The life and death of ‘Chemical Nova’

You know how people pretend to win an Oscar or a Nobel Prize, right? Many years ago, I used to pretend to be the author of a fictitious but, blissfully unmindful of its fictitiousness, award-winning series of articles entitled Chemical Nova. In this series, I would pretend that each article discussed a particular point of…

A caveat for peer-review

Now that more researchers are finding more holes in the study in The Lancet, which claimed hydroxychloroquine – far from being a saviour of people with COVID-19 – actually harms them, I wonder where the people are who've been hollering that preprint servers be shut down because they harm people during a pandemic. The Lancet…

The WHA coronavirus resolution is not great for science

On May 19, member states of the WHO moved a vote in the World Health Assembly (WHA), asking for an independent investigation into the sources of the novel coronavirus. Their exact demands were spelled out in a draft resolution that asked the WHO to, among other things, "identify the zoonotic source of the virus and…

The Wolfram singularity

A grid of eggshells lying on a yellow table, with one unbroken egg sitting between them.

I got to this article about Stephen Wolfram's most recent attempt to "revolutionise" fundamental physics quite late, and sorry for it because I had no idea Wolfram was the kind of guy who could be a windbag. I haven't ever had cause to interact with his work or his software company (which produced Wolfram Mathematica…

Good journalism is still around

This morning, a trusted scientist called my attention to a tweet thread by Jordan Fischer listing the many good stories journalists in the US had done that had improved the lives of people. The scientist then tagged me, presumably to respond to his request for someone to compose a similar thread of stories that journalists…

Partial review: ‘Hitler’s Circle of Evil’ (2018)

Hitler's Circle of Evil is a documentary series on Netflix that narrates the lives and actions of Adolf Hitler's inner circle, leading up to and during the Second World War. This is a partial review because it is based on watching eight episodes, of a total of ten, though I'm confident about publishing because I'm…

Review: ‘Paatal Lok’ (2020)

I binge-watched Paatal Lok today, a show on Amazon Prime India about a cynical cop who is all too familiar with how the The System works and who gets a high profile case by chance – to investigate a conspiracy to assassinate a hotshot journalist. I highly recommend it. It is a gritty, neo-noir slow-burner…

Nitin Gadkari, tomato chutney and blood

There is a famous comedy scene in Tamil cinema, starring the actors Vadivelu and 'Bonda' Mani. Those who understand Tamil should skip this awkward retelling – intended for non-Tamil speakers, to the video below and the post after. Vadivelu has blood all over his face due to an injury when 'Bonda' Mani walks up to…

Poor journalism is making it harder for preprints

There have been quite a few statements by various scientists on Twitter who, in pointing to some preprint paper's untenable claims, point to the manuscript's identity as a preprint paper as well. This is not fair, as I've argued many times before. A big part of the problem here is bad journalism. Bad preprint papers are a…

When cooling down really means slowing down

A close-up photograph of a person applying the brake on a stationary bicycle.

Consider this post the latest in a loosely defined series about atomic cooling techniques that I've been writing since June 2018. Atoms can't run a temperature, but things made up of atoms, like a chair or table, can become hotter or colder. This is because what we observe as the temperature of macroscopic objects is…

In conversation with Sree Srinivasan

On May 1, I was hosted on a webinar by the American journalist Sree Srinivasan, along with Anna Isaac of The News Minute and Arunabh Saikia of Scroll.in. As part of his daily show on the COVID-19 crisis, hosted by Scroll.in, Srinivasan hosts a few people working in different areas, and they all chat about what they're doing and…