Auditing science stories: Two examples from the bottom rungs

The Green Bank radio telescope, West Virginia. Credit: NRAO/AUI, CC BY 3.0

The worst kinds of science stories are those that get facts wrong – and then those that report null results wrong.

Spotting scientists, lazy scientists

C.N.R. Rao. Source: YouTube

Calling scientists as a community ‘lazy’ is to abdicate the responsibility to make it easier for them to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Some notes on empiricism, etc.

The Wire published a story about the ‘atoms of Acharya Kanad‘ (background here; tl;dr: Folks at a university in Gujarat claimed an ancient Indian sage had put forth the theory of atoms centuries before John Dalton showed up). The story in question was by a professor of philosophy at IISER, Mohali, and he makes a solid case (not unfamiliar to many of us) as to why Kanad, the sage, didn’t talk about atoms specifically because he was making a speculative statement under the Vaisheshika school of Hindu philosophy that he founded. What got… Read More

Is it so blasphemous to think ISRO ought not to be compared to other space agencies?

Is it so hard to consider the possibility that we might get a better sense of ISRO’s activities if we did not keep comparing it to those of other space agencies?

Establishing trust across the aisle on issues of climate change

An image from a shipborne NASA investigation to study how changing conditions in the Arctic affect the ocean's chemistry and ecosystems. Credit: gsfc/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Making people anxious even to ask honest questions, and robbing them of the opportunity to respectfully disagree, isn’t good for science.

The Indian Science Congress has gutted its own award by giving it to Appa Rao Podile

Credit: ratha/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

An award of the Indian Science Congress has become subverted into becoming an instrument of negotiation for political agents: “You let me interfere in your duties, I will give you a fancy-sounding award”.

The metaphorical transparency of responsible media

Credit: dryfish/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

We in India often complain about how the media doesn’t care enough to cover science stories. But when we’re looking back and forward in time, we become blind to the media’s efforts.

The nomenclature of uncertainty

Credit: bongonian/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Many science articles in the past year dealt with observations falling short of the evidence threshold but which have been worth writing about simply because of the desperation behind them. Has this prompted science writers to think about the language they use?

TIFR’s superconductor discovery: Where are the reports?

The Meissner effect: a magnet levitating above a superconductor. Credit: Mai-Linh Doan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Most news publications in India didn’t report on an exciting and significant discovery made by physicists from TIFR, Mumbai. Why not?

ToI successfully launches story using image from China

Has the prime-mover of our space programme been taken hostage by the consequences of not separating space research from defence research?

Corrected: ‘Life’s Greatest Secret’ by Matthew Cobb

‘Life’s Greatest Secret’ focuses on those efforts to explore the DNA that were only a sideshow in ‘The Gene’ but possess intrigues of their own.

UCal Irvine’s ‘fifth force’ farce

If a journalist buys into a UCI press release about some kind of ‘confirmation’ of a fifth force, and which is subsequently found to be simply false, an editor wouldn’t be faced with a tough choice whatsoever about which section she has to axe.