THIS year also, the Indian Science Congress held in Jalandhar, covered itself with shame; as it has been doing for the last few years. Venkataramanan Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, had called it a circus for discussing in Mumbai session of the science congress the irrational: ancient India had aircrafts, genetic engineering, etc. This tradition of celebrating mumbo jumbo as science from the Dinanath Batra School of Nonsense continues, with more and more outrageous claims being paraded each year in the science congress.
THE rise of hate crimes in India – cow-related violence and lynchings – has been coupled with extensive use of social media. While fake news and fake videos have often helped spark communal violence, they have also been “celebratory” in nature: participants bragging about being a part of the mob involved in the lynchings and the violence.
THE notification issued by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) arming10 government agencies under the Section 69 of the IT Act to break into all our communications and computers, has been followed by ministry of information technology modifying its rules. Taken together, these proposed modifications identify how the breaking of our communications will be done. The target in the first instance are the service providers – the telecom and digital service providers such as WhatsApp (owned by Facebook), Telegram, etc, and the equipment vendors.
THE 24th Conference of Parties (COP 24) to the international climate control process held in the Polish town of Katowice (pronounced Kaato-veetsa) concluded last Saturday, after extension by a day to iron out remaining differences as has become customary by now.
THE three Hindi heartland states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – have rejected the BJP in varying degrees in the elections to the state assemblies. These elections show that even with money power and its electoral machinery including its formidable WhatsApp reach, BJP is vulnerable to peoples’ discontent. People rejected BJP’s false claims of development and their hate campaign in good, old fashioned ways – through talking to each other in homes, tea shops and in every day conversations with friends.
A CHINESE scientist, He Jiankui shocked the world last week, with the claim that he has genetically modified the embryo of two twin sisters, using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool. According to news reports, one couple has already given birth to twin girls and another one is on the way. His experiment violates the voluntary guidelines regarding human genetic engineering adopted by the scientific community, which has been maintained so far.
AFTER many months of stonewalling, hiding behind supposed confidentiality clauses, and yet putting out all manner of partial information, numbers that conceal more than they reveal, and explanations that raise more questions than providing answers, the government has filed in the Supreme Court (SC) an official document on “Details of the steps in the decision-making process leading to the award of 36 Rafale fighters order.” Copies of this document have been provided to the petitioners, namely lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former BJP cabinet ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha.
BY a sleight of hand, RS Sharma, the TRAI chief, has changed his irresponsible challenge “harm me using my Aadhaar” to “hack my Aadhaar database”. The two are completely different issues. What the ethical hacker community – yes, there is one – has shown is the immense harm that they could have done to Sharma, but did not. They only showed us the danger from Aadhaar to our privacy, and they succeeded quite convincingly.
THE Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), the apex decision-making body for all domestic and international defence acquisitions, as well as for indigenous R&D, finalised guidelines for the vaunted Strategic Partnership (SP) Model under which foreign manufacturers would tie-up with identified Indian partners for manufacturing the concerned platforms in India. The DAC chaired by the defence minister also drew up platform-specific guidelines for the forthcoming acquisition of Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH), which would be the first project taken up under this model.
THE development of new knowledge is a fascinating exercise. Since humans evolved, they have been driven by curiosity to learn more and more about nature. Over time the knowledge accumulated came to be systematised and this is what we call science. The hunger for knowledge deepened and expanded our collective understanding of nature. This knowledge is utilised to create tools and other artifacts that humans use to improve conditions of living.