Reading fog data from INSAT 3DR

INSAT-3DR satellite in a clean room, with its solar panel deployed, ahead of launch in August 2016. Credit: ISRO

At 7.57 am today, the India Meteorological Department's Twitter handle posted this lovely image of fog over North India on January 21, as captured by the INSAT 3DR satellite. However, it didn't bother explaining what the colours meant or how the satellite captured this information. So I dug a little. https://twitter.com/Indiametdept/status/1352080311102828546 At the bottom right…

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,…

The Wire Science is hiring

Location: Bengaluru or New Delhi The Wire Science is looking for a sub-editor to conceptualise, edit and produce high-quality news articles and features in a digital newsroom. Requirements Good faculty with the English languageExcellent copy-editing skillsA strong news senseA strong interest in new scientific findingsKnow how to read scientific papersFamiliarity with concepts related to the…

Poverty, psychology and pseudoscience

From the abstract of 'Why Do People Stay Poor? Evidence on Poverty Traps from Rural Bangladesh', November 24, 2020: There are two broad views as to why people stay poor. One emphasizes differences in fundamentals, such as ability, talent or motivation. The other, poverty traps view, differences in opportunities stemming from differences in wealth. We…

Good luck with your Maggi

You know when you're cooking a packet of Maggi noodles in a saucepan, and you haven't used enough water or don't move the stuff soon enough from the pan to a plate once it's done cooking, and you're basically left with a hot lump of maida stuck to the bottom? That's 2020. When you cook…

“Enough science.”

Edit, 6.04 pm, December 15, 2020: A reader pointed out to me that The Guardian may in fact have been joking, and it has been known to be flippant on occasion. If this is really the case, I pronounce myself half-embarrassed for having been unable to spot a joke. But only half because it seems…

The overlay bias

I'm not very fond of some highly popular pieces of writing (I won't name them because I'm nervous about backlash from authors and/or their supporters) because a part of their popularity is undeniably rooted in technological 'solutions' that asymmetrically promote work published in the solution's country of origin. My favourite example is Pocket, the app…

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…

The thing about π

Consider the following setup, from the game 'Factorio', the game about factory management and automation: There are two factories visible in this image – the two rectangular, green-walled buildings. Take the one on the left: it's manufacturing electric furnaces, with steel plates, stone bricks and advanced circuits as ingredients. These three resources are visible on…

A Q&A about my job and science journalism

A couple weeks ago, some students from a university in South India got in touch to ask a few questions about my job and about science communication. The correspondence was entirely over email, and I'm pasting it in full below (with permission). I've edited a few parts in one of two ways – to make…

Tech bloggers and the poverty of style

I created my writing habit by performing it over a decade (and still continuing). When I first started blogging in 2008, I told myself I would write at least 2,000 words a week. By some conspiracy of circumstances, but particularly my voracious reading habit at the time, I found this target to be quite easy.…