In the land where the stars twinkle

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Picture of the Trifid Nebula, taken by SALT

Situated close to the small town of Sutherland in the middle of the Karoo is a plateau covered in telescopes. Looking from afar, it almost appears to be a mummy telescope and her babies, since one of the telescopes is significantly bigger than the rest. This telescope is SALT – the Southern African Large Telescope, and at 11m across, it is the largest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. Continue reading

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Art, spring flowers, and the discovery of a blue halo

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I have a sketch book, or as it was marketed, a visual journal. I think I prefer the name visual journal – each picture was something I chose to draw, not something that was put in front of me as in art class, and each picture has an added dimension of having a memory attached to it. And, as it turns out, sometimes a picture will end up having some form of scientific relevance too, as happened with my picture of spring flowers. Continue reading

Rainwater harvesting – tapping into a greatly underused resource

This article is specific to the context of the Cape Town drought, but the concepts can be applied in any water-scarce situation where there is the potential to harvest rainwater.cropped-rain.jpgAs you’ve probably heard, over and over if you live in Cape Town, dam levels are low. At 31% capacity, water storage levels are 25% lower than they were this time last year.  Although there are talks of shipping water from upcountry, and building a desalination plant, perhaps we should be looking to the skies – which deliver fresh water right into our backyard.

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Greywater: the do’s and don’ts of reusing greywater at home

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Catch your shower water in a bucket for later reuse. Photo credit: peasap

It’s winter in the Cape, and although I’ve enjoyed having a longer period of warm sunny days this year, even I have to admit that I’ve been hoping for a good wet winter after the drought. For a city right next to the sea, it’s amazing how we can be so affected by a drought season. But here we are, and as we look for ways to use less water, many are turning to greywater recycling. While this is great, greywater cannot be handled in the same way as municipal water, and health risks can arise from simple mistakes. If you’ve wondered about that smell as you water the lawn, or the colour of the water you’ve been storing, you may be doing something wrong with how you use greywater. Continue reading

Long term thinking and the antibiotic resistance crisis

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Adapted from a photo by Fredrik Rubensson

There was the email: I would like to invite you to our July event Getting Cozy with Catastrophe: Superbugs, Drug Resistance … When I received an invitation to a talk on antibiotic resistance, I have to admit, I was initially a little bit uninspired by the topic. If you’ve been in a biological field for long enough, you kinda know the antibiotic resistance story. But then I looked a little closer at the write-up. Superbugs, Drug Resistanceand the Power of Long Term Thinking. “Ah,” I thought. “Maybe there will be something new to bring to the table.” And so it was that when on July 5th, Women in Tech Cape Town hosted a TechTalk with drug resistance scientist Dr Imogen Wright as the speaker, I was sitting in the audience, with my pen at the ready. Continue reading

There’s science in your mug – it must be teatime!

A bit of a frivolous post, as I take a teatime break, and muse at the science of everyday. cropped-tea-2238290_1920.jpgMilk first? Milk at all? Sugar? How long should I leave the tea-bag in for? Green or black or red or white? Herbal – does that still class as tea? The science of tea is clearly important to our everyday lives. However you take your tea, the evidence points in favour of the humble tea break! Continue reading