Miscellaneous

My Friend from Islamabad

My Friend from Islamabad

Summer vacation never meant days off for international graduate students in the United States but in those warm months we could take longer-than-usual coffee breaks without feeling guilty. Pocket Park, our campus coffee shop, was a tiny glass house wedged into the farthest corner of this small, open-air hangout. Tables, chairs, benches, stairs, the steps of a small wooden stage — we could seat ourselves anywhere. In the summer, the place was deserted and we usually picked a table under the trees. That day another […]



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 […]



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 […]



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 Making of Life In the Death Zone

The Making of Life In the Death Zone

Starting in the early 1970s, two German boys—one from the East, one from the West—with binoculars around their necks spent their teenage years pacing either side of the insurmountable Iron Curtain, the “death zone,” looking for birds. Today, the former pen pals are striving to transform the no-man’s-land into a Green Belt across Europe. Theirs is a tale of two nature lovers overcoming physical and ideological barriers to rewild a domesticated continent. To get the account right, journalist Phil McKenna literally walked into a minefield. […]



The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

In 1836, T.C. Jerdon, a 25-year-old surgeon, arrived in the Madras Presidency. After training at the General Hospital, he was sent to treat troops battling insurgency in a district nearly halfway to the Calcutta Presidency. Once the rebellion was quelled, he joined his cavalry regiment as medical officer and served in various parts of India in a three decade long career. But why do we care about yet another employee of the East India Company, though admittedly an odd bird, who died insolvent instead of […]



The Lady With The Diamond Nose-Stud

The Lady With The Diamond Nose-Stud

Vermeer, the Dutch master, was famous for his “Girl With a Pearl Earring”. In South India I am convinced he would have been pressed upon to depict “Lady With a Diamond Nose-Stud.” The middle-aged couple arrived at the famous Madras-based doctor’s clinic in their Rolls Royce. With her check-patterned silk sari, ruby earrings, and chunky gold bangles, the lady seemed dressed for a wedding reception, but she was really there for a consultation. Her medical complaint: Every afternoon, she took her tea outdoors in the […]



Kavli Awards Ceremony

Kavli Awards Ceremony

This September, I was in Norway to attend the Kavli Prize Awards Ceremony. King Harald presented the million dollar award to scientists who’ve made important, or as they say seminal, contributions in these 3  fields: Nanotechnology, Neuroscience and Astronomy. Unlike the Nobel, this award is given every two years, but this prestigious prize too is usually split three-ways. This is the first science red carpet ceremony I’ve been privileged to attend along with four journalists from Argentina, India, France and Australia. Earlier, I met fellow journalists […]



First Female Desi Student in the U.S ?

First Female Desi Student in the U.S ?

Before a packed house in Bengal’s Serampore College, with an audience that included the American Consul General, Joshi in 1883 declared her intention: “I go to America because I wish to study medicine,“ she said, speaking in English before the College Hall. “Ladies both European and Native are naturally averse to expose themselves in cases of emergency to treatment by doctors of the other sex. In my humble opinion there is a growing need for Hindu lady doctors in India, and I volunteer to qualify myself for one.” She was 18 years old and her […]



The Bigshot

The Bigshot

Curious kids have been known to disassemble devices to see what makes them tick. How about letting them assemble something from its parts? If they can get the device to function, chances are they will understand the science behind it as well. This is the idea behind Bigshot, a do-it-yourself digital camera, developed by Shree Nayar, a professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York. This project is distinct from his cutting-edge research in computer vision. A Q & A with the creator […]