October 2015
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Science breaks barriers
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
Science that no classroom can teach
SAASTA empowers community
New CEO takes over reins at NRF
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Work shadowing at SAIAB
Field school for students
Meet Dr Zikhona Tetana
Improving technology education
Weather stations in schools
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International Year of Light
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In the news

OSLO – Spread of deserts spurs migrants

 
  Land degradation, such as a spread of deserts in parts of Africa, may drive tens of millions of people from their homes
Land degradation, such as a spread of deserts in parts of Africa, may drive tens of millions of people from their homes, a UN-backed study said. Worldwide, about 52 percent of farmland is already damaged, according to the report by The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD), compiled by 30 research groups around the world.

It estimated that land degradation worldwide costs between $6.3-trillion and $10.6-trillion a year in lost benefits such as production of food, timber, medicines, fresh water, cycling of nutrients or absorption of greenhouse gases. "One third of the world is vulnerable to land degradation; one third of Africa is threatened by desertification," it said.

Such degradation, including from clearance of tropical forests, pollution and over-grazing "can also lead to transboundary migration, and eventually create regional conflicts", it said. The report cited a 2012 UN finding that up to 50 million people could be forced to seek new homes and livelihoods within a decade because of desertification.

Zafar Adeel, director of the UN University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health which contributed to the ELD report, said that it was hard to pin down exact reasons for migration, for instance refugees fleeing Syria for Europe. In May this year, a study in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlighted the link between drought, human-induced climate change and conflict in Syria.

"Human-induced climate change made a multi-year drought the most severe in the observed record," said Colin Kelley of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the Syria study. "The severity of this drought started a cascade of events, namely an agricultural collapse, a mass migration of farming families to the cities in Syria's west, and ultimately conflict," he said.

Source: Reuters

 
LAST ONE: Sudan, in Ol Pejeta reserve in Kenya, is the world's last male northern white rhino. The reserve has launched a funding appeal to save this species through in vitro fertilisation. Photograph: WWF

KWAZULU-NATAL – Hi-tech solution to beat poachers

Rhino in KwaZulu-Natal reserves are being fitted with tracking devices in a bid to stay one step ahead of relentless poaching attacks, while communications between conservation staff will be encrypted so they cannot be intercepted by poaching syndicates.

The tracking programme, announced on September 22 to mark World Rhino Day, is the first of four high-technology projects being implemented by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife in partnership with the Peace Parks Foundation.

So far a test group of rhino have been fitted with sensors and the game reserves equipped with tracking systems so rangers can monitor the animals' movements. Within the next month, 20 rhino will have been fitted with the devices. The sensors will enable rangers to keep an eye on the rhino, to get to the scene fast if a rhino is attacked – which may mean they are able to save the animal – and are likely to help in making arrests. Rangers will monitor rhino with the devices to ensure these do not interfere with the animals' behaviour or health.

The other three anti-poaching projects are improvements in gate control, security and surveillance infrastructure, and top-of-the-range digital communications.

Source: IOL

 
LONDON – Searching for lost tribes of prehistoric Britain

Archaeologists are searching for the lost tribes of prehistoric Britain – at the bottom of the North Sea.

In a ground-breaking operation, scientists plan to search for evidence of Stone Age human activity on Britain's very own "Atlantis" – a vast prehistoric land, once located between England and southern Scandinavia, which was engulfed by rising sea levels about 7 500 years ago.

The multimillion-pound project is the largest of its kind ever attempted anywhere in the world and will lead to the development by British scientists of a range of new scientific techniques. Past survey work in the southern part of the North Sea has identified some of the vanished territory's original river valleys - and it is two of those now long-drowned valleys that the scientists will target in their search.

The archaeologists plan to recover ancient pollen, insects and DNA from plants and animals, and to use high definition survey techniques to accurately rediscover what the lost Stone Age landscape looked like, what vegetation flourished there and how humans used the environment. The project will reveal the culture and lifestyle of the generations of prehistoric Britons who flourished there for 6 000 years until it finally disappeared beneath the waves in the middle of the sixth millennium BC.

This "British Atlantis" originally covered about 100 000 square miles of what is now the North Sea. However, following the end of the Ice Age, thousands of cubic miles of sub-Arctic ice started to melt and sea levels began to rise worldwide between 8000BC and 6000BC.

Gradually, most of the 100 000 square miles became permanently inundated – and by 6500BC, the remnants of the dwindling North Sea territory had become a 140-mile-long, approximately 100-mile-wide island, nicknamed Doggerland. Over the centuries, this too gradually shrank and was finally overwhelmed by the waves in around 5500 BC.

Within the next few weeks the scientists will start sinking bore holes into the drowned Stone Age land surfaces in order to extract samples of ancient earth. Hundreds of such samples will be taken to laboratories at the universities of Bradford, Warwick, Lampeter, St Andrews and Birmingham where scientists will separate out seeds, pollen, potential DNA material and tiny fragments of broken flint – tell-tale evidence of the manufacturing of flint tools.

Using sonar and high-definition seismic equipment, the archaeologists will also produce more refined 3D maps of the original landscape and its topography. It is conceivable that they may even locate Stone Age structures.

The archaeologist leading the entire North Sea investigation, Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford, believes that the project will transform the academic world's understanding of how northern Europe was re-colonised by humanity when climatic conditions became warmer about 12 000 years ago – only for the communities to be wiped out when sea levels rose.

Source: The Independent

 
Time-lapse of a Monarch butterfly's metamorphosis

In the video you can see the metamorphosis of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

It may be the most familiar North American butterfly, and is considered an iconic pollinator species. The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico. During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of kilometres, with a corresponding multi-generational return north.

Monarchs were transported to the International Space Station and were bred there.

The video was captured by FrontYardVideo over two weeks: the time it takes for the Monarch butterfly to transform from a green caterpillar into a vivid tawny-orange, black and white butterfly.

Sources: Popular Mechanics, Wikipedia
Video credit: FrontYardVideo