Vaccines and the measles problem – a tale of two issues

Stats on measles have been filling headlines recently – the global rate is up 300% from last year, and in Africa that figure reaches 700%. As James Gallagher of the BBC notes, “There are two stories here – one of poverty and one of misinformation.”

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Black hole image captured for first time

Scientists yesterday presented the first ever image of a black hole at the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy taken on the Event Horizon Telescope. Black holes have been commonly accepted for a long time, but this is the first visual glimpse we have had of one.

Credit: xkcd
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The whys and hows of attracting young children to science in South Africa

This is an article I wrote for the New Age on behalf of Pint of Science South Africa:


“Why?” It’s the question that drives parents insane. “Why do leaves turn yellow?” “Because the weather is changing.” “Why?” “Because our part of the earth is moving further away from the sun.” “Why?” And it goes on. This inquisitive nature may drive parents to distraction, but the constant search for answers and the never-ending streams of “why” are the very things that should be nurtured in young children in order for the next generation of inventors and scientists to blossom. Continue reading

In the land where the stars twinkle


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

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


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

Through the looking glass

800px-Chirality_with_handsHave you ever stopped to think about parallel universes? Let’s suspend reality for a bit. You look into your mirror. “Who’s the fairest of them all?” (Oh wait, wrong fairy tale!) As you lift your right hand, your reflection lifts its left. But right-handed you goes about your life, whereas left-handed you only exists through the looking glass. It turns out that nature is the same – and scientists are starting to come up with ways to access the world through the looking glass. Continue reading

Time to get a second skin?


Photo: Melanie Gonick/MIT

So we’ve all heard about “having a thick skin” in the context of criticism, but what about a second skin? Scientists at MIT have recently engineered a silicon-based second skin with the aim of restoring biomechanical integrity in aging skin. In plain English – less wrinkles. Sorry beauty infomercials; this one really does work in just a couple of hours! It also offers some other exciting possibilities. Continue reading