Tech

Can fusion energy be achieved?

Lev Grossman (“Star Power”, in Time, November 2, p. 24-33) calls fusion the “holy grail” of “the quest for clean energy”, and with good reason — it is as elusive as the proverbial unicorn in your garden (with apologies to James Thurber). By this I mean that, although scientists and technologists know what has to…

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Homo naledi, Piltdown and a lesson in African prehistory

Professor Lee Berger and his team of scientists caused a huge stir when they unveiled the skeletal remains of not one, but at least 15 members of a previously unknown hominin species they’d discovered at the Cradle of Mankind. While the team had made no claim to have found the missing link between man and…

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Dear Facebook, colour me unimpressed

On Saturday night I logged onto Facebook and noticed a curious pattern. Several of my friends (and people that Facebook tells me are my friends) had begun changing their profile pictures to a filtered version corresponding with France’s national flag colours: “Show your support for the people of Paris by temporarily updating your profile picture…

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How the #HelloChallenge brought Mzansi closer

Does the internet have the potential to unite people? Or does it merely alienate and isolate its users? It’s a debate that continues to rage on as internet usage increases and more people become netizens. A social media prank that has captured the interest of South Africans proves that the former is possible. It began…

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There are indeed proven solutions to our water and electricity problems

Scientists and entrepreneurs have developed solutions to South Africa’s most pressing problems that have been aggravated by the drought conditions prevailing all over our country. Israel, for example, has for years had to deal with scarce water and its innovations are readily and cheaply available to South Africa. Of course, these solutions need to be…

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Could compulsory UKZN laptops be a game-changer?

On May 7 this year Renuka Vithal, University of KwaZulu-Natal’s deputy vice-chancellor of teaching and learning, sent out an internal email indicating that the university would be adopting Moodle as its on-line learning management system. All disciplines would be required to place first and second-year module material online. And first and second-year students would need…

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Facebook helps restore our humanity (at times)

I am 52 and come from a generation where one can be bewildered by, and dismissive of, the proliferation of instantly accessible information (not knowledge, there are important differences) online. This is often in my hand or in my pocket in the form of my Android. However, I use the social media to my advantage,…

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Emerson, a much-neglected thinker

Ralph Waldo Emerson — the leader of American “Transcendentalism” in the 19th century — has a lot to teach the self-obsessed, narcissistic, smartphone-wielding generation of today. Despite the fact that his famous essay, “Self-Reliance” (1841; available here) is written in the excessively patriarchal language of the time — one might be forgiven for thinking there…

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#FeesMustFall: A movement of shares, likes, tweets and posts

In 2011 Chilean students began a protest movement to challenge the education system of their country. Known as the “Chilean Winter”, their dissatisfaction poured onto social media platforms. The students leveraged these sites to great effect to mobilise fellow academics, draw international support and express their own narratives which were ignored by the media. Fast-forward…

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Parents, think before you post photos of your kids

I’m at an age where several of my fellow millennials are in the full flush of parenthood. My social media feeds are filled with photos and videos of babies and toddlers doing what babies and toddlers do. Of course, not everyone is happy when this happens. The German police released a statement on Facebook last…

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