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South Africa

Review: HYMR - 'Artificial Intelligence'


Johannesburg-based producer HYMR's debut album, Artificial Intelligence is dripping in cinematic glory but for a handful of tracks that, while sounding good, don't add any weight to the piece. Fillers aside the record paints an intriguing portrait of the cyber-dystopia we are so rapidly heading towards where robots have the power to kill us and the environment has been tortured to within an inch of its life. 'Artificial Intelligence', a remix of a track that features, later on, sounds like the intro to a dystopian film. A young protagonist stands on the roof of a high-rise building dreaming of a better world as they look out on a 21st-century Hell-scape defined by monotonous grey buildings and never-ending rain. 'Cosmic Dreamer', an instrumental number that brings a world of tension to the album, continues this cinematic idea before'Polluted Planet' takes things in a more EDM-based direction.

The problems AI has today go back centuries


In March of 2015, protests broke out at the University of Cape Town in South Africa over the campus statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes, a mining magnate who had gifted the land on which the university was built, had committed genocide against Africans and laid the foundations for apartheid. Under the rallying banner of "Rhodes Must Fall," students demanded that the statue be removed. Their protests sparked a global movement to eradicate the colonial legacies that endure in education. The events also provoked Shakir Mohamed, a South African AI researcher at DeepMind, to reflect on what colonial legacies might exist in his research as well.

Using Big Data Analytics for Transboundary Water Management


Southern Africa has experienced drought-flood cycles for the past decade that strain the ability of any country to properly manage water resources. This dynamic is exacerbated by human drivers such as the heavy reliance of sectors such as mining and agriculture on groundwater and surface water, as well as subsistence agriculture in rural areas along rivers. These factors have progressively depleted natural freshwater systems and contributed to an accumulation of sediment in river systems. In a region where two or more countries share many of the groundwater and surface resources, water security cuts across the socioeconomic divide and is both a rural and urban issue. For example, the City of Cape Town had to heavily ration all water uses in 2017 and 2018, as its dams were drying up.

OPINIONISTA: Maths and Artificial Intelligence can help us decide when to lift the lockdown


As there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Covid-19, countries have implemented physical distancing guidelines to spur collective action to prevent the spread of the virus. Physical distancing is not new in South Africa – it has long been an integral part of our way of life. In African societies, for example, people traditionally lived far apart and the clustering of people into densely populated areas is a new phenomenon. In addition, when African people greeted, traditionally there was no physical contact. In fact, there was a distance maintained between the people greeting.

[The Future of Viewing] ④ Innovative Sound Technologies, Powered by AI


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – 24 June 2020 – Now is the age of home entertainment and high-quality audio provides the finishing touch to the best of these experiences. The concept of the modern'home' goes way beyond being merely a residential space; it has become a place for relaxation, for recreation and for quality time with others. At the recentre of this change is the near-three-dimensional content experiences granted by today's ultra-large, ultra-high-definition, ultra-fine pixel TVs. With its 2020 QLED 8K TVs and AI sound technologies, Samsung has raised the bar for TV audio experiences. Object Tracking Sound uses AI-based software to match the movement of audio with movement on-screen; Active Voice Amplifier (AVA) tracks the user's audio environment; and Q-Symphony creates a more realistic, three-dimensional sound.

AI model trained to distinguish between individual birds


Distinguishing between individual animals is important for long-term monitoring of populations and protecting species from pressures such as climate change. However, it is also one of the most expensive, troublesome, and time-consuming aspects of animal behaviour research. While some creatures such as leopards have unique markings which allow humans to recognise individuals by eye, most species require additional visual identifiers such as coloured bands to be distinguished. Attaching bands to birds' legs can be stressful and disruptive to the animals, limiting the scope of research. Seeking an alternative method for distinguishing between individual birds, researchers from institutes in France, Germany, Portugal, and South Africa developed the first AI bird identification tool of its kind.

Huawei launches Africa Cloud & AI Innovation Centre - TechCentral


Huawei has launched a South African-based Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Innovation Centre to drive innovation, knowledge transfer and economic growth through app development in the AI industry. The announcement was made by Ray Rui, president of Huawei Cloud Africa region, during the Huawei Cloud Summit Africa 2020, an online event to unpack the opportunities of cloud computing for African business under the theme "Building an Intelligent Africa". "AI will be critical to social evolution and industrial growth in future," said Rui. "We also believe that when you grow economic opportunities, everyone benefits. For this reason, we are opening the Huawei Cloud & AI Innovation Centre to application developers across all economic sectors." The new centre will be based at Huawei's South African headquarters in Woodmead, Johannesburg, but developers across Africa will be able to access the centre remotely. It will teach AI application best practice, link developers to markets, support AI supply chains, develop talent and support application innovation.

Great White shark named Helen attacks and drowns a 32-foot humpback whale

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Scientists have recorded the first documented evidence of a great white shark attacking and killing an enormous humpback whale. Video taken from a drone off the coast of South Africa shows the 13-foot long shark hunting the whale which was around 33ft long and in ill health. Ryan Johnson, a marine biologist who observed the massacre, says the ordeal lasted about 50 minutes before the whale eventually died. Mr Johnson says the great white was very strategic in taking down the behemoth, and targeted its most vulnerable area, on the tail, before drowning the ailing whale. The great white is believed to be a shark called Helen which was named and tagged as part of a 2013 study by Mr Johnson.

News from a postpandemic world


We asked young scientists to imagine this scenario: You are a science writer in the year 2040 working on a news story that answers this question: What do you hope or fear will be the long-term effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic? A selection of their responses, arranged as a newpaper, is below. Follow NextGen Voices on Twitter with hashtag #NextGenSci. Read previous NextGen Voices survey results at . —Jennifer Sills Today, scientists confirm that 1000 previously endangered species have been removed from the Vulnerable list. Biodiversity renewal has been under way since the COVID-19 pandemic 20 years ago led many governments to reevaluate their priorities. Hunting practices and bushmeat consumption were constrained to limit the transmission of new pathogens through human contact with the meat and biofluids of wild animals. Deforestation was restricted worldwide when it became clear that land-use modifications and climate change were important drivers of vector-borne diseases. COVID-19 claimed many lives, but the political and environmental changes the pandemic inspired have likely saved many more by protecting the world's biodiversity. Joel Henrique Ellwanger Department of Genetics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, 91501-970, Brazil. Email: joel.ellwanger{at} Science and technology research budgets, now classified as an arm of the national defense force, could rival traditional military spending in a few years' time. This newfound prioritization of science was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made clear that the previous conception of military force is impractical when the enemy is invisible and formidable. The unprecedented redirection of financial resources to scientific communities to help find a cure and vaccines, along with the increased demand for scientific experts, expanded technological frontiers and gave science a well-deserved space in governance. Mpho Diphago Stanley Lekgoathi The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. Email: mpho.lekgoathi{at} In response to the 50th wave of COVID-19, which hit New York City last month, the U.S. government has announced that the first spaceship designated for in-orbit medical treatment of COVID-19 patients will soon transport 10,000 residents from high-risk zones to Space. Scientists say that prolonged stay in Space colonies with exposure to controlled gamma radiation from cosmic dust may help weaken the virus's strong affinity to lung tissue. “We will do all we can to protect our residents on Earth. Unlike 2019, we are prepared for this challenge,” said the President in a Capitol Hill address. The Senate has voted to fund the treatment expenses for everyone on the flight. Kartik Nemani Layered Materials and Structures Lab, Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. Email: snemani{at} Workers at major corporations staged a walk-out today, the 20th anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, to protest what some have deemed invasive monitoring. Many fears subsided when the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was broadly distributed in 2023, but subsequent zoonotic viruses emerged faster than society could prepare for them. With the world economy precariously weak, a cautious arrangement was reached: Workers could return to their jobs if they submitted to routine infection checks. At first, these were relatively innocuous temperature probes and cough tracking. However, with the 2029 advent of low-cost RNA wastewater screening by smart toilets and ubiquitous wall-mounted infrared heat sensors, infected employees could be pinpointed before displaying acute symptoms. Later, an eCommerce/fitness-tracking consortium released artificial intelligence algorithms that combined smartwatch health metrics and recent online search history. Corporate Wellness Boards used the results to justify mandatory quarantines. Employees cried foul. The debate rages on in our courts and on the Giganet about whether the public good is served by exposing the “viral status” of the few. Michael A. Tarselli Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, Oak Brook, IL 60523, USA. Email: mtarselli{at} Earlier this month, 21 individuals were quarantined in Kampala, Uganda, after a man was diagnosed with Marburg hemorrhagic fever by the local laboratory of the International Center for Disease Prevention (ICDP). The patient, who has now fully recovered, may have been infected at the veterinary clinic where he worked in close contact with possible animal carriers. “This is a virus that spreads easily through bodily fluids and historically has been transmitted to caregivers,” said Dr. Icuaf, director of the ICDP. Once again, the localized presence of centers with efficient testing capabilities made it possible to identify patient zero and contain the outbreak at its inception. As a result, “no deaths occurred, and everyone who might have been exposed has been quarantined while we monitor their health,” added Dr. Icuaf. The ICDP was instituted in 2021 as a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which marked a revolution in public awareness of science-based policy. The cost of crisis prevention is now routinely compared with the predicted price of managing such a crisis after it has occurred. Ahmed Al Harraq Cain Department of Chemical Engineering, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA. Email: aahme22{at} One of the world's leading universities is launching a large-scale screen of potential antiviral and antibacterial drugs on human volunteers. The substances show promising results in vitro but have not been tested on animals. To compensate for the risk of side effects, all volunteers will receive generous payment. “Drugs showing promising effects on mice could be ineffective on humans, making drug development expensive and slow,” explained the leading scientist of the drug screen. Human rights experts warned against granting permission to conduct the study. “Offering payment for causing physical harm targets the economically vulnerable and violates basic human rights,” they argued. However, doctors and politicians praise the idea, referring to the COVID-19 epidemic. “Developing a new drug through the traditional process can take years. Testing multiple potential candidates on coronavirus-infected people saved thousands of lives before basic research had a chance to catch up. Next time, we want to be prepared,” explained the health minister. Anna Uzonyi Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 7610001, Israel. Email: anna.uzonyi{at} Results published today from a 20-year experiment show that a “lottery” grant funding scheme is superior to traditional peer-review assessment panels. For decades, researchers have debated the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of selecting grant recipients through a peer-review process, given the documented biases that hinder diversity and equitable decision-making. “It was a controversial move at the time, but the results are clear,” said the lead author of the study. The funding experiment, which began in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was introduced to preserve the workforce employed on short-term contracts. During that year, pandemic-related budget cuts and social restrictions impeded the traditional peer-review process. “The lottery not only reduced peer-review bias but also added millions of dollars per year to the sector in hours saved by academics no longer devoting time to peer review,” said the lead author. “That time was spent on doing more experiments, mentoring colleagues, or achieving a healthier work-life balance.” Ken Dutton-Regester Department of Genetics and Computational Biology, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD 4006, Australia. Twitter: @stemventurist As the debate continues on the efficacy of educational methods, most universities now use a combination of in-person, remote, and technology-enhanced classrooms. The rapid expansion of evidence-based strategies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, audio and video tools, three-dimensional environments, and simulations across disciplines began during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to move education to a computer-based environment to protect the health and safety of students and staff transformed the educational conversation. In the increasingly technology-enhanced world, discussions about how to teach a science class online, how to facilitate lab experiences, and how to conduct experiments with new constraints swept the research community. A nuanced understanding emerged about true online pedagogy versus synchronous, remote meetings. Two decades later, we see the results of this transformation. Rachel Yoho Department of Environmental and Global Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32603, USA. Twitter: @rachel_yoho A stunning 200,000 people attended the grand opening ceremony of the 2040 Olympics yesterday in New Delhi, India. It has been 20 years since such a public event could take place safely. Only with the recent release of clothing and shoes made of technologically advanced materials that instantly kill viruses could the social distancing that began with the COVID-19 pandemic be relaxed. For added peace of mind, all attendees at the ceremony consented to the skin implantation of Viroclean, a new chip-based device that sounds an alarm when it detects viruses in the air. Sudhakar Srivastava Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221005, India. Email: sudhakar.srivastava{at} This weekend, at the Coachella 2040 music festival, three aerosol biosurveillance sensors detected a SARS-like virus in the air. Smartphone tracing, using the opt-in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) geospatial health app developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, identified two potential index cases. The CDC outbreak prevention team mobilized regional contact tracers to intercept and test both individuals within an hour of first detection. One individual tested positive for a variant of the 2019 SARS-CoV-2 strain, previously thought to be eradicated, and is undergoing treatment in quarantine. Michael Strong Center for Genes, Environment, and Health, National Jewish Health and University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver, CO 80206, USA. Email: strongm{at} Last week's 15th annual Pan-global Remote Integrated Sciences Meeting (PRISM) attracted more than 100,000 attendees from more than 160 countries. Scientists, educators, students, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and industry experts from fields spanning the physical, biological, and social sciences logged on to the online venue, enabled by virtual reality. Advanced machine learning algorithms provided recommendations for presentations relevant to each participant based on both their expertise and potential for interdisciplinary collaboration. As usual, the highlight of the meeting was the virtual poster sessions, driven by interactivity and streamlined to optimize small-group scientific conversation across fields. Many junior scientist attendees were surprised to learn that such events were nearly unheard of before PRISM grew from the increasing move toward virtual conferences during the coronavirus pandemic over 20 years ago. “My adviser told me that when she was a grad student, big conferences were all held in person,” writes one anonymous Ph.D. student. “Can you imagine having a giant conference like this in some random convention center, with tens of thousands of scientists spending hundreds of dollars on fuel-inefficient flights and hotel booking, lugging around printed posters and just milling around for a week trying to find the optimal talks to attend? Insane.” Yifan Li Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. Twitter: @iWonderWhyly Today, cell-based meat consumption has surpassed farm-produced meat for the first time. The transition began with the meat shortages and near collapse of the meat supply chain during the COVID-19 outbreak. With thousands of workers packed into poorly ventilated and unhygienic facilities, meat processing plants were hotspots for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A global meat shortage emerged as production rates were slashed. Most people turned to the plant-based meat alternatives available at the time. The meat industry's demise was sealed when cell-based meat entered the mainstream market the following year. Clean meat eliminated the negative effects of the meat industry, from pollution caused by runoff and antibiotics, to worker and animal cruelty, to the carbon footprint of livestock, which contributed 18% of greenhouse gas emissions at the time. Cell-based meat has been growing in popularity ever since, as traditional meat became ethically and environmentally unpalatable. JiaJia Fu Whittle School and Studios, Washington, DC 20008, USA. Email: jjnaturalist{at} Global seafood supply now relies entirely on aquaculture. The turning point came when researchers optimized the breeding techniques for edible crabs, enabling high-valued crab species such as mud crabs and blue crabs to be mass-produced in full aquaculture settings. The prioritization of aquaculture was made possible by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A 12-month closure of fisheries during the wave of global stay-at-home orders led to the rejuvenation of overexploited species such as sardines and mackerels, which had been on the verge of extinction, and made people recognize the fragility of the supply chain. Full investment in aquaculture research began the following year. Khor Waiho Institute of Tropical Aquaculture and Fisheries, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Kuala Nerus, Terengganu, 21030, Malaysia. Email: waiho{at} Next week, the United Nations will meet to assess whether the goals of the 2040 Agenda for Sustainable Development have been achieved. Unfortunately, reasons for optimism are scarce. Overexploitation of natural resources, CO2 emissions, and plastic waste continue to soar. The wealthiest sector of the population consumes 80% of the resources, and the poorest people increasingly suffer from extreme weather events, famines, and freshwater scarcity. We were already heading in this direction early in the century, when the short-term vision of corporations and policy-makers prioritized economic benefits over human and environmental health. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the negative trends. Since 2020, an array of wasteful practices increased, including the proliferation of single-use products and travel in private vehicles to avoid physical contact. After reviewing the past decade, the UN countries will discuss commitments to decrease inequality and pollution by 2050. Isabel Marín Beltrán Laboratory of Environmental Technologies, Centro de Ciências do Mar do Algarve, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, Faro, 8005-139, Portugal. Email: imbeltran{at} For the first time, global average air temperature is more than 2°C higher than the 20th-century global average. Scientists suggest that decisions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to today's disastrous climate consequences. After the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, scientists were hopeful. National governments were implementing increasingly ambitious measures to meet their commitments. But the economic fallout of the pandemic led growing economies such as India to relax environmental clearance guidelines for industries and infrastructure projects and cut funding allocated to environmental reforms. First-world countries such as the United States and China, instead of shifting toward renewable energy, boosted investment in fossil fuels, which in turn increased greenhouse gas emissions. Even after multiple warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, G20 nations neglected to follow the advice of scientists. Akash Mukherjee Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, Pune, Maharashtra, 411008, India. Twitter: @aghori_AM A government report released yesterday warns of a potential spike in counterfeit immunity passports entering the market this coronavirus season. According to Jane London, the U.K. health minister, “There is a substantial increase in the number of illegal immunigrants crossing provincial and municipal borders. The public should be aware that just scanning someone's immunity passport is not enough anymore.” This report comes just 6 months after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first released notice that the “NextGen Immunity Passport” brand had been hacked, allowing scammers and tech-savvy citizens to falsify the immunity data they carry with them by law. Asked how businesses and town-guards were detecting falsified immunity passports at checkpoints, minister of national movement John Petersfield told journalists, “This is a police matter. Any further information about detection at this time will only help counterfeiters.” Widespread counterfeiting, as well as last year's false-negative scandal, has generated substantial public distrust in the use of the immunity passport system in movement legislation, now 19 years old. “We learned our lesson about free movement back in 2020,” said one government official who wished to remain anonymous, “but the immunity passport system is cracking, and we don't see a fix yet.” Tyler D. P. Brunet Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 3RH, UK. Email: tdpb2{at}

GPS collars for lions and cheetahs: How IoT and open source are protecting rare animals


Smart Parks is a social enterprise that provides technology solutions for wildlife protection. The Internet of Things (IoT) now offers sophisticated ways of safeguarding wildlife: communication networks can cover wild places; sensors can monitor animals, humans and equipment within them in (near) real time, and control centres can collate multiple data streams, increasingly with the aid of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), leading to timely management interventions. Smart Parks is a Netherlands/UK-based social enterprise that provides technology solutions for wildlife protection, with a focus on keystone species that are essential to maintaining the diversity and functionality of ecological communities (grey wolves in Yellowstone, for example, or wildebeest in the Serengeti). "We started three years ago on a small scale in Mkomazi, Tanzania where we were the first to put LoRa sensors inside the horn of a black rhino," Smart Parks co-founder Laurens de Groot told ZDNet. "Since then, we have built Smart Parks in Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Congo, India, Zambia, Namibia and the Netherlands. We are working with partners such as African Parks, Peace Parks, WWF and many others. We've also supplied our sensor technology to several existing parks with their own LoRaWAN-infrastructure, such as Hluhluwe Imfolozi in South Africa. At the moment we have over seventy rhinos and hundreds of other species under our Smart Parks supervision."