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					                             RESEARCHERS HONOURED
                               I n April the Royal Society of South Africa honoured
                                 Prof Michael Samways of the Department of Conservation
                               Ecology and Entomology, and Prof Florian Breuer of
                                                                                               involves the development of ecological networks and
                                                                                               the maintenance of natural corridors where nature is
                                                                                               allowed to move in and around forestry, in so doing
                               the Department of Mathematical Sciences.                        harmonising production with environmental conservation.
                                  Prof Samways was honoured with the John Herschel                “Our research attempts to answer the questions
                               Medal for 2008 for achievements in interdisciplinary            on how to produce our food while at the same time
                               scientific research, while Prof Breuer received the             having a beautiful environment where there is also
                               Meiring Naude Medal at the Society‚s Centenary Banquet          conservation of nature.”
                               in Cape Town, during which the Society‚s work in the               Prof Breuer, who researches questions in number
                               past century to promote and develop scientific ideas            theory, has a special interest in Ducci sequences, the
                               and knowledge in South Africa was celebrated.                   André-Oort conjecture, Drinfeld modules, the graphic           Photo: Honoured. Here are Prof Graeme Cumming of the
                                                                                                                                                              University of Cape Town and co-recipient of the Meiring
                                  Prof Samways and his research team are involved              mathematics-inspired artwork of MC Escher, and the             Naude Medal, Prof Florian Breuer, Prof Michael Samways and
                               with several research projects. A current projects              ancient oriental board game Go.                                Dr Ian Glass, Royal Society Councillor. (Photo: Royal Society)

                                                                                     I  f you feel like travelling, but cannot
                                                                                        afford it, buy a Big Mac, coffee and a
                                                                                                                                    fast food! They studied more than 7000
                                                                                                                                    plant species that are eaten worldwide       EAT A BIG MAC
                                                                                     portion of French fries as consolation
                                                                                     prize. Because a whole world is packed
                                                                                     into this fast food meal.
                                                                                         This type of fast food is typical of
                                                                                                                                    to determine the ancient links, origin
                                                                                                                                    and distribution of the preferred snacks
                                                                                                                                    of people.
                                                                                                                                        Our ability to process plants, our
                                                                                                                                                                                 AND TOUR
                                                                                     our globalising society, say researchers       apparent endless love for new tastes,
                                                                                     at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence            improved international trade networks
                                                                                     for Invasion Biology (CIB), who have           and technological developments
                                                                                     published a phylogenetic plant study           such as freezers, hydroponics
                                                                                     in BioScience in collaboration with a          and improved pest control
                                                                                     Canadian colleague at the University           strengthen the globalising status
                               PHOTO ABOVE: Partners. On the photo are the Chief     of Calgary.                                    of food.
                               Executive Officer of PBMR, Mr Jaco Kriek, and the         They reckon that the meal consists             “It may be that we have not yet
                               Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Russel Botman.
                                                                                     of more than 20 plant species from             discovered the culinary value of the
                                                                                     eight countries.                               species that we currently do not

                                          S   tellenbosch University (SU) and            “It is impressive that a single meal       enjoy eating,” speculates Dr Wilson.

                                              Pebble Bed Modular Reactor             can contain so many species, since             “Maintaining plant diversity ensures
                                                                                     some societies that are relatively             that we will continue to have the
                                          (PBMR), leaders in the design of high-
                                                                                     untouched by globalisation trends have         current flavours that we enjoy
                                          temperatures reactors, signed an
                                                                                     only 50 to 100 species in their entire         available to us and will also preserve
                                          agreement in March according to which
                                                                                     diet,” says Dr John Wilson of the CIB.         other potential food sources that
                                          the University will carry out research         The researchers did not only look at       we haven’t even discovered yet.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Graphic: Hanlie Malan,
                                          in areas that will enhance the                                                                                                                          DIE BURGER

                                          performance and safety of this world-
                                          class reactor.                                                                                                      Prof Stephen Hawking was one of the guests attending the
                                             The pebble bed modular reactor                                                                                   opening of the National Institute for Theoretical Physics
                                          comprises innovative technology                                                                                     (NITheP) at the Wallenberg Research Centre at STIAS. With
                                                                                                                                                              him are Prof Hendrik Geyer, Interim Director of NITheP
                                          that is characterised by inherent                                                                                   (left) and Mr Mosibudi Mangena, Minister of Science and
                                          safe design features. It operates at                                                                                Technology. (Photo: Anton Jordaan, SCPS)
                                          high temperature, enabling highly
                                          efficient energy conversion for diverse                                                                                Speakers included the Minister of Science and
                                          applications. It is classified under the                                                                            Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, and Prof David Gross,
                                          International Atomic Energy Agency                                                                                  Nobel Prize winner for Physics and Director of the
                                          (IAEA) category of small and medium                                                                                 Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara,
                                          reactors and, if configured into an                                                                                 USA, while Prof George Smoot, Nobel Prize winner and

                                          electricity-generating plant, will be                  he famous theoretical physicist, Prof Stephen Hawking,       astrophysicist, was also in attendance.
                                          about one sixth the size of the Koeberg                visited the Stellenbosch campus in May when he attended         NITheP is a geographically distributed institute that
                                                                                                 the opening of the National Institute for Theoretical        also has regional centres at the universities of KwaZulu-
                                          reactor. A number of units can be
                                                                                          Physics (NITheP) at the Wallenberg Research Centre at STIAS.        Natal and the Witwatersrand. It is being positioned as a
                                          grouped together in a multi-module
                                                                                              Prof Hawking, who suffers from motor neuron disease and         national and African user facility for theoretical physics,
                                          configuration if greater generating
                                                                                          communicates using a sophisticated computer system, was not         and will provide theoretical underpinning for current
                                          capacity is required.                           part of the list of speakers at the event, but he surprised all     national programmes, including astrophysics, cosmology,
                                             This contract again emphasises               with his attendance as well as his statement of support to the      nuclear and particle physics, quantum technologies,
                                          Stellenbosch University’s status as             Institute. He said that the Institute will allow local physicists   condensed matter physics and quantum optics.
                                          a technologically innovative and                to interact with scientists from overseas, and that NITheP will        Prof Hendrik Geyer, Director of STIAS, is the Interim
                                          research-driven university.                     train future African theoretical physicists.                        Director of NITheP.

                                                                                                                                                                                      matieland WINTER2008 19

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