as a science journalist, I encounter faith through extreme examples – such as the Bloch sphere (used to represent the state of a qubit) or wave functions (‘mathematical objects’ used to understand…… Continue reading The problem with rooting for science

Scicommers as knowledge producers

Reading the latest edition of Raghavendra Gadagkar’s column in The Wire Science, ‘More Fun Than Fun’, about how scientists should become communicators and communicators should be treated as knowledge-producers, I began wondering if the knowledge produced by the latter is in fact not the same knowledge but something entirely new. The idea that communicators simply…… Continue reading Scicommers as knowledge producers

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 independent…… Continue reading Anti-softening science for the state

The commentariot

The following post is an orange flag – a quieter alarm raised in anticipation of something worse that hasn’t transpired yet but is likely in the offing. Earlier today, at the end of a call with a scientist for a story, the scientist implied that my job – as science journalist – required nothing of…… Continue reading The commentariot

A Q&A about my job and science journalism

A couple weeks ago, some students from a university in South India got in touch to ask a few questions about my job and about science communication. The correspondence was entirely over email, and I’m pasting it in full below (with permission). I’ve edited a few parts in one of two ways – to make…… Continue reading A Q&A about my job and science journalism

Why scientists should read more

The amount of communicative effort to describe the fact of a ball being thrown is vanishingly low. It’s as simple as saying, “X threw the ball.” It takes a bit more effort to describe how an internal combustion engine works – especially if you’re writing for readers who have no idea how thermodynamics works. However,…… Continue reading Why scientists should read more

Clarity and soundness

I feel a lot of non-science editors just switch off when they read science stuff. A friend told me this earlier today, during yet another conversation about how many of the editorial issues that assail science and health journalism have become more pronounced during the pandemic (by dint of the pandemic being a science and…… Continue reading Clarity and soundness

Journalistic entropy

Say you need to store a square image 1,000 pixels wide to a side with the smallest filesize (setting aside compression techniques). The image begins with the colour #009900 on the left side and, as you move towards the right, gradually blends into #1e1e1e on the rightmost edge. Two simple storage methods come to mind:…… Continue reading Journalistic entropy