Abstract: When the Proteas take to the pitch they become unfortunate Lords of a war where only innocent people get killed... Watching the Proteas in action in Australia I am struck with a feeling of utter disappointment; not because of how they are playing, but because they have been dragged into peddling misery, injury and even death. There's a remarkable opening sequence in the recent Nicholas Cage film Lord of War. As the credits are fired onto the screen, the viewer follows a single 7.62mm round from its birth to a death. We see it manufactured in a grimy Russian factory then sorted, boxed, delivered via ship to a war-torn African country, selected by a drugged-up soldier, pressed into the magazine of his AK47, loaded into the rifle's chamber and then fired at a target. It misses, and instead you see it smashing into
Abstract: Whether we like it or not, Idols makes idiots of us all... The joke goes a little like this: How do you know when Idols is on M-Net? When your dog scrambles under the sofa...Like Idols, there's a faint touch of reality to this joke. Apparently, dogs panic at the sound of other dogs howling in pain. Tomorrow, we know, about 3 000 children in sub-Saharan Africa will die of malaria. South Africa rather wants to know who's going to win Idols. The word 'perspective' pops into mind. I have been following the developments in Idols with disinterest. So called 'reality shows' just don't do it for me. Maybe it has something to do with the blatant lack of reality, or because my hackles rise whenever someone tries to dress up a Yorkie as an attack dog. But then I remind myself it's all
Abstract: Something that fits in your pocket did, and something else in your pocket might bring them back... For some reason the original title was abandoned in favour of Networks killed the radio star, iPods might bring them back. For me this is like going to see The Empire Strikes Back and the guy in front of you telling you that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father. Quick...name me ten top stars of South African radio. I'm not surprised if you're battling a bit, although I should be. Johannesburg has more radio stations with more money being thrown at them than any other city in this country. Most of the so-called big name radio personalities are on Johannesburg-based radio stations. So we should all know who they are. But we don't, and the reason why we don't fits into your pocket. It's money. Over the past
Abstract: the biggest challenge to radio as we know it is here in the palm of our hands. As far back as June 2006, I prophesied in my column in the Saturday Star that commercial radio was about to be revolutionised by a small device that fits into the palm of your hand. I was right, albeit a little conservative in my analysis. This device has indeed brought about dramatic changes, but to the extent that traditional radio as you and I know it could very soon be over. The device is the iPod and its family, which, since my column has now grown to incorporate the iTouch and the iPhone. They are, as you know, personal music players, but the latter two, and their imitators are the ones that really threaten the traditional role of the commercial radio station. For what is going to
Abstract: "Love you with all my heart"? A scientific impossibility, I'm afraid... One of the downfalls of being brought up in a home that embraced the pursuit of knowledge through robust and empirical scientific process is that I find this time of the year really gets up my nose. And I'm not talking about hay fever. My father was, during the 1960s, one of Europe's leading scientists. He was, by all accounts, something of a genius. Computers were his area of expertise, but his real love was scientific enquiry and the quest for logical thought. And he shared it with me in his own special way. He explained why Spock was the coolest character on Star Trek because he was purely logical in his thinking and didn't let piffly little things like emotions get in the way of his duties as First Officer on
Abstract: SKA Africa employs systems engineers. So what do they do?... Carl Sagan was probably the world's greatest systems thinker. Over the course of 13 episodes of his seminal 1980s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage he managed to weave a thread through the billions of galaxies, the billions of neurons in the human brain, and everything in between, and in the process make us wonder about our purpose in the universe. If he were alive today he'd see those connections taking shape at SKA Africa in the minds and work of the systems engineers. According to SKA Research Professor at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Chairman of the SKA Cosmology Working Group, Roy Maartens, researchers at SKA Africa have "devised a means of using the world's largest telescope in new ways that will help shape the future of cosmology". That
Abstract: How can we expect to win by 'working together for a better South Africa'? We each need to take our respective bows... As far as international sport is concerned, August was a month of mixed blessings for South Africa: We were emasculated in Sri Lanka; in Athens we scored what SABC radio news called a 'haul' of medals (less gold medals than a single swimmer - Michael Phelps - and only a few more in total than we collected 12 years ago in Barcelona); and yet we powered our way to victory in the Tri-Nations. Does this mean our cricket team are pathetic, our athletes kind of so-so, but our rugby team are kings of the world? No. But it does convey the impression that magic muti works. Think about it. Other than sheer bulk, what is it that our rugby team had that
Abstract: Why women can run government departments but can't drive taxis... When I heard the announcement of the new provincial premiers I thought immediately of Athens. You see 44% of athletes taking part in this year's Summer Olympics will be women. This is not surprising seeing there are so many of them around - women, that is, not athletes. Similarly, 44% of South African provincial premiers are women. Again, statistically speaking this shouldn't be all that startling given the large number of women there are in this country. And yet the media's commentators seemed genuinely shocked that so many women had "made it". It was as if a national soccer coach had just trawled through the crowd and picked people at random to play for his side on the day of a World Cup final. Perhaps this has something to do with another statistic: it's
Abstract: There's been a nasty shift in South African journalism...
Swimming upstream is a challenging endeavour - ask any salmon - but when the end task is a noble one, even if death - as in the case of the Pacific salmon - follows shortly thereafter, it can be argued that it's worth it. However, fighting against a tide of tabloid journalism has left science journalists wondering if it isn't easier to completely change species.
Anyone entrusted with trying to get more science and critical thinking into the media, will be familiar with the edict of most editors that their readers, viewers or listeners 'don't have an appetite for science'. This is of course utterly ridiculous because we are all consumers of science; there isn't a single element to our lives, and how we live it, that isn't examined or improved on by science.