News24

SKA: Split site now under consideration

2012-04-19 22:34

Paris - Plans to build the world's most powerful radio telescope are looking at whether the site can be split between rival bidders South Africa and Australia, organisers said on Thursday.

The two countries are waiting anxiously on the decision where the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a $2bn scheme conceived back in 1991, will be located.

Earlier this month, the project's parent body, the SKA Organisation, pencilled a meeting for the end of May to give time to let a working group examine the bids further.

Speaking to AFP on Thursday, John Womersley, head of the SKA's board of directors, said the panel was exploring whether it was feasible to split the telescope between the two countries.

"We are seeing if there are ways in which one could instal SKA infrastructure in both Australia and South Africa that would make sense scientifically," Womersley said in an interview from Manchester, England, where the SKA is headquartered.

"But it's key that any solution... must not compromise the science or increase the costs in any unaffordable way."

Scientists hope the SKA, which will be 50 times more sensitive than today's most powerful radio telescopes, will shed new light on fundamental questions about the Universe, including how it began and why it is expanding.

The telescope, designed to be fully operational in 2024, will comprise a vast, dispersed forest of about a thousand antennae which suck radio signals out of the sky.

100 million PCs

It will also need unprecedented computing power - the equivalent processing ability of 100 million PCs - to crunch this data to detect signs of ancient stars and galaxies.

"You could imagine technically splitting it and installing it in different places, but that would create significant challenges in terms of bringing all the data together, in terms of operating such a split facility and in having the infrastructure and the computing at two locations," Womersley said.

"It's not straightforward to know if this is a good idea or not and it was felt to be something that needed to be looked into with a little bit more than the back of an envelope."

Eight countries are full members of the SKA consortium, including Australia and South Africa.

Reflecting the rising interest of emerging countries in big science projects, China also is a full member and India is an associate member, Womersley said.

The United States, which is facing budget constraints, is not a participant.

Comments
  • George - 2012-04-19 23:20

    Typical bureaucratic solution; decide not to decide.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:02

      Hmmm true, the decision should be in the best interest of science...

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:02

      Hmmm true, the decision should be in the best interest of science...

  • Koos - 2012-04-20 04:53

    Just give it to the Aussies. The fees to replace stolen equipment will be too expensive if it is build in SA.

      Sibusiso - 2012-04-20 07:21

      Koos do you really love this S.A ?

      Sibusiso - 2012-04-20 07:21

      Koos do you really love this S.A ?

      Koos - 2012-04-20 08:07

      Used to, but not anymore. I'm a realist.

      Koos - 2012-04-20 08:07

      Used to, but not anymore. I'm a realist.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:04

      Well then just move to Aus. If you have nothing positive to contribute to SA, why are you still here?

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:04

      Well then just move to Aus. If you have nothing positive to contribute to SA, why are you still here?

      Koos - 2012-04-20 11:22

      Touchy when the truth is spoken. And the best of all, it doesn't make me less South African. Time to take your head out of the sand and accept it for what it is. Another failed African state in the making.

      Koos - 2012-04-20 11:22

      Touchy when the truth is spoken. And the best of all, it doesn't make me less South African. Time to take your head out of the sand and accept it for what it is. Another failed African state in the making.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:48

      Screw you koos. It's people like you that constantly find the ills in everything that give this wonderful country a bad image. Instead of bad-mouthing your birthplace, try doing something pro-active to help improve yourself and this country, even though that might be a challenge for you.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:48

      Screw you koos. It's people like you that constantly find the ills in everything that give this wonderful country a bad image. Instead of bad-mouthing your birthplace, try doing something pro-active to help improve yourself and this country, even though that might be a challenge for you.

      TSR01 - 2012-04-20 14:38

      Agreeing with Wesley on this one, Koos. So what if SA is no longer what it used to be? Is that going to make you curl up under a blanket and stay in bed all day, doing nothing at all? Be constructive, strong-willed, support your country (not the corrupt ANC government), and SA will thrive again. Remember, that under Mandela, there was unity and SA was prosperous. Now with these clowns who sow division and racism (even amongst themselves), people are without priorities. Focus on the important things first. Fix what must be fixed. Help where help is needed (within reason!). People who do nothing to fix the problem should not have the right to complain. Write a letter, donate to those making a difference, attend a rally for positive change, post an article online or in a newspaper expressing where you find faults and what you want to see done. Sitting quietly in a corner, sulking about how things are no longer as nice as you wanted them to be, is not going to do anything - it just makes other people depressed and not want to do anything either. Change starts with making a decision - to do something. Anything. That is what gets the ball rolling. More people means more momentum, and that means more change - bigger change. I support positive change in South Africa. Productive change. Peaceful change. An excerpt from the national anthem: "And united we shall stand, Let us live and strive for freedom, In South Africa our land."

      TSR01 - 2012-04-20 14:38

      Agreeing with Wesley on this one, Koos. So what if SA is no longer what it used to be? Is that going to make you curl up under a blanket and stay in bed all day, doing nothing at all? Be constructive, strong-willed, support your country (not the corrupt ANC government), and SA will thrive again. Remember, that under Mandela, there was unity and SA was prosperous. Now with these clowns who sow division and racism (even amongst themselves), people are without priorities. Focus on the important things first. Fix what must be fixed. Help where help is needed (within reason!). People who do nothing to fix the problem should not have the right to complain. Write a letter, donate to those making a difference, attend a rally for positive change, post an article online or in a newspaper expressing where you find faults and what you want to see done. Sitting quietly in a corner, sulking about how things are no longer as nice as you wanted them to be, is not going to do anything - it just makes other people depressed and not want to do anything either. Change starts with making a decision - to do something. Anything. That is what gets the ball rolling. More people means more momentum, and that means more change - bigger change. I support positive change in South Africa. Productive change. Peaceful change. An excerpt from the national anthem: "And united we shall stand, Let us live and strive for freedom, In South Africa our land."

  • adam - 2012-04-20 05:56

    Would you invest so much money in any corrupt country, where the leader has 5 wives, ruling party members are exempted from prosecution, talk of nationalisation is a reality, and the crime rate among the highest in the world? Would you???

      En - 2012-04-20 08:24

      Um ADAM.....when you have billions of dollars to invest on such a scale, then you're free to do whatever YOU want with your money. But I doubt true scientists care if Zuma has 5 wives. That obviously embarrasses you, but it has nothing to do with them. I'm pretty sure they have panels to investigate all the negative points you mentioned above. If it was really really really that bad, they would given it to Australia a very long time ago.

      En - 2012-04-20 08:24

      Um ADAM.....when you have billions of dollars to invest on such a scale, then you're free to do whatever YOU want with your money. But I doubt true scientists care if Zuma has 5 wives. That obviously embarrasses you, but it has nothing to do with them. I'm pretty sure they have panels to investigate all the negative points you mentioned above. If it was really really really that bad, they would given it to Australia a very long time ago.

      Gordon - 2012-04-20 08:57

      En... What the scientists do care about is: 1. Getting this thing built properly and efficiently 2. Not over-paying for it 3. Actually receiving the data so that they can do their work In SA, the usual outcome is: 1. Shoddy work at twice the price 2. BEE Middlemen pushing up the price 3. Poor maintenance and theft Soccer stadiums, Toll Roads, Copper Cables, Arms deal, etc, etc Considering this, is this really not the case in SA?

      Gordon - 2012-04-20 08:57

      En... What the scientists do care about is: 1. Getting this thing built properly and efficiently 2. Not over-paying for it 3. Actually receiving the data so that they can do their work In SA, the usual outcome is: 1. Shoddy work at twice the price 2. BEE Middlemen pushing up the price 3. Poor maintenance and theft Soccer stadiums, Toll Roads, Copper Cables, Arms deal, etc, etc Considering this, is this really not the case in SA?

      Gordon - 2012-04-20 09:01

      Forgot to add: 4. Strikes resulting in construction delays 5. The ability to spend time in the country where it is built without having to deal with the high probability that they would be raped and/or murdered. 6. Potential nationalisation, resulting in the system/data being taken over by government for their own purposes

      Gordon - 2012-04-20 09:01

      Forgot to add: 4. Strikes resulting in construction delays 5. The ability to spend time in the country where it is built without having to deal with the high probability that they would be raped and/or murdered. 6. Potential nationalisation, resulting in the system/data being taken over by government for their own purposes

      En - 2012-04-20 10:00

      Gordon.... 1. You obviously aren't familiar with SA's astronomy sector. Projects such as the Meerkat, and all related work are on the opposite end of shoddy work. Scientists from all over the world have already booked in advance (years in advance) to use our high-tech equipment. 2. You can't compete with our value for money in this sector 3. Goodluck stealing a satellite dish in the middle of the Karoo 4. Who exactly will be striking? This is not a clothing factory. Almost all people involved are highly skilled, with Masters and PHd's. 5. Lets assume most of these scientists spend their time in the Karoo, and when they're free head down to the Western Cape for a break. What makes them any different to the average tourist? 6. Please dont let your fear of Julius cloud your judgement. The ANC's own report on nationalisation shows its not viable at all.

      En - 2012-04-20 10:00

      Gordon.... 1. You obviously aren't familiar with SA's astronomy sector. Projects such as the Meerkat, and all related work are on the opposite end of shoddy work. Scientists from all over the world have already booked in advance (years in advance) to use our high-tech equipment. 2. You can't compete with our value for money in this sector 3. Goodluck stealing a satellite dish in the middle of the Karoo 4. Who exactly will be striking? This is not a clothing factory. Almost all people involved are highly skilled, with Masters and PHd's. 5. Lets assume most of these scientists spend their time in the Karoo, and when they're free head down to the Western Cape for a break. What makes them any different to the average tourist? 6. Please dont let your fear of Julius cloud your judgement. The ANC's own report on nationalisation shows its not viable at all.

      Stirrer - 2012-04-20 10:12

      Adam, the problems you mention are all moral issues. According to MemeMan and others, scientists are all atheists, and as such don't give a damn about morality.

      Stirrer - 2012-04-20 10:12

      Adam, the problems you mention are all moral issues. According to MemeMan and others, scientists are all atheists, and as such don't give a damn about morality.

  • rowan.maulson - 2012-04-20 06:39

    No No No No... This would be a stupid move, give it to one country or the other.. not split it over both.

  • Victor - 2012-04-20 06:55

    I said we would not get the whole deal and I am sure it has to do with political unstability in this country.

  • Fixzoza - 2012-04-20 06:57

    Regardless of all the critiques,South Africa is still a competitor, scientifically. I won't be surprised if S.A wins the bid.

      rowan.maulson - 2012-04-20 08:00

      I agree that I won't be surprised if we win. But to say we're still a competitor scientifically is a bit wrong, we're leading the Aussie bid scientifically.

      rowan.maulson - 2012-04-20 08:00

      I agree that I won't be surprised if we win. But to say we're still a competitor scientifically is a bit wrong, we're leading the Aussie bid scientifically.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:12

      I agree, i think we will win the bid

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:12

      I agree, i think we will win the bid

  • Sibusiso - 2012-04-20 07:27

    Last year they stole the rugby world cup from us and gave it to NZ, they keep on stealing our professionals. \r\n Just give it to S.A, the crocodiles will it the scientists in australia and the kangaroos will kick the expensive equipment

  • Thembane.wa.Mahlaza - 2012-04-20 07:30

    frankly south won the bid but someone is messing the whole thing in mzansi hance the compromise. you all know who the person is.

  • Phillip - 2012-04-20 07:34

    Afica is the cradle of mankind....it is just fitting that the quest to find the origins of the universe should also eminate from it. Bring it on, we are ready.

  • Piet - 2012-04-20 09:59

    Trying to keep the cadres thieving hands out of this jar I suppose!

  • wesley.bischoff - 2012-04-20 11:01

    Just give it to SA. Clearly we are the better option: - cheaper to build and run here - geographical radio protected area - minimal seismic events

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