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Kabir Firaque

Puzzles Editor Kabir Firaque is the author of the weekly column Problematics. A journalist for three decades, he also writes about science and mathematics.

Articles by Kabir Firaque

Problematics | Merry Xmas to all

The headline is a Christmas greeting but is also a hidden mathematical puzzle. Can you solve it, besides distributing some goods for the festive occasions?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 25, 2023 03:01 PM IST

Having kids doesn't keep you younger

The same genetic mutations that enhance reproduction early in life are likely to lead to ageing in later years, meaning that fertile individuals may age faster

For centuries, scientists have been pondering why people age and die(Pixabay)
Published on Dec 23, 2023 04:49 PM IST

Problematics | When Einstein and Galileo watched Oppenheimer

Archimedes, Bohr, Curie, Darwin, Einstein, Faraday and Galileo watch a movie after distributing their money. How much money did each have in the beginning?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Dec 18, 2023 08:00 AM IST

Problematics | Speed test while walking and running

One person runs and another one walks on a circular road, moving in opposite directions, before they switch roles. Can you determine where and when they meet?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Dec 11, 2023 10:28 AM IST

Weird Science | Let’s settle the eternal Mumbai v Delhi argument

Delhi residents, facing lower temperatures, scoff at ‘winter’ in Mumbai. Why do residents of the coastal city and the northern city seem to feel equally cold?

People take a stroll at Kartavya Path amid dense fog on a cold winter day in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)
Published on Dec 08, 2023 03:36 PM IST

Problematics | Games with matches and jumbled scientists

Here is an ingenious variation of nim, the game in which two players remove matchsticks from the table. Can you identify the winning strategy?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Dec 04, 2023 04:21 PM IST

Problematics | When robots bowl spin

In a future world, where AI controls everything including cricket, some Einsteinian puzzling about which iconic robot specialises in what kind of spin

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 27, 2023 03:39 PM IST

Weird Science | What puppy dog eyes and cat’s (trembling) whiskers really mean

Researchers have identified 276 facial expressions in cats. To convey the same kind of emotion, a cat may present one expression to a human and another to a cat

When a dog makes the familiar “puppy dog eyes”, raising its eyebrows and presenting a mournful face, it is understood to be signalling that it wants the human’s attention(Pexels)
Published on Nov 23, 2023 07:27 PM IST

Problematics | Addition without adding

Here’s a party trick in which you can tell the sum of five numbers, chosen by two different persons, without actually adding them. What is the secret?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 20, 2023 11:31 AM IST

Problematics | A gambler’s unlucky number

Games of chance can be an endless source of puzzles. Here is a relatively simple one about a gambler for whom the number 37 appears to carry a jinx

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Updated on Nov 16, 2023 06:30 PM IST

Problematics | A spider’s tale, with a nod to Pythagoras

Help a spider cross the street without spinning a web. She has two poles to navigate, with some elementary calculations.

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 06, 2023 05:48 PM IST

Weird Science | A hop for a lander, a leap for ISRO, a giant stride in knowledge

Moon samples brought back by American and Soviet missions taught us about the solar system. Now India wants to contribute

Astronaut Harrison H Schmitt collects lunar samples during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972(NASA)
Updated on Oct 31, 2023 02:08 PM IST

Problematics | Think of a number, add several more

Take any two numbers and keep adding them until you have 10 numbers. What is the quick way to determine the sum of all 10 numbers?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 30, 2023 01:48 PM IST

Problematics | Wordle deduction with Scrabble tiles

Try this game of deduction in which three persons know a letter each. What is the word that can be formed with these three letters?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 23, 2023 02:02 PM IST

Weird Science | Why claims of room-temperature superconductors are controversial

The hunt for a superconductive material at room temperature remains alluring and has given rise to many claims which have, however, been subsequently disproved

A magnet floats above a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.(University of Rochester)
Updated on Oct 17, 2023 05:09 PM IST

Problematics | Five-way tie in race to World Cup semifinals

A reminder that 7 wins in 9 matches may not be enough to ensure a berth in the top four. Given this points table, can you work out which team won which game?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 16, 2023 04:13 PM IST

Problematics | Shades of cricket and the law of averages

Can you figure out the game of Inglorious Uncertaintus and create a smart World Cup table? Try this week’s cricket puzzles

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Updated on Oct 09, 2023 03:01 PM IST

How the colourful world of quantum dots changed electronics and therapy

Alexei Ekimov, Louis Brus and Moungi Bawendi discovered and created nanoparticles called quantum dots, whose size dictates their properties

A screen shows this year's laureates US Chemist Moungi Bawendi, US Chemist Louis Brus and Russian physicist Alexei Ekimov during the announcement of the winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry in Stockholm on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated on Oct 08, 2023 11:39 AM IST
By, New Delhi

How 3 physicists froze time for a peek at electron dynamics

On their way to Nobel Prize, Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier generated brief pulses of light, enabling the study of electrons in motion

Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier are announced as the winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics at a press conference in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated on Oct 04, 2023 06:38 AM IST

Nobel medicine prize: How two scientists modified mRNA for vaccine breakthrough

mRNA developed in the lab would trigger an inflammatory response once delivered. Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman made alterations to overcome this problem.

Scientists Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, who won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries enabling the development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, speak during a news conference hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated on Oct 03, 2023 04:41 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | Carbon copies in the age of typewriters

The mystery of the typewriter is gone with the rise of smartphones and computers. However, carbon paper still has some use, such as in college projects.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Oct 02, 2023 05:21 PM IST

Prized Science | Understanding autoimmune disorders; computer’s solution-finding

Read about Dipyaman Ganguly’s study on autoimmune disorders, and Neeraj Kayal’s work on transforming a philosophical problem into a mathematical one

Dipyaman Ganguly, principal scientist at CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
Updated on Sep 30, 2023 09:40 AM IST

Prized Science | Every drop counts, and making quality medicine

Read about Vimal Mishra’s attempt to quantify changes in water resources, and Akkattu T Biju’s work to improve the quality of pharmaceutical molecules

Vimal Mishra, Vikram Sarabhai Professor of civil engineering at IIT Gandhinagar
Published on Sep 29, 2023 10:12 AM IST

Exciting findings, new ideas in hunt for alien life

The exoplanet K2-18b’s atmosphere has signatures of carbon dioxide, methane and possibly dimethyl sulphide, which is not known to exist where life does not.

An artist’s concept of what the exoplanet K2-18b could look like. (ESA)
Updated on Sep 29, 2023 12:58 PM IST

Einstein was right: Antimatter falls under gravity

Experiments at CERN have now demonstrated that antimatter falls, validating yet another aspect of the general theory.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied that antimatter would fall just like matter does, but some physicists have long been suggesting that it should rise upward.(REUTERS)
Updated on Sep 29, 2023 10:35 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Prized Science | Exploring the leagues under the sea; Seeking the right equation

Read about Rajnish Kumar's study on extracting methane from hydrates and Apoorva Khare’s efforts to connect branches of mathematics, like algebra and analysis

Rajnish Kumar, professor of chemical engineering at IIT Madras
Published on Sep 28, 2023 09:23 AM IST

Prized Science | Holy Grail of bacteria; Unmasking the mysterious dark matter

Read about Ashwani Kumar's research on biofilms in TB drug resistance, and Basudeb Dasgupta's research in the interface of astrophysics and particle physics

Ashwani Kumar, senior principal scientist at CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh
Updated on Sep 27, 2023 11:20 AM IST

Prized Science | On faster access to molecules, and quake-resistant buildings

Read about Debabrata Mati's methods leading to valuable molecules and Dipti Ranjan Sahoo's devices and designs to protect buildings hit by earthquakes

Debabrata Maiti, Professor of Chemistry at IIT Mumbai
Published on Sep 26, 2023 09:41 AM IST

Problematics | Random walks with a point in common

A puzzle seemingly impossible to solve, but in fact deceptively simple. Can you solve it without using mathematics?

Welcome to Problematics!(Shutterstock)
Published on Sep 25, 2023 05:07 PM IST

Prized Science | Decoding protein ‘interactions’, a hunt for elusive particles

Read about Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardees: Maddika Subba Reddy’s research on how proteins behave in cells and Anindya Das’ search for subatomic particles

Dr Maddika Subba Reddy, a cell biologist with the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad
Published on Sep 25, 2023 04:52 PM IST
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