General

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The “brain drain” is not a new concept for South Africa, with hordes of professionals having left the country in the early 2000’s, and a fresh batch looking for greener pastures at the moment. This provides both opportunities and challenges for individuals and the country as a whole.

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For decades, we have been told that overpopulation was a growing concern, with ever-increasing numbers of humans across the world putting strain on our natural resources and our ability to feed ourselves. However, it looks like all the doomsday predictions will not come to pass, with slowing population growth and human ingenuity and science changing the future of food production.

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Since 1978, when the first IVF baby was born, the rise of “designer babies” was predicted. In the 40 years since, we have mapped the human genome and have been using this knowledge to screen for various genetic diseases, culminating in this week’s announcement by Chinese scientist He Jiankui that the first twins with their DNA genetically edited to make them resistant to HIV infection, have been born.

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In a world where scientific advancements like stem cell therapies and the Hadron Collider have become so-called water cooler conversations, it seems that very few scientific mysteries remain. However, the tiny island of Mayotte, situated between the northern tip of Madagascar and Malawi, provided the world’s seismologists with a mystery that so far only has a theoretical solution.

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Science fiction is full of stories about androids and robots who help enable space travel for humans. The first step has just been taken to make this a reality, with the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled astronaut assistant making its debut aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

With the festive season around the corner, there has already been a marked increase in both online and physical scams designed to rob people of their money. The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has warned people to exercise increased caution this holiday season due to the prevalence of scams and crime, including ATM fraud, phishing, and various social engineering attacks.

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South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind boasts some of the oldest hominid fossils found in the world, as does east Africa, leading scientists to believe that Africa was the original wellspring of humanity. Research conducted by Quentin Atkinson, a cultural anthropologist at Auckland University in New Zealand, also promotes this theory, finding that the world’s 6000 modern languages can be traced back to a single “mother tongue”, an ancestral language spoken in Africa 50 000 to 70 000 years ago.

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These days, we cannot imagine our lives without our smartphones. Research shows that 93% of South Africans now have access to smartphones, joining The Netherlands, Norway, Ireland and Luxembourg on the short list of countries that have surpassed the 90% threshold.

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Since the discovery of penicillin, medicine has used the latest technologies available at the time to help cure diseases and ailments. Today, stem cell research promises to fundamentally change how treatments are designed and administered, but we are still years away from stem cell therapies becoming common.