ABOUT Akshat Rathi

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Akshat Rathi is a science writer based in the UK. He regularly writes for The Economist and Chemistry World.


Akshat Rathi: All Posts


Midday meals for schoolchildren in India: More good than harm

Posted 16 September 2013 by Akshat Rathi

On July 16th at least 23 children in the Indian state of Bihar died after eating a midday meal that was provided for free by their school. Nearly as many are in critical condition in a local hospital. Tests have revealed that adulterated cooking oil, perhaps containing pesticides, is likely to blame. A government inquiry has determined that the principal of the school, who is in hiding, must be held responsible for the bad ingredients or unsafe methods used in... Read more

Science in the news: why does it really matter

Posted 3 August 2013 by Akshat Rathi

Most of what is written in a newspaper on a daily basis makes no difference to the life of the common man the people on the streets. Indeed some have even argued that news is actually bad for you That, though, doesn't stop people from engaging with news. And, despite the struggles of the news industry, more people read news today than they did when the internet did not exist. This should not be surprising, because the price to read even... Read more

Psychology holds the key to solving world’s problems

Posted 10 July 2013 by Akshat Rathi

We have reached, in terms of technical solutions, if not a plateau, at least a point of diminishing marginal returns. The technology for cutting carbon emissions, for storing nuclear waste, for supporting forays into Alzheimer’s disease research and for taking science education to students in the developing world already exists. In a post for the Lindau blog, Ashutosh Jogalekar suggests that, at a meeting of Nobel Laureates meant to inspire the young, there should be a place for psychologists. That... Read more

Bioengineers go retro to build a calculator from living cells

Posted 19 May 2013 by Akshat Rathi

Scientists in the US have developed a calculator from living cells, using old-fashioned analog programming. Their hope is that the technology could be used in the future to program cells to kill cancer. Researchers have previously built electronic circuits using living cells. They achieved this by forcing living cells to behave in binary (digital) systems. But this is not energy efficient. And many cells are required to implement simple functions that transistors, the basic units of electronic circuits which are... Read more

Social entrepreneurs in India: Water for all

Posted 20 April 2013 by Akshat Rathi

Nearly three-fourths of all diseases caused in India are due to water contaminants. Despite that, one in eight Indians still lacks access to clean drinking water. The poor now realise that paying for clean water can save much more in health-care costs later. It was this market that Sarvajal, a social enterprise in India, wanted to cater to. Founded in 2008, Sarvajal—which in Sanskrit means “water for all”—now sells clean drinking water to more than 70,000 people in rural India.... Read more

Sexual strategies: The numbers game

Posted 14 April 2013 by Akshat Rathi

In 1948 Angus John Bateman, an English geneticist, proposed that females invest more in producing and caring for their offspring than males because sperm are cheaper than eggs. Since then, however, many species, in particular egg-laying ones, have been found to violate what became known as Bateman's principle. Such role reversal has left evolutionary biologists baffled. Some suggeseted that species in which females lay eggs that are big compared to their bodies may need more time to recover after laying... Read more

Response to comments on the Aakash Op-Ed

Posted 30 March 2013 by Akshat Rathi

On March 29th I wrote an Op-Ed in The Hindu, a national newspaper in India, on the Indian government's plans to hand out $35  tablets to poor students. It attracted a number of comments and emails. I'm writing this post as a response to some of the common points that they raise. 1. Are test scores the best way to evaluate student's learning? The studies I quote (references to which can be found here) also took into consideration other factors. For... Read more

Aakash is no silver bullet

Posted 28 March 2013 by Akshat Rathi

The Indian government needs to open its eyes and realise that the technological utopia it envisions in the low-cost tablet is no cure for poor education, poverty or inequality The last few days have brought the Aakash tablet back into the media limelight. Last Friday, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister M.M. Pallam Raju said that troubles with the manufacturer could doom the project. But the next day, former HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who started the project, denied Mr. Raju’s comments.... Read more

Rain clouds: From dust to lawn

Posted 28 March 2013 by Akshat Rathi

Clouds turn to rain when water droplets and ice crystals that make them up get too big to resist the pull of Earth’s gravity. This is often caused by particles that disturb the maelstrom of droplets and crystals to become seeds around which cloud matter coalesces. Once this happens, the seeds grow rapidly and eventually fall to the ground. The seeds can be caused by the passage of exotic things like cosmic rays. More often, though, they are dust particles... Read more

Rethinking the information revolution

Posted 18 March 2013 by Akshat Rathi

Written with Alex Flint Beyond all the needs that it fulfils, all technological innovation is underpinned by a common driving force: how to make information flow more efficiently. From when the first modern humans walked the earth, we’ve assumed that it was their survival instinct that drove innovation. It certainly has, but we forget that without the ability to efficiently pass on information from one generation to the next, our ancestors would’ve had to reinvent the most basic things every time they... Read more