SKA: answering the big questions about the universe

first_imgThe Square Kilometre Array will feature in the next instalment of Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part TV series, to be aired on Sunday 20 July at 9pm on SABC2. Once the SKA is up and running, it will be one of the world’s biggest science projects. The MeerKAT project, pictured above, will be integrated into the first phase of the SKA construction in 2018. (Image: SKA South Africa) • SKA South Africa Project Office Rosebank, Johannesburg +27 (0)11 442 2434 [email protected] • Time-travelling SKA to look back at the birth of stars • Massive funding injection for Square Kilometre Array • SKA will change the way we listen to the universe • All systems go at the SKA • Fifteen amazing facts about the MeerKAT and the Square Kilometre ArrayShamin ChibbaThe answers to some of astronomy’s biggest questions may come straight out of the Karoo when construction on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) begins in 2018.The SKA is a radio telescope which will scour the universe for information to give scientists more data on dark matter, black holes, energy particles and the formation of stars and galaxies. The final construction will look like a field of giant satellite dishes.The SKA Organisation, a private non-profit company based in the UK, is running the project. Both South Africa and Australia will host SKA with 70% of the project being based in the Karoo. The first phase of construction is expected to start in 2018 with phase two commencing in 2023 and ending in 2030.The 64 dishes of the MeerKAT, South Africa’s main component of the colossal Square Kilometre Array telescope, will be integrated into the first phase of SKA’s construction along with 190 more dishes. Australia’s equivalent to MeerKAT – the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder – will also be absorbed into phase one. In addition, 60 mid-frequency dishes and an as yet undisclosed number of low-frequency aperture arrays will be installed.The core site in South Africa will be located 100km west of Carnarvon, Northern Cape. It will sit at an altitude of 1 000m, in a remote area free from radio interference. The area is also legally protected by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2007, which restricts “activity which might detrimentally impact on astronomy and related scientific endeavours”. This would include transmitting radio waves.Australia’s core site is at Boolardy, a former sheep station about 100km west of the mining town of Meekatharra, which lies about 770km northeast of Perth in Western Australia.Outer telescopes will be placed in eight partner countries; Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.According to the SKA’s technical development manager, Francois Kapp, scientists from around the world are already involved in the MeerKAT project. “More than 500 scientists are involved, of whom 50 are from South Africa.” How it worksUnlike other radio telescopes, which are limited in movement and how many frequencies they can receive, the SKA will include an array of telescopes, called an interferometer. It will link the individual telescopes to build a bigger picture of the portions of sky being observed.Massive stars and galaxies give off radio signals and a radio telescope picks up these waves, which are different for each body. Astrophysicists and astronomers then tune into the waves to learn more about the universe. The more waves picked up, the more information collected.The SKA will exceed the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 and will be able to capture huge areas of the sky. In South Africa, data gathered from all the receivers will be processed locally. The SKA will have a combined collecting surface of one square kilometre, and will be 50 times more sensitive and 10 000 times faster than anything yet built.The first phase will be made up of mid-frequency antennae and an array of low-frequency antennae.According to Justin Jonas, associate director for science and engineering at SKA South Africa, the higher elevation of the Karoo site is an advantage for the mid-frequency telescope, which is why this segment was allocated to them.The rest of the low-frequency aperture array antennae, as many as 10 times more than in phase one, will be constructed in Australia and New Zealand.Jonas said scientists should be able to use phase one for research by 2020. “By that time construction on phase two should be underway, with full science operations commencing by 2024.”In phase two, all the dishes will be built in Southern Africa. This is the stage at which the widely spaced dishes will start to spread into the partner countries, as far as 3 000km or more from the core in the Karoo. A number of flat, 60m-wide mid-frequency aperture arrays will also be built here. Costs and challengesBudget for the SKA’s first phase is set at €1.5-billion (R21.6-billion). However, in 2012, South African science and technology minister, Naledi Pandor, had estimated the project to be as much as €2.5-billion (R36.1-billion).The South African government initially pledged R2-billion for the construction of the MeerKAT.In March this year, the project received a €120-million (R1.8-billion) injection from the British government. According to Phil Diamond, director-general at the SKA Organisation, the UK’s funding is a big step towards the project’s realisation. “This is solid proof that the project is now really under way. With such a major investment secured, there is no stopping it.”Despite these contributions, the SKA Organisation is still finding it hard to secure financial support.Further adding to SKA’s challenges is the €650-million (R9.7-billion) cap, which could limit the project’s design. Director of the SKA Organisation, Bernie Fanaroff, said it would have to be designed to that cost while maintaining scientific excellence.The funding model for the instrument was still being negotiated at international level, said South Africa’s former minister of science and technology, Derek Hanekom, in October 2013. He said members of the SKA organisation – South Africa, the UK, Australia, Canada, China, Italy, New Zealand and the Netherlands – will all contribute to capital and running costs. Depending on whether new members come on board, these costs may vary.last_img read more

Economic impact of avian influenza

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Since December 2014, the USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.Nearly 170 Influenza findings have been reported since December, a majority of which have been turkeys and most recently layers. The HPAI H5N2 virus strain has been confirmed in several states along three of the four North American Flyways: Pacific, Central and Mississippi. The latest findings can be found at novel HPAI H5N1 virus is not the same virus as the H5N1 virus found in Asia, Europe and Africa that has caused some human illness. This HPAI H5N1 strain is a new mixed-origin virus that combines the H5 genes from the Asian HPAI H5N1 virus with N genes from native North American avian influenza viruses found in wild birds.Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension, recently reported losses in poultry production and related businesses due to avian influenza are estimated at $309.9 million in Greater Minnesota, according to a newly released emergency economic impact analysis from University of Minnesota Extension.Using economic modeling, analysts determined that for every million dollars in direct losses, the estimated ripple effect leads to $1.8 million in overall economic losses, including $450,000 in wages. Ripple effect losses stem from factors including reduced wage-earner and business-to-business spending.The Extension analysis put losses of poultry production — both turkeys and egg-laying chickens — at $113 million as of May 11.“These projections represent where we stand as of May 11,” said Brigid Tuck, Extension senior analyst, who led the study. “If the virus affects more farms, as we have seen since May 11, the impact levels will rise. If barns stay empty for another cycle of poultry production, these numbers could potentially double”Producers are no longer thinking about “if” this will hit Ohio, but “when.” We hope the disease will miss us this spring but it has been predicted that the level of risk will be high each fall and spring for the next couple years as waterfowl migrate back and forth through our state.The value of poultry sales in Ohio from the last census is $946,592,000. If we would experience a 50% loss of production in Ohio, I would estimate a ripple effect would be $1 billion in overall economic losses, including $815,000 in wages.Think about the effect on the demand for corn and soybean meal. If we would lose half of our poultry for a 6-month period, you would reduce corn demand by 27 million bushels — the equivalent of 9% of our state corn production and soybeans would be about a 5 million-bushel reduction.For those with commercial poultry operations much planning and execution is necessary at this time including advanced biosecurity and disaster planning.last_img read more

Union Minister Prahlad Patel’s son arrested on attempt to murder charges

first_imgUnion Minister Prahlad Patel’s 26-year-old son has been arrested in an attempt to murder case, following an attack that left five people injured in this district of Madhya Pradesh, police said on Tuesday.Mr. Patel’s son Prabal was among the seven persons arrested in connection with the attack on a group of persons at Gotegaon town on Monday night, they added. The Union Minister’s nephew, Monu Patel, whose father is a sitting Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, has also been booked in the case, but not arrested yet. Prahlad Patel, the BJP MP from Damoh, was recently inducted in the Union Cabinet as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism. “The victims have alleged that Prabal Patel (26), Monu Patel (27) and about a dozen others attacked them at Bailhai Bazaar around 11.30 p.m. on Monday. Gunshots were also fired, which hit one person. Seven persons, including Prabal Patel, were arrested in this connection,” Superintendent of Police Gurukaran Singh said.Yet to be arrestedMonu Patel was yet to be arrested and a search to nab all the other accused was under way, he said. Prabal Patel has been named as the main accused in the case, the police said. Monu is the son of Prahlad Patel’s younger brother Jalam Singh Patel, a ex-Minister and the sitting BJP MLA from Narsinghpur.last_img read more

Shunglu report says 495 CWG contracts were cleared in a hurry

first_imgSacked Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) chief Suresh Kalmadi has been indicted yet again, this time by the high-powered V.K. Shunglu committee, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to probe the Commonwealth Games mess.Shunglu slammed Kalmadi and his aides for mismanagement, arbitrary award of contracts and outright dubious acts of omission and commission that resulted in heavy losses to the government exchequer.Accusing Kalmadi of running the OC like a private club, the Shunglu panel report said: “The OC seemed to function as a ‘club’ where the criteria for recruitment and promotion seemed to be ‘who knows who’ rather than merit.” The panel’s fifth report on OC’s mismanagement, which was made public on Thursday, pointed out that Kalmadi’s “monopolistic” functioning led to the mess that has sullied India’s image in the sporting arena and cost huge loss to the exchequer.”There was extreme concentration of powers at the top and conflict of interest among OC officials. It was found the OC had serious governance problems due to an unwieldy general body with 500 members and a subservient executive board. The OC was synonymous with the chairman,” the report said.The report pointed out that Kalmadi approached the government for an additional Rs 900 crore in August 2010, when there was no need for additional funds at that point.In fact, the report notes, Kalmadi and the OC consistently kept “misrepresenting” the Games as being “revenue neutral” in order to justify its extravagant spending.Kalmadi spent Rs 5.06 crore on a “reckless exercise of patronage to send people unrelated with sports to the Beijing Olympics on a pleasure trip,” the report said.advertisementInsiders in the OC have all along held that if the contracts were awarded judiciously, it could have saved more than Rs 350 crore. Accusing Kalmadi of deliberately concentrating all decision-making powers at the top with himself or his trusted aides, Shunglu said Kalmadi functioned with a “coterie”, so that “most of the decision making was controlled by the chairman and his loyal appointees.””The very fact that people seemed to be shunted, transferred or superseded at times when they appeared to dissent or raise concerns suggests that the philosophy was to recruit and promote candidates who would follow directions without question,” the report said.It said the “extreme concentration of power at the top” ensured that decision-making remained limited with the chairman and his coterie of loyal senior management.Pointing out severe conflict of interest within the OC, where key officials of Kalmadi-controlled Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also held senior positions in OC, the panel said accountability, internal and external, “was not the norm.”The executive board hardly exercised its governance role and often delegated responsibility to the executive management committee to the point ofabdication of responsibility, the panel stated.According to documents available with Mail Today, the OC managed to award only 47 out of 542 contracts in four years between October 2006 and December 2009. Left with no time, it was forced to award 495 contracts in just nine months (January to September 2010).”But that cost OC at least Rs 350 crore more than what was estimated earlier in 2006-07 when the Games budget was finalised. With no time left, we haphazardly awarded 495 contracts in just nine months beginning January to September 2010,” a top OC official admitted.In fact, as many as 75 contracts were awarded in October 2010. The highest number of contracts-130-were awarded in September last year, just a few days before the CWG, sources said.Naturally, the cost escalated when OC went to negotiate. From simple deals for sports equipment, functional area logistics, hotels and flight bookings to big contracts in overlays, catering and Games management system software to digital scoreboards (TSR) for real time results, the cost soared well beyond estimates.The committee found irregularities and revenue losses in executing contracts related to ticketing, sponsorship, overlays, timing, scoring and results, catering and recruitments. Calling the award of three contracts to Event Knowledge Services, a consultancy firm, for venue development as dubious, the committee recommended a probe by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to trace the flow of funds from OC to the company in Mauritius.The panel had raised objection on some positions being filled with persons of questionable integrity with past records of vigilance cases against them.Government instructions were flouted in posting of staff in sensitive positions, it said.”It was clear the OC CEO Jarnail Singh was not given adequate responsibility when he joined the OC in 2009. Again till the end, he was not given crucialpowers (appointment of staff, consultants, and vendors, signing of contracts, etc) and was not made the head of the secretariat,” the report said.advertisementOC sources have confirmed that Singh had raised objection to appointment of M. Jayachandran, officer on special duty (finance and accounts) as “against the government rules”. But he was bypassed by Kalmadi and his close aides, including Lalit Bhanot.In fact, the panel pointed out that there were serious differences between former chief operating officer V.K. Gautam, joint directgeneral T.S. Darbari and director general V.K. Verma.The report noted that the TSR (time score record) contract was awarded after great delay to Swiss Timing. The OC took two years and nine months to finally award the contract and as a result, the vendor itself charged a premium on Rs 18 crore, citing delay on the part of the OC.The overlays contracts, aggregating Rs 630 crore, were greatly delayed and initiated only in December 2009 because OC intentionally did not provide estimates and had included provision for overlays in the several budgetary exercises it had undertaken.The report also says that the technology contract for Games management system, signed at a ‘crisis stage’ in March 2010 for Rs 21 crore, was actually managed by Melbourne for just Rs 5 crore.last_img read more