Karoo at the forefront of future space travel navigation

The Karoo’s vast expanse of desert will introduce 3000 radio telescopes as part of an initiative by Square Kilometer Array to discover new planets, stars and possibly extraterrestrial life.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a world renowned radio astronomer, presented a talk as part of the SKA science conference yesterday evening at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) building in Stellenbosch. The presentation ranged from pulsating radio stars, also known as pulsars, to the unique possibilities that these special stars may offer the global community.

Burnell, an Irish astrophysicist is known for her work in the discovery of pulsars. Experts like Burnell believe that these stars have the potential to aid in navigation through galaxies, acting as beacons or lighthouses for space ships of the future. Burnell has not ruled out the possibility of finding life on other planets and the study of these pulsars could play a large role in this discovery.

“We believe life can be sustained when water is in its liquid form. The chances of a planet in our universe having liquid water are extremely high. The question is not if there is life on other planets but what we will do with this information once it arrives,” states Burnell.

Dr. Adrian Tiplady, the SKA Site Bid Manager spoke of the plans for the Karoo and its leap into space study, “The project kicks off in March 2014 and by 2022 we will see the last telescope erected.”

The first phase of the SKA project is the introduction of the radio telescope dubbed MeerKAT. MeerKAT will be the largest centimeter wavelength telescope in the Southern Hemisphere once completed.

“There will be a couple hundred dishes, or little radio telescopes, scattered around the Karoo and used to pick up radio waves from distant galaxies,” states Burnell. “The Square Kilometer Array will enable us to see all the pulsars in our galaxy that point our way, which will be about 10 times the amount of what we know at the moment.”

The Karoo was chosen as the location for SKA as it has a low inhabitation of people and low radio interference. Mobile phones emit large interference which is why a large, open, uninhabited area was chosen.

“South Africa in the near future is going to play a special part in radio astronomy,” states Bell.

A pulsar is the shrunken core of an exploded star. This relatively small, extremely dense star rotates at incredible speeds around its own axis. This rotation produces the sound which radio telescopes can gather and in this way, locate pulsars all over the universe.


The life and times of now

By Anthony Molyneaux

On the 17th of March 2014, scientists and radio astronomers made a spectacular breakthrough. The big bang made a giant leap toward unquestionable evidence of its existence, lending itself toward our existence. Radio astronomers detected ripples in the fabric of space-time. These ripples are called gravitational waves and show proof of a catastrophic event happening 13.8 billion years ago which created our universe.

Debates over the Earth’s age and how it was formed have undergone many changes over the past 200 years due to scientific discoveries and works by scientists. Questions of how long human beings have been on Earth and how we came about have also been discussed.

On the 24th November 1859, Charles Darwin’s book called “On the Origin of Species” was published. This publication spoke of natural selection and was the one of the biggest players in evolutionary biology.

People’s ideas of time and the universe have grossly changed since the mid-19th century due to findings and scientific studies such as these. With science came change as the proof of something measurable was paramount against the theories and teachings of some churches and leaders. Our perceptions of time and the importance of the Earth in the make-up of the universe have altered immensely.

We now know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. Our solar system is probably 4-5 billion years old and that Earth is definitely not at the centre of the universe. So how did the concept of time change? And what has it done for our societies?

A simple example given to us as the life span of Earth and humans relative to the big bang exists in University of Rochester’s detailed Department of Physics and Astronomy website.

“If we compress the time since the Big Bang into one year, and make the time of the Big Bang January 1, then the Earth was formed in mid-September. The mammals would arrive just after Christmas (25 December) and all of human prehistory (from the first known stone tools) and current history have occurred in the last 1/2 hour of New Year’s Eve.”

Creationists have fought hard against the big bang theory and evolution – They have taught that the Earth is 6000 years old, that Earth is at the centre of the universe and man was created by the power of God. Throughout time there have been many ideas and beliefs over the creation of the cosmos. Creation stories all have similar backgrounds. The Hebrews, for example, believed the universe was created by God in 6 days, beginning from a formless void.

In the twenty-first century things have changed. The research from ‘Opinions on evolution from ten countries July 2nd, 2009, National Center for Science Education’ and the BBC’s Survey, “On The Origins Of Life” recorded figures in areas such as Canada, India, Norway and the U.K. 48% and above of the population believe in evolution and the big bang theory.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, about 43% of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Time, being a human construct, is a difficult thing to define, yet it provides us with a framework to live by. In 2014 we know now that we as a species have been in existence for a frightfully short period of time in the bigger scale of things.

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, also made his feelings known about creationists. He stated that he believed the creationist view “threaten science education and innovations in The United States.” Schools have undergone changes due to the discoveries of science. People for the American Way polled 1500 North Americans about the teaching of evolution and creation in 1999. The results showed that 29% believed that creationism can be discussed in class as a belief, not a scientific theory. Twenty percent believed only evolution should be taught in public schools.

Humans were seen as the superior being across the galaxies, a chosen people, just a few hundred years ago. Times are changing; excuse the pun, yet our importance shouldn’t be underestimated due to further knowledge, says the famous astrophysicist Dr Neil Degrasse Tyson. He speaks of our worthiness in our universe,

“When I look up at the night sky, I know that we are a part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps most important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us. Many people look up and feel small as the universe is so big. Yet, I feel big because my atoms came from those stars. There is a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want from life, you want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. That’s precisely what you are, just by being alive.”

Homeless and ‘voteless’

Eight thousand out of the estimated 60 000 Delhi homeless, received their election identity cards on the 10th of April, 2014. For the first time in India’s history, the homeless can vote. Eight hundred and fourteen million people are eligible to vote, making it the world’s largest election to date, according to the BBC.

The election identity cards can open a bank account, allow free train services and cooking gas connections. Do the homeless in South Africa have the same benefits? Will the South African homeless vote in the upcoming elections on the 7th of May, 2014? Anthony Molyneaux heads out to the streets of Cape Town to figure out how the homeless feel about voting 20 years after democracy.

“The homeless are very eager to go and vote because they feel it is their democratic right. Particularly our black and coloured residents, they feel a little more encouraged to vote as it’s a practice they weren’t allowed before,” states Jerry Louw, manager at The Haven Night Shelter in Greenpoint in Cape Town.

The Haven’s vision, “No one should have to live on our streets,” lines their business card and Jerry has been involved in homeless shelters since 2003. “You do pick up that some people feel they aren’t accounted for and some feel, look what’s the point, I’m homeless, what’s the point of voting? But it’s misguided and we try and help them with information.”

Man in Cape Town city, sleeping alongside a busy street.

Man in Cape Town city, sleeping alongside a busy street.

The large cool cemented floors lead the way through the shelter. AB, a 30-something-year-old man with dark circles around his eyes and a slow drawl guides me through the bare halls of the residence where 100 otherwise-homeless people sleep. A large open plan eating area leads to the outdoor courtyard where a dozen of the residents are scattered in various reclined positions, one of the residents shifts his mangled mattress out of the sun.

AB is the field worker for Haven Night Shelter. His job is to hit the streets, locate homeless people and inform them about the options the city makes available to them.

The Haven has rehabilitative programmes in place to assist the residents. They’re assisted in gaining their Identity Documents [ID] in order to vote, a prerequisite to take part in the upcoming elections. They are also helped by social workers like Lucia Peterson in overcoming their troubles which include domestic violence and drug abuse.

“Yes, of course I’m voting,” Denise Nel, a 40-something-year-old lady, still in her narrow bed, states happily. She has been working in an initiative setup by Patricia de Lille for homeless people. “We’re being paid to clean the streets at night and I’ve been staying here [the Haven] for 6 months but I feel great because I’ve got a job. A lot of people here at Haven will go vote and I’m grateful for the government and the shelter for getting me a job and helping me.”

Haven gains its funding from the city of Cape Town and the National Lottery. Donations by large shopping chains allows the residents to eat fresh produce from nearby grocery stores. This is appreciated by most residents I speak with at the shelter and is one of the common reasons that lead to the general enthusiasm for voting.

But what about those even less fortunate? Those on the streets that cannot get a bed in a shelter as there are no vacancies (these shelters have a slow turnover and can only accommodate 95 people per night), no money (a bed costs R10 a night) or no assistance? Are they also excited about voting?

Man on train. Sleeping in a safe place when you are homeless is hard to find.

Man on train. Sleeping in a safe place when you are homeless is hard to find.

The 5 cent meal service offered in Cape Town’s city bowl is visited by predominantly homeless people; the people who don’t have the benefits of the shelters. The grassy patch opposite the brick-faced building is spotted with countless groups of ragged looking individuals waiting for their lunch.

Alwyn Pieterson, clad in a reflector vest and tattered brown jeans sits in the shade of a grocery store sign waiting for his first, and probably last, meal of the day. “A guy was stabbed here last year while in line. He tried to push in and was stabbed to death. But don’t worry you can still go, there’s a security guard here now,” he states with a mischievous grin.

“I’m not voting because I don’t have an ID.” Upon asking why he doesn’t try to get one he sneers, “I lost it when I first came to Cape Town. Now it costs me R270 to get my ID, I don’t have money for that.” Checking on the Department of Home Affairs website, a re-issuing of an ID actually costs R140 ($14) but this is still a lot of money for a man literally on the street.

A group of three sitting on the sun-laden grass embankment are not voting either. “We don’t have ID’s and don’t have money to get one.” When questioned what they think about the elections, the young lady named Lesley, lying against her boyfriend’s chest, barks “They’re corrupt. They promise things and don’t deliver. They’re racist and don’t care about us.” The group all nods in agreement.

A hard looking man with jail tattoos along his right arm sits in the shade of a small palm tree. His eyes stare toward the distant mountain. He too is not voting as he has no ID and has no motivation to get one.

Except for a few vague comments of racism and corruption, there seems to be a general knowledge of the importance of their vote. It seems the problem for the homeless, in terms of voting, isn’t apathy or indifference as much it is a lack of money and/or services. The homeless outside of the shelters require IDs, IDs require money and they have neither.

The issue is not so much in whether the South African homeless vote or not, it’s whether they have the facilities and funds to vote. For a lucky few in shelters like the Haven, assistance with funding for IDs and eliminating technicalities motivates the homeless to vote.

The majority on the street however, have no assistance. They can survive by the generosity of 5c meals yet when R140 is needed to attain an ID, this proves to be too much. Why would they save the R10 they’ve scrounged for the whole day to pay for an ID? The thought of voting gets lost in their survival from day to day.

Homeless man busking in tunnel. On average buskers make R5-R10 ($1) a day. Re-issuing of an ID costs R140 ($14) in South Africa

Homeless man busking in tunnel. On average buskers make R5-R10 ($1) a day. Re-issuing of an ID costs R140 ($14) in South Africa

Many homeless living on the streets will miss out on the opportunity to lay down their mark but not due to their perception of being let down by government. It is because they don’t have the resources to get what they need to vote. A larger social issue is raised. The shelters are progressing and rehabilitating the homeless but do we have enough shelters for our ever growing homeless, ‘voteless’ people?

India has introduced the free of charge election identity document for their less fortunate. Perhaps this idea, implemented in South Africa in election years, might assist in the voting of the large number of homeless people who go otherwise unnoticed and unaccounted for.

Short films and skate parks

Marcel Swanepoel at the Gardens skate park, Cape Town, The park is set to open in July 2014.

From the studio to the streets, from architecture to film, Marcel Swanepoel thrives on not producing ‘average work’. Anthony Molyneaux discovers what his ever changing existence is like and what he thinks our ‘everything-all-the-time’ generation is searching for.

The unfinished skate park lies quietly under the yellow light of Cape Town’s lampposts. Marcel examines the rubble and construction of the steps, half pipes and rail placements. “Our company, Epitome, wants to produce a video for this park and display it on the back wall on the day this skate park opens. We love skating, film and Cape Town and want to be a part of this venture. We just can’t get through the hierarchy at the moment.”

Marcel is working on a host of his own short films. Some animated, others shot in real time. One of the films called “Through the Fire” depicts a monster like creature, down and out lying on a couch, dismayed by the life of routine and its orthodox environment. The monster is contrasted in the short film by Lilly, a young child who instead enjoys the life of routine. Lilly is depicted as a happy-go-lucky being, thriving on the routine of life that the unhappy monster can’t stand.

“I have a phobia of normality, I was brought up in routine, society placed me in routine throughout my younger years and I needed to break free from this,” he states while stroking his week old beard.

Sparkling neon lit slot machines with names such as ‘Kitty Glitter’, ‘Russian Treasure’ and ‘Indian Dreaming’ illuminate an otherwise bland, square room at the back of a quaint pizzeria. The type of place one would expect the mob to meet. Framed photos of drunken customers sporting vuvuzelas and soccer scarves line the wooden walls.

Marcel Swanepoel, a 28-year-old man, now sits across from me with a woolen beanie concealing his short disheveled hair. He drags hard on his cigarette, creating an orange furnace at the end of his fingertips.

The tiny silver ball attached below his left lower lip jumps up and down his beard laden face as he details his enjoyment of the otherwise empty room.

“A room can create comfort, calm or distress without you even knowing it.” He casually sips on his golden beer in between the drags of his hot cigarette and his explanation.

“Architecture is a wonderful concept; it’s a way to manipulate your environment. That’s why I went into it but I realized that I wanted more creativity than architecture could offer.”

Film is where Marcel finds his freedom, his passion to share his ideas and concepts with the world.

“In film I can manipulate space and environment infinitely with no rules or overseeing authority.”

Another cigarette is lit, his eye movements rove the ceiling in an attempt to formulate his words and concepts. “Little pieces of myself get into them [short films]. People wear masks for different occasions and I thrive on this fakeness. I call myself ‘the fake Marcel’ as I too adopt these facades.”

“Every person I meet can offer something. Getting to know people is my number one thing in this world. I love trying to break through these facades to get through to the real person.”

Marcel has studied many things in his 28 years. He started with Math. The idea of creating new theorems enticed him into the field of mathematics. After a year in this field, he changed to Engineering as this was less confining than math and he yearned to create something physical. After two years in Engineering, the creativity he desired was not satisfied. Architecture was next. The concept of developing and designing enticed him and he continued to gain his master’s degree in this field. However, this too provided too many obstacles to his creative nature.

Marcel now works for a ‘small time production company’ called Epitome with his step brother, Renico van Wyk. Film now caters to his creative streak while he lectures part time at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Architecture.


“I believe I have a lot of valuable thoughts and ideas that could influence society”

The problem comes about as society is the very factor that’s preventing him from producing his ‘masterworks’.

Marcel refers to our society as an “everything-all-the-time generation.” Marcel believes that our current society has learned to adapt to everything coming at us at once due to the ease of information that the internet has brought us. Skimming the surface like a skipping stone, only taking in the bare minimal to serve our ever active fingertips and thought.

He chose a short film medium as he himself deals with this dilemma.

“I make these films for myself, not to serve any other purpose. Yet I want people to feel something when they watch it.

“I believe creativity is problem solving, or how creatively you can solve the problem.” He slides two empty beer glasses together and poses the question of how to merge the two glasses to become one. As he is explaining this, small droplets of perspiration formulate on his nose. “Many would come up with the most practical solution and go with that one but there are so many more ways to address the problem.

“You could break the two into shards of glass and because they are the same glass, they could be regarded as one. You could fill each with liquid and place them on top of each other to merge them into one glass.” After a shrugging of shoulders and more nose perspiration explaining multiple options to this dilemma, he states, “I could go on forever.”

Another one of Marcel’s film concepts is of greed. Marcel depicts greed as ‘Doctor Terrible, a well-to-do physician ambling from house to house. After knocking on people’s doors, he asks, “Anymoney home?”

Society is under scrutiny throughout Marcel’s life yet an overwhelming truth comes to realization. “Society creates the framework to work within.” Without it, too much freedom is given and essentially, the artist is left to their own divergent and detrimental devices. For Marcel, his work is aimed at the public, in order to influence the public. Therefore without the public, there is a missing link.

Upon asking what he hopes his movies will achieve he states, “I want people to be affected by them, to get emotional, to maybe even cry and to realize something within themselves they have been denying.”

Renico van Wyk, Marcel’s half-brother, a talented videographer, speaks of Marcel as having “a lot of good energy mixed with almost too much confidence. Creatively, he is always bringing the crazy ideas [sic].

He is really scared of losing originality.”

Marcel explains his idea of passion with a flurry of hand movements. “I believe I have many passions but finding one real passion to stick to is difficult.” He instead distills his passions across the board and infuses the different mediums with his infinite energy. Through short film Marcel finds his contribution to society through extension of his creative spirit.

Political party involved in a hit-and-run

CAPE TOWN – A 38-year-old man was injured in a hit-and-run outside the central train station in Cape Town on Wednesday morning.

“A pedestrian taxi cut across the street out into oncoming traffic and hit the man crossing the road. Then the taxi dropped some passengers off on the corner and drove slowly away towards Woodstock without stopping to check if he was alright,” said Temba Jauch, a bystander at the scene.

The man seemed to have suffered a broken leg, according to Jauch. He was picked up by an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital a few minutes later.

Sophikile Adams, another bystander at the scene of the incident, spoke of an ANC truck stopping at the group of on-lookers before the ambulance arrived.

“An ANC woman got out of the bakkie and told the injured man that the ANC will catch the driver who drove into him. The ANC lady then said to the injured guy, ‘Don’t worry my brother; we (the ANC) will protect the people. We’ll find him (the driver)’.”

Business cards were handed out and the ANC member then left the scene, according to Adams.

The 2014 General Elections coming up on the 7th of May is a highly contested event in the Western Cape region. Most of the parties concerned have been campaigning all across the Western Cape region.

After the ANC truck drove away from the crime scene, a tow-truck driver arrived, apparently looking for business. “He thought there was a car accident due to all the people standing around. He gave me his business card as well. It was strange to see how people can turn into vultures through others misfortune,” said Jauch.

The injured man could not be reached for comment. The taxi driver is as of yet still unknown and the police are on search for the culprit.

“I don’t know if the police will find him first or the ANC but I hope someone does. It could have happened to anyone of us. To have people with hidden agendas offering their help is also a scary thought,” said Jauch.

This is one of many hit-and-runs that have occurred in the Cape Town area. Koos Roux was bicycling in the CBD area when he was struck and killed. Che Newman was badly injured in Kalk bay by a driver who made a run for it. Both these hit-and-run cases took place in the latter part of 2013.

Are newspapers dead?

The death of newspapers?

By Anthony Molyneaux

With Independent Media shutting down it’s printing presses on the 31st March 2014, the reality of newspapers dying out is now the latest addition that is falling on our doorstep.

Cape Town Printers in Parow has now taken over the printing of established names such as the Cape Argus and the Cape Times after the cessation of Independent Medias printing press. The rolling pages of print rush by with purpose, producing 30,000 newspaper prints in less than two hours. The entire process is beautiful to watch and efficient. Yet their efficiency is now compared to that of a click of a button. The newspaper world seems to be in an ancient state when compared.

Devin Moss, the cost accountant at CTP, still believes there is more staying power in the newspaper industry than it is given credit for. “Community newspapers and free newspapers, where the companies are getting their revenue from advertising and not from the sale of the newspapers, is still expanding in many areas,” states Moss. 

All over Cape Town, newspapers are cradled by the elderly while the youth cradle hand-held devices. The times are changing and the differences are visible everywhere you look. Are the youth still interested in newspapers?

Catherine Clery, a student from Los Angeles, working in Cape Town says she would read through a newspaper if it was freely available on the street yet wouldn’t go out of her way to purchase a newspaper.

Ray de Freitas, a 24 year old soccer coach from Cape Town also doesn’t buy into the newspaper market and says its far easier to access news from his phone.

Are newspapers becoming a thing of the past, much like bell bottoms and Blockbuster? Or will they stay around serving communities as they have for so long.