One in a thousand

Couldn’t pull myself away from reading Rajini Krish’s posts all of yesterday

If Rajinikanth regrets some of the roles he played, and other questions

In most of Tamil cinema, “men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.”

We did start the fire

Credit: kabetojamaicafotografia/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

An ‘air purification’ ritual by Indian priests in Tokyo is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen done in a while.

A return to Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco. Credit: Sud Foto/Sergio Siano, CC BY 2.0

The unwavering intensity of his writing, and of his commitment to seem to be chronicling something as opposed to be vainly conjecturing something, is what made his fiction worth committing to.

Playing villains, he made a giant of himself

Christopher Lee at the Aubagne International Film Festival in September 1996. Credit: Charmich/Wikimedia Commons, license

The Wire June 15, 2015 When the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released in 2001, it introduced a whole new generation to the ageless charms of Christopher Lee. Far removed from the often campy Dracula that an earlier set of filmgoers loved him for, he played the ‘white wizard’ Saruman with an electrifying dignity, brushing the character with a majestic flavour of evil. It’s hard to imagine many other actors being able to do that without outright vilification. Sir Christopher Lee passed away on June 7 in a hospital… Read More

Why Indian science projects must plan for cultural conversations, too

The Wire May 18, 2015 What should be the priority for science in India? Nature journal published answers from ten scientists in India it had asked this question to on May 13. One of the scientists was Prof. Naba Mondal, a physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and he said India has to “build big physics facilities”. Prof. Mondal is true in asserting also that there aren’t enough instrument builders in the country, and that when they come together, their difficulties are “compounded by widespread opposition to large-scale projects by… Read More

Two of Alan Turing’s WW-II papers are now in the public domain

The Wire May 21, 2015 A scientific paper written by Alan Turing, the brilliant computer scientist who cracked the Enigma code during the Second World War and bolstered Britain’s war efforts, was recently declassified by the British government and uploaded to the arXiv pre-print server. The paper’s entitled ‘The Applications of Probability to Cryptography’. It has Turing bringing to bear a style of reasoning that is absent in today’s statistics-heavy technical literature. It is both didactic and meticulous, and provides great insight into how Turing explored the cryptographic problems he was confronted with. Consider:… Read More

From Orwell to Kafka, Markov to Doctorow: Understanding Big Data through metaphors

Big Data... right? Credit: DARPA

On March 20, I attended a short talk by Malavika Jayaram, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, titled ‘What we talk about when we talk about Big Data’ at the T.A.J. Residency in Bengaluru. It was something of an initiation into the social and political contexts of Big Data and its usage, and the important ethical conundrums assailing these contexts. Even if it was a little slow during the first 15 minutes, Jayaram’s talk progressed rapidly later on as she quickly piled criticism after criticism upon the concept’s foundation, which was quickly being revealed to be immature. Perhaps… Read More

Wendy Doniger & fungi

The best stories are those that help us give new meanings to old objects, accustomed ideas and known tales. This notion applies both to articles in a newspaper and a work of fantasy fiction. It’s why I think I enjoyed The Immortals of Meluha despite its predictable plot and the familiar mythos. The author, Amish Tripathi, reinterpreted gods as human champions, paving the way for them to be judged by the same standards that mortals were. However, the plot element I enjoyed following the most was that of the Somras, a purported “drink of the Gods” that granted its… Read More

Metal, flesh and monochrome

The alien xenomorph as seen in 'Alien vs. Predator' (2004).

Sunday Magazine May 18, 2014 Hans Rudolf Giger, the Swiss artist who conceived of the alien xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), died on May 12 at the age of 84 in Zurich. Here was an artist who was not awkward, harboring no pretense of subtlety. Giger was an artist suckling on a vein of psychotic posthumanism like a fat, usurious pup. His influence on various artists and art-forms cannot be overstated. From Alejandro Jodorowsky to Ibanez, from Dune to Doom, from gamers to tattoo aficionados, Giger’s biomechanical fusion of metal, flesh… Read More

The non-Nobel for Satyen Bose

Last week, as the Nobel Prizes were announced and Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the highly coveted physics prize, dust was kicked up in India – just as it was in July and then in September 2012 – about how Satyendra Nath Bose had been ‘ignored’. S.N. Bose, in the 1920s, was responsible for formulating the Bose-Einstein statistics with Albert Einstein. These statistics described the physical laws that governed the class of particles that have come to be known, in honour of Bose’s work, as bosons. The matter of ignoring S.N…. Read More

Would you just calm down about the Bose in the boson?

July, 2012 – A Higgs boson-like entity is spotted at the Large Hadron Collider. Indians decry the lack of celebration of S.N. Bose, the Bengali physicist whom bosons are named for. January, 2013 – The particle found at the LHC is confirmed to be a Higgs boson. Further outcry about S.N. Bose having been forgotten in favor of the “Western” intellects. October, 2013 – Peter Higgs and Francois Englert win the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics for their work on the Higgs mechanism. Bose is also in the limelight but for the same wrong reasons…. Read More