All entries by this author

A.K.R.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am huge fan of A.K.Ramanujan’s writing — be it his translations from Tamil, his academic writing, his poems, essays …. just anything. So I was delighted to learn that he had written his own memoir in Kannada — not a complete autobiography, but just vignettes from his life.  I felt like buying the Kannada book and begging someone who knew the language to tell me what he had written. Luckily for me, the book was published in translation […]



Red Earth, Pouring Rain

Blessed are those who have a friend to discuss beautiful verses with. Movie-makers, lyricists make it easy  for poetry-lovers when they chose to incorporate words from ancient poems into nicely picturized modern hits. In a double dose of luck, a novelist (Vikram Chandra) chose imagery from this same ancient poem as the *title* of his book and suddenly everyone, with a ear for such things, got curious about the phrase. Here is the lovely song from Iruvar which uses the phrase “our hearts mingle in […]



Deciphering History One Coin At a Time

Deciphering History One Coin At a Time

  “mere jeb me 5 futti cowdie be nahin hain aur mein 5 lakh ka sauda kar raha hun” Ever wondered about these “futti cowdie” dialogues in the Hindi movies? Apparently,  cowrie shells were used as coins in eastern India not too long ago. Learned this and more as I wrote this article about ancient Indian currency.   Read about economist Tandon’s work. html. pdf.



A single escaped organism is all it’ll take…

A single escaped organism is all it’ll take…

Evolutionary engineer Kevin Esvelt, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, works with gene drives, engineered bits of DNA that can cause a mutation to become heritable all the time. He calls for researchers to create and use safe lab procedures while working with this powerful but potentially risky technology. What is a gene drive? In nature, a gene drive occurs when a DNA sequence spreads through a population by breaking the conventional rules of inheritance. For example, if an organism has a single […]



A Numismatist of Note

A Numismatist of Note

Here is how a several centuries-old coin may rewrite a key chapter in the history of ancient India: In 1851, a hoard of gold coins issued by kings from the Gupta dynasty was unearthed near the holy city of Varanasi, in northern India. The Guptas, who ruled from the 4th to 6th centuries AD, had ushered in the “Golden Age” of ancient India, a blossoming of the arts and sciences that produced the concept of zero, a heliocentric astronomy, and the Kama Sutra. Gupta kings […]



The Greatest Nature cover ever….

The Greatest Nature cover ever….

After years in our office, someone finally got round to putting up the huge copy of the greatest @NatureNews cover. — Daniel Cressey (@DPCressey) I worked on the Human Genome Project, so I guess I should make a poster out of this as well.



Closing The Education Divide

Closing The Education Divide

In the Arab world, sheer numbers call for leap-frogging into digital learning, said Maysa Jalbout, CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education. Over half the 385 million people who live the region are under 25 years of age, she said. A good many are refugees whose educational prospects have been shattered by political conflicts. Youth unemployment in the region is also the highest in the world partly because of the poor quality of education, except in some centers of excellence. What gives? Read […]



The Download with a map-and-compass guy

The Download with a map-and-compass guy

  Harvard professor John Huth is an experimental particle physicist who was on the team that discovered the Higgs boson. He teaches an undergraduate course on primitive navigation at the university, and is the author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way. The professor, whose love for the outdoors takes him beyond the pale of cellphone coverage, spoke to The Download about his digital habits. What wakes you up each morning? Changing light levels at dawn wake me during spring, summer, and autumn.  When […]



Technological Indian

Technological Indian

In recent years, India sent a space probe to orbit Mars; Indian-born engineers were named chief executives of two top technology firms in the world. For most of the 20th century, when the very idea of a high-tech India seemed improbable, the foundation was actually being laid to make the dream a reality. In his new book The Technological Indian American science historian Ross Bassett, who analyzed the careers of 850 Indians who earned engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) between 1880 and […]



The Naming of Things

Recently, Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, was in the news because scientists named a tiny Australian leech after her. “I am thrilled to be immortalized as Chtonobdella tanae,” Tan said. “This humble leech has looped across a new scientific threshold—the first microscopic soft-bodied critter to be described inside and out using CT scanning. Imagine the possibilities for identifying legions of tiny organisms that have thus far lived in obscurity. I am now planning my trip to Queensland, Australia, where I hope to […]