December 2012 issue

Date:1 December 2012 Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Changing our world, one idea at a time

This month’s cover story introduces a bunch of smart and extremely determined people from all walks of life whose groundbreaking technologies and clever devices are already changing our world. Among them is Pretoria-born Elon Musk, the billionaire visionary behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors – builders of beautifully engineered and very quick electric cars.

In case you’ve forgotten, SpaceX is the first private company to build, launch and operate a spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station – and from what we hear, that’s only the beginning.

Also on offer is the story behind a Cape Town animation studio whose new film, Adventures in Zambezia, is making box-office waves overseas. We’re talking lots of animation talent, great characters and raw computing power on a scale that boggles the mind. It opens here on 28 December, and for the record, it’s not just for kids.

Next up is a slightly weird article about people who dream while they’re awake, plus an even stranger one that tackles memetic theory in relation to the utterly inexplicable – that is, until now – pastime known as planking.

Anyone for a laser-tipped gauntlet?
FutureTech 2012 is a wrap, and here’s the scary bit: we’ve already started on our planning for next year’s event. We’ll be applying some of the lessons learned from this conference – for example, allow for major traffic foul-ups that could delay the arrival of headline speakers – and have every intention of making the 2013 conference bigger and better, with a few surprises on top.

This year’s presenter line-up was an eclectic mix. Mobile entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig Jr kicked off the conference with a disarmingly casual and informative discourse on social connectivity; cosmologist George Ellis provided a detailed deconstruction of our tech-dominated society; sports scientist Tim Noakes delivered a scathing denunciation of our nutritional “laws” (and the people who wrote them); cyberforensics guru Annamart Nieman debated litigation in cyberspace (and tossed boxes of Smarties into the audience as rewards for answering her questions); Qualcomm’s James Munn revealed how mobile ruled the world (and why this should make us happy); Sasol New Energy’s Cavan Hill gave us compelling insights into sustainable energy and the opportunities for future mobility.

But that was only part of it. We also enjoyed a “fireside chat” (sans fire, naturally) with inventor and engineering whizzkid Greg Raymond, a man who gives new meaning to the term “can do”. Introducing our “Pitch it to the Panel” segment, with co-hosts Anthony van Zantwijk (a well-known patent attorney) and Mike Puzey (businessman and inventor extraordinaire), we heard Felix Groenewald describe his revolutionary E-copter rotor head and watched Gerhard Ferreira demonstrate his company’s highly original electro-adhesion products.

Later, we acknowledged Felix’s inventive excellence with a Special Merit Award and cash prize as part of our annual Inventor of the Year competition. A similar award went to John Abel, creator of a game-changing trailer coupling system that allows a driver to reverse without risk of jack-knifing.

Visual punctuation came courtesy of the skilled and imaginative team at LaserX, who launched our conference with a demonstration of laser graphics and followed up in the afternoon with a pair of sinuous female dancers clad in “light suits” and laser-tipped gauntlets. Inspired by their performance, I later suggested to my spouse that she try something similar at home. (In retrospect, not a wise move.)

Roll on, 2013…

– Alan Duggan (aland@ramsaymedia.co.za)