Anti-softening science for the state

The group of ministers (GoM) report on "government communication" has recommended that the government promote “soft topics” in the media like “yoga” and “tigers”. We can only speculate what this means, and that shouldn’t be hard. The overall spirit of the document is insecurity and paranoia, manifested as fantasies of reining in the country’s independent…

The government’s enblightenment

A an empty can of some toxic substance lies on the beach during the day.

The GMO debate is a fascinating object, even though participating in it often amounts to nothing but pain, frustration and lost time – especially if you're pro-GMO foods. It's fascinating because it's one of a kind: one party has science on its side but little else, including good science outreach, and the other has sociology…

What the DNA Bill needs

An artistic illustration of multiple DNA double-helices flowing side by side.

The following article has been published in The Wire, but since it began as a blog post and because I haven't published anything else in a while, I'm using it here as well. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T, Forests and Climate Change has submitted its review on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation…

Pandemic: Science > politics?

set of medical syringes filled with medication on pink desk

By Mukunth and Madhusudhan Raman Former Union health secretary K. Sujatha Rao had a great piece in The Indian Express on January 14, whose takeaway she summarised in the following line: Science, evidence and data analytics need to be the bedrock of the roll-out policy, not politics and scoring brownie points for electoral advantages. However,…

Science prizes, wealth location and social signals

One count on which I almost always find myself to be an outlier in India is my opinion that the Nobel Prizes and their derivatives belong in the gutter. But while many people in other countries share this opinion of the Nobel Prizes, and often put their weight behind advancing this view, there are very…

Vaccines for votes

A photograph of a person inserting a piece of paper into a box via a slit, akin to casting a vote in a ballot box.

A week or so ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar released its poll manifesto, the first point on which was that should the party win, it would make a COVID-19 vaccine cleared by the ICMR available for free to every resident of the state. It was an unethical move, and Siddharth Varadarajan and I…

The climate change of bad news

This post flows a bit like the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket. As one friend put it, “It starts somewhere and then goes in a different direction.” This year hasn’t been beset by the same old steady drizzle of bad news we have every year – but has borne the brunt of cyclonic storms, each one…

The passive is political

A wooden sculpture of Pinocchio, with a long nose to suggest he is lying about something.

If Saruman is the stupid shit people say, I have often found Grima Wormtongue is the use of the passive voice. To the uninitiated: Wormtongue was a slimy fellow on Saruman's side in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. He was much, much less powerful compared to Saruman, but fed the wizard's ego, lubricated…

Pandemic: A world-building exercise

First, there was light news of a vaccine against COVID-19 nearing the end of its phase 3 clinical trials with very promising results, accompanied with breezy speculations (often tied to the stock prices of a certain drug-maker) about how it’s going to end the pandemic in six months. An Indian disease-transmission modeller – of the…

A sanitised fuel

I debated myself for ten minutes as to whether I should criticise an article that appeared on the DD News website on this blog. The article is flawed in the way many science articles on the internet are, but at the same time it appeared on DD News – a news outlet that has a…

Why we need *some* borders between us

A woman slightly hidden from view, wearing a denim jacket, brushing her hand against a wooden facade in daylight.

Borders are often a bad thing because they create separation that is unconducive for what are generally considered to be socially desirable outcomes. And they're often instituted to maximise political outcomes, especially of the electoral variety. However, as electoral politics – and the decisions politicians make leading up to elections – become increasingly divisive, the…

The virus and the government

In December 2014, public health researchers and activists gathered at a public forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to discuss how our perception of diseases and their causative pathogens influences our ideas of what we can and can't do to fight them. According to a report published in The Harvard Gazette: The forum prompted serious reflection about…