Author: Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Genes and Identity: Diseases, Medicines, Homosexuality and Identity Politics – II

Some children may come from a gene pool that enables them to play the violin at age four and to compose symphonies at ten. We search for genetic markers of these exceptional desirable abilities as well. The possibility of genes that protect against diseases is also spurring genetic hunts. For example, Alzheimer’s disease shows up rarely or not at […]

Gandhian Nonviolence Inspired Martin Luther King Jr for Redemption of Afro-Americans

Ashoka pays a personal tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., one of his teenage icons, on his 88th birthday, on Sunday (Jan 15). He was presented to the Indian people as a ‘Negro Gandhian’, who was propagating Gandhian ideology amongst the blacks in the United States. The writer says, “Like all impressionable teenagers of my generation, I also fantasised […]

Genes and Identity: Genetic Finger Printing, Crime and Racism – I

Genetic fingerprinting is now considered remarkably reliable. One little-noticed effect was on the law-enforcement system. The FBI now has an enormous data bank containing DNA profiles of certain neighbourhoods. If you come from a neighbourhood where crime is common (in fact, as opposed to local folklore), the FBI knows an awful lot about your neighbours’ genomes and, by statistical […]

Dr Raghu Vira: A Forgotten Founding Father of India

Dr. Raghu Vira was regarded as perhaps the most erudite figure in the Constituent Assembly of India. He was a great Sanskrit scholar plus a polyglot who could not just speak and write in nine Indian and seven European languages, but also deliver learned oration and conduct debates in them. He went on a study tour of China […]

Is it a Dark New Year for the Diego Garcians? Will they get back their Land?

Diego Garcia is an atoll in the Indian Ocean, which has been converted into an American military base where no one is allowed to set a foot without official permission. This has been the state of affairs since 1966 when it was leased by United Kingdom to the US for fifty years. All the United States had to […]

What is the Relevance of Exit Polls in a Democracy?

To determine what future the exit poll should have, we need to assess the purposes it can serve, how well it can serve them, what alternatives exist, and what the relative costs and benefits of exit polls are vis-à- vis alternative techniques. The exit poll’s most familiar purpose is to provide the backbone of a system that can […]

Are Sardar Jokes Funny?

Some of the most prominent ‘Sardar jokes’ have emerged from the Sikhs themselves. Khushwant Singh never tired himself of the humour directed against his own community. Jokes emanating from inbuilt stereotypical prejudices are always offensive and there is an absolute need for self-restraint. But there are others that harp of stereotypes again without being demeaning and we do not see […]

Is the Enigmatic Jayalalithaa India’s Eva Peron?

There is a curious sense of déjà vu that we experience when we recapitulate Jayalalithaa’s remarkable life and career. There was another woman who strode like a colossus in a country almost as large as India and commanded the same devotion and loyalty, who died 64 years ago. Her name was Maria Eva Duarte de Peron and she […]

Did Maulana Azad Author India Wins Freedom with Flawed History, Questionable Authenticity?

One volume that has served as a major source of reference is India Wins Freedom. First published, in 1958, a few months after Maulana Azad’s death, it supposedly has the Maulana’s own evaluations of events in which he was a major player and his opinions on the people he worked with and interacted. The Maulana was a prolific […]

How serious are the Lapses of the President, the First Citizen of India!

The main requirement for the President is that the population should feel good about him /her. Over the years, we have had presidents, some of whom have added lustre to their offices and we have had others who have unfortunately debased their offices. My own list of the three worst presidents we have had would include Fakhruddin Ali […]

Why were the Wolves Exterminated in Great Britain and the British Colonies?

The symbolic resonance of large ferocious wild animals has proved much more durable than their physical presence. Indeed, their absence has often had equal and opposite figurative force. The extermination of wolves in Great Britain, along with such other unruly creatures as bears and wild boars, was routinely adduced as evidence of the triumph of insular (as opposed to […]

The Battle of the Icons: Nehru vs. Patel

There is a tendency of identifying an icon and pitting him against another icon, as recognised by a different individual. There is bad blood between the followers of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Hardly a day goes by when we are not treated to an article, which eulogises one and condemns the other. For the supporters of Nehru, […]

Why World Nations Endorsed Republicanism as the Source of Political Legitimacy?

With World War II the range of political legitimacy began to narrow dramatically. Fascism was defeated on the battlefield and also discredited as a morally respectable form of politics. The subsequent founding of the United Nations initiated the development of universal norms of governance. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specified that “the will of the […]

Will Citizen Journalism and New Media Take Over the News Business?

The new media that have developed to fill the economic and news space left by the shrinking press are more difficult to characterise and predict. To annoyed critics of the blogosphere, it is an intellectual flea market; to its admirers, it may portend the triumph of citizen journalism in an emerging news democracy. Some smart, creative bloggers have earned […]

The Ethics of Food

How the human community chooses to use the land available to it is a reflection of its values. The current land-use arrangements, which divert 40 per cent of all food to feed animals or create fuels, reflect values suggesting that the dietary and transportation preferences of wealthier individuals are more important than both feeding the malnourished and stabilising the wider […]

Why Einstein Struggled with Religion?

The primacy of young Albert’s First Paradise came to an abrupt end. As he put it early in his “Autobiographical Notes,” through reading popular science books he came to doubt the stories of the Bible. Thus, he passed first through what he colourfully described as a “positively fanatic indulgence in free thinking.” But then he found new […]

For Whom the Language Speaks!

Mother tongues are forked or folded into father and sister tongues, spouse and lover tongues, friend and enemy tongues. Among bilinguals and multilinguals, language kinship is not restricted to the maternal. The philosopher George Santayana, who was born and raised in Spain, identified Spanish – his ‘mother’ tongue – with his father, and English – the language in which […]

The Role of Physics in the Making of 21st Century

Quantum mechanics represented a more radical departure from classical physics, involving a completely new conceptual framework, both physically and mathematically. We learned that nature is not deterministic, and only probabilities can be predicted. One consequence is the famous uncertainty principle, by which we cannot simultaneously know the position and velocity of a particle to perfect accuracy. Quantum mechanics also […]

Contestations between Science and Law in the Legal System – II

Ashoka reasons that there are the ripple effects of those disturbing DNA exonerations, which have prompted not only renewed scrutiny of forensic laboratories, renewed concern about how line-ups are conducted and photographs presented to eyewitnesses, moves to videotape interrogations, and so on – all, surely, welcome developments – but also legislation to overcome obstacles to admitting ‘new’ evidence, i.e., […]

Contestations between Science and Law in the Legal System – I

The familiar complaints also gloss over the deep tensions between science and the law that are at the root of these problems. The culture of the law is adversarial, and its goal is case-specific, final answers. The culture of the sciences, by contrast, is investigative, speculative, generalizing, and thoroughly fallibilist: most scientific conjectures are sooner or later discarded, […]

The Meaning of Science

Modern science is a newcomer, barely four hundred years old. Though indebted in deep ways to Plato, Aristotle, and Greek natural philosophy, the pioneers of the ‘new philosophy’ called for a decisive break with ancient authority. In 1536, Pierre de La Ramée defended the provocative thesis that “everything Aristotle said is wrong.” Francis Bacon and René Descartes criticised scholarship that remained […]

Is India the Guru of Mathematical Astronomy and Mathematics?

Ashoka briefly describes some of the characteristics of the medieval Indian ´as¯stra of jyoti. sa. This discipline concerned matters included in such Western areas of inquiry as astronomy, mathematics, divination, and astrology. In fact, the jyoti. s¯is, the Indian experts in jyoti. sa, produced more literature in these areas – and made more mathematical discoveries – than scholars in any other […]

The Pecksniffian Reality of Indian Contemporary Politics

The political formations here have almost everything in common except the proper names. Therefore, it is supremely disingenuous when they attempt to slug it out on the television portraying the other as the incarnation of devil and themselves as repository of all that is honourable. That to any discerning observer is the biggest fraud that can ever be […]

What is the Importance of Microbes in our Lives?

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. At present, the oldest known prokaryotic fossil dates back 3.5 billion years. The oldest known eukaryotic fossil, a microbe, is about 1.7 billion years old. By contrast, the most ancient macroscopic fossil is only about 650 million years old. Thus, the better part of the world’s living history is exclusively […]

Is Happiness Subjective and Virtuous?

One of the best places to seek understanding of happiness is the study of ancient ethical theories and of those modern theories which share their eudaemonist concerns. For these recognise, and build on, some of our thoughts about happiness that have become overwhelmed by the kind of consideration that emerges in the claim that happiness is obviously subjective. Ashoka […]

In the Beginning was the Salty Ocean!

Water has been the life source of all cultures and religions in the world. The story of creation, in various religious books, are embedded in water cosmology. Ashoka, in this scholarly and erudite article, takes us through various ancient cultures of the world. Except Zoroastrian and Islam, the two cultures that bloomed in the desert, all others are […]

Cosmology: Unravelling Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Other Secrets!

Over the past thirty years, there has been growing evidence that the expansion rate of the universe has been increasing with time. This result has shocked physics: the equivalent of throwing a ball upward and finding that gravity makes it accelerate away from the point of release. If general relativity is correct, this cosmic acceleration implies that most […]

Deepa, a Shotput and Javelin Champion, in Paralympics for the Differently Abled

After the Rio Olympics, another landmark athletic event is scheduled next week, the Paralympics, where our differently abled demonstrate their prowess. Deepa Malik braved through several surgeries of her spine and when doctors gave her little time, she took to sports. She is a champion shot putter and javelin thrower. She has also won medals in discuss and hammer throwing […]

No Peace among Nations without Peace among Religions

“There will be no peace among the nations,” the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Küng has written, “without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. There will be no dialogue between the religions without the investigation of the foundations of the religions.” The new condition of world politics that has […]

These are some of my Favourite Books

A bibliophile, with wide ranging interests, Ashoka finds it difficult to name his all-time favourite books. The author takes us through various genres and names some of titles that has remained his chosen titles, while some others were replaced by authors and titles that caught his imagination later. Here’s an interesting subject for all book lovers exclusively for Different […]