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 …

Some good books I read recently

Since January 2020 Read Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper, Lyudmila PavlichenkoEvery Creature Has a Story, Janaki LeninThe Writing Life, Annie DillardHalf-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist, Frank CloseShoes of the Dead, Kota NeelimaThe Overstory, Richard PowersWild and Wilful, Neha SinhaDifficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights, Helen LewisHer Body …

What is academic freedom?

Note: I originally wrote two versions of this article for The Wire; one, a 'newsier' version, was published in June 2020. I'd intended to publish the version below, which is more of a discussion/analysis, sometime last year itself but it slipped my mind. I'm publishing it today, shortly after rediscovering it by accident. Since the …

Magic bridges

The last two episodes of the second season of House, the TV series starring Hugh Laurie as a misanthropic doctor at a facility in Princeton, have been playing on my mind off and on during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of its principal points (insofar as Dr Gregory House can admit points to the story of his …

SSC: Addendum

It’s wonderful how the mind has a way of cultivating clarity in the background, away from the gaze of the mind’s eye and as the mind itself is preoccupied with other thoughts, on matters considered only a few days ago to be too complicated to synthesise into a unified whole. Recap: On February 14, the New …

The government’s enblightenment

The GMO debate is a fascinating object, even though participating in it often amounts to nothing but pain, frustration and lost time – especially if you're pro-GMO foods. It's fascinating because it's one of a kind: one party has science on its side but little else, including good science outreach, and the other has sociology …

Slate Star Codex: No time for malice

This post benefited from valuable input and feedback from Thomas Manuel. To the uninitiated: Scott Alexander Siskind is a noted member of the international community of rationalists and wrote the once-celebrated blog Slate Star Codex. I use the past tense because Siskind used to write this blog from the relative obscurity afforded by using only his …

The clocks that used atoms and black holes to stay in sync

You're familiar with clocks. There's probably one if you look up just a little, at the upper corner of your laptop or smartphone screen, showing you what time of day it is, allowing you to quickly grasp the number of daytime or nighttime hours, depending on your needs. There some other clocks that are less …

UAE’s spaceflight shortcut to making history

This post benefited from valuable input and feedback from Thomas Manuel. In an hour or so, the UAE's Hope probe, currently en route to Mars, will beam a signal to Earth about whether it managed to get into orbit around the red planet. Thanks to the Indian experience of the same feat, achieved in 2014, …

End of a tab-hoarding era

Google Chrome just pulled the plug on the Great Suspender browser extension. The Great Suspender allowed its users to keep lots of tabs open at any time on Chrome without guzzling RAM, which Chrome is notorious for – simply by keeping the tab open but not displaying any of the page's contents. When a user …

What the DNA Bill needs

The following article has been published in The Wire, but since it began as a blog post and because I haven't published anything else in a while, I'm using it here as well. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T, Forests and Climate Change has submitted its review on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation …