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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Kabir Firaque


Kabir Firaque, a newsroom veteran of three decades, has been part of The Indian Express editorial team since 2008. A civil engineer by education, he writes on science, mathematics, puzzles, and issues related to Assam. He tweets @KabirFiraque

Explained: How to measure aerosols with a particle counter, after accounting for dust
Tue, Dec 29, 2020

The concentration of aerosols in public spaces can give a measure of infection risk.

Explained: Seasonal UV radiation and global Covid-19 trends
Tue, Dec 22, 2020

The study compared various populations to themselves over time, and tested whether daily variations in UV radiation lead to changes in Covid-19 cases up to three weeks in the future.

Explained: Why wearing a weak mask may carry more risk than no mask at all
Wed, Dec 23, 2020

Filtration efficiency of a mask decreases with multiple use. How does a mask influence the airflow around the face? Study looks at flow speeds, tracks deposition of particles on folds, the nose, and the lungs.

Explained: Why pet cats (and possibly lions and tigers) are vulnerable to coronavirus
Mon, Dec 21, 2020

Next to humans, ferrets, and then cats, are the most vulnerable to coronavirus infection, new research finds. How does it reach this conclusion, and what about big cats?

Explained: In weird planet 336 light-years away, clues about our own Planet Nine
Mon, Dec 21, 2020

Like the presumed Planet Nine in our Solar System, newly described exoplanet orbits its star from a great distance, at an extreme tilt, and influences the behaviour of various objects in its system. What have scientists learnt about its formation and behaviour, and how does it mirror Planet Nine?

Explained: Here’s why face shields are no match for sneeze droplets
Mon, Dec 21, 2020

If someone wore a face shield but no mask, and if someone infected with Covid-19 sneezed in the vicinity, would the face shield offer enough protection on its own?

Explained: Two people ride in a car during Covid-19 pandemic, which windows should they keep open?
Tue, Dec 15, 2020

Keeping all four windows open is best, but when that is not possible, two opened windows offer a degree of protection. New research looks at air flow patterns in various open-and-closed-window configurations.

Explained: In tree rings, warning of Brahmaputra floods
Wed, Dec 02, 2020

For years, scientists have been looking with concern at the river’s potential for catastrophic flooding in the future, especially as the climate warms. It turns out that this potential has been underestimated so far — even without accounting for a warming climate.

Explained: Videos show how masks with valves fail to filter exhaled air
Sat, Nov 21, 2020

Staymates, whose work involves flow visualisation techniques that capture the movement of air on camera, turned this expertise toward masks.

New research: Allergens in some masks may cause skin problems; how can you avoid this?
Tue, Nov 17, 2020

Dr Dhamija and Dr Schmidlin noted that common allergens that can affect contact dermatitis are found in masks, elastic bands, and other components of face masks.

Explained: When women hunted big game
Thu, Nov 05, 2020

A female teenager from 9,000 years ago has been identified as the oldest hunter burial found in the Americas. Overturning the notion that hunting was exclusively a male domain while women only gathered, an analysis of burial records indicates 30-50% hunters from a similar period were female.

Explained: How Sir Sean Connery set the template for James Bond
Mon, Nov 02, 2020

Sean Connery, the first Bond in the official franchise from Eon Productions, has died at age 90. A look at what led to his selection for the role, and how he helped craft a definitive identity for the iconic character

98.6°F vs new normal: Why is our body temperature declining over time?
Fri, Nov 06, 2020

After trends observed in studies in the US and UK, new research has found that body temperatures are declining also among a rural indigenous group in Bolivia. A look at the possible causes behind these declines across so many populations

Water on the Moon: a discovery, an estimate, and why it matters
Thu, Oct 29, 2020

Water found on Moon’s sunlit surface for first time; another study finds shadowy regions potentially containing ice are more widespread than thought. What can these findings mean for Moon explorers?

School closure, work from home, ban on public events — which works best to stop Covid-19 spread?
Sat, Oct 31, 2020

The researchers investigated the effect of separate and combined interventions on transmission, by estimating the R number when these interventions are introduced and lifted.

Scientists grow ‘mini-lungs’ in a lab, infect them with the coronavirus and watch battle in real time
Fri, Oct 30, 2020

In both studies, scientists observed how the virus damages the alveoli in the lungs. Alveoli are balloon-like air sacs that take up the oxygen we breathe and release the carbon dioxide we exhale.

Explained: Can eyeglasses shield you against Covid-19?
Fri, Sep 18, 2020

Can wearing glasses protect you from the novel coronavirus? Here are the findings of a new study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Explained: How far can singing/talking spread Covid-19?
Wed, Sep 16, 2020

Consonants release very large droplets — and B and P stand out as the biggest aerosol spreaders. At the same time, larger droplets fall to the ground earlier, and so have a shorter lifespan than smaller droplets. Is that a contradiction?

The name’s Bond, Tracy Bond — the legacy of James Bond’s wife, and the actor who played her
Sun, Sep 13, 2020

James Bond married only once. Diana Rigg, 82, the actor who played his wife, Tracy, died on Thursday. A look at the legacy of the two women, individually and together

Explained: There are five kinds of cat owners. Which one are you?
Sun, Sep 06, 2020

Are you a Concerned Protector of your cat, or a Freedom Defender, Tolerant Guardian, Conscientious Caretaker or Laissez-faire Landlord? It depends on how you view your cat's hunting behaviour, new research explains.

Explained: Two black holes merged billions of years ago, but it is puzzling scientists now
Sat, Sep 05, 2020

LIGO and Virgo detect signals from gravitational waves released in the merger. One of the two parent black holes was of an unusual “intermediate mass”, which challenges traditional scientific knowledge. What is generally understood, and what explains this unusual size?

Explained: A robot to measure Covid-19 patients’ vital signs
Wed, Sep 02, 2020

The robot, called Spot, has been developed by Boston Dynamics, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Controlled by a handheld device, it can walk on four legs, similarly to a dog.

How mosquitoes stopped mosquitoes from spreading dengue in an Indonesian city
Sat, Aug 29, 2020

Scientists infected female mosquitoes with bacteria and released them; two years later, dengue incidence reduced by 77%. How did this strategy work? Can it help fight mosquito-borne diseases on a larger scale?

Explained: The coronavirus risk for animals, high or low
Tue, Sep 01, 2020

In the new study, cats, along with other domestic animals such as cattle and sheep, were found to have a medium risk. Dogs, along with horses and pigs, were found to have low risk.

Why does a zebra have stripes? Many old theories, some new findings
Sun, Aug 23, 2020

Do a zebra’s stripes help camouflage it from predators? Or do they help regulate body temperature, enable mutual recognition, or confuse flies that would suck their blood?