Cartoons and cutting-edge physics

Here are a couple book reviews in the Hindu today.

Cultural history of cartoons in Indian newspapers

A R Venkatachalapathy reviews a recent book by Mushirul Hasan titled Wit and humour in colonial North India (and recommends it too):

India’s leading historian of Muslim politics and communalism in colonial India has written and edited an engaging and offbeat book. Mushirul Hasan breaks the widely held misconception of the emerging Muslim public sphere as inward looking and degenerate in the wake of 1857 and its aftermath. The underlying politics behind the publication of the book, though unstated, cannot be missed by the reader. By putting together this riotous volume of cartoons Hasan seems to be conveying a subtle but nevertheless strong message to both Western champions of liberty and Muslim fundamentalists.

Ambitiously titled Wit and Humour in Colonial North India, this book is centred on the Urdu weekly Avadh Punch which was published from Lucknow from 1877 to 1936. Even though we know that the Delhi Sketch Book published cartoons even before 1857, the author is not too far off the mark when he states that the Avadh Punch “was virtually the first Indian newspaper to give us cartoons.”

Critique of string theory

T Jayaraman reviews Lee Smolin’s The trouble with physics and finds it

… a report from the cutting edge of theoretical physics. Such accounts are typically tales of success, occasionally of triumph, that focus on the potential of what in the author’s reckoning is likely to be one of the few major scientific waves of the future. What is uncommon though is the kind of account that Smolin provides in The Trouble with Physics — an absorbing, quasi-first person account from the inside of a sharp controversy related to understanding the foundations of the physics of our time.

However, looking at the cost of the book (Rs. 650), I think the potential buyers might do well to read some of the criticisms of Smolin’s critique at Cosmic Variance and the Storm in a tea cup series at Asymptotia before buying it.

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