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Contested KnowledgeScience, Media, and Democracy in Kerala$
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Shiju Sam Varughese

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199469123

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199469123.001.0001

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Border Crossings

Border Crossings

The Coloured Rain Controversy

(p.166) 6 Border Crossings
Contested Knowledge

Shiju Sam Varughese

Oxford University Press

When the phenomenon of coloured rain struck Kerala in 2001, the ambivalences and contradictions in the explanation provided by the researchers from the Centre for Earth Science Studies raised public ire. Following this, the scientific public sphere was transformed into a channel for scientific communication between different groups of researchers who attempted to solve the mystery. In this context a group of researchers proposed that the red colour of the rain was due to biological cells of meteoric origin, against the biologists’ argument that the reason was algal and fungal spores. Skilfully promoting their findings with the help of global media, these researchers surpassed the hierarchies of science. By examining the controversy, the chapter highlights the role of media in helping scientists and the public to engage with a wide range of scientific explanations that were proposed, discussed, and falsified or accepted through a complex deliberative process.

Keywords:   boundary making in science, Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), extraterrestrial life, Fred Hoyle, popular science, postcolonial science, red rain, science and non-science, theory of Panspermia

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