Perlman: Most people think of Kimberley as a hole where diamonds use to be, but I believe there are still plenty in the dumps.
Creamer: Kimberley, the old lady of diamonds, is still dripping with precious gems 134 years later. It had a record production last year, the best production since 1914, where it produced something like 2-million carats of diamonds, which was nearly a million more than the year before. So, there is definitely more life in Kimberley and Jonathan Oppenheimer, who now leads De Beers Consolidated Mines and who is only 35 years old, says that his company intends to be in Kimberley for as long as he is around. In South Africa as a whole, De Beers produced about 13,7-million carats last year, which is a record figure, and Kimberley produced 15 % of that, as many carats as Finsch mine. Despite all the hardships of the strong rand and currency influences, the production of diamonds is still up, because the demand for diamonds is still very much there. So we can look to Kimberley and the other mines producing at an even better rate in South Africa next year.
Perlman: When we talk about eradicating poverty the word community comes up. The word technology also often comes up, and I believe they are trying to combine the two in Krugersdorp.
Creamer: Remember the name Ethembalethu, because it may just end up as a model village that could be a national trendsetter. South Africa is trying to alleviate poverty and to improve the poor image of urban informal settlements, which are often eyesores. A visionary out here from the United States is trying to do so and we hope that he can turn squatter camps into model 21st century villages. He is from New Work, which is a civil society organisation from the US. Prof Frithjof Bergmann has been working with many South African authorities on his plans. He not only wants communities to grow their own food in these areas, purify their own water and produce their own energy, but he is looking to achieving economic sustainability in these areas and he is looking to using 21st century technology to help achieve this, not the least of these hitech items the personal fabricator. His plans do sound incredibly far-fetched, until we learn that Neil Gershenfeld, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is the father of fabricator technology, is in South Africa this week to talk about realising the fabricator dream. While fabricators are till regarded by some as the figment of 'lunitune' imaginations, having personal computers on our desktops may also have sounded that way not that long ago. Computers produce in two dimensions; the envisaged personal fabricators on desktops would produce in 3D - items and goods for people in three dimensions - provided that they are fed with the correct digital information. They are talking about creating economically self-sustained informal settlements, also using other advanced technology to make sure communities can grow their own food, purify their own water, generate their own electricity and also employ themselves in 21st century villages.
Perlman: We often talk about the importance of science in schools and building up the next generation of technicians, people are really comfortable with the subject. What is happening with that, in this the 'World Year of Physics'?
Creamer: A hundred years ago a patent attorney in Switzerland produced five papers in 12 months, which revolutionised the world of physics. His name was Albert Einstein. In fact, the initial important paper on relativity was produced 100 years ago yesterday and the South African Science and Technology Minister is wanting to use this year, which has been declared the World Year of Physics, to encourage South Africans to re-enter the world of physics, which, after all, is not only about nuclear and atomic matter, but about so many things that we use today that are influenced by Einstein's theories of a hundred years ago. His theories are applied in the fields of electronics, in laser systems and even in modern products like geographical positioning systems, which take into account what Einstein decreed on relativity. In South Africa there are going to be quite a few highlights around the World Year of Physics. For instance, the MTN Science Centre down in Cape Town has produced 'Imagining Einstein', which is a play that is doing the rounds and it will also be preformed in Pretoria next week, when the South African Institute of Physics gathers for World Year of Physics meetings to commemorate those five papers, three of them written in one year, 1905, the year they wanted to call annus mirabilis, the year of miracles, in which the world got a new understanding of physics and matter.
Perlman: I never did understand physics, hopefully the people who need it will be better at science than I am. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us at the same time next week.
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