I am a freelance science writer and graduate student. I write about science, environment, health and medicine. Bylines in The Wire, The Print, IndiaBioscience, Connect Magazine and others.
‘Organ on a chip’: The new lab setup scientists are using instead of animals to test new drugs
The recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act brought cheer to animal rights activists and drug developers alike. By approving the Act, the US government green-lit computer-based and experimental alternatives to animals to test new drugs.
The move is expected to boost the research and development of organ chips – small devices containing human cells that are used to mimic the environment in human organs, including blood flow and breathing movements, serving as synthetic envir...
‘Kodaikanal Mercury Poisoning Episode Has Lessons for Current, Future Generations’
Ameer Shahul is an investigative journalist turned public policy leader. In his first book, Heavy Metal: How a Global Corporation Poisoned Kodaikanal, Shahul narrates the gripping story of how a Hindustan Unilever-owned thermometer factory unleashed a mercury poisoning catastrophe in Kodaikanal. In this book, Shahul recounts his personal experiences tracking the events as a reporter and Greenpeace campaigner in addition t...
Blowin’ in the Wind
Chennai. 13 December 2016.
I woke up in the morning and headed to the tea stall nearby for my daily dose of morning chai. It was windier than usual: my outfit ruffled heavily, and the umbrella I was carrying to protect me from the drizzle was almost flying away. I returned to my room and looked up the weather forecast – a cyclone warning had been issued for the day...
Colonialism Changed the Way Plants Are Distributed Around the World: Study
The distribution of certain plants in different parts of the world is tied to their colonial history, according to a new study. These plants in places that the Europeans colonised are more similar to each other than to those in other random parts of the world.
An international team of researchers led by Bernd Lenzner and Franz Essl, a postdoctoral researcher and an associate professor, respectively, at the University of Vienna, conducted the study. Their findings were published on October 17.
In Search of Drinking Water
In August 2011, K Kesava Rao, Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering, visited the village of Yellampalli, about 100 km north of Bangalore. The residents of the village were faced with a huge problem: water scarcity. To make matters worse, the available groundwater seemed contaminated. The government had set up a reverse osmosis plant to deal with the problem, but the reject water formed a pool nearby...
What Is the Status of India’s ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ Plan?
Nearly two years since the Indian government proposed its ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ plan, there have been no public updates on its progress.
ONOS proposes to centrally negotiate a payment to journal publishers so that the papers they publish can be accessed by the people of India for free.
Subhash Lakhotia, distinguished professor at BHU said “the major catch is how much the commercial interests of publishers will be acceded to ...
Scientists Say New GST Rates Will Cut Into Their Funding, Impact Research
The rationalisation of the goods and services tax (GST) rates has dealt a severe blow to Indian scientists. As the tax rates on scientific and technical instruments to public research institutes went up from 5% to “applicable rates,” scientists will now have to pay 12% or 18% GST on equipment they purchase.
Could Microbes in Your Mouth Say How Sick COVID Will Make You?
It is still not clear how some seemingly healthy individuals develop severe COVID-19 while others don’t. According to some scientists, oral microbes could be the answer.
Normally, microbes in the oral cavity benefit us by checking the growth of disease-causing bacteria in our mouth and protecting us from infections.
But poor oral hygiene can alter this diversity of microbes, against beneficial bacteria and in favour of disease-causing bacteria, leading to ...
Spreading the word about the Narcondam Island and its beautiful hornbills
Narcondam Island of Andaman is the only home for the Narcondam hornbills. Rohit Naniwadekar and his team ran a science outreach project to spread awareness about the vulnerable island ecosystems and sensitise communities who live and work around these areas. The team is also an awardee of 1st IndiaBioscience Outreach Grant. In this article, Joel uncovers the journey, experiences, logistics, highs and lows of running an outreach program intended for on ground stakeholders.
From mountains to ri...
Interview: ‘Art Is Yet Another Way of Doing Science’
Sukant Saran is a physicist-turned-artist who has been creating sculptures since 2012, and has exhibited his work at various venues over the years. Some of these sculptures are on display in an exhibition named ‘Sculpting Science’, at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. The exhibit closes on June 14.
His hand-made structures of clay are artistic expressions of fundamental concepts of science, mostly physics. Joel P. Joseph interviewed Saran for The Wire Science about his journey as an artist and into science-art.
Why Are We Able To Remember Something That Didn’t Happen?
In the acclaimed 2013 Malayalam film Drishyam, the protagonist – a middle-aged family man guarding a terrible secret – plants memories in the minds of several people in his village, in each case changing little but significant details about the date and time of their meeting with repeated, suggestive conversations.
He intends to gaslight the whole community into misremembering certain facts that will dilute any certainty about his actions, without drawing suspicion towards himself, and allow his family to get away with a crime.
A Mini Forest in an Urban Jungle
In the heart of Bangalore, a city known for its beautiful gardens and majestic trees – now dwindling – lies the lush green campus of IISc. Within it is a small patch of unmanicured woods, populated by over 49 tree species, many of them from the Western Ghats, besides several animals, including a variety of birds, butterflies, reptiles and primates.
The origin of this woodland, popularly known as the...
Behind the scenes with Talk To A Scientist
It is 5 PM on a Saturday. A group of children are glued to their screens, awaiting the host’s permission to join the week’s episode of Talk To A Scientist (TTAS).
Week after week, children from across...
Neurons Can Generate Varying Output Sans Input, and Sea Slugs May Know How
When we perform goal-oriented tasks, we display motivated behaviour, which is driven by a combination of environmental cues and spontaneous cellular events.
Researchers in France studied food-seeking behaviour in two species of sea slugs – Aplysia californica and Aplysia fasciata – to understand motivated behaviour.
Neurogeneticist Björn Brembs said ‘the stu...
Study reveals how genes influence leaf architecture
A recent study, published in Nature Plants, by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has shed light on how simple leaves – one of the two basic forms of leaves – develop in a plant. The team included researchers from the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology (MCB) and their collaborators from Shodhaka Life Sciences, Bengaluru.