The names of smartness

Something leapt in my heart when I read Kangana Ranaut’s latest repartee to Saif Ali Khan’s misguided notes on nepotism and eugenics. There were many reasons for this but one in particular was to see the name ‘Terence Tao’ mentioned among the examples Ranaut picked to describe the world’s smartest people (flipside: no women on the list): You …

Why Titan is awesome #9

Featured image: Four of the 66 antennae of the ALMA array. Credit: Carlos Padilla – AUI/NRAO. Editions one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight In edition #8 of ‘why Titan is awesome’, we visited a lake near Titan’s north pole, named Ligeia Mare, and how it could sport long lines of tiny – ~2 cm – waves. In a new study, scientists have uncovered evidence that …

Quasiparticles: A useful perspective

Recently, an international team of researchers claimed that it had discovered particles called Majorana fermions in a topological superconductor. The international press went gaga but, unfortunately, there wasn’t much discussion on whether what had been found was a particle or a quasiparticle. Many news outlets assumed that they were one and the same – but they’re …

Not for me a distinction between opinions and reportage

(Note: There’s some text beyond the postscript at the bottom.) A recent discussion with some of my peers alerted me to a need I’ve either been deaf to or just don’t buy: readers, at least some of them, prefer to be presented with a clear distinction between opinion and reported pieces on a news website. …

Of armchair critics, journalists and sportspersons

You remember the criticism that former Indian men’s ODI cricket captain M.S. Dhoni received when a member of the press, Sam Ferris, asked him a question about his retirement during a presser, got invited to the front by the sportsman and got snubbed in front of everyone? Shortly after, Arun Venugopal wrote an open letter to …

Goopy junk

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop, a wellness brand that has recently come under fire for advertising almost-certainly pseudoscientific “lifestyle” products like $66 jade eggs for women to insert into their vaginas to strengthen their pelvic floors, put up three notes in their defence: two by doctors and one by ‘Team goop’. The ‘Team goop’ note was the usual …

The photon that wasn’t teleported

https://twitter.com/JenLucPiquant/status/884814806666153986 https://twitter.com/techreview/status/884707338103521286 Last month, Chinese researchers announced that they had performed two amazing feats. First, they had performed an experiment recreating the spooky phenomenon called quantum entanglement. To borrow a clunky but sufficient explanation from the MIT Tech Review article tweeted above: [Entanglement] occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and …

The photon that wasn't teleported

https://twitter.com/JenLucPiquant/status/884814806666153986 https://twitter.com/techreview/status/884707338103521286 Last month, Chinese researchers announced that they had performed two amazing feats. First, they had performed an experiment recreating the spooky phenomenon called quantum entanglement. To borrow a clunky but sufficient explanation from the MIT Tech Review article tweeted above: [Entanglement] occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and …

Why Titan is awesome #8

Editions one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. A new study has used radar data obtained by the Cassini probe to determine that the winds blowing on Saturn’s moon Titan aren’t that strong. This is because waves on the surface of the three largest lakes near the moon’s north pole probably aren’t that high, at least in the “early summer”. The lakes …

About benchmarking with records

CERN gets new Guinness World Records title, symmetry: The typical Guinness World Record has to be measurable and breakable. However, the organization also awards significant milestones for different subjects. The first proof of the existence of the Higgs boson, initially announced in 2012, made major news both within the particle physics community and beyond, prompting two …