The Intersection ●
access_time6 days ago
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilisation spread across the northwestern regions of South Asia; it was one of three early centres of civilisations of the Old World, and the most widespread. In this episode we look at how the landscape evolved in the Western part of India during the Holocene. And how humans interacted with the changing environment. And what that can inform the current climate challenges we face.
The Intersection ●
access_time1 month ago
What if the world spoke one language? And we never needed Google Translate? One man dreamt of such a language a century ago -- Esperanto. In this episode, we explore the life of Lakshmiswar Sinha, the most famous Indian Esperantist of the 20th century -- a man who at one time was a much sought-after speaker of this utopian language.
The Intersection ●
access_time3 months ago
Humans take 3D vision for granted--we don't stop to gauge the distance of a cup of chai on the table before reaching out for it. It is a complicated process that requires highly-developed neural networks. Or does it? Scientists have found several animals, including insects, use 3D vision without brains as large as ours. Studying these creatures and their behaviour can help humans better design vision systems for our own kind and for the robots we build. On this episode, Padma and Samanth deep-dive into the fascinating phenomenon of 3D vision in the insect kingdom. Music: Josh Woodward
For many children, especially in India, the thought of picking up a science or maths book inspires terror. There's no fun in a system that promotes rote learning over curiosity and understanding. Fortunately, things are changing. Books that explain STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) concepts in an interesting and engaging way are finding space on children's bookshelves and in school libraries and inspiring kids to embrace the subjects instead of running away from them. On this episode of The Intersection, Padma speaks to the folks at Pratham Books--an organization that publishes titles on things from friction, bio-luminescence and evolution to subtraction, spiders and blue whales--about the importance of introducing children to these concepts at an early age and making science and maths more fun for them. Music: Josh Woodward
A recent study found that India's farmed chickens are dosed with the world's strongest antibiotics. This is done so that they're immune to diseases they could contract in the cramped, filthy quarters that they're kept in. All over the world, the meat industry treats animals cruelly, to meet our huge demands and this is contributing to our destruction of the planet. But a few scientists are working to change this. On this episode of The Intersection, Samanth and Padma break down the science of lab-grown meat and discover what it tastes like. Music: Josh Woodward
Labradoodles and Saint Bernards are great, but have you ever met a Chippiparai? This lithe stunner is just one of the handful of indigenous dog breeds that are still found around India. Sadly, many of these breeds are disappearing. On this episode, Samanth and Padmaparna speak to dog lovers who are doing their best to conserve these beauties and to a dog-loving civil servant who has studied homegrown breeds for most of his life and has even written a book about them. Music: Josh Woodward
The Intersection ●
access_time5 months ago
Mars has captured our imagination for decades. Our neighbouring planet, easily identifiable as a red orb in the night sky, has inspired scores of research papers, sci-fi novels and alien flicks. People like Elon Musk are even figuring out ways to colonize Mars. But we need to know more about the planet before setting foot on it. What if there is something or someone that already calls Mars home? In this episode of The Intersection, Samanth and Padma speak to a group of scientists working here on Earth to figure out what we might find on Martian soil. Music: Josh Woodward
The Intersection ●
access_time6 months ago
The Spanish Flu was the biggest pandemic of the last century. Five hundred million people were affected and over 14 million people died in India, the worst affected country in the world. But apart from taking millions of lives and disrupting families, the Spanish Flu also had geopolitical repercussions, including on India's freedom struggle. In this episode of The Intersection, Padma and Samanth learn about the Spanish's Flu's wide-ranging effects and how existing flus around the world share properties with the dangerous 1918 strain. Music: Josh Woodward
The Intersection ●
access_time6 months ago
At some point of time, every human that has ever walked this planet has looked up at the night sky and wondered what the cosmos is trying to tell them. Tribes turned to the heavens when looking for structure and found ingenious ways to build their lives around the stars they saw every night, as Samanth and Padma discover in this stellar episode of The Intersection dedicated to ancient astronomy. Music: Josh Woodward
The Intersection ●
access_time7 months ago
Stampedes are all too common in India--at temples, religious festivals, sporting events and most recently, at a railway station in Mumbai. Though it might seem like unpredictable, unorganized chaos, there are actually computational models that study such potential situations and help authorities, designers and architects avoid them. As The Intersection returns with a new season, find out why stampedes occur and what to do if you're stuck in one. Music: Josh Woodward
Isn't it odd that the word for "father" in Spanish ("padre") and Sanskrit ("pitru") sound similar? Especially given the geographic and cultural barriers that separate the two languages? As this episode of The Intersection discovers, there's a reason these languages can sound similar, and what's more, there's actually a way to trace the pronunciations of modern words, sometimes going back 8,000 years. Tune in to know more about the granddaddy of modern Indo-European languages and how a story may have sounded thousands of years ago. Music: Josh Woodward
You've probably heard of the Hyperloop, the high-speed mode of transport that could potentially change the way we travel. Dreamed up by entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk, the Hyperloop promises to cut travel times substantially, promising to cover 500km in about 30 minutes. There's even talk of the Hyperloop coming to India, and connecting cities like Mumbai and Delhi, and Bengaluru and Chennai. But how does this transport system (that looks like something out of "The Jetsons") work? And is India ready for it? Or are there cheaper upgrades to the current rail network that would be more sensible? Samanth Subramanian and Padmaparna Ghosh find out in this episode of The Intersection. Music Credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Music has a power to move us; a few notes of a piece of music can make us feel intensely elated or deeply melancholic. Researchers have done significant work to find out how music connects to our brains and how just a few notes can trigger specific responses among us. This episode of The Intersection goes into the science behind the sounds of music. Music: Josh Woodward
The Real Food Podcast ●
access_time1 year ago
Chicken is easy to cook, cheap, widely available and forbidden by no major religious belief system. So its popularity across India is unsurprising. However, the reality is often distasteful, as battery farmed chickens are raised in terrible conditions, and pumped with hormones and antibiotics. In this episode of The Real Food Podcast, Vikram Doctor finds out how we can access better chicken and speaks to legendary chef Ananda Solomon on a successful experiment he ran to get superior quality chickens. Music credit: Josh Woodward
We have been taught that like the mule, hybrid animals are sterile. They are generally considered to be ‘freaks’ because human beings are obsessed with ‘purity’ of species. However several experiments have shown that hybrid animals can be fertile and even evolve into a new species. This week, The Intersection tells the story of the Litigon in Kolkata to explain the politics around hybrids in the animal kingdom. Music: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Our Last Week ●
access_time1 year ago
Do people greet each other properly only when they have an agenda? What do we need to do make moments ‘truly’ memorable? What makes you relate to characters in movies? Do we live in a post-truth world where nothing can be trusted or even distrusted? Is Twitter finally enabling people to be their ass***e selves? On this last episode of Season 1 of Our Last Week, listen to Kunaal Roy Kapur and Anuvab Pal looking back at a year of conundrums.
In India, preservation and restoration of old manuscripts is not treated with the seriousness it deserves by libraries. Against this environment of callousness, Anand Akolkar wages a somewhat lonely war, from his humble home in Mumbai. He battles with the harsh elements of nature and an uncaring bureaucracy to preserve and restore old and dying manuscripts. A few thousand miles away in Dublin, we get a peek into the biggest library in Ireland and learn how seriously the preservation and restoration of books is treated. To change our attitude, we need to understand the value of knowledge transmitted through books and learn to cherish them. Music Credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Talk of money is in the air, what with demonetisation affecting us all in our daily lives. Devdutt and Jerry use this opportunity to talk about the philosophical, mythical and cultural meaning and significance of money. Money, says Devdutt, is also a myth in which both the giver and receiver have to believe in the value of what is being transacted. But myth is not fiction; it is a reality lived by the people who believe in it.
The winter holiday season is upon us. More Indians are travelling abroad with great regularity. As a lot of these people are vegetarians and it is difficult for them to find food that is suitable for them. Many travellers come up with ingenious ways to deal with the situation and a whole industry is developing to cater to their needs. In this episode Vikram Doctor sheds light on how vegetarians manage in places that are not particularly vegetarian friendly. Music Credit: Josh Woodward
With all Anuvab’s personal conversations with Kunaal are making it to the podcast, he laments their private lives have now become ‘conundrums’ for the benefit of the show’s producers. Which begs the question, do our personal lives even matter? For e.g. do the rights to Dhoni’s life belong to him or to the producers of his biopic? Also, how many middlemen do you need to get anything done? Can Indians ever have an event that doesn’t go into a crisis
Is Liberty is primarily a western notion? No, says Devdutt, as he reminds us of the deeply libertarian nature of the Shramanic Parampara or the hermit tradition in Indian philosophy, from which Buddhism and Jainism also originate. But unlike the western notion of absolute liberty, the Indian notion of liberty is counterbalanced by the shravaka or the householder traditions, which emphasize the importance of duties and responsibilities.
Bird watching is not just a hobby that some enthusiasts undertake to pass their time, it can be an exercise in natural historiography itself. Historically and internationally, the contribution of amateur naturalists has been significant and often pioneering. Non-professionals have played a very important role in laying the foundations of Indian natural history since colonial times. And they continue to build on it today as well. Listen to Samanth and Padmaparna in this new episode as they tell us about the amazing bird watchers of Kerala. Music Credits: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Can a Global Citizen Fest really eradicate poverty where a head-exploding variety of celebrities get together to sing and dance for an audience hell-bent on enjoying itself? Are human beings beyond pleasing? What pleasure do us Indians get in circumventing the rules? What is the greatest sacrifice any RBI governor has ever made for India? How much work can you avoid by saying soldiers are dying? How much knowing is knowing enough? OLW asks the right questions once again.
In some regions of India, bread is an important part of the local cuisine. Mumbai’s most iconic street foods are vada pao and pao bhaji. In both Goa and Kashmir, locally baked fresh bread is a daily staple. When Chef Floyd Cardoz from Mumbai, a partner at the fantastic Bombay Canteen, set up a new restaurant in New York, he called it Paowalla. But often, the bread in our homes is not traditional bread but factory-made and pumped with preservatives to make it last longer and look whiter. In this episode of The Real Food Podcast, Vikram Doctor talks about the need to return to traditional forms of baking, which produce much healthier and tastier bread. Music Credit: Josh Woodward
What is more important—equality or justice? In this episode, Devdutt tells us that this question itself is a western one. Greek mythology and enlightenment philosophy values justice while Abrahamic mythology and socialism value equality. In India, both equality and justice are important at different times and in different places. While the west has a fixed worldview where everyone must agree to one final truth, India because of its polytheistic beliefs allows for different perspectives and different truths to co-exist together.
39 volunteers. 59 countries. 136 airports. With 400 swabs collected over 3 years. That is what it took for researchers to determine the course of bacteria that affect thousands of people worldwide. Multi drug resistant bacteria are growing more powerful each day with microbiologists struggling to find a way to combat these pathogens. Samanth Subramanian and Padmaparna Ghosh talk to Frieder Schaumburg, the microbiologist who ran this study to understand the fight against these superbugs. Music Credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
This week there are no conundrums, life itself has become a conundrum. Kunaal and Anuvab contemplate the brave new world where Trump is President and their cash is worth nothing. They are distraught that the basic promise printed on our bank notes has been broken. Anuvab looks for all things he can barter for some tandoori chicken and they talk about how Donald Trump as president will change how we fundamentally look at the western world.
Seen as old fashioned and rustic, jaggery is fast becoming a forgotten product. It survives mostly as a health food recommended by Ayurveda experts or as a nostalgic throwback to the yesteryears in middle class homes. In this episode, Vikram Doctor tells us about India’s long connection with jaggery in an attempt to revive our love for it. But the problem is not just the falling demand; even the production of jaggery has become increasingly difficult due to a lack of water and skilled labour. Music Credit: Josh Woodward
“Be proud of who you are” is flashed across ads, motivational posters and self-help books. We have all heard of people who claim to be proud of their nation, their gender, their sexuality, their caste, etc. While some of these ideas such as gay pride and dalit pride have led to progressive movements and empowerment, other ideas of identity based pride boost regressive social formations. In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson explore the different contexts in which the concept of pride can be deployed.
People were asked to send in their selfies for a beauty contest judged by AI and the results were shocking. Of the 44 winners of the beauty contest, only one was dark skinned. Elsewhere Microsoft developed a self-learning chat bot, Tay, which was taken offline in just 16 hours because of its offensive behaviour. Are robots inherently racist? Or is it inevitable for them to echo and amplify the prejudices their makers hold? Music Credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Why doesn’t anyone in a position of power ever retire? Are people with a family business really that happy or are they better off with jobs? How our phone battery is giving us anxiety? As we get older, do we inevitably become the people we hated in our youth? Are WhatsApp groups another reason to hate our parents? OLW has answers to all of life’s important questions.
From giant customised cakes for politicians’ birthdays to wedding cakes for not just Christian weddings, logo shaped cakes to celebrate a team’s win to heart shaped cupcakes on Valentine’s Day, cakes once seen as ‘western’ have now become a norm at Indian celebrations. With eggless cakes, cakes that don’t need an oven and even cakes made using idli batter, adapting to local conditions has played a major role in this change. Music Credit: Josh Woodward
In this new episode Devdutt Pattanaik speaks to Jerry Johnson about different ways in which people express nationalism. Is patriotism merely one’s love for country? Or does it need to have a more legal and political definition? They discuss the birth of patriotism and nationalism approximately 300 years ago as a means to bind societies together over boundaries and the urgent current need for healthy patriotism.
39 years ago, a radio telescope called Big Ear in Ohio received a sudden burst of waves that were most likely from a source near Sagittarius. The signal, called the Wow signal, named after Astronomer Jerry Ehman’s reaction to it, has never been heard again. But a few astronomers hope to find the mystery behind the source of the signal in the next few years and (hopefully) probe the possibility of a life beyond our planet. Music Credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske Sound Credit: NASA
Should you be obliged to tip for a service you have already paid for? What is the point of an air mile if it doesn’t actually equal a mile? Do you have kids only so that you can play on a bouncy castle in your 40s? Do you really need a temperature controlled bum shower (aka health faucet)? How do you handle a meeting that turns pointless while you’re in it? Life throws us questions and the OLW duo have the answers.
Creating something new out of what is in your fridge from previous days can be a fine art. With a little creativity in the kitchen, leftovers from last night’s dinner can be magically transformed into something delicious and unrecognisable the next day. In this episode Vikram Doctor speaks to chefs who have been creating iconic dishes from leftovers and argues that neither our prejudices nor our ability to afford not to should get in the way of recycling food, a delicate art that we might lose in our hurry to throw away what we believe we don’t need any more. Music Credit: Josh Woodward
We think Bollywood is very hero-centric but Devdutt Pattanaik argues that in Bollywood heroes do not undergo a journey and a transformation in the classic sense, but essentially stay the same (many also mainly play themselves in every film, but that’s another story). In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about heroes, hermits and martyrs and what makes them who they are.
Bhutan was the first country to take into consideration the happiness of its citizens by measuring GNH (Gross National Happiness). Other institutions in other countries have also tried to set-up similar parameters around the measurement of well-being. But how do you measure something that is so subjective and so difficult to quantify. Samanth Subramanian and Padmaparna Ghosh talk to researchers about the challenges with measuring happiness and its correlation with economic growth. Music credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Kunaal and Anuvab are back with more conundrums about the events gripping the country and its borders. Anuvab is fascinated with Bollywood extras and how the Indian caste system plays out with how they are treated. The duo has a suggestion for a new act for the government, which would be a boon for doubting spouses. And Anuvab talks about a difficult time when he had to choose between greed and conscience.
Parle G is not only the largest selling biscuit in the world but is also synonymous with the category it represents. It is an affordable snack for the poorest, a weaning food for small babies and a dessert base for those looking for a nostalgia fix. Parle G was the unchallenged hero of the biscuit business and Britannia had to enlist the help of a super-villain to take on its might. In this episode of The Real Food Podcast, Vikram Doctor tells us the story of India’s most iconic biscuit brand.
We believe that anger validates us; it helps show us as passionate, involved and even becomes integral to our identity. But to believe that if you do not argue you submit, if you don’t fight then you are indifferent or complacent, is a limited binary worldview that is not reflective of a more complex reality. In this episode Devdutt Pattanaik speaks to Jerry Johnson about how eastern mythology teaches us to accept things as they are rather than constantly attempt to mould them to our expectations.
In 1965, Captain Manmohan Singh Kohli, an officer in the Indian navy, led a group of CIA and IB officials on an arduous trek across 125 kilometres, for a covert mission to spy on China’s nuclear capability. They changed course a month into this arduous trek after encountering a severe avalanche and the story was soon forgotten. The abandoned mission only came back into the news, after a leak in the 1970s, when questions were raised in parliament about the dangers of the lost plutonium. In this episode of The Intersection, Samanth Subramanian revisits the mission and speaks to Vinod Jose on his fascinating story. Music credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Anuvab Pal and Kunaal Roy Kapur return with another set of fresh conundrums. Why we don’t take instructions very well. How we don’t follow our own dreams but follow someone else’s. And why a veteran film star went to an awards show dressed as a tomato. How Kunaal has a very keen sense of fashion, which is to be determinedly unfashionable. And how our self-expression is always about whom we hired to do it for us.
Gin is one of the smoothest of all alcoholic drinks and supposedly the easiest to make. In India we have a history with gin since it was a favourite of the British Raj (which also led to the quinine infused tonic water, to help them fight malaria). However gin has never quite caught on in contemporary India, either because of its perception as a ‘ladies drink’ or due to a sheer lack of options. In this episode, Vikram Doctor traces the history of gin and looks at its possible renaissance as a ‘hipster drink’. Music Credit: Josh Woodword
The feminine and a masculine instinct, the aggressive nature and the nurturing nature have always co-existed and a balance of these two forces is essential for harmony in society. But are masculine instincts becoming more desirable and is femininity seen as a sign of weakness? In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about the conflicting instincts and the consequent fall-out of male dominance.
Communication is not limited only to the words we hear or the signs we see, it can go beyond that. Plants cannot speak, hear, see or move, so how do these plants communicate? Is their language made up of chemicals and signals? In this brand new episode, we cover the work done by scientists to study the relationship plants have with the complex ecosystem around them. Music credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske
Kunaal and Anuvab on the importance of that ONE signed piece of paper in India and how it can validate your ENTIRE existence. The duo on how being a freelancer is not very different from being a daily contract labourer. Kunaal on how India already has driverless cars. Anuvab on his visit to a business school.And why America is a nation of illegal immigrants.
Many of us would have seen old copper or brass vessels packed away at home and wondered why we don't use them anymore. While they have authenticity, most of these vessels were difficult to use as well as maintain. When an option came along that was easy to use, and even easier to clean, it's no surprise that everyone switched to using stainless steel. But is newer and simpler always better? Music Credit: Josh Woodward
Do societies really believe in equality as they preach or are there undercurrents of authoritarianism (and inequality) underlying the democratic facade? In this episode, Devdutt Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson talk about the history of democratic society and how the world has seen a shift in ideologies over the years. The duo also discusses how the right and left both use authoritarianism to subdue individualism.
A lot of what we see around is defined by its colour. When a new colour is added, there are exciting new possibilities in terms of shades that are possible and how they may be used. A new shade of blue was discovered in Oregon, USA which the makers called YInMn Blue, named after the elements it consists of - Yttrium, Indium and Manganese. This is exciting because it’s the first new blue in over 200 years. Padmaparna Ghosh speaks to Professor Mas Subramanian who developed this colour who tells us what makes the YInMn Blue so special. Music credit: Josh Woodward and Chris Zabriske Pic credit: Oregon State University