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The Intersection


Your search for fascinating stories ends here. The Intersection narrates stories that meld culture, science and history in India.

Your search for fascinating stories ends here. The Intersection narrates stories that meld culture, science and history in India.
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Your search for fascinating stories ends here. The Intersection narrates stories that meld culture, science and history in India.




#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 our soil. Traditionally, India, because of its thrifty behaviour, has a history of reusing things. But that too is changing. And recycling alone is no longer the answer to our plastic...


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

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.


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 speaker of this utopian language.


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

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...


#52: Could Lab-Grown Meat Save the World?

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...


#51: Forget Labs & Pugs, Say Hello to India's Homegrown Dog Breeds

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


#50: In Search of Martians On Planet Earth

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...


#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. 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...


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

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


#46: How Our Vocabulary Evolved Over 8,000 Years

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...


#45: Decoding The Hype around Hyperloop

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...


#44: Music and Emotion

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


#42: Preserving Books - From Mumbai to Dublin

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...


#41: People Power-Coming Together for Science

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...


#40: (Super) Bugs Without Borders

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....


#39: Racist Artificial Intelligence = Racist Us

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, Tae, 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


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

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


#37: Measuring Happiness: My GNH Is Bigger Than Yours

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.


#36: A Cold-War Spy Story, From the Sixties

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...


#35: Tinder for Vegetables? How Plants Communicate With Potential Mates

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.