The awesome limits of superconductors

On June 24, a press release from CERN said that scientists and engineers working on upgrading the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had “built and operated … the most powerful electrical transmission line … to date”. The transmission line consisted of four cables – two capable of transporting 20 kA of current and two, 7 kA. …

My heart of physics

Every July 4, I have occasion to remember two things: the discovery of the Higgs boson, and my first published byline for an article about the discovery of the Higgs boson. I have no trouble believing it’s been eight years since we discovered this particle, using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its ATLAS and …

Clarity and soundness

I feel a lot of non-science editors just switch off when they read science stuff. A friend told me this earlier today, during yet another conversation about how many of the editorial issues that assail science and health journalism have become more pronounced during the pandemic (by dint of the pandemic being a science and …

Where is the coolest lab in the universe?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) performs an impressive feat every time it accelerates billions of protons to nearly the speed of light – and not in terms of the energy alone. For example, you release more energy when you clap your palms together once than the energy imparted to a proton accelerated by the LHC. …

Go easy on the dexamethasone hype

The people involved with the RECOVERY clinical trial have announced via statements to the press that they have found very encouraging results about the use of dexamethasone in people with severe COVID-19 who had to receive ventilator support. However, the study’s data isn’t available for independent verification yet. So irrespective of how pumped the trial’s …

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: …

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 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 …

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

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 …

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 …

When cooling down really means slowing down

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 …