The month that was February

This month onwards I’ll do a monthly round-up of activities. A sort of reflection on all the interesting things that I got to do.


I feel that it was a good come back month. After a break of not writing much in December and January, because of the PhD viva preparation, I was glad to have written more than I thought I would (list below).

My favourite piece was Flea market. I learnt lots and the researchers were very helpful. The reference to Jonathan Swift’s poem, which I thought worked very well, I have to admit, was Geoff Carr’s (my editor) idea.

For The Economist

  1. (Cancer) Refusing to die: How exposing cancer cell’s trickery can help our own immune system to fight cancer
  2. (Pharma industry) Teaching old pills new tricks: With fewer new drugs, it may seem that the pharma industry is doomed. But there may be a way out
  3. (Ecology) Flea market: The world’s most abundant organism may just have got trumped for the prize by its own killer
  4. (Atmospheric science) From dust to lawn: How desert sands from Sahara cause rainfall in California (and presumably beyond)

Other places

  1. (Book Review) Innovation Generation by Roberta Ness: How to produce creative and useful scientific ideas – Chemistry World
  2. (Chemistry and Biology) NO for longevity – A small gaseous molecule may hold key to a longer life – Chemistry World
  3. (Writing) With so much good writing, is it worth struggling for some more? – My guest post on SA Incubator, a blog for young and upcoming science writers
  4. (Startups) One startup has attempted to solve India’s bus problem – My first post on Quartz, an online global news outlet launched by the Atlantic
  5. (Geoscience) A submerged continent found – My first post for The Hindu‘s weekly science page published in all their print editions

On my science blog The Allotrope

  1. (Environment) India and endosulfan: A bitter harvest : India’s response to the ill-effects of a toxic pesticide has been slow and inadequate
  2. (Health) Chest X-rays are not effective at detecting TB infections: When immigrating why should you be exposed to X-rays for no good reason?
  3. (Cell Biology) Manipulation of biological clocks teaches an important lesson: Nature’s puzzling way of adding inefficiencies in a biological system in order to increase help an organism thrive
  4. (Ecology) Domestic cats are mass killers: The Oatmeal got it right. How much do cats kill? Too. Damn. Much.


This month I set myself the challenge of reading 10 books. The plan was to, on completion of the challenge, extend it to reading 100 books in one year. Sadly I could only do 5 books (two half-read books don’t count). But this hasn’t dampened my resolve. I would still like to complete reading 100 books because there is a lot of value in reading books. So even though I couldn’t live up to my own challenge this month, I am going to try to do it over the next 11 months. Perhaps this will give me some leeway in catching up to my reading when I fall back (like I have this month!). Here’s a list of books and links to their reviews that I completed this month:

  1. Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles by Ruchir Sharma (292 pages)
  2. The Curious Incident of the Dog at the Night-time by Mark Haddon (226 pages)
  3. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer (307 pages)
  4. QED: The strange theory of light and matter by Richard Feynman (172 pages)
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (284 pages)


I discovered a new band, thanks to Loudwire, that I liked instantly: Dead Sara. The lead singer, Emily Armstrong, has this rusty voice that works really well with the music. I could also feel her passion for the song, which is always something that helps the listener connect to the music.

I listened to these songs on repeat:

  1. Dead Sara – Weatherman
  2. Water – Evolution (especially while reading Foer’s book)
  3. Bentley Rhythm Ace – Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out (good writing music)
  4. Queens of the Stone Age – Autopilot


In the first week of February I had everything set for a trip to Monaco with some Oxford mates. Sadly I couldn’t get a visa. Some of it was my fault, but mostly it was because of the stupidly inflexible system. Apart from not getting to go to a cool destination with friends, losing lots of money and feeling sad, I also got a big C on my passport instead of the visa. (No idea what C stands for, and I’m not keen to find out).

On a happier note: I did manage to go to Ireland, which is a lovely place. Not so different from the UK though. Dublin was exciting and the country side was beautiful. February is not the best month to be in Ireland, but I was luck to find two sunny and slightly warm days. Here is a teaser, taken on the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones:

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Journey by the sea

A post shared by Akshat Rathi (@akshatrathi) on

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