16 January 2004Africa is preparing to play a major role in the use of lasers to advance science and technology on the continent with the launch of the African Laser Centre.Established in November 2003 by a group of African countries with an interest in laser applications, the African Laser Centre is destined to be a virtual centre that will serve as a central point for coordinating a network of excellence in laser research across the continent. The international office will be located in South Africa.The establishment of the Centre follows deliberations held during two continental workshops and various task team meetings over the last three years.Universities and research groups on the continent that are part of the ALC include:The National Laser Centre of South Africa, located within the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).The African Laser, Atomic, Molecular and Optical Sciences Network, based in Senegal.The National Institute of Laser Enhanced Science in Egypt.The Centre de Development des Technologies Avancees in Algeria.The Laser and Fibre Optics Centre in Ghana.Tunis el Manar University in Tunisia.The Centre will provide laser researchers and industrialists throughout Africa with research and training facilities. Given the isolation of many researchers in Africa, the Centre will maintain a database of laser researchers in the region and facilitate collaboration among them.Another important role for the Centre will be to transfer technology from research laboratories to the marketplace. The Centre will support research and educational programmes in laser technology and present conferences, workshops, and topical school programmes.It will also develop a research equipment programme to facilitate acquisition of and access to laser equipment.Speaking at the launch in November 2003, Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Minister Ben Ngubane said the African Laser Centre would be “truly continental in its dimension, and should provide Africa with the boost that it needs to propel its science and technology to the forefront of world competition.”Ngubane stressed that if the Centre provided a competitive knowledge base and attractive research and development facilities, it could contribute toward reversing the brain drain in the African laser field, and the facilities should become preferred research environments for the international community.He added that this network of excellence would also provide the required impetus for laser technology to benefit the people of the continent.Lasers have experienced success in cataract surgery, glaucoma and cancer treatment, as well as TB detection. In the agricultural field, lasers have an important role to play in monitoring plant stress levels to improve crop harvests.Environmental monitoring of pollutants by remote laser could contribute substantially to improved quality of life. And in the economic sector, lasers can contribute to improving competitiveness in the manufacturing and automotive sector specifically.“What we need to do now is integrate the expertise that exists in various parts of the continent so as to create a body of excellence in laser applications,” said Dr Phil Mjwara, interim chairman of the Centre and director of the National Laser Centre of SA.Source: Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo material
Author: Jim LangcusterThis article was originally published Tuesday August 27, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Hi, AleX:You have always been a dedicated professional. Your work has always been about serving your clients, building one-on-one relationships grounded in trust.British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.It’s reflected in the way you regard network literacy. Admit it, AleX: Deep in the back of your mind, you still harbor this fear that any significant investment in social media will work to dilute these close relationships.That’s understandable. Just be warned: By ignoring emerging social networks, you’re imperiling your professional future.It’s important for you to come to terms with that fact, AleX.Granted, a handful of CEOs pointing to a clutch of online infographics, some specious at best, stubbornly maintain that networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only eroding the minds of young people but also costing the economy some $650 billion a year.Don’t buy into it, Alex.Truth is, the benefits of social networking have been apparent for a long time, a very long time — in fact, for as long as 500 years.Rudimentary forms of social networking have been traced as far back as 17th century English coffeehouses, raucous places in which people shared ideas freely and openly and that bore an uncanny resemblance to the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century.Many of the exchanges that grew out of these boisterous meeting places provided the basis for intellectual and material advances that have benefited countless millions of people and that are still being felt today, almost half a millennium later — a theme explored by famed science and technology writer Tom Standage in a recent article in the New York Times titled “Social Networking in the 1600s.”Proponents of conventional wisdom of the day derided these coffeehouses as venues of idle chitchat, much as their 21st century counterparts do with social media today.To be sure, lots of idle chitchat and gossip occurred in these haunts. Yet, something remarkable happened too. In addition to consuming copious amounts of coffee and indulging in idle gossip, not a few of these coffeehouse patrons read and shared the insights from the latest pamphlets and news sheets, many of which dealt with the prevailing scientific, literary, political and commercial themes of the day.In a diary entry dated in November, 1633, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys observed that discussion covered such diverse topics as how to store beer, the implications of a certain type of nautical weapon, and speculations about the outcome of an upcoming trial.Conventional academic leaders of the day heaped scorn on the low caliber of discourse that purportedly prevailed in these coffeehouses.“Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university,” Oxford academic Anthony Wood plaintively asked. “Answer: Because of Coffee Houses, where they spend all their time.”They were misinformed. Lots of serious discussion and learning ensued in these coffeehouses.Borrowing Standage’s picturesque term, these coffeehouses turned out to be “crucibles of creativity” — environments in which people representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives met and exchanged ideas. Many of these ideas, in the course of meeting and mating, provided the basis for new ways of thinking, which, in turn, spawned new concepts and inventions. Some ended up changing the course of history.One of the more noteworthy examples of coffeehouse exchanges: Lloyd’s of London, the world-renowned insurance firm, which grew out of Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular haunt of ship captains, ship owners and maritime traders.One coffeehouse served as the nursery of modern economics: Adam Smith passed early drafts of “The Wealth of nations” among his acquaintances at the Cockspur Street coffeehouse, where many Scottish artists and intellectuals of his time gathered.Yet, why should we be surprised by this? For his part, Standage cites modern research demonstrating that students learn more effectively when they are interacting with other learners.Coffeehouses provided 17th century entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists and philosophers with highly generative, open-source platforms — foundations on which many of the predominant ideas, concepts and technologies of the modern era took form.This brings us back to the present-day, AleX. As Standage stresses in his article, the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century are providing us with the same kinds of highly generative platforms — places where people, in the course of exchanging ideas and sparking new ones, have the potential of improving the lives of countless millions of people for generations to come.Under the circumstances, is there any reason why you shouldn’t join into this conversation, AleX? This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.More about Alex NetLit
In a first, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has published an compendium of animal species in the Indian Sundarbans, estimating that there are 2,626 of them in the fragile island ecosystem. The listing includes a diverse 25 phyla, as they are biologically classified.The Indian segment of the Sundarbans, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, forms part of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta across 9,630 sq. km, distributed among 104 islands. The region hosts 2,487 species that come under the zoological kingdom of Animalia, and 140 under the more primitive Protista.“The publication titled Fauna of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve is the first consolidated and updated information of the faunal diversity of the Sundarbans. It lists over 2,600 species, including the new species described from the mangrove ecosystem as well as threats faced by them due to climate change,” ZSI Director Kailash Chandra told The Hindu.Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society, a non-governmental organisation and one of the authors of the publication, says it is encyclopedic in its scope.“When we talk about Sundarbans we refer to only a few major species in the reserve forest area in about 4,260 sq. km. The publication catalogues the entire faunal diversity of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve covering 9,630 sq. km spread over 19 blocks in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas of West Bengal,” Mr. Roy Chowdhury said.Gone missingThe researchers document the famous tigers of these islands, which have adapted to aquatic conditions around, the human-tiger conflict, and behaviour of the big cat. The fortunes of 50 mammalian species including the Asian small-clawed Otter, Gangetic Dolphin, Grey and Marsh Mongoose and the wild Rhesus Monkey, the only primate here, are also documented.“Due to pressure on habitat from people and natural threats that have shrunk the mangrove swamp habitat, mammal numbers are declining,” the authors say. Two Rhinos, Swamp deer, Barking deer and Hog deer and Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo are not found in Sundarbans anymore, they say.There are 356 species of birds, the most spectacular being raptors, or birds of prey, that occupy the highest canopies of the forest. Osprey, Brahminy Kite and White-Bellied Sea Eagle are dominant, while Rose-ringed parakeets, flycatchers and warblers are also found in the middle tier, while in the lower tier, kingfishers abound — and the Sundarbans has nine of them. There are 11 turtles, including the famous Olive Ridley and Hawskbill sea turtles and the most threatened freshwater species, the River Terrapin. A crocodile, 13 lizards including three species of Monitor Lizards and five Geckos are found here. The rivers, creeks channels and the islands together harbour about 30 snake species, led by the King Cobra, considered vulnerable by IUCN. Others documented are the Monocellate or monocled cobra, Russell’s viper, common and banded kraits. Besides, ten species of frogs and toads are found.Cartilaginous fishThe mangrove ecosystem covers about 350 species of fish. Cartilaginous fish, which have skeletons of cartilage rather than bone, make up 10.3%. The IUCN conservation status shows 6.3% fish are near-threatened and 4.85% are threatened. Also, there are 173 molluscs. In another indication of its richness, 753 insect species are encountered in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve. Of these, 210 are butterflies and moths. Moreover, Crustaceans — crabs, shrimp and prawns — constitute 334 species.