Ghostbusters, women and the life in science

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Ghostbusters 2016 – Film Poster [Image Source via Wikipedia Commons]
The biggest crack in the glass ceiling this year (apart from Hilary Clinton’s nomination as Democratic candidate in the upcoming US elections!) is the reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy, “Ghostbusters”. The July 2016 release has received positive reviews and also ringing in the cash register. But the movie has also been in the news for an altogether different reason – its trailer is among the most disliked videos ever on YouTube.

It was quickly realized that there was an almost coordinated effort by the “Ghostbros”, the male admirers of the original, who could not bear the “blasphemy” of a reboot with an all-female cast. The re-imagining of the Ghostbusters as a team of super-intelligent, gadget-wielding, ghost-hunting, gal-pals was simply too much for the “fan-boys” of the 1984 original. The fans felt it was reason enough to spoil the movie’s chances at the box office.

Sadly, movies are not the only social domain where women are denied their due recognition, despite repeatedly proving that they are capable and in many cases, even better than their male counterparts. Continue reading “Ghostbusters, women and the life in science”

Galileo: The heretic who wasn’t

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Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Students venturing into the social studies of science will quickly realize that the origins of modern science cannot be studied without understanding the role that organized religion played in its development. Indeed, there has been a legacy where historians of science have overplayed the hypothesis that science and religion are fundamentally opposed to each other. The condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 is widely presented as the paradigmatic case of the interminable conflict between science and religion. However, the study of Galileo’s life, work, and his trial requires more than the simplistic thesis of an authoritarian, religious institution silencing a singular, scientific genius.

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Of Robin Hood, open access and academics

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons (By ChordBoard, 2008)

The legend of Robin Hood continues to be popular today, even though folklore says that he was an outlawed fugitive accused of “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”. While the medieval Robin Hood used his archery skills to help the poor, a science graduate in Kazakhstan has been using her computer skills to help make academic research accessible to the poor. Meet Alexandra Elbakyan, the creator of Sci-Hub, a website that has been functional since 2011 and provides access to academic papers by bypassing journal pay-walls “illegally”. Continue reading “Of Robin Hood, open access and academics”

Awaiting the 4th edition of the STS Handbook

The period after the Second World War saw the recognition of science as a “social problem”. Academics became interested and started exploring the relationship between science, technology and society, which resulted in a new academic field – Science and Technology Studies (STS). This “social” study of science essentially looks at (1) the nature and practices of science and technology, and (2) the impact of science and technology on society (and vice-versa).

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Anna Mani – meteorologist extraordinaire

Anna Modayil Mani was born the seventh of eight siblings on August 23, 1918 in the formerly princely state of Tranvancore (now called Kerala) in the southern part of India. Her father was a prosperous civil engineer who owned large cardamom estates. The family was a typical upper class household where the boys were groomed for professional careers while the girls were readied for marriage. Anna, however, had plans of her own. By the time she was twelve she had read almost all the books in English and Malayalam (the regional language) in the local library. On her eighth birthday, she declined her family’s customary gift of a pair of diamond earrings, choosing instead the Encyclopedia Britannica. Such was her passion for knowledge.

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