Ayurveda is not a science – but what does that mean?

This post has benefited immensely with inputs from Om Prasad. Calling something ‘not a science’ has become a pejorative, an insult. You say Ayurveda is not a science and suddenly, its loudest supporters demand to know what the problem is, what your problem is, and that you can go fuck yourself. But Ayurveda is not …

The matter of a journal’s reputation

Apparently (and surprisingly) The Telegraph didn’t allow Dinesh Thakur to respond to an article by Biocon employee Sundar Ramanan, in which Ramanan deems Thakur’s article about the claims to efficacy of the Biocon drug Itolizumab not being backed by enough data to have received the DCGI’s approval to be inaccurate. Even notwithstanding The Telegraph‘s policy on how rebuttals are …

An Upanishadic lesson for modern science?

Do the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads lack the “baggage of biography” – to borrow Amit Chaudhuri’s words – because we don’t know who the authors, outside of the mythology, are or – as Chaudhuri writes in a new essay – do these texts carry more weight than their authors themselves because Eastern Philosophy privileged …

The real story of ‘The Old Guard’

Spoiler alert: Don’t read this post if you intend to watch The Old Guard but haven’t done so yet. The Old Guard, an action film starring Charlize Theron among others, released on Netflix on July 10. In a scene in the film, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) delivers two undying men to the CEO of a pharmaceutical …

Super-spreads exist, but do super-spreaders?

What does the term ‘super-spreader’ mean? According to an article in the MIT Tech Review on June 15, “The word is a generic term for an unusually contagious individual who’s been infected with disease. In the context of the coronavirus, scientists haven’t narrowed down how many infections someone needs to cause to qualify as a superspreader, but …

Questions we should be asking more often

1. Okay, but where’s the money coming from? In a lecture at the Asian College of Journalism, where I was in the audience as a student, P. Sainath told us that if we needed one rule following which we’d be able to produce good stories, it’s “follow the money”. It’s remarkable how often this suggestion …

Redeeming art v. redeeming science

Recently, someone shared the cover of a soon to be released book, entitled The Physics of Climate Change, authored by Lawrence M. Krauss and expressed excitement about the book’s impending publication and the prospect of their reading it. I instinctively responded that I would be actively boycotting the book after the sexual harassment allegations against …

Journalistic entropy

Say you need to store a square image 1,000 pixels wide to a side with the smallest filesize (setting aside compression techniques). The image begins with the colour #009900 on the left side and, as you move towards the right, gradually blends into #1e1e1e on the rightmost edge. Two simple storage methods come to mind: …

The number of deaths averted

What are epidemiological models for? You can use models to inform policy and other decision-making. But you can’t use them to manufacture a number that you can advertise in order to draw praise. That’s what the government’s excuse appears to be vis-à-vis the number of deaths averted by India’s nationwide lockdown. When the government says …

Ocean-safe consumption

Just spotted this ad on the website of The Better India, a journalism website that focuses on “positive stories”: India’s nationwide lockdown has many important lessons – including the fact that it wasn’t useful in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus through the Indian population; and though there’s no way yet to tell if …

The journalist as expert

I recently turned down some requests for interviews because the topics of discussion in each case indicated that I would be treated as a scientist, not a science journalist (something that happened shortly after the Balakot airstrikes and the ASAT test as well). I suspect science and more so health journalists are being seen as …

In defence of ignorance

Wish I may, wish I mightHave this wish, I wish tonightI want that star, I want it nowI want it all and I don’t care howMetallica, King Nothing I’m a news editor who frequently uses Twitter to find new stories to work on or follow up. Since the lockdown began, however, I’ve been harbouring a …