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Anirban Mahapatra

Suva, Fiji
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About Anirban
I am a documentary filmmaker, photographer, multimedia journalist and conservation storyteller currently based and registered for business in Suva, Fiji. I specialise in impactful storytelling related to social justice, human rights, climate change, climate resilience, environmental conservation, wildlife, sustainable tourism, community-based enterprise, culture and the arts. I have 20 years of experience across film, TV, print and digital media, and my work has been published internationally by The Weather Channel, National Geographic Society, IBM, UNFPA, IMF, UNICEF, Lonely Planet, Vice, Tata, NBC digital, CNN digital and the Government of India, among others
Bengali English Hindi
Video Package (Web / Broadcast) Interview (Video / Broadcast) Documentaries
Science & Environment Food & Drink Social

No two brains are wired exactly the same way, and therefore everyone’s reality is also different.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the phenomenon of synesthesia, referencing Dr. Richard E Cytowic's book 'Synesthesia' published by MIT Press, and Dr. Guy Leschiziner's 'The Man Who Tasted Words'. It highlights how synesthetes experience the world differently and the interconnectedness of senses in the brain. The article also covers the discovery of a cancer-causing compound in the drug ranitidine, known as Zantac or Zintac, leading to its ban by the FDA. The journalist shares their personal experience with social media, particularly their move from Twitter to Mastodon, and the benefits they've found in the new platform. The article also touches on other topics such as meditation, sports concussions, and a carnivorous plant.

New year. New ways.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The author discusses various topics including the importance of publicly funded science, exemplified by the US Geological Survey's work on the Mauna Loa eruption in Hawaii. They express skepticism about the effectiveness of anti-aging drugs and books like 'Lifespan', citing a critical review by scientist Charles Brenner. The article also explores the nutritional benefits of banana peels and their use in baking. The author shares personal travel experiences in Costa Rica, highlighting the country's biodiversity and the depiction of wildlife on its currency. They delve into the geological history of Earth's continents, referencing Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift and the concept of Pangea. The piece concludes with a discussion on the migration of New World monkeys from Africa to South America and the dubious claims surrounding 'medbeds', a supposed medical miracle device.

A New Approach to Treating Rectal Cancer: The Promise of Precision Medicine

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses a new approach to treating rectal cancer, highlighting a trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where the drug dostarlimab, a monoclonal antibody, was used for patients with mismatch-repair deficient cells. The treatment showed promising results, with all patients in the trial experiencing resolution of clinical signs without the need for radiation or chemotherapy. However, the author cautions that it is too early to declare a cure, as cancer can be unpredictable, and the trial size was small. The article also touches on the potential influence of the gut microbiome on the effectiveness of immunotherapy and the challenges of cost and diagnostic tool availability, particularly in countries like India. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the significance of precision medicine in cancer treatment and the slow but ongoing progress in the field.

The views expressed are personal

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the limitations of the amyloid hypothesis in Alzheimer's disease research, which has been the primary focus for decades without yielding effective treatments. It highlights a study published in Nature Neuroscience showing damage within neurons before amyloid plaque formation, suggesting alternative mechanisms for disease progression. The piece also references the book 'How Not to Study a Disease' by neurobiologist Karl Herrup, which critiques the narrow definition of Alzheimer's based on plaques. The author argues for diversified research into other potential causes and treatments, such as tau protein tangles and infections, especially in light of recent considerations of Alzheimer's-like syndromes in long COVID patients. The article emphasizes the need for accelerated research beyond the amyloid-centric approach.

The Future of Life on Earth: Extinction, Evolution, and the Anthropocene

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the potential future of human extinction and the impact of human activities on biodiversity and the climate. Citing Duke University biologist Stuart Pimm, it notes that species are dying at a rate far exceeding the rate of evolution due to human actions, leading to a mass extinction event. The author reflects on the unknown number of species on Earth, particularly insects, and the inevitability of life persisting beyond humans. Ecologist Rob Dunn's book is referenced for its predictions on post-human life and the biological principles that will continue to govern evolution. The article also touches on how urban environments, domestic species, and climate change will influence future life forms. It concludes with a perspective on the resilience of microbial life and the author's background as a scientist and author.

Could Gene Editing Provide a One-and-Done Treatment for High Cholesterol?

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses a new gene-editing treatment for heart disease developed by Verve Therapeutics. The company's approach, led by Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, uses base-editing technology to make a single chemical change in the PCSK9 gene, which is linked to LDL cholesterol levels. This treatment, known as VERVE-101, aims to provide a permanent solution to reduce 'bad cholesterol' and prevent heart disease. The first human trial has begun in New Zealand, with the potential to revolutionize heart disease prevention and treatment. The article also compares this new method to existing treatments like statins and highlights the importance of genetic factors in heart disease risk.

Innovative Suction Patch Inspired by Octopus Suckers Could Revolutionize Drug Delivery

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the evolution of drug development, focusing on the distinction between small-molecule drugs and large-molecule drugs, or biologics. Small-molecule drugs, like aspirin and antibiotics, are simple in structure and easy to administer. Biologics, derived from living organisms, are more complex and targeted but are difficult to administer orally due to their size. The article highlights a recent study in Science Translational Medicine where researchers, led by Zhi Luo and David Klein Cerrejon, developed a suction patch inspired by octopus suckers to deliver large-molecule drugs through the buccal mucosa. This patch has shown promising results in tests on dogs and a human trial, with participants preferring the patch over injections. The technology could revolutionize the delivery of biologics and large-molecule drugs, potentially replacing injections. The team has patented the prototype and is seeking partners and funding for further development.

The Unsolved Mystery of Yellow Fever in India

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the medical mystery of why yellow fever has not caused outbreaks in India despite the presence of the same conditions that facilitate its spread in Africa and South America. Yellow fever is a serious disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and is related to dengue. The article explores historical aspects of the disease's spread, the presence of the mosquito vector in India, and various hypotheses as to why yellow fever has not taken hold in Asia. It also mentions the limited availability of vaccines and the potential risk of an epidemic due to international travel. The World Health Organization's concerns about the risk of urban epidemics in Latin America are highlighted, and the article stresses the importance of vigilance against the disease.

When Monkeys Sailed to South America

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the geological concept of plate tectonics and its historical acceptance in the scientific community. It highlights the journey of prehistoric monkeys that migrated from Africa to South America around 40 million years ago, a voyage made possible by the movement of continents. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, references the book 'Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth's Extinct Worlds' by Thomas Halliday to describe the monkeys' journey. The article also touches upon the broader implications of geological and biological changes over Earth's history, reminding readers of the planet's dynamic nature and the relatively short time humans have been a part of it.

DIY: Building brains from scratch

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses significant advancements in biomedical research, particularly in the creation of human and human-animal hybrid brains. It begins by highlighting the work of Shinya Yamanaka, who reprogrammed adult skin cells into stem cells, a discovery that won him the Nobel Prize. These stem cells can differentiate into various cell types and have potential in regenerative medicine. The article then covers the development of human minibrains or brain organoids, which are 3D structures that mimic the human brain, and notes the accidental discovery by Madeline Lancaster. It also mentions Jay Gopalakrishnan's work on brain organoids with eye-like optic cups. The focus then shifts to recent research where a human brain organoid was grafted onto a rat brain, integrating and developing like a human brain cortex within the rat brain, a study led by Sergiu Pasca and published in Nature. The article addresses the ethical concerns surrounding this research and suggests that if such studies can help understand and cure human diseases, they are justified.

Why I quit Twitter and what's next

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The author reflects on the changing dynamics of Twitter, suggesting that the platform's magic has faded and announcing a move to Mastodon and other social media. The newsletter also discusses a revolutionary approach to preventing heart disease through genetic editing, spearheaded by Verve Therapeutics. The treatment, known as VERVE-101, uses base-editing technology to make a single chemical change in the PCSK9 gene, which could lead to a reduction in LDL cholesterol and thus lower the risk of heart disease. The first human trial has begun in New Zealand, and if successful, it could transform the prevention and treatment of heart disease, offering a one-time, long-lasting solution.

8 billion.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the implications of the growing human population on the environment and other species, highlighting the ongoing mass extinction and climate change. It raises the question of whether the planet should have more people, considering the need to sustain the environment for other species. The article then shifts to a discussion on evolution, particularly focusing on the genetic similarities across different species and the role of the Sonic Hedgehog gene in limb development. It explains how mutations in this gene and its enhancer can lead to limb variations, such as polydactyly or limb loss, as seen in snakes. The article also touches on the possibility of reversing these genetic changes to reintroduce lost limbs in snakes, although it acknowledges the complexity of such an endeavor. The author concludes by inviting readers to share and comment on the newsletter and provides information on where to find their posts since they are no longer on Twitter.

The biggest news stories in tech this week?

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses various tech news, focusing on Microsoft's Bing AI and its comparison with ChatGPT, as well as the potential pandemic threat of fungi highlighted by HBO's series 'The Last of Us'. The author, who had early access to Bing AI, shares their mixed feelings about AI, noting Bing AI's advantages such as providing referenced links and covering current events. The article also touches on the concern over Bing AI's lack of guardrails and Microsoft's promise to make changes. Additionally, the author revisits their past column on the rise of fungal diseases, linking it to climate change and the emergence of heat-tolerant fungal strains like Candida auris, which could lead to more human infections as global temperatures rise.

Could Magic Mushrooms Be the Future of Depression Treatment?

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
A new study published in Nature Medicine has found that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, can effectively treat clinical depression, potentially more so than the common antidepressant escitalopram. The study, conducted by Richard Daws and colleagues at Imperial College, London, involved two clinical trials where patients showed a significant reduction in depression severity after receiving psilocybin. Brain scans indicated lasting changes in brain connectivity, suggesting a different mode of action from traditional antidepressants. While psilocybin is not currently legal or approved for treatment, the results suggest it could offer a valuable alternative for patients not responding to standard therapies. Future studies aim to further understand its safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action.

I always write from my own experiences, whether I've had them or not.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article is a personal narrative by Anirban, discussing the impact and capabilities of ChatGPT, an AI system that has gained significant attention since its launch. The author shares his experiences with ChatGPT, highlighting its potential as a transformational technology despite its limitations. Anirban explores various uses of ChatGPT, from generating Bollywood movie synopses to providing insights on scientific topics and even writing poetry. He acknowledges the AI's shortcomings in creative writing but also notes its impressive conversational abilities and practical applications, such as helping with birthday messages or retirement comments. The article concludes with ChatGPT crafting the ending of the newsletter, demonstrating its utility in content creation.

Why do mangoes have monstrous seeds?

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article is a newsletter-style piece that touches on various topics. The author begins with a light-hearted reference to the World Cup and their support for Morocco. They then compare the social media platforms Mastodon and Twitter, suggesting Mastodon has a more positive community but questioning its future without a profit motive. The author cites Jelani Cobb's reasons for quitting Twitter, as reported in the New Yorker, and discusses the negative impact of corporate social media. The newsletter also covers several scientific topics: a podcast on obesity that explains it's not an individual's fault, a study linking bacterial infection to rheumatoid arthritis, the evolutionary reasons behind large seeds in fruits, and the potential of organ-on-a-chip technology to revolutionize drug development. Lastly, it debunks the myth of the '25-Year-Old Brain' and concludes with well-wishes for the World Cup, favoring teams with Mbappé or Messi.

The Transformative Impact of AI on Professions and Industries

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on various professions and industries, drawing parallels with past predictions about the internet's influence. It references a 1999 interview where David Bowie foresaw the internet's significance, contrasting with the skepticism of interviewer Jeremy Paxman. The author explores AI's capabilities in mimicking human tasks such as writing, art creation, coding, and more, suggesting that the term 'skilled' is becoming obsolete. The piece touches on the potential for AI to disrupt education, professional occupations, and content creation. It also mentions an essay by Sean Thomas, which predicts the eventual replacement of human writers by AI in various literary and journalistic fields, though the author disagrees with the notion that AI can replicate humor or satire effectively. The article concludes with a personal note from the author, Anirban, who also mentions his favorite Indian science podcast.

I’m baaack. After three months.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
Anirban discusses various topics in his newsletter after returning from a break. He debates the optimal school start times for children, citing scientific research on circadian rhythms and the impact of early schedules on teenagers. He also explores how air pollution during the Industrial Revolution affected the works of artists like Monet, as evidenced by a study linking the blurriness in Monet's paintings to London's air quality. Additionally, Anirban touches on the role of AI in productivity and introduces Pi, a conversational personal AI that offers a more friendly interaction. He also references studies on AI's potential in mind reading and cancer treatment, as well as the debated impact of social media on adolescent mental health.

Good afternoon from the super-polluted East Coast of the U.S.

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the impact of Canadian wildfires on air quality along the U.S. East Coast, highlighting the transient nature of pollution in Washington D.C. compared to the constant pollution in cities like Beijing, New Delhi, and Lima. It also addresses the potential for generative AI to produce fake scientific content, the challenges it poses to peer review, and the need for guidelines to ensure transparency in scientific papers. Additionally, the author reflects on a recent train accident in India, emphasizing the complexity of real-world technology challenges and infrastructure issues. The author's appearance on a Taiwanese news channel to discuss generative AI is mentioned, as well as concerns over the exclusion of evolution and the periodic table from some Indian school curricula.

From Rat Poison to Life-Saving Drug: The Remarkable Story of Warfarin

04 Apr 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
The article narrates the fascinating history of warfarin, a drug widely used as an anticoagulant, which was originally developed as a rat poison. It traces back to the 1920s when North American farmers' cattle began dying from a mysterious bleeding disease, later identified as 'sweet clover disease' by pathologists Frank Schofield and Lee Roderick. The disease was caused by mouldy sweet clover hay. Research scientist Carl Link, funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), discovered the anticoagulant properties of dicoumarol, a substance formed from coumarin in the hay. After further research, warfarin was developed and initially used as a rat poison. Its medical potential was realized when a soldier who attempted suicide with warfarin was saved by vitamin K. Warfarin was later prescribed to President Dwight Eisenhower after a heart attack, marking its transition to a widely used medical drug.

A standing ovation for a cancer trial

04 Apr 2024  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The newsletter discusses the impact of science on society, highlighting the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to curtail reproductive rights as a dark day in American history and a matter of science. It also covers the failure of a Roche drug trial aimed at preventing Alzheimer's disease by targeting amyloid deposits, suggesting that the disease likely has multiple risk factors. Additionally, the newsletter shares promising results from a small rectal cancer trial using the drug dostarlimab, an immunotherapy treatment, which showed complete resolution of cancer signs in patients. The trial's success is seen as a step forward for precision medicine. The newsletter also mentions a standing ovation at the American Society for Clinical Oncology meeting for a trial on metastatic breast cancer treatment with trastuzumab deruxtecan. Lastly, the author recommends a book by billionaire hedge fund manager Dalio on economic cycles and shares a cultural note on a Korean snack.

Resistant starch may change the weight loss game

05 Mar 2024  |  hindustantimes.com
A study by Huating Li and her team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine shows that resistant starch can help reduce weight and improve gut health by changing the composition and activity of gut bacteria. The study involved 37 overweight or obese participants who consumed resistant starch or a controlled starch for 8 weeks, followed by a 4-week break. Results indicated that resistant starch consumption led to an average weight loss of 2.8 kilograms, increased beneficial gut bacteria, improved gut lining integrity, and moderated blood sugar spikes. However, the study had limitations such as a small sample size and weight regain during the break period. The findings suggest the potential of resistant starch as a dietary intervention but also highlight the need for ongoing consumption and further research.

GDF15 linked to maternal risk of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

25 Dec 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
A new study led by Stephen O'Rahilly from the University of Cambridge, published in Nature, investigates the role of the protein and hormone GDF15 in causing morning sickness during pregnancy. The research indicates that high levels of GDF15, produced by the baby and placenta, are linked to severe vomiting, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The study suggests that prior exposure to GDF15 may reduce the impact of morning sickness, and treatments that modulate GDF15 levels could potentially prevent or treat severe cases. However, further research is required to ensure the safety and efficacy of such treatments during pregnancy. The article also includes personal views from Anirban Mahapatra, a scientist and author.

Gene Editing Breakthrough: CRISPR Approvals for Sickle-cell Disease and Beta-thalassaemia

09 Dec 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The UK and the US have approved CRISPR gene editing for treating sickle-cell disease and beta-thalassaemia, marking a significant advancement in medical treatments for these genetic blood disorders. The UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration have approved Casgevy, developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics, and the US has also approved Lyfgenia by Bluebird Bio. These treatments, which involve editing blood-producing stem cells with CRISPR, have shown promising results in clinical trials. However, they come with high costs and potential side effects. The article also discusses the prevalence of these diseases in India and the challenges faced by patients, including the economic burden of treatments. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the need for equitable access to this therapy, especially in regions with a high burden of disease.

FDA Approves First Chikungunya Vaccine as Global Cases Rise

10 Nov 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The US FDA has approved the first chikungunya vaccine developed by Valneva Austria GmbH for adults at risk of exposure. The vaccine is a live attenuated virus administered in a single dose and has been tested in North America with common mild side effects. Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus causing severe joint pain and has affected over 110 countries. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes spread the virus, which has seen a global increase in cases partly due to viral adaptations and climate change. India has experienced a significant number of chikungunya cases, with a recent rise in suspected and confirmed cases. The approval of Valneva's vaccine is a positive step, and Bharat Biotech in India is also developing a vaccine. Anirban Mahapatra, a scientist and author, provides his personal views on the matter.

What are ‘gram negative bacteria’? They know multiple different ways to thwart antibiotics

05 Oct 2023  |  ThePrint
Antibiotic resistance transforms ordinary bacteria into superbugs through the acquisition of supergenes, making them resistant to multiple antibiotics. Gram-negative bacteria, in particular, are difficult to combat due to their ability to acquire and share resistance traits via horizontal gene transfer and plasmids. This process allows bacteria to rapidly spread resistance genes, even across different species, exacerbating the global issue of antibiotic resistance. The excerpt highlights the critical role of mobile genetic elements in the development of superbugs and the urgent need to address this hidden pandemic.

Scientifically Speaking | How many steps should you walk in a day? The answer is more complex than you think

01 Oct 2023  |  Hindustan Times
The article explores the complexities of determining the ideal number of daily steps for better health, challenging the widely accepted 10,000-step goal. Initially rooted in a Japanese marketing strategy, this target has been questioned by various studies, including a 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, which found diminishing returns after 7,500 steps. However, recent research led by Matthew Ahmadi at the University of Sydney supports the 10,000-step goal, showing significant reductions in mortality and cardiovascular risks. The article underscores the nuanced nature of health guidelines and the need for simple targets amidst complex scientific evidence.

Scientifically Speaking | Eyes are windows to the soul – and the rest of your organs

01 Oct 2023  |  Hindustan Times
The study led by Dr Zebardast utilized Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging to analyze retinal images from 44,823 individuals in the UK Biobank, revealing that changes in retinal layer thickness can predict not only eye diseases but also neurological, heart, lung, and metabolic conditions. The research suggests that retinal scans could become a non-invasive method for early disease detection, although further studies are needed to confirm these findings across diverse populations and understand the underlying mechanisms. Despite limitations, this represents a significant advancement in preventive medicine.

The Summer of Record-Breaking Heat and the Emotional Toll of Climate Change

21 Sep 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the record-breaking high temperatures experienced during the summer of 2023, with July and August being the hottest months ever recorded. It attributes the heat to factors such as increased carbon dioxide levels, the heat-trapping effect of oceans, and the El Niño weather pattern. The concept of a 'heat dome' is introduced, explaining the trapping of warm air leading to high temperatures in Europe and North America. The article also touches on the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch marked by human impact on the Earth, with Crawford Lake in Canada as its reference point. Additionally, it explores 'solastalgia', a term for the emotional distress caused by environmental change, and its impact on Indigenous and marginalized communities. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the importance of addressing human activities that contribute to these environmental changes.

Insects as Innovators: Ants and Locusts in the Fight Against Cancer

06 Sep 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses innovative research where ants and locusts are used to detect cancer through their sense of smell. A team led by Baptiste Piqueret demonstrated that ants could be trained to associate the smell of cancerous cells with food rewards, effectively turning them into biological detectors. Similarly, Debajit Saha's team at Michigan State University used locusts with implanted electrodes to identify the scent fingerprints of oral cancer cells. While these methods offer a less invasive and cost-effective approach to cancer detection, the research is still in its early stages and must overcome regulatory barriers and prove accuracy before being considered for practical use in human populations. The article is written by Anirban Mahapatra, a scientist and author, who shares his personal views on the subject.

The Unseen Threat: Algae in Human Infections

26 Jul 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article explores the rare phenomenon of human infections caused by algae, focusing on two types: Prototheca and Desmodesmus. Prototheca species, which lack chlorophyll and do not photosynthesize, have been linked to infections in various animals and occasionally in humans, with cases being chronic and sometimes fatal. The article references a 2021 review in PLoS Pathogens that highlights the limited understanding of Prototheca's infection mechanism. Green algae infections in humans are even rarer, with the first documented case in 1983 and two more cases reported in 2015. These infections were caused by Desmodesmus armatus and were resolved after surgical wound cleaning. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the importance of not dismissing these rare infections, as they underscore the surprising nature of life forms on Earth and their potential impact on human health.

The Long Road to a Malaria Vaccine: A Scientific Milestone

06 Jul 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the significant milestone in the fight against malaria with the development and deployment of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The vaccine, developed through a collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, targets the malaria parasite early in its life cycle. Despite the challenges faced due to the complex life cycle of the malaria parasite and lack of funding for diseases affecting developing nations, the vaccine has shown efficacy in reducing the burden of severe malaria and deaths in children under five in sub-Saharan Africa. The article also mentions other vaccines in the pipeline, such as the R21/Matrix-M vaccine developed by Oxford University. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the importance of vaccine deployment in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing malaria incidence and mortality by 2030.

The New Frontier in Obesity Treatment: A Pill or Injection Away?

26 Jun 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the growing epidemic of obesity in India and the potential of new obesity drugs to combat this health concern. Obesity is not just a result of poor lifestyle choices but is influenced by genetics, metabolism, and structural inequalities. The article highlights new drugs such as Semaglutide (Wegovy), tirzepatide (Mounjaro), orforglipron, and retatrutide, which have shown promising results in clinical trials for weight loss. These drugs mimic hormones that regulate blood sugar and have the side effect of reducing weight. The FDA has approved some of these drugs for weight management. However, there are concerns about the long-term necessity of these drugs, their side effects, and their accessibility, especially in countries like India where there is already a shortage of obesity drugs.

The Fascinating Journey of Chickens from Majestic Jungle Birds to Everyday Poultry

06 Jun 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
A new study led by Greger Larson at the University of Oxford, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges the belief that chickens were first domesticated in India. The research, which analyzed chicken bones from various sites across 89 countries, suggests that chickens were first domesticated around 3,500 years ago in central Thailand, coinciding with the emergence of dry rice agriculture. The study indicates that chickens spread to China, India, and West Asia a few hundred years after their initial domestication. The article also discusses the historical significance of chickens, their introduction to different cultures, and their evolution into a major food source, particularly noting the role of the Romans and the Catholic Church in popularizing chicken meat. It contrasts early domesticated chickens with today's broiler chickens, which are bred for size and rapid growth.

Scientifically Speaking | No, the kids aren't alright

24 May 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the impact of early school start times on children and teenagers' health and wellbeing. It references scientific studies and expert opinions, including those from Penn State University and the University of Toronto, to argue that early start times are not aligned with the biological rhythms of young people. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, highlights the concept of 'social jetlag' and how it affects teenagers' cognitive performance and health. He suggests that historical economic reasons may have influenced the early start times but emphasizes the need to prioritize children's biology and performance over outdated practices. Mahapatra acknowledges the complexity of changing school hours but advocates for considering the biological needs of students in educational planning.

Do Plants Cry? Science Fiction Meets Scientific Discovery

06 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses a recent scientific discovery where researchers in Israel found that plants emit ultrasonic sounds when stressed, as published in the journal Cell. This finding resonates with a science fiction story by Satyajit Ray, where a fictional device could detect plants' inaudible cries. The researchers used microphones to detect sounds from plants in stress conditions, such as dehydration or physical injury, and could distinguish between different stressors with significant accuracy. The article explores the implications of this discovery, suggesting that other organisms might respond to these plant sounds. It also touches on the skepticism within the scientific community regarding the purpose of these sounds and the need for further research. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, reflects on the broader implications of such discoveries and the potential for new understandings of the natural world.

The Role of Generative AI in Science: A Double-Edged Sword

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the implications of generative AI tools like ChatGPT in the scientific community, highlighting both their utility and potential for misuse. It emphasizes the importance of the 'publish or perish' culture in academia and how AI can assist in summarizing research findings but also create fictitious results, a phenomenon known as 'hallucination'. The article cites a recent incident where attorneys faced sanctions for using ChatGPT in legal documents, and it raises concerns about AI's role in generating fraudulent scientific papers. It also touches on the peer-review process, the non-replication of experiments by reviewers, and the potential for AI to assist in detecting scientific fraud. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, stresses the importance of human judgment in roles that require expertise, despite the benefits AI may bring to reducing drudgery and improving productivity.

How Learning and Experience Shape Our Brains

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to change and adapt through growth and development. It highlights how learning new skills, such as playing an instrument or a language, can physically alter the brain's structure. The article references a study by David McGovern and his team at Dublin City University, which found that soccer goalkeepers have a unique ability to process sensory information quickly. It also mentions research by Eleanor Maguire at University College London on London taxi drivers, who have increased grey matter in the hippocampus due to the extensive memorization required by 'The Knowledge'. The article suggests that both genetic factors and training contribute to brain development, and it emphasizes the importance of understanding these processes for improving educational and professional training methods.

Nature's Clue to Human Health: Hibernating Bears and Blood Clot Prevention

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Researchers led by Ole Frøbert and Tobias Petzold have discovered that hibernating brown bears have a reduced risk of blood clots, a condition that affects many people who are immobilized. The study, published in the journal Science, found that platelets in bears are less sticky during hibernation due to lower levels of a protein called Heat Shock Protein 47 (HSP47). This finding was also observed in humans under certain conditions, such as spinal cord injury patients and healthy volunteers immobilized for space travel research. The discovery of HSP47's role in blood clot prevention could lead to new treatments for at-risk individuals. Anirban Mahapatra, a scientist and author, discusses the implications of this research and its potential impact on human health.

AI and Antibiotics: The Future of Fighting Superbugs?

05 Apr 2023  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the global public health threat of antimicrobial resistance and the potential role of artificial intelligence (AI) in combating this challenge. The author highlights the slow pace of new antibiotic development and the poor market for novel antibiotics. AI is presented as a promising tool in drug discovery, with research teams using deep learning to identify potential antibiotic compounds like halicin and abaucin. The article also explores genetic adaptations that allow populations like Sherpas and Tibetans to thrive in high-altitude, low-oxygen environments, thanks to a gene inherited from the Denisovans, an ancient hominin lineage. The author plans to visit India soon and urges readers to stay cool and hydrated.

The Immortal Jellyfish: A Peek into the Potential Secrets of Biological Immortality

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the unique biological phenomenon of the 'immortal jellyfish' (Turritopsis dohrnii), which can reverse its ageing process and revert to a juvenile form under stress. Scientists, including Maria Pascual-Torner and Víctor Quesada from the University of Oviedo, have studied these jellyfish and recently mapped their genome, publishing their findings in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research indicates that there is no single gene responsible for this immortality, but rather a complex interplay of genes that contribute to DNA protection and repair, telomere protection, and cellular transformation. The study opens up questions about the mechanisms of immortality and its rarity in biology, as well as the potential for genetic changes over multiple regeneration cycles. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, and he suggests that further research could explore genetic variations in jellyfish over generations.

Nature's Tiny Medics: Ants That Heal Their Wounded

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Researchers at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, led by Erik Frank, have discovered that Matabele ants treat their injured with self-produced antibiotics. This study, published in Nature Communications, reveals that these ants can distinguish between infected and non-infected wounds and apply secretions with antimicrobial properties to the injured. The findings show a 90% reduction in mortality for ants with infected wounds. The research also raises the possibility of new treatments for human infections, as the primary bacterium found in ant wounds, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is a common cause of hospital-acquired infections and is often resistant to antibiotics. The study is a significant step in understanding how nature addresses infections and could have implications for human medicine.

Sunlight and Hunger: A Gender-Specific Response

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by Carmit Levy, have discovered that sunlight exposure increases food-seeking behavior and consumption in men but not in women. This study, published in Nature Metabolism, showed that men eat more during summer when sunlight exposure is higher, a pattern not observed in women. The research extended to mice, confirming the findings. The mechanism involves the hormone ghrelin, secreted by the stomach and skin's fat tissues, which increases appetite. Sunlight activates a protein that increases ghrelin secretion in males. Estrogen in females seems to inhibit this response. The study opens up questions about the biological differences in sunlight response between genders and the potential for environmental factors like light, music, and odors to influence appetite. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, notes the broader implications for skin's role in metabolism beyond vitamin D synthesis.

The Complex Challenges of Human Space Travel

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the challenges of human space travel, focusing on the physiological and psychological effects of prolonged spaceflight. It highlights the dangers of cosmic and solar radiation, the adaptation to weightlessness, and the health issues such as loss of bone density and muscle tissue, and heart and vessel function. The article references astronaut Scott Kelly's experiences and NASA's research using mice on the ISS to study microgravity's effects on health. Recent findings on the gut microbiome of mice after space travel are discussed, showing increased diversity and potential links to bone density. The article emphasizes the need for further research to understand these mechanisms and their implications for human health in space and on Earth. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, and the views expressed in the article are his own.

Not so black and white: The science of stress-induced hair greying

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the scientific studies that explore the connection between stress and the greying of hair. It references research from Harvard University published in Nature, which found that stress accelerates hair greying through the sympathetic nerve system's release of norepinephrine. This chemical causes melanocyte stem cells to proliferate and deplete, leading to loss of pigment. The article also covers a subsequent study by Columbia University published in eLife, which discovered that the greying process can be reversible if stress is reduced. This was evidenced by tracking hair pigment patterns and correlating them with stressful life events. The article concludes with the notion that stress-related hair greying can be both permanent and reversible, depending on various factors such as age and biological thresholds.

Mosquitoes as Flying Vaccinators: A Bite of Reality

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the concept of using mosquitoes as 'flying syringes' to deliver vaccines, inspired by their ability to bite without being noticed. The idea, which has been around since at least 2010 when Japanese scientists genetically engineered mosquitoes to prevent leishmaniasis, faces challenges such as dosage control and informed consent. Recent research led by Lisa Jackson and Stefan Kappe has made progress in using mosquitoes to deliver a malaria vaccine in a controlled setting. Their study, published in Science Translational Medicine, involved volunteers receiving bites from mosquitoes infected with genetically modified malaria parasites. The results showed that about half of the vaccinated individuals were completely protected against infection. Despite this success, the practicality of using mosquito bites for vaccine delivery is limited, and traditional syringe injections remain the preferred method.

The Unintended Consequences of Human Actions on Global Biodiversity

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the unintended ecological consequences of human activities, particularly the global spread of chytrid fungus and its devastating impact on frog and salamander populations. It traces the history of African clawed frogs used in pregnancy tests in the early 20th century, which unknowingly spread the fungus worldwide. The fungus has caused the extinction of numerous amphibian species and has been linked to a rise in malaria cases in Central America due to the decline in amphibian populations that control mosquito numbers. The article highlights the interconnectedness of human health, global trade, and the environment, emphasizing the long-term effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystems and human disease.

Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Scientific Advancements

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article reflects on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past three years. It discusses the initial response to the virus, the challenges of vaccine distribution and effectiveness against new variants, and the impact of long COVID. The author notes China's continued strict measures and the WHO's estimate of excess deaths. The piece also touches on the current rise in respiratory infections and the public's response to health measures like masking. It highlights the advancements in scientific research, particularly in genomic sequencing and mRNA vaccine technology, which have broader applications beyond COVID-19. Moderna's recent success with an mRNA cancer vaccine is mentioned as a significant breakthrough. Anirban Mahapatra, the author, emphasizes the importance of continued funding for infectious disease diagnostics and surveillance.

The Next Frontier in Music: Playing Songs Directly from Brain Activity

05 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses recent studies exploring the recreation of music from brain activity. Researchers at Albany Medical Centre in New York successfully recreated Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)' using brain activity from individuals with electrodes implanted for epilepsy treatment. They used intracranial electroencephalography and found that the nonlinear approach to decoding was more effective. Another study by Osaka University and Google used fMRI scans to identify music someone is listening to without surgical implants, though with less precision. Additionally, a Nature Neuroscience study reported a decoder that reconstructs language from fMRI scans using an earlier version of ChatGPT. These advancements suggest a new era in neuroscience where thoughts and perceptions can be interpreted directly from brain activity.

The Largest Living Thing Is Not What You Think

01 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the discovery of the world's largest organism by biomass, a fungus in Oregon, which is an extensive underground network. It highlights the lesser-known aspects of fungi, including their communication methods, symbiotic relationships with plants, and their potential as living computers. The article references studies on fungal electrical signals and the possibility of these signals constituting a form of language. It also touches on the philosophical implications of expanding our understanding of communication beyond human-centric views. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, who provides a personal perspective on the subject.

Australia's Plan to Fight Fish with a Virus

01 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Australia is considering the use of cyprinid herpes virus 3 to control the invasive European carp population, which has caused significant ecological damage, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin System. The virus, which is lethal to carp but not harmful to humans, could potentially reduce the carp population by 40% to 80%. However, concerns remain about the virus's impact on native fish species, the management of dead fish biomass, and the potential for the virus to mutate if carp populations develop resistance. The article also discusses the lack of appetite for carp as food in Australia, despite it being a common food source in parts of Asia and Europe. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, and he notes that his views are personal.

Can AI help beat superbugs?

01 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the growing threat of drug-resistant microbes, or superbugs, and the diminishing pipeline of effective antibiotics. It explores the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in discovering new drugs to combat superbugs, highlighting research by teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and McMaster University. These researchers have used deep learning to identify promising compounds, such as halicin and abaucin, which have shown effectiveness against specific superbugs in lab settings. The article also touches on the broader applications of AI in optimizing existing antibiotics and diagnosing infections. However, it maintains a balanced view by noting the challenges in drug development and the fact that AI has not yet led to an approved drug. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes the early promise of AI in drug discovery while acknowledging the long road ahead.

The Future of Plastic: Microbes That Decompose

01 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the environmental crisis caused by plastic pollution and the scientific advancements in biodegrading plastics. It highlights the discovery of bacteria that can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a common type of plastic, into basic nutrients. Japanese scientists, including Kohei Oda, discovered a bacterium named Ideonella sakaiensis, which led to further research and the development of more efficient enzymes for PET degradation. Recent studies, such as those published in Nature and Nature Communications, have shown significant progress in engineering microbes and enzymes to not only degrade PET but also upcycle it into higher quality materials. The article suggests that with continued research and commercialization, these biological solutions could be integrated into waste management systems to address plastic pollution effectively.

Sleep Habits and Heart Health: A Personal Take on Recent Studies

01 Apr 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Recent studies published in the Journal of the American Heart Association have linked poor sleep to heart health issues. The research indicates that sleep quality, duration, and consistency are important factors in maintaining heart health, alongside traditional risk factors such as exercise, diet, and blood pressure. The studies suggest that seven to eight hours of sleep per night and low variation in sleep patterns are ideal. The findings highlight the potential for smartwatches and fitness trackers to monitor sleep habits. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, reflects on his own sleep habits and the importance of sleep hygiene for heart health.

The Biological Enigmas of Earth and the Fight Against Malaria

01 Apr 2023  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the diversity and potential human infections caused by algae, highlighting the rare cases of infections by Prototheca and Desmodesmus armatus. It emphasizes the importance of studying these rare occurrences to understand Earth's biological diversity. The article also covers the significant development of a malaria vaccine approved by the World Health Organization in 2021, now being distributed in African countries. Despite the challenges faced in developing a vaccine for malaria, which has a complex life cycle, the new vaccine is a beacon of hope, especially for children in sub-Saharan Africa. The author, Anirban, notes that while the vaccine's efficacy is 36%, its real-world impact is substantial, and it marks the beginning of a new era in the fight against malaria. The article ends with a call to action for continued efforts to combat malaria and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 by 2030.

The Role of AI in Science: A Double-Edged Sword

30 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the scientific process, from research to publication. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, reflects on his keynote talk at the Publisherspeak conference, where he used the movie WarGames as a metaphor for the potential dangers of removing human intervention from science. He acknowledges the efficiency of AI in analyzing data and assisting in scientific discovery but warns against allowing AI to make decisions without human input. Mahapatra emphasizes the importance of human creativity and insight in science, noting the risks of over-reliance on AI, such as loss of human creativity, potential biases, and a homogenized research landscape. He argues for a balance between AI and human intelligence to preserve the essence of science and stresses the irreplaceable value of human peer review in distinguishing between information and misinformation.

A Hormone That Helps Mice Sober Up Faster Could Shed Light on Alcohol Intoxication

23 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
Researchers at the University of Texas-Southwestern have discovered that a hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), produced in the liver, can help mice recover from the effects of alcohol faster. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, used genetically-modified mice to demonstrate that those lacking FGF21 took longer to recover from alcohol consumption compared to normal mice. The hormone works by activating a specific part of the brain that controls alertness, but it does not reduce blood alcohol levels. The study suggests that FGF21 is alcohol-specific, as it did not have the same effect on mice sedated with other drugs. The research also touches on the broader topic of alcohol metabolism in animals and how different species, including humans, process alcohol.

Could ChatGPT Be Your Personal Robot Doctor?

23 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the capabilities of AI language models like ChatGPT and Flan-PaLM in the medical field, particularly their performance on the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). A study from the Wharton School found ChatGPT could achieve a B-grade on an MBA exam, while another study reported by AXIOS showed ChatGPT could pass the USMLE. Flan-PaLM, trained on medical data, scored even higher. The author argues that despite these achievements, AI will not replace human doctors due to the lack of personal expertise and the psychological aspects of patient interaction. The author also highlights an error made by ChatGPT regarding the concept of 'pseudoaddiction,' which has been debunked in medical literature, though ChatGPT corrected itself upon confrontation. The article suggests that while AI can be a helpful tool, it is not a substitute for human doctors.

The Moral Dilemma of Controlling Feral Animal Populations

15 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the impact of feral animals on native wildlife in different parts of the world. In India, the use of diclofenac has led to a decline in vulture populations, while the number of feral dogs has increased, posing a threat to wildlife and contributing to rabies cases. In Australia, feral cats and foxes are responsible for the extinction of several mammal species and the killing of billions of reptiles, birds, and mammals annually. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, highlights the moral dilemma of whether humans should intervene to control feral animal populations to prevent further extinctions of native species. The article also references scientific reports and articles from various publications to support the discussion on the environmental impact of invasive species.

The Fine Line Between Creativity and Imitation in the Age of AI

15 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article reflects on the nature of creativity and imitation in the context of AI, using the story of sculptor Alceo Dossena as a starting point. Dossena's sculptures, mistaken for Renaissance masterpieces, raise questions about originality and value in art. The author then discusses OpenAI's ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that generates human-like responses, pondering whether AI can truly be creative. The article contrasts ChatGPT's capabilities with other AI technologies like search engines and voice-activated assistants, highlighting its ability to generate coherent and contextually appropriate responses. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, expresses skepticism about AI's creative potential, noting that while AI can produce seemingly intelligent outputs, it lacks human consciousness and personal experience. The piece concludes with a cautionary note for journalists and writers about the implications of AI in their fields.

The Environmental and Health Factors That Shaped Monet's Art

09 Mar 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the influence of environmental conditions and personal health on the work of the French impressionist painter Claude Monet. It references a study by Anna Lea Albright and Peter Huybers, which suggests that the fog depicted in Monet's London paintings may be attributed to air pollution during the Industrial Revolution. The article also touches on Monet's struggle with cataracts and how it affected his art, noting that his vision—and consequently his painting style—improved after surgery. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, reflects on the significance of these studies while acknowledging their limitations in fully explaining the creative process.

Scientifically Speaking | From soil to sip: How microbes are taking tea to new heights

15 Feb 2023  |  Hindustan Times
Researchers in China, led by Zhenbiao Yang, Wenxin Tang, and Tongda Xu, have discovered that soil microbes play a crucial role in enhancing the flavour profile of tea by maintaining nitrogen homeostasis, which boosts theanine production. Their study, published in Current Biology, reveals that synthetic microbial communities can significantly increase theanine content in tea plants, suggesting a sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers. This breakthrough could lead to high-quality, artisanal tea batches and open new market segments for premium, sustainably produced teas.

AI and the Future of Work

01 Feb 2023  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article discusses the impact of AI and deep learning on the job market, highlighting that while jobs may not disappear, they will change significantly. It references ChatGPT's capabilities, such as passing a Wharton School MBA exam and the US Medical Licensing Examination. The author argues that AI cannot replace human interaction in specialized professions. The piece also touches on historical predictions about work hours, the gig economy, and the potential for AI to increase productivity and wages. However, it notes that automation has contributed to increased inequality and wage pressure. The author briefly critiques the movie 'Ram Setu' for its poor quality and recommends the podcast episode on overcoming burnout. The journalist, Anirban, signs off, noting a break from the internet until mid-February.

Can AI Outperform Nature in Designing New Proteins?

26 Jan 2023  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the role of proteins in biological functions and the scientific efforts to understand their structures. It highlights the breakthrough of DeepMind's AlphaFold in predicting protein structures and raises the question of whether AI can create functional proteins. The article reports on a recent study published in Nature Biotechnology by Salesforce Research, which developed an AI program called ProGen that generated new artificial protein sequences. The program was trained on a vast dataset of protein sequences and fine-tuned with variants of a specific protein, lysozyme. The resulting artificial proteins, although different in appearance from natural ones, were effective in their intended functions. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, suggests that while we are not yet at the point of having an AI that can design completely new proteins without existing data, this research marks a significant step towards that goal.

Curiosity and Change: A New Year's Reflection

01 Jan 2023  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article reflects on the author's personal changes and covers a variety of topics. NASA launched a water-tracking satellite, and a nuclear fusion breakthrough was achieved. The author's column in Hindustan Times discusses Australia's plan to use a virus against invasive carp, raising concerns about ecological impacts and virus mutation. A new owl species was discovered in Africa, emphasizing the need for conservation. Haiti faces a cholera outbreak, and the northern hemisphere may experience a severe cold and flu season. Ancient DNA reveals Greenland's past green landscape. Lastly, the author mentions a Bloomberg crime story about a massive cocaine bust on the MSC Gayane ship. The article concludes with New Year's wishes for hope, health, and peace.

Reflecting on 2022: The Year of Science, Pandemics, and Hope

31 Dec 2022  |  gyandemic.substack.com
The article reflects on the significant events of 2022, including the war in Europe, climate change legislation, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It discusses the development of lab fusion technology, the impact of the movie 'Don’t Look Up' on public awareness of asteroid diversion, and the political changes in Brazil. The focus then shifts to the COVID-19 pandemic, detailing the evolution of the virus, vaccine development, and the challenges faced with new variants and vaccine efficacy. The article highlights the resurgence of infections in China, the underreporting of COVID-19 deaths, and the prevalence of Long COVID. It also touches on the 'tripledemic' in the US and the potential of mRNA vaccine technology, exemplified by Moderna's success in a skin cancer study. The author, Anirban, concludes with optimism for the application of scientific lessons learned during the pandemic to other diseases.

The Curious Case of Large Seeds and Their Giant Dispersers

24 Nov 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article explores the role of large seeds in fruits like mangoes and avocados and their relationship with large herbivores in the context of seed dispersal. It discusses how fruits with large seeds, such as mangoes, may have co-evolved with large animals like elephants and rhinos, which could consume the fruits whole and disperse the seeds over large distances. The decline of these large herbivores raises questions about the future of these fruit species. The article also touches on the historical relationship between now-extinct large mammals in South America, such as giant ground sloths and gomphotheres, and fruits with large seeds like avocados. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist who reflects on the implications of the decline of large mammals for the distribution of wild fruits globally.

No two brains are wired exactly the same way

09 Nov 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the concept of synesthesia, a condition where sensory experiences are interconnected in unusual ways, leading to unique perceptions of reality. It references Dr. Richard E. Cytowic's book 'Synesthesia' published by The MIT Press, which helped gain scientific acceptance for the condition. The article also mentions 'Wednesday Is Indigo Blue' by Cytowic and David Eagleman, and 'The Man Who Tasted Words' by Dr. Guy Leschiziner, highlighting individual cases of synesthesia. It explores the prevalence of synesthesia among artists and the historical shift in neuroscience from the idea of distinct brain modules to a recognition of cross-connection between senses. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, emphasizes that synesthesia is not a disease but a different way of experiencing the world, and suggests it may be a genetic trait related to human capacity for metaphors.

The views expressed are personal

26 Oct 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the significance of stem cells and their potential in regenerative medicine and research. It highlights the groundbreaking work of Shinya Yamanaka in reprogramming adult skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which earned him a Nobel Prize. The article also covers the development of brain organoids, or 'minibrains', which are 3D structures that mimic the human brain and are used to understand brain development and neurological diseases. A recent advancement mentioned is the grafting of a human brain organoid onto a rat brain, which integrated and functioned within the rat brain without causing harm. The article touches on the ethical considerations of such research and the potential benefits for understanding human diseases. Anirban Mahapatra, a scientist and author, provides his personal views on the topic.

Scientifically Speaking | How snakes lost their legs (and how to get them back)

03 Aug 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the genetic similarities between different species, focusing on the Sonic Hedgehog gene and its role in animal development. It explains how this gene, first discovered in fruit flies, is crucial for the proper formation of body parts such as vertebrae, lungs, and limbs in various animals, including humans. The article also explores the genetic basis for the absence of legs in snakes, attributing it to mutations in the enhancer of the Sonic Hedgehog gene. It delves into the evolutionary history of snakes, noting that their legless state developed gradually over time. The possibility of manipulating genetic enhancers to alter limb development in lab animals like mice is also discussed, as well as the theoretical potential for reintroducing legs to snakes through genetic engineering. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, and he notes that the views expressed in the article are his own.

Can the secrets to anti-ageing lie in young blood?

06 Jul 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the field of anti-ageing research, particularly focusing on a study led by Tal Iram and Tony Wyss-Coray at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study, published in Nature, found that cerebrospinal fluid from young mice can improve memory in older mice. It highlights the role of myelin in memory formation and retrieval, and how myelin production slows down with age, leading to memory defects. The research also identified a protein, fibroblast growth factor 17, which has rejuvenating effects in mice and is also present in humans. The article suggests that while it's too early for practical applications like transfusions of young biologics, the findings could lead to targeted treatments for dementia. The author, Anirban Mahapatra, is a scientist and author, and he notes that the views expressed in the article are his own.

The views expressed are personal

18 May 2022  |  hindustantimes.com
The article discusses the natural curiosity of children and how the education system stifles this innate trait by focusing on rote learning and standardized testing. The author reflects on their own experience with the school system and how it impacted their ability to think creatively. Psychologist Margaret Donaldson and Yale professor Frank Keil are cited, with Keil discussing his new book 'Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science' and the importance of maintaining a sense of wonder throughout life. The article suggests that adults can learn from children's curiosity to improve their own understanding of the world and that creativity and curiosity will be valuable in a future where machines take over routine jobs.

The Oberoi Grand | Oberoi Hotels & Resorts — A short profile of The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, rated one of the best heritage hotels in India

Anachasho | Sundance Institute / BMGF Short Film Challenge — Short documentary on food sovereignty and the collective procurement of uncultivated forest food by the Talia Kondha tribe in the Indian state of Odisha. Finalist at the 2015 Sundance Institute / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Short Film Challenge

Shristi NGO Film | TATA / Tetley — A short film on Srishti, a non-profit organisation supported by Tata Global Beverages that rehabilitates special children and adults from the families of Indian tea workers in Munnar, Kerala

After the Quake 03 | The Weather Channel — The earthquake in Nepal has spawned a number of leaders at the civilian level who have risen to the challenge of getting the life of the country and its people back to normal. A number of Nepalese individuals have responded to the disaster by coordinating relief on the ground and helping those in need. Kathmandu-based journalist Archana Gurung and her team of citizen volunteers is working in tandem with a French medical team in a rural area, attempting to check the spread of diseases in the wake of the earthquake

After the Quake 02 | The Weather Channel — In a formidably mountainous country like Nepal, extending help to affected people in far-flung regions has proved to be a great challenge following the earthquake. This is not only due to obstacles posed by a terrain that is difficult to negotiate, but also due to a lack of synchronization between demand and supply of different forms of relief. Some groups of proactive citizens, however, have been innovating on their own, using technology to build an interface between those who are willing to provide relief and others who need it. Based in Nepal’s capital city, an organization called Kathmandu Living Labs is currently using open-source technology to build an active database of crisis maps that classify the extent and nature of aid required across the country, in order to point relief workers in the right direction

After the Quake 01 | The Weather Channel — While death, injury, homelessness and trauma are the main dangers of the earthquake, a number of smaller – but still critical – tribulations plaguing the people of Nepal have gone largely unreported. For Parvati Pandit and her carpenter husband, putting food on the table was never much of a problem until after the calamity, when a failure in the public distribution system combined with the closure of the public banking system to leave her family penniless, hungry and at the mercy of others. Compounded with the fact that her house was razed to the ground, Parvati suddenly found herself sharing space in a tented shelter with other homeless people, desperately looking forward to the day when she would be able to access the money in her bank account to buy food for her family

Pemako Documentary | Govt of India — Trailer — A short documentary on the cultural, natural and anthropological heritage of the remote Pemako mountain sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, India, known in Tibetan Buddhism as a lost utopia and one of the holiest pilgrimages in the world

The Mountain Pilots of Lukla | NBC Left Field — Extended Director's Cut — Situated in the Nepal Himalayas, Lukla is considered one of the world’s most dangerous airports. But that doesn’t deter the thousands of tourists who make the precarious journey to Lukla every year, en route to Mt Everest. Barely long enough to land before the tarmac ends, the cliff side airport is also often shrouded in thick and sudden cloud cover, making it suitable for only the most skilled pilots


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