Of socks in black-holes and wasted stone tablets

Dennis Overbye, one of the New York Times's star science writers (the other being Carl Zimmer), had a curious piece up November 19 about why "we should leave some mysteries alone" and what mysteries he would like to leave alone personally. He wrote, Jim Peebles, the famed cosmologist at Princeton University, once told me that…

Understanding the proton’s mass – and then the universe’s

You are taught in school that protons and neutrons are particles. However, unless you get into physics research later in life, the likeliest way you are going to find out that they are technically quasiparticles is through the science media. So here it is. 😄 Setting aside their electric charge, protons and neutrons are very…

A fair trial

BBC News Africa undertook an excellent investigation to reveal that a group of men who killed four unarmed civilians – two women and two children – in 2015 belonged to the Cameroonian military. Fourteen journalists worked on the story, together with Amnesty International, using Google Earth imagery, satellite images, social media, prior news reports and…

On the New Yorker’s ‘EDS doctor’ story

A fascinating tale in the New Yorker: Michael Holick, a medical researcher and doctor at the Boston University, Massachusetts, has been finding that many American families that have had their babies taken away from them because State Services suspected abuse are in fact up against a little-known disease, called hypermobile Ehler-Danlos syndrome (EDS). The story typically goes…

A culture of communication

Credit: Pavan Trikutam/Unsplash

Srinavasa Chakravarthy, presumably a mathematician going by a reference in his post, penned an open letter for TH Read about how Indian scientists … rarely follow the scientific work of [our] Indian colleagues, perhaps because such attention has no practical and material consequence. Thus, we constantly face what is popularly called a double whammy. As it is, the Western academics…

NatGeo clickbait

Credit: Lucas Ludwig/Unsplash

A National Geographic article published on November 6 carried a surprising headline: Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’ The lede followed through: Earth’s moon may not be alone. After more than half a century of speculation and controversy, Hungarian astronomers and physicists say they have finally confirmed the existence of two Earth-orbiting “moons” entirely made of dust. This…

Twitter ≠ reality

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Behold: Vijaya Gadde is the "Legal, Policy and Trust and Safety Lead at Twitter". Her replies are to Indian right-wingers on Twitter demanding to know why Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saw fit to be photographed holding a poster with the words "Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy" on it. Her copy-pasted apology, while clarifying that the picture wasn't…

Dead animal pics

I think the media needs to adopt a rule about not displaying raw footage of dead animals, especially if they’re in a poor state. It’s gross, undignified and triggering – but most of all, it’s used to convey a very narrow-minded view of a complex problem. The gross factor ties into the question of dignity:…

The story of dust

What is dust? It feels ridiculous just asking that question sitting in India. Dust is everywhere. On the roads, in your nose, in your lungs. You lock up your house, go on a month-long holiday and come back, and there’s a fine patina on the table. It’s inside your laptop, driving the cooling fan nuts.…

Let the arrogators write

Credit: Edgar Guerra/Unsplash

Bora Zivkovic, the former 'blogfather' of the Scientific American blogs network, said it best: journalists are temporary experts. Reporters have typically got a few days to write something up on which scientists have been working for years, if not decades. They flit from paper to paper, lab to lab; without the luxury of a beat,…