All entries by this author

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 […]



A Library in Jaffna

Shareeq is too young to remember much of the war years. But for another patron, 75-year-old Rajenthiran Selvanayagam, spending time at the library is a peaceful contrast to that era. He lost his wife to the war. His son went mad. Selvanayagam visits the library three times a week. “Having a book in my hand,” he says, “is more than meditation to me.” Read/listen to the report on NPR about the library in a war-torn land. So what books should such a library stock? The authorities, […]



Ethan Zuckerman: ‘I go to Reddit for the cat pictures’

Ethan Zuckerman: ‘I go to Reddit for the cat pictures’

Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media. Over a decade ago, the Internet scholar co-founded GlobalVoicesOnline.org, a site to help guide readers through the maze of citizen journalism from several countries. He is the author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. What wakes you up? My son, when I’m lucky enough to be at home in western MA. He’s six, and our morning ritual involves blueberry waffles and Disney cartoons recorded on the DVR, so my first media of […]



The Original Angry Young Man

The Original Angry Young Man

Many boys who went to school in Madras must’ve worn this costume for the “fancy-dress” competition at school. Draw on a mustache, wear your dad’s wedding reception coat, memorize a couple of Tamil verses, and you are all set! Outside of Tamilnadu, this costume cannot work unless your audience is predominantly Tamil for some reason. Recently, I have been running into a lot of interesting details about the life of the revolutionary Tamil poet Subramaniya Bharathi (1882 –1921). There is always the question, why did […]



The Download with An Old-Fashioned Novelist

The Download with An Old-Fashioned Novelist

Allegra Goodman is a novelist who lives in Cambridge, MA. She is married to David Karger, a professor at MIT. She is a mother of four. She uses a computer to write, but she prints out the draft, and edits by hand. Then, she types in all the “30,000 changes.” What wakes you up? I am a morning person and I wake up without an alarm clock. How do you get your news? I get my news from “The New York Times” paper edition—but I […]



Driving Ms. Desi

Driving Ms. Desi

Even as we speak, hundreds of women in India are getting ready to enrol in universities across the United States for the fall semester. I was also a graduate student once, but I set out before the days of unlimited Internet access. Back then, America might well have been undiscovered for the precious little information I managed to gather about my destination. Once on campus, undergraduates have an option of being rushed into three-letter Greek societies, which let them build lasting friendships with others who […]



The Download with Prof. Sherry Turkle

The Download with Prof. Sherry Turkle

  Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and a psychologist by training researches the relationship between humans and technology. Her recent writing has focused on how new forms of communication – email, texting, and social media – are affecting our lives. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in A Digital Age, her message is clear: Stop Googling, Let’s Talk. And yet the tech critic is, by no means, a Luddite. Prof. Turkle talks to Beta Boston about her digital habits. Yes, she […]



The Download With My Favorite Digital Native

The Download With My Favorite Digital Native

What device wakes you up in the morning? No device, no alarm. My mom pats me awake. Are you the inbox-zero type when it comes to email? Since I am 6 years old, I am not allowed to have an email account. How do you communicate with relatives who live far away? I Skype with them. I also have other fans and followers. They are online. You have a favorite website? Oh yes– that HAS to be scratch.mit.edu. I create my own games there. I […]



End of life Planning

End of life Planning

After you are gone, should your Facebook profile be deleted? Do you have a health care proxy who will make medical decisions for you when you can’t? Burial or cremation? And what music should be played at your funeral? An emerging startup called Cake wants to make advance care and end-of-life planning a simpler process for all of us – a piece of cake, if you will. The Cake team was a finalist in this year’s MassChallenge startup accelerator. They are collaborating with Brigham Innovation […]