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Johannesburg scientists fight back against poachers with radioactive chips

Johannesburg scientists fight back against poachers with radioactive chips

SCIENTISTS at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand are implanting radioactive chips into rhino horns in what promises to disrupt the poaching trade. Embedding tiny, harmless radioactive isotopes into rhino horns of living rhinoceross would enable precise tracking and monitoring, making it nearly impossible for smugglers to move the horns undetected. The Rhisotope Project, founded in 2021 by Professor James Larkin, began with the injection of chips into the first of 20 rhinos last month. It has already shown significant promise and comes at a critical time, as rhino populations continue to dwindle due to relentless poaching driven by the…
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20 years ago South Africa had 40 qualified astronomers – all white. How it’s opened space science and developed skills since then

20 years ago South Africa had 40 qualified astronomers – all white. How it’s opened space science and developed skills since then

SOUTH African astronomy started an important journey two decades ago when an initiative to attract and train future scientists in the field welcomed its first group of students under the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme. World-class facilities have been established during this period, the most notable of which are the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and the MeerKAT radio telescope, a precursor to the international Square Kilometre Array. They added to the South African Astronomical Observatory and Hartebeesthoek Radio Observatory which existed already. The National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme has played a vital role in ensuring that these…
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Meteorite discovery: unusual finds by South African farmer add to space rock heritage

Meteorite discovery: unusual finds by South African farmer add to space rock heritage

METEORITES – fragments of rock that have fallen to Earth from space in spectacularly fiery meteors – have been the subject of public fascination, awe, myths and even religious worship for thousands of years. In recent decades they’ve become a cosmic Rosetta Stone for scientists investigating the birth throes of our solar system and the organic life it hosts. Meteorites are therefore rightly classified by many countries as an integral part of communal natural heritage and are sought after by museums and private collectors. ROGER LAWRENCE GIBSON, Professor of Structural Geology and Metamorphic Petrology, University of the Witwatersrand South Africa,…
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Scientists reveal hidden corridor in Great Pyramid of Giza

Scientists reveal hidden corridor in Great Pyramid of Giza

AIDAN LEWIS A hidden corridor nine metres (30 feet) long has been discovered close to the main entrance of the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza, and this could lead to further findings, Egyptian antiquities officials said on Thursday. The discovery within the pyramid, the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing, was made under the Scan Pyramids project since 2015 and has been using non-invasive technology including infrared thermography, 3D simulations and cosmic-ray imaging to peer inside the structure. An article published in the journal Nature on Thursday said the discovery could contribute to knowledge about the…
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Festive bulge: scientists offer advice on how to beat overeating

Festive bulge: scientists offer advice on how to beat overeating

CHRISTMAS and New Year are holidays with dietary excesses that many of us cannot control. This often leads to the “festive bulge”. As the holidays approach, could there be a recipe to contain this weight gain and pave the way to sustainable nutrition-based health at the same time? There’s a lot of focus on what we eat and how much we eat – but what about when we eat? Chrononutrition is the science of how timing affects our responses to nutrients. Scientific insights into when we eat suggest it may be worth exploring for better health. Authors THOMAS C. ERREN,…
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COVID: WHO recommends two new treatments – here’s how they work

COVID: WHO recommends two new treatments – here’s how they work

BACK in early 2020, if you got ill with COVID there were no proven treatments for doctors to give you – it was one of the main things that made this disease so scary. Fast forward to 2021 and scientists have since uncovered a handful of options, but the hunt is continuing. More than 5,000 trials for COVID drugs are registered or ongoing. Author FILIPA HENDERSON SOUSA, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Infectious Diseases, Edinburgh Napier University Thankfully, these are now bearing fruit. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently added two additional drugs to its COVID treatment guidelines. COVID disease…
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Scientists propose tax on meat and livestock to help avert future pandemics

Scientists propose tax on meat and livestock to help avert future pandemics

THIN LEI WIN  POLICY makers should consider levying taxes on livestock production and meat consumption to reduce the risk of future deadly pandemics, international experts have said, as they published a study calling for better protection of nature. "Over-consumption of meat... (is) bad for our health. It's unsustainable in terms of environmental impact. It's also a driver of pandemic risk," Peter Daszak, a zoologist who chaired the study, told journalists at its launch. Outbreaks of influenza viruses and new pandemic strains have emerged largely because of "incredibly dense production of poultry and pigs in some parts of the world, driven…
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As the world changes, science does too — and that’s a good thing

As the world changes, science does too — and that’s a good thing

THE term “Industry 4.0” has been used for years to describe the need for societies to adapt their work and productivity to the “4th Industrial Revolution”, in which new technologies bridge the virtual, physical and biological domains. These terms have become so dominant that governments have adopted them into their policies and planning. CAROLINA ODMAN, Associate Professor, University of the Western Cape KEVIN GOVENDER, Director, International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development Against this backdrop it is important to ask whether – and how – the world of science is effectively adapting to an ever more connected and data…
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Five principles that should guide future DNA ‘editing’ in South Africa

Five principles that should guide future DNA ‘editing’ in South Africa

IN recent years there have been several major innovations in genetics. One prominent example is CRISPR-Cas9, a novel biotechnology derived from bacteria that could be used to make precise changes to specific locations in the human genome – our DNA. BONGINKOSI SHOZI, Doctoral Fellow with the UKZN African Health Research Flagship, University of KwaZulu-Natal MARIETJIE BOTES, Post Doctoral Fellow, University of KwaZulu-Natal Scientists could use CRISPR-Cas9 and similar technologies to eliminate genetic diseases by using germline cells (gametes and embryos). This is known as germline editing; a child born from modified gametes or embryos will have such “edits” in their…
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Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid coronavirus surge

Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid coronavirus surge

DEVJYOT GOSHLAL and KRISHNA N. DAS A forum of scientific advisers set up by the government warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters. Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition…
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