The Intersection

The Intersection Podcast - Padmaparna Ghosh & Samanth Subramanian

Every fortnight, The Intersection narrates stories that meld culture, science and history in India. Through interviews, anecdotes and original research, Padmaparna Ghosh and Samanth Subramanian bring alive the rich breadth of human imagination and knowledge, making for a riveting listening experience. The incessant punning — well, that’s just a bonus.

59. Preserving the constitution of India

Our constitution was under attack (from natural elements). Protecting this historic document from deterioration was critical. When two boxes hooked up to nitrogen and oxygen cylinders were delivered to the Indian parliament in 1995, it was significant moment in the preservation of the Indian constitution. Padmaparna and Samanth investigate the science that ensures the protection of the very foundation of this country.

57. Our plastic addiction is destroying the planet

Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced till today, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste and ONLY nine percent of this has been recycled. After languishing in landfills or floating around as trash, nearly all of this ends up in our oceans. There is plastic in our fish, and even in … Continue reading Our plastic addiction is destroying the planet

56. A mystery that goes back more than 4,500 years

The Indus Valley Civilisation 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 how that can inform the current climate challenges we face.

55. Do you speak Esperanto?

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 … Continue reading Do you speak Esperanto?

54. What Insects Could Teach Humans (and Robots) About 3D Vision

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 world of 3D vision in the insect world.

53. How A New Generation of STEM Books Are Putting The Fun Back In Fundamentals

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 … Continue reading How A New Generation of STEM Books Are Putting The Fun Back In Fundamentals

52. Could Lab-Grown Meat Save the World?

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.

51. Forget Labs & Pugs, Say Hello to India’s Homegrown Dog Breeds

On this episode, Samanth and Padmaparna speak to dog lovers who are doing their best to conserve India’s beautiful indigenous canine breeds 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.

50. In Search of Martians On Planet Earth

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 if we ever land on the Red Planet.

49. How the Spanish Flu Affected India’s Freedom Struggle

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.

48. The Stories in our Stars: Tribal Astronomy in Ancient India

In this episode of The Intersection, Samanth and Padma discover how astronomy has involved since 500 AD and what that tells us about a society’s relationship with the sky it sees every night.

47. The Science of the Stampede

As The Intersection returns with a new season, find out why stampedes occur and what to do if you’re stuck in one.

46. How Our Vocabulary Evolved Over 8,000 Years

Get a crash course in linguistic forensics while learning about Proto-Indo-European, an ancient language that has been retrieved and reconstructed from the words we speak today.

45. Decoding The Hype around Hyperloop

Hyperloop promises to revolutionise the way we travel, but are there easier, cheaper and more sensible options within reach?

44. Music and Emotion

We know music can trigger emotions; here is a look at the science behind it.

43. Fantastic Hybrid Beasts and Where to Find Them

Is the idea that “hybrids are freaks and intensely undesired” a kind of fascism?

42. Preserving Books – From Mumbai to Dublin

In this episode of The Intersection, we learn about the crusaders who preserve and restore old books so we don’t lose the invaluable gift of knowledge.

41. People Power: Coming Together for Science

Bird watching citizen-scientists in Kerala and the great power of crowds coming together for a natural history project.

40. (Super) Bugs Without Borders

A drug resistant superbug may have travelled from India to Paris, on a flight.

39. Racist Artificial Intelligence = Racist Us

Recent cases show that the AI bots show prejudiced behaviours that reflect the biases of their creators.

38. Aliens on the Radio #Wow, via Big Ear

How a 72-second burst of radio waves stimulates our curiosity about extra-terrestrial civilisations.

37. Measuring Happiness: My GNH Is Bigger Than Yours

Unlike economic parameters like GDP, can happiness be truly measured?

36. A Cold-War Spy Story, From the Sixties

An abandoned spy mission from 50 years ago, complete with action, suspense, drama and lost plutonium.

35. Tinder for Vegetables? How Plants Communicate With Potential Mates

Communication is essential as a precursor to reproduction. Even for plants.

34. YInMn: A New Kind of Blue

A story about how modern science finds new colours.

33. How We Are Failing to Respond to Climate Change

On this special episode, renowned author Amitav Ghosh talks about the lack of urgency in addressing climate change issues and its very serious repercussions.

32. Vanishing Voices: What We Lose When We Lose a Language

The second part traces the efforts of a few people who are working hard to document, study and preserve rare Indian languages and dialects.

31. Mission Impossible: Surveying Indian Languages and Dialects

Two men, a century apart, took up the Herculean task of recording all Indian languages.

30. How Metallurgy is Helping Us Piece Together Our Past

Chola idols that may have been over a thousand years old have been retrieved, but how do you tell if they are real?

29. Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, say hello to the Doomsday Clock

The human race is contributing to its own self-destruction, meet the scientists measuring how soon.

28. The fault in our Taj

The iconic Taj Mahal is known for its perfect design but Dr. Dilip Ahuja noticed there was a fundamental error. Did Emperor Shah Jahan know about it?

27. Snakebites, anti-venom and a country that lets the problem slither away

The correct protocol after a snakebite does not involve ‘cutting out’ the bite or ‘sucking out’ the venom. Caution, observation, diagnosis and access to medical facilities can save your life!

26. On Biomimicry: How scientists observe nature for inspiration

Several utility items and gadgets we use today are actually inspired by designs and systems already found in nature, Samanth and Padmaparna investigate.

25. A Scientific Take On The Indian National Identity: Mahalanobis’ Profiloscope

P.C Mahalanobis’ instrument attempted to assimilate India on the basis of national identity, but in a scientific manner.

24. Birder, Swindler, Soldier, Spy: Colonel Meinertzhagen’s ornithology fraud

The Colonel and the con: A science-detective story about the biggest scam in the world of ornithology.

23. A New Window To The Universe: The Discovery of Gravitational Waves

A century after Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves, Ligo’s discovery, potentially revolutionizes not just the world of astrophysics, but science itself.

22. Move Over, GPS! A Desi Navigation System Is On Its Way

ISRO recently launched the 5th of 7 satellites that would replace GPS in our country, forever. Find out about the history of this mission and the need for an indigenous navigation system.

21. Heart to Heart: Transporting & Transplanting a Heart

The Intersection finds out about the almost rudimentary coordination setup that organises a top-end medical procedure: heart transplants.

20. From the Lab to the Kitchen: Resurrecting Indus Valley’s Proto Curry

What does it take to recreate a dish that’s over 4000-years-old… a dish for which there isn’t a recipe you can refer to?

19. Special: The 7 Most Intriguing Facts from 2015

On this year-end special, Samanth counts down the most fascinating facts discovered on the episodes of The Intersection in 2015.

18. All We Want for Christmas Is Air We Can Breathe

Armed with low-cost sensors, some people are trying to keep a check on the quality of air around them. Personal benefits aside, can this technology help combat pollution on a larger level?

17. These Feet are Made for Walking

Around 1.9 million years ago, human beings became fully bi-pedal – able to walk on two legs, instead of four. We may have mastered walking, but do we understand it?

16. Ig Nobel: Celebrating the Quirky Side of Science

For over two decades, the Ig Noble Prize has been honouring unusual scientific achievements. But do these seemingly silly studies have any real scientific utility?

15. War and Peas – The Science behind the Indian Army’s Diet

The unique challenges of feeding an army, and how World War II kick-started food research that changed what and how the Indian army eats.

14. The Woman Who Saved a Hill

Childhood nostalgia and a love for nature come together in this episode about a woman who managed to arrest the rapid depletion of flora and fauna on a hill in Mussoorie.

13. India’s Timekeepers – Putting the S in the IST

In this special, on-site episode, Padmaparna & Samanth visit the National Physical Laboratory’s room 35 – the spot where Indian Standard Time is calculated.

12. The Infinite Beauty of Pi

A fascinating number that crops up everywhere in our universe, pi has mystical and almost philosophical properties. Why is this unending number so important?

11. Life’s Too Short to Spend it Asleep?

Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. But, are we needlessly sacrificing a third of our life just to sleep? Is there a way to sleep less and well?

10. The Parsis and a cure for migraine

Curing migraines has proved to be an arduous task. But, the endogamous Parsi community may provide some vital clues.

9. The journey to Pluto – It all began with a postage stamp

The story of a 29-cent US Postal Service stamp that inspired scientists to undertake the journey to Pluto.

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