Science journalism, expertise and common sense

On March 27, the Johns Hopkins University said an article published on the website of the Centre For Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), a Washington-based think tank, had used its logo without permission and distanced itself from the study, which had concluded that the number of people in India who could test positive for…

For coronavirus claims, there is a world between true and false

In high school, you must have learnt about Boolean algebra, possibly the most fascinating kind of algebra for its deceptive ease and simplicity. But thanks to its foundations in computer science, Boolean algebra – at least as we it learnt in school – is fixated with 'true' and 'false' states but not with the state…

Lord of the Rings Day

An artist's impression of the iconic One Ring of 'Lord of the Rings' film trilogy.

A happy Lord of the Rings Day to you! (Previous editions: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014) Every year I pen a commemorative piece about Lord of the Rings, and share something about the books and films that I think about nearly every day week. This year, I don't have the strength, thanks to the workload…

On India’s path to community transmission

There's a virus out there among many, many viruses that's caught the world's attention. This virus came into existence somewhere else, it doesn't matter where, and developed a mutation at some point that allowed it to do what it needs to do inside the body of one specific kind of animal: Homo sapiens. And once…

On India's path to community transmission

There's a virus out there among many, many viruses that's caught the world's attention. This virus came into existence somewhere else, it doesn't matter where, and developed a mutation at some point that allowed it to do what it needs to do inside the body of one specific kind of animal: Homo sapiens. And once…

The sea of metal

A scene from 'Greatest Events of WWII in Colour' showing the Allied armada crossing the English Channel on June 6, 1944.

Two of the most decisive moments of the Second World War that I can’t get enough of are the Battle of Stalingrad and the D-Day landings. In the Battle of Stalingrad, Adolf Hitler’s army suffered its first major defeat, signalling to Nazi Germany that it was just as capable of bleeding as any other regime, that…

‘Hunters’, sci-fi and pseudoscience

One of the ways in which pseudoscience is connected to authoritarian governments is through its newfound purpose and duty to supply an alternate intellectual tradition that subsumes science as well as culminates in the identitarian superiority of a race, culture or ethnic group. In return, aspects of the tradition are empowered by the regime both…

Review: ‘Hunters’ (2020)

Just binge-watched the first season of Hunters, the bizarre Amazon Prime original about a covert group of Jews in 1970s' New York city tracking down and killing Nazis who were integrated by the US government into American society under Operation Paperclip. It's obvious how this premise could be presented through 10 hours of grit and…

A great discussion on the history of India’s tech.

On February 27, the Bangalore International Centre and Carnegie India hosted a panel discussion around Midnight Machines, the new book by Arun Mohan Sukumar that traces the interplay of technology and politics in independent India (read The Wire Science's review here). The panelists were Arun (my friend and former colleague at The Hindu), space entrepreneur…

The Nobel intent

A Nobel Prize award ceremony underway. Credit: nobelprize.org

You've probably tired of this but I can't. The Nobel Prize folks just sent out a newsletter ahead of Women's Day, on March 8, describing the achievements of female laureates of each of the six prizes. This is a customary exercise we've come to expect from organisations and companies trying to make themselves look good…

Dehumanising language during an outbreak

It appears the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has begun local transmission in India, i.e. infecting more people within the country instead of each new patient having recently travelled to an already affected country. The advent of local transmission is an important event in the lexicon of epidemics and pandemics because, at least until 2009, that's how the…

Writing itself is fantasy

The symbols may have been laid down on paper or the screen in whatever order but when we read, we read the words one at a time, one after another – linearly. Writing, especially of fiction, is an act of using the linear construction of meaning to tell a story whose message will be assimilated…