SA Science Lens competition 2013: a celebration of science

  • Science Close-Up: 'Starry Starry Night' by Albe Swanepoel
  • Science as Art: 'Distortion' by Kim Van Zyl
  • Science in Action: 'Kelvin-Helmholtz' by Thomas Otto Whitehead
  • Science in Society: 'Society’s Resources' by Morgan Trimble
  • International Year of Water Cooperation: 'Solving the Problem of Polluted Mine Water' by Nicholas Cullinan.
Date:10 April 2014 Tags:, ,

Stunning images of human erythrocytes and wave-like clouds are just two of the winners in the 2013 Southern African Science Lens competition. Although it was a difficult task, the judges managed to choose winners in the following categories:

Science Close-Up
Albe Carina Swanepoel: Starry Starry Night (see image 1)

These starry objects are human erythrocytes, also known as red blood cells. Red blood cells are usually biconcave with a smooth surface, but when these blood cells undergo stress their shape changes. Numerous spiky projections are formed when the cell membrane expands. Then they are referred to as echinocytes, which comes from the Greek word echinos, literally meaning “hedgehog”.

Science As Art
Kim Van Zyl: Distortion (see image 2)

This paperclip is floating on the surface of glycerine, turning the effects of surface tension and the distortion of the surface caused by the paperclip into art.

Science in Action
Thomas Whitehead: Kelvin-Helmholtz (see image 3)

This phenomenon of wave-like clouds is created by a turbulence of two air layers lying close to each other which move with different speed and/or direction. This is known as the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, which has even been observed in Saturn’s bands and Jupiter’s Red Spot. Kelvin-Helmholtz instability cloud structures are particularly rare and are considered by cloud enthusiasts as the Holy Grail.

Science in Society
Morgan Trimble: Society’s Resources (see image 4)

One way scientists can support society is through recommendations for the management of natural resources. This photograph was taken during a scientific study of the structure of fisheries in the Bangweulu Wetlands of northern Zambia. In the project, researchers worked with local fishermen to measure the number and size of fish offtake of different species in the unique swamp fishery to better understand sustainability of the system.

International Year of Water Cooperation:
Nic Cullinan: Solving the problem of Polluted Mine Water (see image 5)

Edward Peters, a Postgraduate student in the Crystallisation and Precipitation Unit at the University of Cape Town uses an optical light to observe the state of the ice and salt crystals during a Eutectic Freeze Crystallization (EFC) process.  EFC is a technique that can be used to recover salt from industrial brine solutions and produce pure water.

Now in its 7th year, the competition aims to encourage scientists, science communicators and science enthusiasts, as well as professional photographers and amateurs with an enthusiasm for science and technology, to share their world through the medium of photography.

The Southern African Science Lens competition is run by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), a business unit of the National Research Foundation, and is all residents in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique are entitled to enter. For more information about Southern African Science Lens competition, visit

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