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 | One step at a time on Metro escalator

It would be a stretch to describe what follows as an original puzzle, but I have tinkered with a couple of existing forms of puzzles and merged them into one using my own variables.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Oct 31, 2022 03:02 PM IST

Decoding the science behind genetically modified mustard

To modify any variety of a crop so that it incorporates the desirable qualities from another variety, the obvious approach is to breed one with the other.

In mustard, however, crossing two different breeds is a challenge because the crop is self-pollinating, which means that the offspring are produced by the male and female organs of the same plant. (AFP Representational Photo)
Updated on Oct 27, 2022 01:23 AM IST

Brain cells play a game: Are they 'conscious'?

To better understand how the brain works, scientists have now cultured human and mouse neurons in a dish and trained them to play a computer game outside the body.

Somewhere in the cells of our brains lies the key to what we call sentience, or the ability to sense, feel, and be conscious of what is happening around us. (Twitter)
Published on Oct 25, 2022 06:31 PM IST

Problematics | Poker cards with a dash of chemistry

This week’s puzzles remain mildly challenging, like most of the previous ones.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 25, 2022 02:55 PM IST

Explainer: The chemistry of green crackers work, and how they help

Green crackers seek to produce the same light-and-sound effect as conventional crackers but emit lower amounts of pollutants. To know what ingredients they use, it is necessary to first understand what goes into a conventional cracker.

A firecracker consists of three main components: a fuel, an oxidiser, and a binder. (Representative Image)
Published on Oct 24, 2022 04:01 PM IST

Problematics | From Wonderland, without Alice

Apart from his stories, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, created a number of delightful puzzles, one of which I have loosely adapted for you.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 17, 2022 03:44 PM IST

Problematics | Once upon a time in the wheels

There is a gem of a puzzle hidden in old cinema shots of a moving stagecoach.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 10, 2022 12:34 PM IST

Nobel for finding the perfect molecular click

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded on Wednesday, honours three scientists “for the development of click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry”. These innovative chemistries provide efficient ways to build new molecules that have significant uses, particularly in pharmaceuticals.

Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal developed click chemistry; Carolyn R Bertozzi developed click reactions inside a living cell. (Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Updated on Oct 06, 2022 12:33 PM IST

Deciphering quantum secrets leads to a Nobel

It is for their work on quantum entanglement that Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger shared the Nobel Prize in Physics announced on Tuesday.

Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Hans Ellegren, centre, Eva Olsson, left and Thors Hans Hansson, members of the Nobel Committee for Physics announce the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics, from left to right on the screen, Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger in Stockholm on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated on Oct 05, 2022 11:42 AM IST

How Nobel winner tracked human evolution, interactions with extinct relatives

What makes human beings human? What makes us different from our closest relatives, the now extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans, and what do we have in common with them?

Ancestors of modern humans interbred with Denisovans and Neanderthals after migrating out of Africa, starting about 70,000 years ago (nobelprize.org)
Updated on Oct 05, 2022 10:46 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | Operation dessert mix

This week, there are only three elements and still no compulsion, but I give you A, B and C all the same. I picked these words out of three different dictionaries. Here are the puzzles:

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Oct 03, 2022 01:45 PM IST

Problematics | Spot the cheetahs at the roundtable

This puzzle involves eight big cats released into a national park.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Sep 26, 2022 12:42 PM IST

Problematics | Scores to settle on cricket pitch

This week on, everyone who solved one or both of last week’s puzzles gets acknowledged here, in the online version of Problematics, while the print version lists those who solved both. Here are this week's puzzles:

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Sep 19, 2022 06:43 PM IST

Where the cheetah’s speed comes from

What is it that enables the fastest land mammal to reach a top speed above 100 kilometres per hour (in short bursts), accelerating from 0 to 70 in just 2.5 seconds? It is a question that continues to intrigue scientists.

Part of the answer lies in physiology, which is well understood: the cheetah’s body is structured for sprinting, with key roles played by a flexible spine, a light skeleton, a long tail, and large nostrils. And part lies in mechanics, knowledge about which is still evolving. (Getty/Representative Image)
Updated on Sep 17, 2022 10:45 AM IST
By, New Delhi

The science behind e-scooter fires

As with any electrical device, an electric vehicle comes with its own inherent risks, but is considered safe as long as it has been tested properly and is maintained well and not abused.

Hyderabad, Sep 13 (ANI): Police personnel stand near the charred remains of electric scooties that were parked in the basement of a hotel after a fire broke out in the ground floor, at Secunderabad, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. Reportedly six people were killed in the incident. (ANI Photo) (Mohammed Aleemuddin)
Updated on Sep 15, 2022 05:29 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | Births and dates with new puzzles

We are familiar with mathematical tricks in which you think of a number and I tell you what it is. In this variation, let’s use dates instead of numbers.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Sep 12, 2022 12:08 PM IST

World’s oldest known amputation from 31k years ago, and the myths it busts

In 2020, archaeologists excavated a skeleton from a burial site in Borneo and were struck by the fact that the lower left leg was missing, the wound having healed in a way that indicated a surgical amputation.

Artist’s impression of the individual whose lower left leg was amputated as a child 31,000 years ago in Borneo. (Jose Garcia (Garciartist) & Griffith University)
Published on Sep 09, 2022 06:51 PM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | When nobody gets to work from home

Can’t wait for your next article in Problematics, Sunaina Shivrain tells me from Faridabad. Mondays will be less mundane, writes Nupur Joshi from Faridabad. Thank you for your response, and let’s keep this going. This week’s puzzles coming up:

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Sep 05, 2022 04:13 PM IST

Problematics I Let the puzzles, games begin

Every week, we bring you one or more mildly challenging puzzles, which means they are neither too easy nor too hard

We launch today with both kinds of puzzles, with more to follow in the weeks to come. (iStock Photo)
Updated on Sep 05, 2022 12:26 PM IST
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