New science centre seals future hopes

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Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom opened the Cape Town Science Centre on Tuesday. Pictured playing Mindball are Zakariyah Toyer and Emile de Laura. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - A time capsule containing the hopes of leading scientists was sealed at the official opening of the Cape Town Science Centre on Tuesday by Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.

The centre, which was previously called the MTN Science Centre, moved from its previous location at Century City to Observatory last year, and has been running from its new premises for nearly a year.

Centre director Julie Cleverdon said the centre had been running for a year, but had not been officially launched until on Tuesday.

Hanekom sealed a time flask containing the hopes of 13 leading South African scientists on what they hope to discover in their fields by February 26, 2023.

Cleverdon said the flask, which would be on display at the centre, would only be opened in 10 years time to see how close the predictions made by the scientists matched the reality in 2023.

One of the scientists, Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a UCT palaeo-biologist, said she imagined that in 2023 they would discover the actual bones of a large meat eater, which was known only by tracks and isolated teeth.

Cleverdon said that the idea behind the time flask was to move away from the tradition of “cutting a ribbon”.

“We decided to do this to get people to start thinking about where science will take us in 10 years time so they can start to engage with the possibilities presented to us by science and technology. So it will be interesting to see which of those predictions will come true,” Cleverdon said.

Since moving to its new premises, the centre has attracted about 70 000 visitors, of which 20 000 have been visiting school groups.

Hanekom said he believed that “by engaging South African citizens in science, they can clearly see the role and value of science in their everyday lives and that it is essential for the development of our country”.

“Science centres offer wonderful spaces to explore the world around us.

“They support learning in both formal and informal situations, leading to greater comprehension and appreciation of science.” Hanekom said that the department had “walked the road” with the centre since its funding was discontinued a few years ago. “This occasion could well be considered a celebration of the fruits of perseverance,” he said.

Hanekom said he was proud that his department had donated R5-million to the centre. He also thanked the Western Cape Education Department for helping out. He said centres like this one could introduce science to pupils who did not have laboratories or computer labs at their schools. - Cape Argus

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