Imagine a medical emergency in which a bone is broken so badly that it can’t be repaired. Scientists, engineers and medical experts at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have developed a solution to deal with just this problem. First, using X-ray technology, the broken bone is 3D modeled – meaning that a computerised version of the bone is created. The shape of a “new bone” is designed on a computer to perfectly replace the broken pieces. Then, this new shape (or implant) is manufactured using advanced manufacture techniques. Surgeons can then remove the pieces of broken bone and replace them with an implant that fits perfectly – allowing the body to heal.
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How does science happen in universities and research labs? Mostly using computers. “How so?” you may ask. When scientists set up an experiment they usually take measurements.
In the past, these would have been recorded on paper – but these days, they are mostly taken by computers. These measurements give scientists the data of the experiment. Computers are instructed to carry out calculations on these measurements. Scientists use coding to tell computers how to do these calculations. With computers, scientists can take a lot more measurements and make many more calculations than they could by hand.
Computer programmes can also be used to predict what happens in an experiment using the laws of science. This is called a simulation or a model. This means that scientists can do ‘experiments’ using computers which can be safer, quicker and cheaper than doing the same experiment in the real world.
Computers can also be used to make images that help us make sense of data and gain new knowledge. Computers are used to make beautiful images from telescopes, for example. This is called data visualization. As scientific experiments get bigger and more complicated like the MeerKAT Radio Astronomy Telescope, scientists need more powerful, faster computers and more elaborate programmes to analyze the data. This is one of the ways that science drives the development of new technologies.
This article was written by The Inter-university Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) who exists to grow skills and expertise in data-intensive research.
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The safety and security of human life has always been linked to the environment. The Earth provides us with natural resources that humans have used to grow industries and economies. But this growth has put our Earth under a lot of stress! New technologies have the potential to create systems to improve the management of the Earth and her resources. Here are a few ways that the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help our environment:
- Buildings will become “smart” and environmentally friendly, by reducing water usage as well as decreasing the use of electricity for lighting, heating and cooling.
- Transport and traffic systems will become more organised, resulting in less carbon emissions and cars that are more environmentally friendly.
- Technology will allow us to monitor the emission of greenhouse gases more efficiently, making sure that we know and learn ways to reduce these emissions.
- Bioengineering will allow crops to grow in larger quantities and at a faster rate, while using less land.
- Biotechnology will help us develop better ways to manage pests and weeds.
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