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Terry Mackenzie-hoy

Terry Mackenzie-hoy

Mackenzie-Hoy is a consulting acoustics and electrical engineer – machoy@iafrica.com

Electronic loneliness: the nature of communication

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     20th April 2018 I claim that communication is only possible between two systems which have different information content. The information content of a system is the probability that it will receive a message it has never received before. Put more simply, if my information content is 100%, then I know everything... 

Goodbye to copper

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     13th April 2018 Copper, the metal, has been around for a very long time. The Copper Age predates the Bronze and Iron ages and ran from about 4500 BC to 3500 BC. Copper has stuck with us – wooden ships were sheathed in copper and the domes of buildings were made from copper – it does not corrode. The Statue of... 

Cattle class

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu     6th April 2018 I was in Uganda. Lovely people, beautiful scenery, traffic nightmare, airport nightmare. Entebbe International Airport is 40 km from the capital, Kampala. It takes two hours to travel from Entebbe to Kampala. Departing, your baggage is X-rayed three times and you are metal-detected three times.... 

Driverless cars and robots

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     30th March 2018 Let us imagine that two robots, Og and Box, are playing chess against each other. To make sure the game progresses, Og is allowed to make a move every seven seconds. Box is allowed to move every eight seconds. At the fifty-sixth move, there is an impasse, since both are allowed to move. Who moves... 

No visible horizon

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu     23rd March 2018 The title of this column is that of a book written by Joshua Cooper Ramo, which is about flying aerobatics. As you read on, you will find that aerobatics have little to do with this column. But I like the phrase 'no visible horizon', since, I think, it accurately represents the electronic future... 

Engineering design that’s deplorable

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     16th March 2018 My experience with my Mercedes-Benz C180 has been an engineering delight. The driving and ride and interior are a matter for discussion in a motoring magazine – I am talking about engineering, bru. Look at the following: you are driving along and a dog runs in front of the car. In many  cars, you... 

New Cabinet appointments

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     9th March 2018 When I worked for State-owned power utility Eskom, the top position went to either to engineer or an accountant, often turn by turn. When the engineer was in charge, the system was solid and reliable and we had all the smart and cool stuff we needed. When the accountants were in charge, the... 

Why the Koeberg nuclear power station was built

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     2nd March 2018 A lot of people are very much against South Africa building another nuclear power station. Many hope that the first project that President Cyril Ramaphosa throws under the bus will be a new nuclear power station. It is a sensitive topic. 

Millions, gigabytes and gigawatts

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     23rd February 2018 All the really frightening climate change graphs have the vertical scale in tenths of a degree. The scale is from –0.6 oC to 0.8 oC (about 1.4 oC). On the horizontal axis, the time is given as from 1880 to 2018, a period of 138 years. We know that, routinely, temperatures can change from, say, 12... 

Unlikely electrical devices

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     16th February 2018 Often, a layperson comes up with an idea that is totally not going to work and that sounds as if it will work. Then we electrical engineers have a problem since, no matter what you (we qualified engineers with 34 years experience) say to the layperson, the layperson (LP) produces increasingly... 

Western Cape water crisis

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     9th February 2018 I think that living by the sea and near Table Mountain has an effect on the local population of Cape Town. Do note that I was brought up in the then Transvaal and, thus, I was told how intelligent the Capetonians were; how civilised and how caring, compared with us carpet baggers who lived on the... 

Getting more efficient

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     2nd February 2018 About four years ago, I launched a project called the 400 W house. The house I proposed would use no more than an average of 400 W of electricity an hour over a 24 hour period. I specified a fridge that would use 180 W, a TV at 90 W, an induction cooker/hob at 900 W and an induction water heater... 

Back from the dead 

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     26th January 2018 Of late, I have been telling various people about what it is like to be a DNA engineer – where, before you qualify or finish school, it is in your blood. I do not mean that the young  child built things out of stuff, thus indicating engineering traits; I mean that the child, from young, had... 

German fascination with SA wind power

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     19th January 2018 Germans seem to be very interested in wind power generation in South Africa. Don't know why. First we had German-born Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz running the Energy Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). In this position, he proposed a power generation model that was... 

Smoke and mirrors

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     15th December 2017 In September 2016, a '50-year-event' storm occurred in South Australia. Power system voltage transients caused nine wind farms to shut down, and two large wind farms – the Hornsdale wind farm and the Snowtown wind farm – reduced output by  86 MW and 106 MW respectively in the space of one second.... 

Phase angles

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     8th December 2017 I was in a courtroom the other day and the public prosecutor was asking questions . Unfortunately they were not engineering questions and I am an engineer. Thus, I did not understand the questions or why they were being asked. As a true engineer, I would say, "Ah, if you mean . . .", and I would... 

What should we ban?

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     1st December 2017 Edgar Allen Poe wrote that he took drugs, since "it has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom”. Chuck Palahniuk wrote :“I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some... 

Justice confused

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     24th November 2017 In the State vs Oscar Pistorius case, we all know what may have happened. The trial can also aspire to a record – the worst forensic evidence in South African legal history, ever. This does not relate to bloodstains and fingerprints, but simple scientific evidence that could have been tested on a... 

A little nuke never hurt nobody

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     17th November 2017 I recently told a group of people at a pub (a pub, can you believe?) that I thought Donald Trump was a "good idea".  There was the sort of silence that you get when the stage magician vanishes completely and then the sort of shouting that follows when Sandra Bullock asks who would like to go with... 

Far too high up

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     10th November 2017 Some time ago, I was in a court case as an expert witness. The advocate gave me a number to call him. It was his wife's cellphone number; he said it was no good me calling his cellphone because it was switched off, as the press never stopped calling him and he thought they may be bugging his... 

100 years from now

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     3rd November 2017 When the Trojans found a horse on the beach, I am quite sure that the first thing they thought was not: "How kind of those Greek lads", but rather: "Whatever are they up to?" We have similar horse. Ever friendly and kind Google lets us use Google Earth without charge. We even get a street view of... 

How we work at my consulting practice

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     27th October 2017 I thought I would write about how we, at my consulting practice, work. We have a fairly unique working system – perhaps the only one of its kind in South Africa. Read on. But, first, what we do. We are consulting engineers – specifically, consulting acoustics and electrical engineers. But this is... 

Just havin’ fun

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     20th October 2017 Oh, woe to all of you who are married to engineers. Engineers are generally useful people to have around. But, when watching TV, if something is shown that is not correct engineering-wise, the engineer will snort and launch into a detailed explanation as to why the TV is wrong. You want to... 

Bitcoins – a quick way to lose it all

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     13th October 2017 We all know that there IS a thing called a bitcoin. All over the show, there are stories about bitcoin investors who are now millionaires. What is the truth? A little story: Tim and I were working at a mining camp in the Congo. The mining camp was dry; no alcohol permitted. We followed the rules... 

Sparklepop and the Magic Dragon

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     6th October 2017 Sometimes I get involved in advertising film shoots. The first advertising film shoot that I attended was in the 1980s. It was held in a large open concrete yard owned by Eskom. The storyline was: a pretty woman is  walking along a sidewalk, next to a tree-lined road. We cut to a man who is... 

Fade to black

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     29th September 2017 About 20 years ago, I wrote the following: "What do you see? You see the ruins of a building. It has burnt down. There are pathetic little burnt bundles of bits strewn around everywhere. And the coroner  (the coroner! ) is there. He's investigating what could have possibly caused this... 

An ill wind

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     22nd September 2017 One commentator said this: "The renewable energy purchase programme, launched in 2011, has been celebrated as a spectacular success directing private capital into public infrastructure and a model for attempts to lure private investment into other projects." I am sure this is how wind farm... 

Fate is against us

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     15th September 2017 Recently, somebody was  discussing minibus taxis and how badly they drive. It was mentioned that, in fact, they drive very well: they pass through the narrowest of gaps between cars, they glide down pavements. They can reverse at high speed through rush hour traffic. They can embark and disembark... 

Pluck the strings and weep

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     8th September 2017 On May 8, 2016, supporters of the green movement reached a moment of nirvana – the state of perfect peace, highest happiness and liberation from the repeating cycle of birth, life and death. Not since the end of Margaret Thatcher had their dreams been so realised. The huge event was this: on a... 

Tell me a funny story

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     1st September 2017 So, since the 20-year rule (the period that has to elapse before I can tell embarrassing engineering stories where my clients who were involved) has lapsed in some cases, here is one of the stories.   I was working for FW.  Empersa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique (ENH) had decided that... 

The unintended effect of excessive safety measures

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     25th August 2017 Sometimes certain things just come to a logical plateau. The best way of doing them or the best process for achieving a result has been found. I have this belief that the process of safety education was once at a pinnacle and is now going downhill. I am not sure why this is the case, but I think... 

Electrical Power Generation 101

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     18th August 2017 A few things we should possibly all know if we wish to talk about energy. The national grid is not a energy storage dam. What goes into the grid comes out of the grid very shortly, almost instantaneously. Thus, the amount of power generated matches the amount of power used, apart of losses due to... 

The costs of safety

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     11th August 2017 A well known South African electrical cable manufacturer will not hold it against me when I say that, at one time, about 25 years ago, the manufacturer ran the most unsafe cable making operation that I had seen. To the accompaniment of whistles and shouts, a group of men dragged wires, PVC... 

Electrical surgery

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     4th August 2017 It has long been clear to me that it is about time that State-owned power utility Eskom was sliced up and sold. You have to understand that I am a great supporter of Eskom; I worked for the utility and I greatly admire some of its systems, in particular, the distribution maintenance systems.... 

The limits of communication

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     28th July 2017 Communications on the planet began when the world was at a stage where messages from one tribe of people to another did not involve the messenger being executed on arrival. The top speed of communication was the speed of a galloping horse or, in rough terrain, the speed of a running person.... 

Hold my hand, you silly girl

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     21st July 2017 On the November 26, 2011, I wrote: "After a recent tour, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has said the December 2013 deadline for the Medupi power station, in Lephalale, Limpopo, to start delivering power still stands. 'I have no intention of allowing any delays to the target of December... 

Inventions and developments and war

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     14th July 2017 We all know that Charles H Duell, the commissioner of the US patent office in 1899. His most famous attributed utterance is that "everything that can be invented has been invented". In point of fact, he said nothing of the kind. The myth of him saying this is very unfortunate because it suggests... 

A good disaster

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     7th July 2017 Do they still have, one wonders, the good old engineering Friday afternoon braai? For the sake of moral, it used to be that, at the end of every month, on a site, they would have a braai, usually starting at 15:00. The beers would be floating in a water-and-ice mixture in a galvanised bath (know... 

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