Big telescopes are no longer the primary aspiration for budding astronomers. Welcome to the era of big data in astronomy.
By “mining” the huge amount of astronomical data online, astronomers can now do cutting edge science without ever setting foot in an actual telescope observatory. This is not just huge for the astronomy field, but the principles developed within astronomy can be applied in just about any industry that deals with big .
The Virtual Observatory (VO) provides tools and protocols that facilitate access to online collections of astronomical data. These enable astronomers to work just as well in a small rural university, or even at home, as in an international observatory or large research university – provided they have access to the Internet and a good scientific education. It also adds value to expensive infrastructure by allowing data to be used and reused many times.
The first meeting of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) to take place on the African Continent is currently under way at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS). It presents an opportunity to showcase developments surrounding astronomy in this country.
The meeting was preceded by an educator workshop on Virtual Observatory tools and applications, hosted by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) last week. Following the meeting, a workshop will be held at the University of Zululand in Kwa-Zulu Natal for university students and lecturers.
The objective of the IVOA meeting is to provide a semi-annual venue for discussion and development of virtual observatory standards and VO-based applications. It also provides a formal opportunity for face-to-face meetings of the IVOA Executive and the various working groups.
The meeting was opened by the CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Dr Molapo Qhobela, who in his introductory remarks expressed his delight that South Africa is hosting the first IVOA Interoperability meeting in Africa. This meeting is attended by over 90 registered participants from different astronomy institutes and observatories across the globe.
Kevin Govender, from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), is among the plenary speakers in the education session on Friday, and will explore the role of virtual observatory tools in education and development. Christophe Arviset (European Space Agency) is the Chair of IVOA Executive. Local organization of the meeting is by Prof Patricia Whitelock from the South African Astro-informatics Alliance (SA3) and colleagues.
The Virtual Observatory (VO) is an international astronomical community-based initiative. It aims to allow global electronic access to astronomical data archives from space and ground-based observatories. It is a collection of tools for accessing and visualizing multi-wavelength data that collectively provide a scientific environment, rather than a physical observatory.
A vast array of astronomical data-sets are already available at all wavelengths and many more are on the way. Amongst the largest will be SKA at radio wavelengths and the Large Scale Synoptic Survey Telescope at optical wavelengths. These very large databases will be archived and, through the VO, made accessible in a systematic and uniform manner to realise the full potential of the existing and future observing facilities.
As selfie cameras rise, so must selfie etiquette
Selfies were once a sign of narcissism or self-obsession. Now they are the new normal, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
You can blame Oxford Dictionaries for making the “selfie” respectable. After all, being named Word of the Year, as it was in 2013, does tend to soften some of the self-consciousness in this most self-conscious of actions.
Once seen as a symbol of narcissism and self-obsession, it is now the new normal, to the extent that most smartphones are sold on the basis of the front camera. Or, as that feature is now almost universally named by manufacturers, the “selfie camera”.
I was one of the hold-outs, having a near-allergy to the selfie. I still resist, but succumb more often than I would like. The reason for continued resistance is that it remains a big leap from the word becoming respectable to the action itself shedding its narcissistic image.
For most, it’s already happened, and for that you can blame Ellen DeGeneres. She choreographed the most famous group selfie yet at the 2014 Oscars, when she roped a bunch of actors into a group selfie, using the then-new Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Her tweet of the photo became what was then the most retweeted posting ever on Twitter, and was estimated to have been worth a million dollars in marketing value to Samsung.
Ironically, it was Samsung’s up-and-coming challenger, Huawei, that came up with a new word for this type of selfie: the “groufie”. Thanks to an 8 Megapixel front camera on the new Huawei Ascend P7 camera that year which took the highest quality selfies – and groufies – possible on a smartphone at the time.
It didn’t end there, and selfies and groufies have morphed into variations like selfscapes (selfie in a landscape), skyfies (selfies from the air, using remote controlled devices) and jerkies (selfies to make an idiot out of yourself). I invented all of those on the fly, so it’s easy to imagine a new word emerging for every type of selfie.
Continue reading about selfie improvements through the years.
Mickey’s 90th for SA
Disney Africa announced the local launch of the Mickey the True Original campaign, joining the global festivities honouring 9 decades of Mickey Mouse, his heritage, personality and status as a pop-culture icon.
As 18 November 2018 marks 90 years since his first appearance in Steamboat Willie in November 1928, a series of world-wide celebrations will be taking place this year and South Africa is no different.
The campaign will come to life with engaging content and events that embrace Mickey’s impact on the past, present and future. The local festivities kick off in earnest this month, leading up to Mickey’s 90th anniversary on 18 November 2018 and beyond:
- An exclusive local design project where ten highly talented South African artists will apply their own inspiration and artistic interpretation on 6-foot Mickey Mouse statues.
- Once revealed to the public, the statues will form part of the Mickey the True Original South African Exhibition, inspired by Mickey’s status as a ‘true original’ and his global impact on popular culture. The exhibition will travel to 3 cities and delight fans and families alike as they journey with Mickey over the years. Featuring 4 sections highlighting Mickey’s innovation, his evolution, influence on fashion and also pop culture, the exhibition is in collaboration with Samsung and Edgars, and will visit:
o Sandton City, Centre Court: 28 September – 14 October
o Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Expo Explore Court: 19 October – 11 November
o Canal Walk Shopping Centre. Centre Court: 16 November – 26 November
- Samsung continues their collaboration with Disney as they honour Mickey’s 90th anniversary nationally at all Samsung and Edgars Stores. Entitled Unlocking the Imagination, fans are encouraged to visit these stores, take a selfie with a giant Mickey plush toy using their Samsung Galaxy Note9 and stand a chance to win not only a giant Mickey plush, but also an international family trip. Visit www.Samsung.com for more information
- Mickey’s 90th Spectacular, a two-hour prime-time special, will be screened on M-Net 101 later this year. The elegant affair will feature star-studded musical performances, moving tributes and never-before-seen short films. Superstars from music, film and television will join the birthday fun for the internationally beloved character.
- In addition, look out for special programming on Mickey’s birthday (18 November) across Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303), Disney XD (DStv, Channel 304) and Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309).
- In retailers, Edgars will be stocking a complete collection of trendy fashion, accessories and footwear for the whole family, inspired entirely by Mickey Mouse.
- Mickey will be the central theme of an in-store campaign nationwide this November and December, with brand new products, apparel, toys, as well as titles from Disney Publishing Worldwide, including books, arts & crafts and comics
- Discovery Vitality and Disney are celebrating healthy, happy families this festive season by offering helpful and exciting tips and tricks on how to eat nutritious, yet delicious, foods, all inspired by Mickey. There’s also a trip to Disneyland Paris up for grabs. Log on to www.discovery.co.za/vitality for information.
- And much more – check the press for updates
“Binding generations together more than any other animated character, Mickey Mouse is the “True Original” who reminds people of all ages of the benefits of laughter, optimism and hope,” says Christine Service, Senior Vice President and Country Manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa. “With his universal appeal and ability to emotionally connect with generations all over the world, no other character quite occupies a similar space in the hearts and minds of a global fan base and we are thrilled to be sharing these local festivities.”
Mickey’s birthday is celebrated in honour of the release of his first theatrical film, Steamboat Willie, on 18th November 1928, at the Colony Theatre in New York City. Since then, he has starred in more than 100 cartoons and can currently be seen on Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303) in the Mickey Mouse cartoon series and on Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309) in Mickey and the Roadster Racers.
South African fans are encouraged to share their Mickey Mouse moments on social media using the hashtag#Mickey90Africa.