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What they don’t teach at engineering school (and what they do)

07.2024 | Rachel Edelstein

The chances are good that you’ve been exposed to the overuse of the phrases problem-solving and critical thinking. Almost in the next breath, you’ve probably heard about the insatiable demand for engineers in the workplace.

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Decoding birds' brain signals into syllables of song

Could the unique song of a bird someday, miraculously, help give a voice to people who have lost the ability to speak?

The rise of Amapiano

It’s so distinctive and universal that every song belonging to the genre sounds familiar, almost like you’ve heard it before. Amapiano, as the genre is named, has had that effect on people worldwide.

What I learned making a video game

In 1981, the arcade game Centipede was released by Atari, a world leader of the video game market in the late 20th century. Following the same formula as several other famous arcade games of the time, such as Pac-Man and Galaxian, the game involves a moving, player-controlled object (also known as the Bug Blaster) that tries to eliminate the enemy (Centipede) that appears on the screen.

New generation athletes

John-Laffnie de Jager’s life story reads like something straight out of D.H. Lawrence’s poem about “never seeing a wild thing feel sorry for itself”.

In defence of workaholics

I once designed a conference on a train in Italy. Travelling through a foreign country with different sights and sounds had turbo-charged my creativity. The kids were sleeping and I wanted to test out the concept before we reached the next stop.

African animation is catching global attention

For the past few years, we’ve seen an increased global interest and demand in African stories, works and the creatives behind the work.

When is appropriation appropriate?

The answer is almost always. Cultural borrowing and exchange are the fuel of human creative progress.

The idea that “cultural appropriation” must be guarded against, and rooted out, is arguably one of the wobbliest ideas that the era of identity politics has given us. Cultural appropriation is a vastly bigger and healthier process than its opportunist edges: in a very real sense, it is the engine of human intellectual progress.

Modern snakes evolved from a few survivors of a dino-killing asteroid

Love them or loathe them, there is now new information that suggests that snakes have an even more intriguing origin story than previously thought.

The ancestors of the modern snake may have been among the few reptiles to survive the giant asteroid catastrophe that erased dinosaurs from the face of the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous – a period in time that began 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago.

Now that we know trees talk to each other and that maybe we can talk to them, what on earth should we talk about?

Scientists are said to be on the brink of unlocking the secret ways in which trees keep in touch with each other. In this reality check, we take a quirky look at the idea and think about a useful agenda.

Narcissism and Street Fashion

Fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg, once said “everything in fashion begins in the streets”. In the midst of our consumer culture, where fashion trends change quarterly and we feel pressure to adhere, we have become out of touch with the true ingenuity and creativity with which it all began

Why do we read

I love reading. Immersing myself in a paperback and temporarily blocking out the outside world is one of the most enjoyable activities I know of, but there’s one problem: I often agonise over whether I’m getting the most out of my reading.

How rudeness leads to Anchoring in life and death situations

We’ve seen it all too often. A rush of blood to the head, a moment of insanity, an “emotional” decision taken through the spoken word, or an action that can never be taken back.

Out of Control

A sideways glance at the looming loss of a hands-on controlling interest in our means of conveyance, from cars to light aeroplanes, balloons and vacuum loops. Where are we going without a driver, and why?

Other Voices - Confessions of a TV Translator

“I’m setting my lawyer on you,” said the furious woman, speaking from a Crimplene shop in Joburg. “You told lies on TV. When I tried to book the holiday you promised, they told me you made it all up. I can get you into big trouble.”

Ethical lies

Lying is wrong, except when it isn’t, and morality is not as black and white as we sometimes like to believe. Scientifically.

One of my earliest memories is when my mother, to her embarrassment, forgot about a doctor’s appointment. Calling the doctor to reschedule, she made up an excuse supported by fictitious car troubles.

Tick tock….around the clock

From complicated pocket watches to iconic clocks to decorative wrist watches… there’s a fascinating world behind the multi-billion-dollar timepiece industry.

When the guy in the changing room corner ends up as your coach one day

In a classic case of gamekeeper turned poacher, French international referee Alexandre Ruiz recently quit officiating to become a defence coach for club side Montpellier

Why do we forget?

Contrary to the popular belief that memories simply fade with time and forgetting is an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a new theory suggests that forgetting is actually a form of learning

Animals will be animals

Intro: Camera close-ups of nature and animal life tell us more than we may have expected, but now that we are hooked, we may learn as much good as there seems to be bad.

Artificial intelligence vs the world.

‘Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov’ was a clashing of six game chess matches between World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and IBM supercomputer Deep Blue

Yes, they really are listening to us

Amidst all the revolutions that are sweeping the world, from economic to political, the omnipresent Fourth Industrial Revolution keeps powering ahead with no sign of reaching a peak or slowing down. One aspect of it which receives surprisingly little media coverage and rarely enters discussion is the radical development of voice profiling.

How ancient trees are becoming a hot new investment asset for the rich

After the financial crisis in 2008, rich people branched out into greener pastures by putting their generational wealth into acres of lands with roots in ancient trees. This global economic event alerted the rich because they saw their assets heavily affected, driving investments in safer commodities that grow in the long-term with a value that isn’t determined by unpredictable highs and lows of stock market forces.

The Secret of Happy Places

“He’s not in a good place”. “She’s in a good place right now.” The terminology of self-help and pop psychology uses place as a metaphor for happiness or unhappiness – and with good reason.

Nothing new in Hollywood

I am not a movie snob. I promise. I can prove it too – I like nothing more than some formulaic and semi-mindless action flick. I’m down with buddy cop movies or anything depending on some gratuitous shirtless scenes to sell tickets. As a rule, I don’t like subtitles. A

How Gaming Conquered the World

For many, the 70s marked the beginnings of the true modern phenomenon that is broadcast television. In 1976 South Africans gathered around these boxy units with fiddly buttons and bunny ear aerials waiting to be amazed, and they would not be disappointed.

The stories behind the words

You might use these terms on a daily basis, but do you know where they originate – and if you’re actually using them in context? While many wordsmiths disagree on the various theories and interpretations, here are some possible explanations of a few commonly used phrases.

The Curse of Creativity

Throughout history, there’s a long list of eminent creative achievers in all fields who’ve suffered from depression.

The Mysteries of Pain

Thought experiment: Take your left foot (bare) and secure it in place with some sturdy leather straps on a wooden board. Take a rusty drill bit; attach it to an electric drill.

The Emperor Who Crashed Gold

In the dense forests of Guinea’s mountainous highlands, at a place called Tembakounda, the Niger River finds its source. It is about 250km inland and could dash to the Atlantic waters off the coast of West Africa by cutting directly through Sierra Leone.

The story of Malik Ambar

Born in 1548, a captured Ethiopian herdsman is sold as a slave in Yemen, taken to Baghdad and from there to present day India, Malik Ambar not only raised his own armies, but casually replaced kings when they became annoying. A remarkable true story that is not nearly as well-known as it should be.

The evolution of beauty

Evolution is my faith; Darwin is my prophet. And evolution explains the power women hold over men. Males of the species Homo sapiens sapiens are in thrall to a phenomenon called neoteny.

Private Schooling – is it worth the costs?

Lush manicured lawns, posh accents, and parents with executive positions. Being a private school kid is something I’ve always worn with a badge of honour.

Medicine, Pigeons and Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition is the automated recognition of regularities in data. In recent years, and particularly with the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it has become significant to many industries.

NFTs: the future of art?

The NFT scene is booming, awash with the crypto cash of giddy evangelists including anyone from Jack Dorsey to Paris Hilton. Nowhere is its apparently transformative potential more vigorously targeted than the art world.

The Numbers Game

Has the data analytics revolution made football better in the last decade? Your answer may depend on whether your own favoured team has become better – or worse.

Hackers and Hacking

Why is something so apparently mindless and nasty now rampant? Are hackers just thieves looking for an open window? What is to be done to solve the biggest threat to our sophisticated existence?

Sketches of Spain

After more than two years of no international travel thanks to the pandemic, I decided to hit the road for the long term by moving to Spain.

What’s the Use of Philosophy?

Sometime when I was in varsity, I was having a conversation with a friend and though I can’t quite recall the gist of the conversation I do distinctly remember one moment.

Maths anxiety in midlife

We know that maths is important. It helps us to learn critical thinking and develops the muscles of problem solving. Great minds describe it as a universal language and there are even those who see beauty and poetry in its order.

Nature’s Essential Workers

Often referred to as wildlife’s “clean up crew,” vulture numbers are sadly dwindling on the African continent, but when they do pitch up – it’s a sign that nature is thriving.

The future of flight technology

The delicately beautiful butterfly finds itself at the centre of new research which reveals a secret hiding in plain sight that could influence the future of flying technology.

Why adults should (sometimes) read children’s books

If you agree that age doesn’t define who you are, you’re certainly not too old to read children’s literature.


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