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Reviews

On shelf

Issue Date: Aug 31, 2014
Founding an Empire on India's North-Eastern Frontiers 1790-1840: Climate, Commerce, Polity by Gunnel Cederlf OUP; Rs 895

City scan

Author(s): Vivek Paul 
Issue Date: Aug 31, 2014
HAPPY CITY Charles Montgomery Penguin | Rs 750 THE STATE OF OUR CITIES Samuel Paul, Kala Seetharam Sridhar, A Venugopal Reddy and Pavan Srinath OUP | Rs 765

Debating delivery

Author(s): Shefali Kukreti
Issue Date: Jun 30, 2014
Effective and efficient water management as the key to human survival and development is an urgent global concern. Increasing pressure on water resources has led to interventions by government and international donor agencies in water management. How novel are these interventions? What are the constraints?

Significance of CERN

Issue Date: May 31, 2014
When the Cambridge physicist J J Thomson discovered the first subatomic particle, the electron, only a few people outside academic circles cared for his discovery. Still fewer realised the significance of his achievement. The electron was discovered in 1897 using an apparatus that cost only a few thousand US dollars at today’s prices.

Life beyond Earth

Author(s): Pratul Raturi
Issue Date: May 15, 2014
For thousands of years, humans have wondered whether there’s life elsewhere in the universe. Ancient literature of most civilisations are replete with tales of extraterrestrials. In the sixth century BC, the Greek philosopher Anaximander suggested that other worlds were endlessly forming and disintegrating in a universe of infinite extent.

Not just a nightly ritual

Issue Date: Apr 30, 2014
Sleep is usually seen as the domain of physicians, psychiatrists and mental health specialists, even writers and folklorists. Historical accounts of sleep are rare. In 2001, American historian Roger Ekirch published a seminal paper revealing a wealth of historical evidence showing that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks at night.

Kitchen gadgets

Issue Date: Apr 30, 2014
Traditionally, the wooden spoon is given as a prize to the loser of a competition. It does not look like sophisticated “technology”. It does not switch on and off or make funny noises. It has no patent or guarantee. There is nothing futuristic or shiny or clever about it. But the humble eating tool has science on its side. Wood is non-abrasive and, therefore, gentle on pans—you can scrape away without fear of scarring the metal surface.

An uncelebrated genius

Author(s): Pratul Raturi
Issue Date: Mar 31, 2014
This is a somewhat unique book. Plague and Cholera belongs to the almost extinct genre of fictionalised biography. Its protagonist Alexandre Yersin is remembered as the discoverer of the bacillus responsible for the bubonic plague.

The pros and cons of four wheels

Issue Date: Feb 15, 2014
As a student in the 1980s in Kolkata—it was then called Calcutta—I looked forward to the Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally as a break from the tedium of school life. I was not much of a car buff and my parents did not have a car. But the Austins, Buick and Roll Royces at the show exerted an ineffable pull. It was fascinating to know that Stalin, one of the biggest critics of fascist Germany, used a Mercedes.

Star among star gazers

Author(s): Pratul Raturi
Issue Date: Jan 31, 2014
The trouble with being the world’s most celebrated scientist is that when you come to write your own memoir, much of it has been said before. Including trivia. For example, many books about Stephen Hawking point out that he was born exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo. In his memoir, My Brief History, Hawking repeats the line, but only in jest. He reckons that 200,000 other babies were born on January 8, 1942 and then quips, “I don’t know whether any of them was later interested in astronomy.”
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