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Why it’s crucial to safeguard the ancient practice of finding wild honey with birds

Why it’s crucial to safeguard the ancient practice of finding wild honey with birds

IN parts of Africa, a small bird called the Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator) helps people search for honey. It approaches people and chatters and flies in the direction of a wild bees’ nest, urging the person to follow. When bird and human reach the nest together, the human honey-hunter knows just what to do: they subdue the bees and harvest the honey with smoke and tools. When that’s done, the little bird feeds on the beeswax and larvae left behind. Authors JESSICA E.M. VAN DER WAL, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Cape Town CLAIRE SPOTTISWOODE, Professor, University of Cape Town…
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How nanotechnology can revive Nigeria’s textile industry

How nanotechnology can revive Nigeria’s textile industry

NIGERIA’S cotton production has fallen steeply in recent years. It once supported the largest textile industry in Africa. The fall is due to weak demand for cotton and to poor yields resulting from planting low-quality cottonseeds. For these reasons, farmers switched from cotton to other crops. Nigeria’s cotton output fell from 602,400 tonnes in 2010 to 51,000 tonnes in 2020. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the country’s textile industry had 180 textile mills employing over 450,000 people, supported by about 600,000 cotton farmers. By 2019, there were 25 textile mills and 25,000 workers. Author AGBAJE LATEEF, Professor of Microbiology,…
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African solutions to African problems: reframing science innovation

African solutions to African problems: reframing science innovation

QUARRAISHA ABDOOL KARIM AFRICA is plagued by many epidemics — from tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS to malaria and wild polio — but the continent has also worked for decades to fight these threats. The key to beating these deadly diseases is turning inward to existing expertise and finding locally driven solutions. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has placed public health back in the global spotlight and has also served as a reminder that science is not undertaken in an ivory tower. Science shapes humanity because it takes place among us. COVID-19 has also showcased that no epidemic takes place in isolation. Through…
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Grunt, hoo, pant, scream: Chimps use complex vocal communication

Grunt, hoo, pant, scream: Chimps use complex vocal communication

WILL DUNHAM SCIENTISTS exploring the evolutionary origin of language have detected a vocal communication system among wild chimpanzees more complex and structured than previously known, with a dozen call types combined into hundreds of different sequences. The researchers made more than 4,800 recordings of vocalizations produced by members of three groups of chimpanzees inhabiting Ivory Coast's Taï National Park, one of the last major remnants of old-growth tropical forest in West Africa and home to a rich array of plants and animals. Chimpanzees, which along with their cousins the bonobos are the closest living genetic relatives to people, are intelligent…
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How visionary scientist Bernie Fanaroff put African astronomy on the map

How visionary scientist Bernie Fanaroff put African astronomy on the map

RECENT decades have seen remarkable growth in astronomy on the African continent. Africa enjoys pristine dark skies and vast radio quiet zones, making it the ideal home for many advanced telescopes trained on our galaxy and beyond. Authors DANIEL CUNNAMA, Science Engagement Astronomer, South African Astronomical Observatory, South African Astronomical Observatory JACINTA DELHAIZE, Lecturer, University of Cape Town For instance, Namibia hosts the High Energy Spectroscopic System (HESS), which is an impressive gamma-ray telescope. The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in the small South African town of Sutherland is the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. The MeerKAT telescope…
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Herbicides threaten edible weeds in Zambia – that may be bad news for local food security

Herbicides threaten edible weeds in Zambia – that may be bad news for local food security

THE use of herbicides – substances that control unwanted plants – is on the rise across Africa. This trend has been referred to by some researchers as the “herbicide revolution”. This trend is driven by cheap herbicides flooding into the continent from Asia and global agrochemical companies discovering Africa’s emerging markets. Also, rural wages have risen due to rural-urban migration and structural transformation. Authors THOMAS DAUM, Agricultural Economist, University of Hohenheim CAROLIN SCHWEIZERHOF, Research fellow, University of Hohenheim CHRISTOPH SCHUNKO, Assistant scientist, University of Natural Resources and Life Science (BOKU) Herbicides may help to raise yields, thereby contributing to food…
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Engineer invents smart bra to tackle breast cancer

Engineer invents smart bra to tackle breast cancer

DORCAS BELLO, BIRD STORY AGENCY FROM a very young age, Kemisola Bolarinwa has been an innovator. She recalls the joy of her first eureka moment in high school when together with a friend, they created the transistor radio for the inter-school competition. "Watching that radio work ignited a passion in me; I knew from that day that I would be an inventor," Bolarinwa recalls. In secondary school at St Helen’s Unity Secondary School, Ondo, she was an active member of the Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists club (JETS). Coming from a girls’ school meant that Bolarinwa had to compete with…
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Ancient cave art: how new hi-tech archaeology is revealing the ghosts of human history

Ancient cave art: how new hi-tech archaeology is revealing the ghosts of human history

NEW details of our past are coming to light, hiding in the nooks and crannies of the world, as we refine our techniques to go looking for them. Most lauded is the reconstruction of the evolution of humanity since our African origins around 300,000 years ago, by analysing our living and fossil DNA. Replete with the ghosts of African and Eurasian populations of the deep past, these have been resurrected only through the ability of science to reach into the world of the minuscule by studying biomolecules. Authors PAUL PETTITT, Professor in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University ALISTAIR PIKE,…
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Honeybees join humans as the only known animals that can tell the difference between odd and even numbers

Honeybees join humans as the only known animals that can tell the difference between odd and even numbers

“TWO, four, six, eight; bog in, don’t wait”. As children, we learn numbers can either be even or odd. And there are many ways to categorise numbers as even or odd. We may memorise the rule that numbers ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 are odd while numbers ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 are even. Or we may divide a number by 2 – where any whole number outcome means the number is even, otherwise it must be odd. Authors SCARLETT HOWARD, Lecturer, Monash University ADRIAN DYER, Associate Professor, RMIT University ANDREW GREENTREE, Professor of…
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Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter could make its misinformation problems worse

Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter could make its misinformation problems worse

ELON MUSK, the world’s richest person, acquired Twitter in a US$44 billion deal on April 25, 2022, 11 days after announcing his bid for the company. Twitter announced that the public company will become privately held after the acquisition is complete. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for his initial bid for the company, Musk stated, “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.” Author ANJANA SUSARLA, Professor of Information Systems, Michigan…
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