Category: Science

SciFest Africa ‘rediscovers’ Periodic Table

THE theme for this year’s SciFest is “Discover Your Element”, which celebrates the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, as proclaimed by the United Nations.

South Africa’s National Science Festival, “SciFest Africa” from 6-12 March 2019 in Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape, will also be celebrating its 23rd anniversary.

The theme also commemorates several anniversaries in the history of chemistry including the 150th anniversary of the periodic table’s creation by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, 350 years since the discovery of phosphorous, the categorisation of 33 elements in 1789 by Lavoiser’s and Döbereiner’s law of triads in 1829.

While the theme is chemistry orientated, it also encourages  visitors to explore the many exciting exhibitions and workshops at #Scifest2019 to uncover their passion within the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

For the first time in Scifest Africa’s history, the 2019 festival will be curated by Dr Stephen Ashworth from the University of East Anglia (UK), who will also deliver the Brian Wilmot Lecture at the official opening of this year’s festival. Scifest Africa looks forward to welcoming the Department of Science and Technology delegation, led by Director-General Dr Phil Mjwara, who will give the official opening address.

Scifest Africa’s 2019 festival lecture programme offers a remarkable list of lecturers and researchers from South Africa and abroad, who will be sharing their wealth of knowledge with us. Many of our guest speakers are women, which pays tribute to the well-earned recognition and respect that these Women in Science have received thus far.

Notable speakers include theoretical physicist and Mars One Astronaut Candidate Dr Adriana Marais, Dr Daniel Cunnama (South African Astronomical Observatory), Dr Lotte Lens (Institute for Heavy Ion Research), Dr Robert Scerri (University of California). Dr Mathabatha Setati’s lecture is supported by the Department of Science & Technology’s Women in Science Award Programme. 15-year-old Eskom Expo for Young Scientists awardee of the Science Communication Prize, Lunga Nkosi, will also give a lecture on her latest ground-breaking research.

All interactive events that are not classified as exhibitions, lectures or workshops fall under the Etcetera section of the official festival programme. One such event is a special live show hosted by BBC World Service’s CrowdScience, where presenters Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia will be joined by a panel of experts to answer questions sent in by listeners on everything from space travel to solar power. Questions can be sent to: crowdscience@bbc.co.uk.

More information

Principles of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

However, HRC considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice.

  • Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
  • Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
  • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
  • Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
  • Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
  • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
  • Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.

Source: Harm Reduction Coalition 

A PBMR in every home, you got to be joking?

PBMR safety? You got to be kidding

PBMR safety? You go to be kidding

SOUTH AFRICAN apartheid energy throwback, Eskom has announced its latest scheme to “find other uses for the PBMR”. Hawking white elephants around the globe in a time of economic crisis might seem like a bad joke if it weren’t for the seriousness of nuclear proliferation in an age of cross-border war, the high probability of an accident resulting in contamination, emissions and radiation and the high chance that human error will compound problems related to economic greed.

Unlike conventional nuclear plants, the PBMR is a technology that does not have any safety features other than the strange and untested claim that the nuclear pebbles are better for you, (in fact so better for you that they may even beat organic lettuce and tofu in a head-to-head competition for palatability, reliability and sustain-wattability, see below) For instance there is no containment building in the actual design, “perhaps to make the design economically feasible” proposes, Anthony Frogget a researcher at Heinrich Boll Stiftung. Surely Eskom is asking a bit much from the public to continue bankrolling a couple of atomic pebbles whose safety is in question, spending money that according to Richard Worthington, could be better spent on solar power?

I therefore offer you some uses for the mothballed PBMR you might not have thought of:

  1. Ultra-expensive paper-weight on the next President’s pebble-desk.
  2. Hot-water heater for HIV-free showers and extra-marital sex parlours.
  3. Julius Malema would look good next to the PBMR
  4. PBMR makes wonderful neighbour, great for bringing down property prices.
  5. If you had a PBMR in your backyard, you probably are not losing any sleep over the cellphone radiation issue and don’t mind microwaves from nearby relay masts. So let’s just up the dose even further and wait until the cost of x-rays come down.
  6. Police decoy on the Cape Flats, if the toxic waste gets stolen we won’t have to worry about it.
  7. PBMR makes for a brighter future for the SABC board who won’t have to worry about their hairdos since they will all be bald, and glow in the dark.
  8. The Proudly South Africa campaign can now be renamed Proud to have a Rare form of Cancer thanks to the PBMR campaign!
  9. If the Springbok rugby team had a PBMR they wouldn’t have to worry about not scoring because the other team wouldn’t bother to show up, ditto for our Olympic athletes.
  10. We could send the PBMR to Zimbabwe where it would deflect attention away from Robert Mugabe and inflation by keeping a starving, yet happy population busy figuring out the half-life of radiation and the value of Strontium 90.
  11. The Day After and China Syndrome, are two super-scary flieks about nuclear contamination but if we put the PBMR in the Karoo, we could sell tickets to the next End of the World movie, along with scary disfigured mutant rodents and wild Proteas that really eat people.
  12. Not to worry, Eskom says PBMR waste could be sent to the Middle of the Sun, using a R50 billion space rocket that will cost R300 trillion rand to launch.
  13. The People’s Republic of Blakvakistan wants one so that they can threaten the free world with atomic cigars and glow-in-the-dark missiles after the price of oil collapses.
  14. We could send the PBMR to the Middle East where it would bring about world peace by killing everyone there who isn’t dead already. Ban Ki-Moon included.
  15. Finally, PBMR is better than owning a PVR and watching Charlize Theron and Sevende Laan and provides hours of entertainment for the whole family. If you buy one from Eskom, we’ll throw in a complimentary set of steak knives, rubber gloves and a decontamination suit.

BIRD FLU: Ducking the moral high ground

AFTER the recent Bird Flu debacle, science is unlikely to recover from its distorted exaggerations of a 50 person “pandemic” effecting millions. That’s right, haven’t we heard this all before, from none other than the AIDS lobbey? Asymptotic graphs and thumbsuck statistics reaching out into infinity instead of the usual plateau of reason that gives scale to proportion?

Nature invariably strikes a balance, which is why I find the kind of scare-mongering going on in the media sickening. Don’t you just hate the way the Bird Flu lobbey like AIDS activism, has seized the moral high ground? You’re not hip unless you’re a condom-waving, std-carrying, drug-user dragging a dead pigeon around while screaming about the problems of salmonella in Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Instead of open-minded debate on either side, we’ve witnessed shouting matches, skulduggery and worse — the suppression and stifling of opinion in exchange for badly shaded political correctness and a new age politics that does absolutely nothing for traditional left values such as openness, transparency and the right to dissent. Could it be that Bird Flu and AIDS activism is just a new form of conservativism in disguise?

An irrational politicking that instead of preaching tolerance, clothes itself in the activism of the eighties (along with public lynchings and mob justice) while demanding that we all buy into the mythology of pandemic, global disaster, end-of-the-worldism (which like bird flu is all about blowing statistics out of proportion) — less than 100 people die in Thailand and that’s a “pandemic”?

There is still a lot about viruses that we don’t know. As the H5N1 mutates, along with HIV, the bird population builds up immunity. As immunity within the population increases, the risk diminishes and what one sees is a leveling off of the supposed disaster. The lesson of the 1918 flu outbreak isn’t that hundreds of people died, the lesson is that hundreds more survived.

Extrapolate this to HIV. Simply via the activity of sexual reproduction, human beings pass on antibodies which confer immunity from infection. However, the New Age Science of today, has demanded that we forget this. Essentially we are told by silicon valley industrialists, that there is no such thing as immunity, and human beings are basically computers, unable to evolve without outside intervention.

That’s right, according to scientists, we are all in need of the latest software patch, be it bird flu, HIV, or salmonella. This machine-age logic does wonders for generating finance in a capital-intensive industry. A “biotechnology” that strips away nature and imposes its own worldview on human social interaction. Drug companies want to make money. Activists need a cause to celebrate. The two groups make for interesting rhetoric, but the damage to ones sense of the universe is measured in increasing anxiety as alarm bells keep ringing, but only for a millennial urgency that is nothing more than a feathery “institutionalised psychosis”.

The real psychotics like Zachie Achmat and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang start running the show, and soon, one can’t do anything or say anything out of fear of being exposed as an AIDS or BIRD FLU dissident. Which is being unkind I guess, to both camps, of course one wants a government that is efficient and takes action, a state that reacts to the latest outbreak of whatever bug is out there, and activism that rings those bells whenever they need to be tolled, but do we, the public, need to constantly worry about all these bugs, magnified through a looking glass, as they are, and amplified by a new science that blows all sense of proportion?

Initially I thought drug companies wanted to make money and activists just wanted a cause to celebrate. Now I believe there is a third force of opportunists who just want to cash-in on the resulting chaos. That’s about all for now ducky.

[DRL has been placed under discursive sanctions by the Independent Group for his contrarian views on AIDS and other topics>/i>]