Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

Two scientists part of team that discovers the source of the highest energy cosmic rays at the centre of the Milky Way
2016-03-22

Description: Giant molecular clouds  Tags: Giant molecular clouds

Artist's impression of the giant molecular clouds surrounding the Galactic Centre, bombarded by very high energy protons accelerated in the vicinity of the central black hole and subsequently shining in gamma rays.
Artist's impression: © Dr Mark A. Garlick/ H.E.S.S. Collaboration

Spotlight photo:
Dr Brian van Soelen and Prof Pieter Meintjes of the UFS Department of Physics.
Photo: Charl Devenish

H.E.S.S. (High Energy Stereoscopic System) scientists publically revealed their latest galactic discovery in the international science journal, Nature, on 16 March 2016. These scientists were able to pinpoint the most powerful source of cosmic radiation – which, up to now, remained a mystery.

Part of this team of scientists are Prof Pieter Meintjes and Dr Brian van Soelen, both in the University of the Free State (UFS) Department of Physics. Dr Van Soelen explains that they have discovered a proton PeVatron – a source that can accelerate protons up to energies of ~1 PeV (10^15 eV) – at the centre of the Milky Way. The supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A has been identified as the most plausible source of this unprecedented acceleration of protons.

The protons are accelerated to Very High Energy (VHE) gamma rays. The energy of these protons are 100 times larger than those achieved by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research).

According to Dr Van Soelen, the fact that this research has been published in Nature demonstrates the importance and pioneering nature of the research conducted by H.E.S.S. The H.E.S.S. observatory – operational in Namibia – is a collaboration between 42 scientific institutions in 12 countries.

In 2006, H.E.S.S. was awarded the Descartes Prize of the European Commission – the highest recognition for collaborative research – and in 2010 the prestigious Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society. The extent of the observatory’s significance places it among the ranks of the Hubble Space Telescope and the telescopes of the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

“The next generation VHE gamma-ray telescope,” Dr Van Soelen says, “will be the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), which is currently in the design and development stage.” Both Dr Van Soelen and Prof Meintjes are part of this project as well.

H.E.S.S. has issued a complete statement about the paper published in Nature.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept