technology

Racist emoji

Unicode 1F595, more commonly known as the middle finger emoji.

Have you ever heard someone says something that sounded completely outrageous, and you turned around to see a smile on their face and heaved a sigh of relief?

Humans rely on a wide range of signals to communicate with each other, and most of these are non-verbal: What we say is modified by pitch and loudness of voice, body language, hand gestures, and facial expression.

Written communication has none of those signals, so letter writing was very formal and structured to avoid miscommunication:

"Dear so and so...

Rats and dogs

African Giant Pouched Rat from Wikimedia
African Giant Pouched Rat / Laëtitia Dudous / Wikimedia Commons

Can dogs be trained to sniff out Covid-19?

Medical Detection Dogs, a UK NGO founded in 2008 on the premise that dogs can be trained to sniff out diseases, is hoping this is the case.

They are working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University. This team recently collaborated to successfully prove that dogs can be trained to detect malaria.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home is over, for now

SETI@Home screensaver circa 1999
SETI@Home screensaver circa 1999

Some 21 years ago, when I was managing editor of the Cape Times, I had acquired as my desktop computer at work an Apple Power Macintosh G3 with its matching Sony Trinitron monitor.

It was both beauty and beast by the standards of the day; blue and white polycarbonate clocking in at 300 MHz. More importantly, it could effortlessly play the Star Wars Phantom Menace trailer which was the first movie trailer to debut on the Internet

'I can't believe it's not butter!' redux

Black soldier flies mating
Black soldier flies mating

The Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, was once only found in South America, but today is quite ubiqutous. The United States Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, Croatia, Malta, the Canary Islands, Switzerland, the Black Sea coast of Russia... Yes, and right here in Southern Africa.

Adult females can lay more that 600 eggs at a time. The larvae that emerge can grow to 2,5 cm. That's about an inch if you don't speak metric.

Corona versus Ebola: some stats

Ebola in DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo announced their tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years on 1 August 2018. The number of cases has exceeded 3 000, making it the country's largest-ever Ebola outbreak. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak after one which hit West Africa from 2014-2016.

Key stats from then to date via Doctors WIthout Borders:

  • 3423 total cases
  • 3304 confirmed cases
  • 2244 deaths

Contrast this with Covid-19, as the Corona virus is more formally known.

Every so often, the Internet gives us something truly wonderful

The Internet Archive of Vinyl

Fancy listening to Folk Music of Afghanistan from 1971? Or Afro-Cuban Jazz from 1966?

The Internet Archive has begun digitizing long out-of-print vinyl and making it freely available.

As I write these words, I am listening to "Profiles" by Gary McFarland (1966). It was post bop contemporary jazz at the time. Now, it's a half century old.

Reading into India's GDP growth

Growth in IT Revenue

Quite a bit of buzz today around the fact that India has overtaken the UK as the world's fifth largest economy.

India's GDP has clocked $2,94 trillion. The UK sits at $2,83 trillion followed by France at $2,71 trillion.

There's been a lot of grumbling from India's opposition Congress party who've pointed out that manufacturing has declined in its overall contribution to GDP (in spite of Prime Minister Modi's much-hyped "Make in India" campaign).

The William Nicol interchange looks good, but it sucks

When the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project trotted out the new interchange at the intersection of the N1 and William Nicol, there were many oohs and aahs around how beautiful it was.

Actually, it's stupid. It is responsible for creating what is possibly the single biggest logjam on the road from Cape Town to Beit Bridge.

Here's the problem: Any intersection with traffic lights can only allow cars to pass through as lomg as the light is green.

(Minibus taxis have their own rules. We're not talking about them.)