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Business Unusual
Africa’s largest rail network needs attention, could hydrogen be the answer

Africa’s largest rail network needs attention, could hydrogen be the answer

17 November 2021 7:26 PM

The long term solution may be to reduce the need for overhead cables or get rid of them all together. It was the height of the cables that caused the scandal with the trains South Africa bought that were too tall. Removing the cables would not only solve that issue but cable theft too.

The solution is to use hydrogen and a fuel cell in the same way a diesel electric train operates, rather than diesel to run a generator, the hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity, is silent and only produces water as a by product. 

The range for the current versions is about 600km. That would still need some hydrogen stations to be created along the route for cross country trips but they may be run by solar plants that can create hydrogen from water or simply moved there by train. 

Image credit: Casey Horner Unsplash

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Vitalik Buterin - Blockchain billionaire and tech philosopher

8 December 2021 7:27 PM

At 27, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has accomplished more than most can in a lifetime

For those outside the crypto-world Bitcoin is likely the only new fangled form of money you have heard about. There are thousands of coins and platforms. Many are simply copycat versions hoping to catch unwary investors but some do offer new ways to imagine how finance, business and even governments can operate. 

Buterin became intrigued with Bitcoin after his father introduced him to it at age 17. He was so intrigued he started writing for a Bitcoin publication and got paid as you might expect in Bitcoin. At the time he made less than $4 dollars per submission. 

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Covid-19 two years later, did we learn anything?

1 December 2021 7:25 PM

Politicians and pharmaceutical companies could have done more to tackle Covid-19

In December 2019 Business Unusual considered the disruption that could come from a pandemic. It came on the back of growing anti-vax behaviour from small sections of communities that did not only believe vaccines were not helping, there was a growing belief that they would cause harm. 

As a consequence outbreaks of diseases that were on the verge of being eradicated were making a comeback with outbreaks that in some cases warranted drastic public action. 

In December 2019 Samoa had a measles outbreak that affected 3% of the population. It followed a drop in vaccine use and showed how a virus with just a bit of complacency could run amok. It took a curfew and the cancellation of public gatherings with most civil servants being redeployed to administer vaccines for the month. By the end of December they had managed to vaccinate 94% of the nation. 

It was not the first lesson we have had about what happens when a virus gets the better of us. 

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How a baker made a biscuit big business

24 November 2021 7:26 PM

Food production is a megabusiness and while you may know dozens of food brands, they all come from just a handful of companies. 

This is a short history of how a biscuit formed an empire.

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A Just Transition away from coal - what does it mean?

10 November 2021 7:23 PM

South Africa is at COP26 to discuss how to avoid a climate disaster, this is the plan. 

The Presidential Climate Commission was tasked to both move South Africa towards a low carbon economy while managing the impact from potential disruption to jobs. 

The idea of a just transition looks to both deal with how to lower our CO2 emissions and give those employed and dependent on those industries to maintain or ideally improve on the current conditions.

While the focus is on the energy sector, carbon emissions include agriculture, manufacturing, mining and transport. 

The plan would need to address emissions across the board to achieve the first of the two key jargon terms. Net-zero and zero-carbon.

In trying to achieve this the measures may use mitigation or adaptation.

The time frame to achieve the goal is 2050. That is 29 years from now, for most South Africans that is longer than their lifetimes. For those that are older it is about the time since South Africa has been a democracy. If you consider what we have managed to achieve since then you would either be optimistic or very doubtful we have the time or even the political will or ability to achieve it.

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Black Friday is coming and so are the retail bots

3 November 2021 7:25 PM

Bots are often the reason sale items appear and sell out almost instantly

This story begins with the latest Xbox that looks like a small fridge, Microsoft the makers of the Xbox said that if they could win a Twitter battle of brands they would turn the meme fridge into reality and after winning the contest in April released the mini fridges for a limited sales run in October. Lots of people wanted one, most did not manage to get one, but quite a few were seen for sale on auction sites at much higher prices. 

The fridges were not bought by fans, but by a new kind of middleman that uses bot to buy high demand items to sell for a profit. Xbox has since made the fridge available again from December; those sales too seem to be plagued by bot purchases. 

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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Flame cremation was seen as a better option than burial, but that is changing

27 October 2021 7:26 PM

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How connectivity and cloud computing projects are boosting South Africa's potential for innovation

20 October 2021 7:24 PM

Despite the bad news associated with big tech, this is something to celebrate

The first challenge as older South Africans will recall is getting connected. Many young South Africans may still struggle with access and cost, but like anything that you can supply in volume, you get to get it for less. 

This is the first critical tipping point for progress. 

The first fibre cables came online only in this century even though the first undersea cable arrived from Europe in the 1800s, but in the two decades the increase has been incredible.

Image credit: Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

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