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Astronomy to aid development

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The International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development has recently opened five offices in various regions to use astronomy as a tool to boost social development in specific regions and languages.

The International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) has established new coordinating offices in Armenia, Colombia, Jordan, Nigeria and Portugal. Supporting the use of astronomy as a tool for development in specific regions and languages, the new partnerships form part of the IAU’s decadal strategic plan — which aims to realise the social benefits of astronomy.

The agreements were signed at the Hawai’i Convention Centre in Honolulu, Hawai’i, during the IAU’s triennial General Assembly. The final signatures were received during a media event on Thursday 13 August 2015.

The five new offices will perform two important functions. Regional offices will coordinate astronomy for development activities in nearby countries, whilst language expertise centres will deal with language and/or cultural aspects. Each of the offices will be hosted by a local institution or consortium of institutes and supported in their efforts by regional partners.

The new coordinating offices of astronomy for development are as follows:

The South West Asian Regional Office, hosted at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO) in Armenia.

The Andean Regional Office, hosted at three collaborating institutions: Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia), Parque Explora-Planetario de Medellín (Colombia), and Sociedad Chilena de Astronomía (Chile).

The Arab Regional Office and Arabic Language Expertise Centre, hosted by the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences and located at the United Nations Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Jordan.

The West African Regional Office, hosted at the Centre for Basic Space Science (CBSS), National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) in Nigeria.

The Portuguese Language Expertise Centre, hosted at Núcleo Interactivo de Astronomia (NUCLIO), in collaboration with the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Portugal.

Together with existing offices around the world — the East Asian Regional Office and Chinese Language Expertise Centre in China; the East African Regional Office in Ethiopia; the South East Asian Regional Office in Thailand; and the Southern African Regional Office in Zambia — the OAD now comprises a network of eight regional offices and three language expertise centres.

The newly signed agreements follow the IAU’s Announcement of Opportunity, which remains open to proposals for new regional offices and language expertise centres. For more information on OAD offices and activities, including the Call for Proposals for projects relating to the OAD’s three main focus areas (universities & research, children & schools, and the public), please visit www.astro4dev.org.

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Smash hits the
Nintendo Switch

Super Smash Bros. delivers what the fans wanted in the latest “Ultimate” instalment, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the latest addition to the popular Nintendo Smash series, has landed on the Nintendo Switch with a bang, selling 5-million copies in the first week of its release. The game has been long-anticipated since the console’s release, as many fans consider iy to be a Nintendo staple. And the wait was well worth it.

It features 74 playable fighters, 108 stages, almost 1300 Spirit characters to collect while playing, and a single-player Adventure mode that took about three days (or 28 hours) of gameplay to complete. The game offers far more gameplay than its predecessors, making it the Smash game that gives its players the best bang for their buck.

For those new to the game, the goal is to fight opponents and build up their damage score (draining their health) to knock them off the stage eventually. This makes the game seem chaotic, as many players jump around the platforms as if they were on quicksand, in order to avoid being hit by the other players.

It also services two kinds of players: the competitive and the casual.

Competitive players can be matched on the online service by skill ranking to enjoy playing with similarly high-skilled opponents. This is especially important in e-sports training for the game, and for players wanting to master combos against other human players. The casual gamer is also catered for, with eight-player chaos and button-mashing to see who comes out luckiest. This segment is also important for those wanting to learn how to play.

Training mode is also a place to go for those learning to play. It offers “CPU” players that are graded by intensity to train as a single player to learn a character’s moves, combos and general fighting style. More challenging CPU players can also be used by competitive players to train when there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection available.

Direct Play features in this game, allowing two players with two Switch consoles to play against each other over a direct connection – no Wi-Fi needed. This is especially useful to those who want to have a social gaming element on the go, similar to that of the cable connector of the Gameboy.

Click here to read Bryan Turner review of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

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Win Funko Fortnite in Vinyl

Gadget and Gammatek have nine Funko Fortnite figurines to give away.

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A Funko Pop figurine based on a character set is indicative of reaching the heights of pop culture. It is no surprise, then, that the world’s biggest online game, Fortnite, has its own line of Funko Pop figurines. The Funkos are modeled on the characters in game, including Drift, Ragnarok, Dark Vanguard, Volar, Tracera Ops, and Sparkle Specialist.

Now, local Funko distributor Gammatek has released the Fortnite figurines in South Africa. To celebrate, Gadget and Gammatek are giving away a set of three Funko Fortnite figurines to each of three readers (9 figurines in total). To enter, first click on your favourite Funko Pop on the next page and post the Tweet that appears. Then, follow Gadget on Twitter.

You can put the tweet in your own words, but entries must have the competition’s hashtag (#FunkoFortnite) and mention @GadgetZA to be considered valid.

Click here to select the Funko Fortnite character you want to tweet.

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