Tech

The aeronautics behind SAA’s unprofitability

Let me just say it straight up — neither President Jacob Zuma nor SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni are to be blamed for the operational unprofitability of SAA. South Africans are currently rallying together in the #ZumaMustFall campaign, which was in part triggered by the removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, allegedly due to…

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Idoru: Gibson’s astonishing glimpse of virtual reality’s future

William Gibson — creator of Neuromancer, among other gripping sci-fi novels — has arguably delved even further into the latent possibilities, or what Gilles Deleuze called virtualities, of the information revolution, in his quotidian dimension-surpassing novel, Idoru (Penguin 1996), one of the so-called Bridge trilogy. So much so that Peter Popham in the Independent commented…

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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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