Category Archives: Africa

Dreaming of Space

Nile_River_Delta_at_NightVirgin Galactic describes astronauts as “the world’s most exclusive club.” I know this because I recently downloaded the company’s brochure, and spent many happy minutes fantasizing about what it would be like to lay down $200,000 and take out a membership. Virgin Galactic, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is the space tourism company dreamt up by Sir Richard Branson, the former record-store owner who has racked up such a vast personal fortune that he is now ranked the fourth wealthiest person in the UK. Branson wants spaceflight to be a pleasant, zenlike experience—rather like a supersonic spa.

Banished are the days of adrenalin-infused terror when NASA strapped husky young farm boys to the back of faulty rockets. The Virgin Galactic journey begins in serenity in the New Mexico desert, in a spaceport designed by the architectural firm of Foster + Partners (the name says it all).   Read More.

Taming the Flame

For our early human ancestors in Africa,  nighttime was anything but the right time.  On moonless nights, lions and other large predators could readily stalk resting humans and attack virtually unseen.  But eventually early humans discovered a clever way to frighten off large carnivores and solve a host of other problems:  they tamed fire.  With a small blaze lighting the darkness, humans could ward off the cold,  cook hot dinners and gather together and socialize around hearths.

But when did humans first domesticate fire? New research at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggests that our ancestors succeeded in kindling fires 1 million years ago –200,000 years earlier than previous evidence suggested.

To read my news story on this for ScienceNow,  please click here.

Photos courtesy of M. Chazan.