SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

CRISPR: Good Science or Evil Science?

A THREE-YEAR old technology of gene editing called CRISPR is now the focus of two major disputes. The disputes are: who (or which team) will get the Nobel Prize for this discovery, and the other, the patent rights over the technology coming out of this discovery. One is the holy grail of science; not the discovery itself, but the public accolade that goes with it. The other is of course the billions of dollars that the patent holders will earn from the monopoly of this technology.

Urban Air Pollution: Will Delhi Even Out the Odds?

THE short and temporary experiment in Delhi to combat severe air pollution by rationing road-use by personal four-wheeled vehicles on alternate days, corresponding to odd or even numbered dates and license plates, is to end this weekend. The media especially newspapers, who for once have taken good advantage of their greater ability than TV for in-depth coverage, have been full of analysis of whether the odd-even formula has worked or not.

The Trojan Horse of Free Basics

FACEBOOK is running a high profile, misleading campaign, using full page advertisements, blocks of TV time, hoardings, and Facebook itself. This campaign, estimated to cost more than Rs 400 crore, is promoting Facebook's private, proprietary platform called “Free Basics” and calling its opponents as anti-poor. In India, Facebook has tied up with Reliance Telecommunications for offering this platform.

Paris Climate Summit: Contradictions And Moving Goalposts

SO COP 21 (Conference of Parties) is finally here and fingers are crossed all over the world that the summit will deliver a definitive outcome. Problem is that nobody is particularly optimistic about how effective that outcome will be in terms of dealing with the clear, present and immediate danger posed by climate change. At the same time, almost everybody is sure that COP21 will end with some concrete agreement, probably named after Paris much like the Kyoto Protocol that it will replace, that will be greeted with applause and hailed as a success.

Hindutva, Mathematics, Pythagoras and Zero

THE Hindutva brigade have been continuously proclaiming that the Greeks learnt Pythagoras from India. This is what Harsh Vardhan, the BJP science and technology minister, claimed in the Indian Science Congress last year; that “we” discovered the Pythagoras theorem and gave it “magnanimously” to the Greeks. There have also been claims of vedic mathematics, which is sought to be introduced in the schools as advanced mathematics of the vedas. In this vain glorious view of history, what we miss are the real advances that India made in mathematics.

 

Vimanas, Rockets, and Tipu Sultan

THE RSS and its camp followers have a strange relationship to imagination. They take the imagination of the mythology, and present it as matter of fact history. When it comes to the scientific imagination – how to create new sciences – they fall back on the sterile claim that we having nothing new to discover, as all of it has been already done by our sages in the past. This is the Batra version of science, available in the Gujarat text books. This view of science is also endorsed by the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

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