Avoiding ‘muddled science’ in the newsroom

On April 23, I was part of a webinar called ProtoCall, organised by Pro.to with the support of International Centre for Journalists and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. It happens once a week and is hosted by Ameya Nagarajan and Nayantara Narayanan. Every week there’s a theme which, together with the discussion around it, isContinue reading “Avoiding ‘muddled science’ in the newsroom”

Freeman Dyson’s PhD

The physicist, thinker and writer Freeman Dyson passed away on February 28, 2020, at the age of 96. I wrote his obituary for The Wire Science; excerpt: The 1965 Nobel Prize for the development of [quantum electrodynamics] excluded Dyson. … If this troubled Dyson, it didn’t show; indeed, anyone who knew him wouldn’t have expectedContinue reading “Freeman Dyson’s PhD”

The scientist as inadvertent loser

Twice this week, I’d had occasion to write about how science is an immutably human enterprise and therefore some of its loftier ideals are aspirational at best, and about how transparency is one of the chief USPs of preprint repositories and post-publication peer-review. As if on cue, I stumbled upon a strange case of extremeContinue reading “The scientist as inadvertent loser”

The chrysalis that isn’t there

I wrote the following post while listening to this track. Perhaps you will enjoy reading it to the same sounds. Otherwise, please consider it a whimsical recommendation. 🙂 I should really start keeping a log of different stories in the news all of which point to the little-acknowledged but only-evident fact that science – likeContinue reading “The chrysalis that isn’t there”

A science for the non-1%

David Michaels, an epidemiologist and a former US assistant secretary of labour for occupational safety and health under Barack Obama, writes in the Boston Review: [Product defence] operations have on their payrolls—or can bring in on a moment’s notice—toxicologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, risk assessors, and any other professionally trained, media-savvy experts deemed necessary (economists too, especiallyContinue reading “A science for the non-1%”

The not-so-obvious obvious

If your job requires you to pore through a dozen or two scientific papers every month – as mine does – you’ll start to notice a few every now and then couching a somewhat well-known fact in study-speak. I don’t mean scientific-speak, largely because there’s nothing wrong about trying to understand natural phenomena in theContinue reading “The not-so-obvious obvious”

How science is presented and consumed on Facebook

This post is a breakdown of the Pew study titled The Science People See on Social Media, published March 21, 2018. Without further ado… In an effort to better understand the science information that social media users encounter on these platforms, Pew Research Center systematically analyzed six months’ worth of posts from 30 of theContinue reading “How science is presented and consumed on Facebook”

By the way: the Chekhov's gun and the science article

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” (source) This is the principle of the Chekhov’s gun: that all items within a narrative must contribute to the overarching narrative itself, and those that don’t should beContinue reading “By the way: the Chekhov's gun and the science article”

By the way: the Chekhov’s gun and the science article

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” (source) This is the principle of the Chekhov’s gun: that all items within a narrative must contribute to the overarching narrative itself, and those that don’t should beContinue reading “By the way: the Chekhov’s gun and the science article”

Vanilla entertainment

One of the first, and most important in hindsight, bits of advice I got from the journalist Siddharth Varadarajan was about how to choose what to write: “Write what you’d like to read” (Dan Fagin would later add the important “why now” dimension). As someone avidly interested in scientific theories – especially in physics and astronomyContinue reading “Vanilla entertainment”

From unboiling eggs to the effects of intense kissing, IgNobel Prizes reward good ol' curiosity

The year’s IgNobel Awards were held on September 17, and rewarded research that defines a kind of excellence that still impacts society without managing the sobriety of character that often bags the more vaunted Nobel Prizes. The 25th edition, held as usual at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, and as usual presided over by the magazine Improbable Research‘sContinue reading “From unboiling eggs to the effects of intense kissing, IgNobel Prizes reward good ol' curiosity”