The Blog

The Odd Couple

The first of these stories featuring an old couple and a host of zany characters appeared in the Tamil weekly Kumudham in 1963 and has entertained fans ever since. The writer was Bhagyam Ramasami; the  illustrator Jayraj. Sita Patti [full name: Sitalakshmi Appusamy], the madisar-clad sixty-plus bombshell, is the president of a ladies club called PMK (Patti Munetra Kazhagam).  As “Sita, the trouble-shooter” she pens an agony-aunt column for a glossy periodical. Patti cracks the daily The Hindu crossword well before noon. She peppers every sentence with English words, Madras socialite-style. Gita Patti, the “ugly rustic” down […]



Women Sharing Space

Women Sharing Space

This is of Ajay Palvayanteeswaran’s pet theories:  No two Indian girl graduate students can get along as roommates. Sometimes, he would extrapolate it to all Indians in general or any two women. “It is not a sexist statement,” he would add. “In fact, it works in favor of all males. We should divide and conquer.” Sylvia Earle The stereotype about women being not being able to live amicably under one roof brings me to the story of  an oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle. In 1969, […]



Three Smart Bras

Three Smart Bras

Did the Wonder Woman’s bra confer any special protection on her? Was it good for anything more than, you know, the usual? I am not well up enough on my superhero comics  to know the answer to this question, but here are three added-values bras I heard of recently. Smart Bra for Early Cancer Detection Turn 40 and mammographs will become a part of your annual physical — if you are a woman on a decent healthcare plan. One hates to complain about a medical […]



An Interpreter of Interesting Research

An Interpreter of Interesting Research

No news story has written itself for me, thus far. This is not a complaint, it is a boast. As a science journalist, I work hard to file good articles, or copy as we say in the business. I translate jargon into narrative for a living.  I have to coax intelligible sentences out of some very smart scientists, so I, in turn, can make sense to my readers. Even in a short news item, I hope to convey: why the research is being done, what […]



The Flight of An Insect-Scaled Robot

The Flight of An Insect-Scaled Robot

The aerodynamic feats of insects do not interest most of us in the least — in fact, our first instinct would be to swat at any fly that hovers too close. But researchers from Harvard University have drawn inspiration from the maneuvers of these airborne creatures to design a lightweight flapping-wing robot, capable of controlled flight. They report their findings in this issue of Science. The team led by Prof. Robert Wood of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences invented an efficient way […]



Meeting Nexi

Nexi, the robot, features in articles on MIT Media Lab’s Center for Future Storytelling. I am not entirely sure why this should be the case. Anyway, I decided to go meet this robot in Cynthea Brazeal’s Personal Robotics Lab . Currently, the humans in the group are training their newest robot to be more personable. Nexi was in a booth-like setup; dark make-shift walls cut us off from the rest of the room. Undeniably, robot has this cute, child-like quality, but definitely needs to work harder to gain people’s […]



Spiderman & Insect Research

Few stop to marvel at the backyard tree-scaler who limbers up palms to pluck coconuts for a living in South India. Considering that the trees reach up to a height of 60 feet, the hazards of this occupation are obvious. Appachan, a tree-climbing professional from Kerala, has designed an elegant contraption that cuts down some of the risk for the climber; he has a new nickname: “Spiderman!” Coconut Climber Heidi Renninger, a Boston University researcher in the department of Geography and Environment, who studies the […]