Curious Kids is a series for children in which we ask experts to answer questions from kids.
Should I be scared of lightning? (Callan, 10, Johannesburg)
Big storms can be very scary. When a storm happens dark clouds appear, heavy rain often falls, winds are gusty and unpredictable, and lightning flashes across the sky.
Lightning happens all over the world. But it’s particularly common near the equator, where the strongest and most energetic thunderstorms take place. Storms can lead to all sorts of potential dangers, like flooded streets or homes, fallen trees, fires, and roofs being blown off houses.
Lightning can also be dangerous for people. No one knows how many people are killed every year by lightning, but it could be up to tens of thousands worldwide. In South Africa, around 250 people are killed every year, mainly in rural areas where there’s little protection when storms take place.
So there are many reasons to be careful when there’s a big storm. But there are also ways you can protect yourself to avoid lightning.
Many different cultural traditions believe that lightning is caused by gods or spirits. Some people believe that lightning can be prevented by planting certain trees or shrubs near the house, covering mirrors, or placing car tyres on the house roof.
There is no scientific evidence that any of these things make you safer from lightning.
But there are some practical things you can do to keep safe when lightning strikes.
If you are outside, keep on low ground and stay away from trees, poles and water. Or stay undercover in a car or building. Do not shelter under a tree;
If you are inside, stay away from windows, doors, metal objects and water (including taps);
Don’t use electrical equipment (including phones).
It’s also useful to know what lightning is – understanding something can make it seem less scary.
What is lightning?
Lightning happens when air moves around in the atmosphere, forming thunderclouds.
Dark clouds are the first visible sign that a storm is coming. Clouds are formed when air rises upwards in the atmosphere, cooling as it goes. We know that air is moving around because we can feel it - this is wind. As air rises, moisture condenses and clouds begin to form. Storm clouds reach high in the atmosphere and are spread sideways by the wind. This is what makes the dark heavy cloud shapes you see when a storm is brewing.
Once the clouds have formed, the air currents keep rising. If the air is cold enough, water droplets inside the clouds can freeze into ice crystals. These are lighter than liquid drops of water, so they get pushed up to the top of the cloud. The heavier liquid water droplets fall to the bottom of the cloud.
Because ice crystals and water droplets have different electrical charges, the tops and bottoms of storm clouds develop different patterns of charges as the storm cloud gets bigger. There are also differences in electrical charges between the bottom of the cloud and the land surface. If the charge difference is big enough, electrical energy suddenly flows from one place to another.
This flow of energy is shown as a lighting flash. A single lightning flash lasts for only around 0.0001 seconds but can reach temperatures of up to 30,000°C: five times hotter than the surface of the Sun. This huge amount of energy is why lightning can cause so much damage when it strikes.
You’ll also have noticed that thunder and lightning happen together. Thunder is formed when air molecules rapidly expand, forming a sound shock wave that travels through the atmosphere at the speed of sound, much faster than a plane can fly.
But the lightning flash travels much quicker than thunder, at the speed of light – that’s 300,000 km per second. (The top speed for cars on most highways is 120 km an hour.) The difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound can be used to estimate how far away the lightning is.
A good experiment is to slowly count the seconds between a lightning flash and when you hear the roll of thunder. You can then work out whether the storm is getting closer to you (if the time difference is getting shorter) or further away (if the time difference is getting longer).
A city like Johannesburg in South Africa has thunderstorms in the summer. But the lightning South Africans experience is still only a third of what is found in the world’s lightning hotspot: the mountains of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nigeria is poised to overtake South Africa and become the largest maize producer in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the 2018/19 production season, according to Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) of SA.
Last year South Africa's contribution to SSA maize production was nearly 20% of the total production in the region for the 2017/18 season.
"SA produced nearly 20% of SSA maize production utilising a relatively small area of 2.6 million hectares. In contrast, countries such as Nigeria planted 6.5 million hectares in the 2017/18 production season, but only harvested 14% of sub-Saharan Africa's maize," Sihlobo said in the latest Agbiz newsletter.
The maize production prominence in SA can be attributed to technological advancement, particularly the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, which was adopted in the early 2000s. This has had great benefits in terms of yields and savings on inputs cost, explains Sihlobo.
But this year's drought in the western parts of SA has resulted in a change in sub-Saharan maize production distributions.
The most recent data from the International Grains Council placed Nigeria's 2018/19 maize production estimate at 11.0 million tonnes, which equates to a 16.1% share of SSA's maize harvest.
Meanwhile, South Africa's 2018/19 preliminary maize production estimate varies between 10.4 and 10.7 million tonnes.
Sihlobo points out, however, that Nigeria's dominance in maize production will likely be short-lived as its yields have not improved.
Nigeria's 2018/19 maize yield is about 1.6 tonnes per hectare, while South Africa's average yield estimate is 4.6 tonnes per hectare, according to Agbiz, and International Grains Council estimates.
Fraudulent investments always promise higher rate of return which is mostly above the industry prevailing rate to sweeten the pot. The high rate of return is used as bait in order to entice prospective clients/customers/investors. However, the scheme offers reasonable guaranteed above-market rate, so as not to make it suspicious or attract attention.
Ponzi scheme is named after the popular Carlo Charles Ponzi who in the 1920s used an investment vehicle to take advantage of a weakening foreign currency. He purchased international postal coupons overseas to be redeemed for US postage stamps, and then he sold them off for a profit. However, over a period, it gradually became very difficult to sustain the profit due to the huge burden involved in redeeming these coupons.
Charles Ponzi instead of abandoning this unsustainable investment product rebranded and pitched a new investment product to potential investors. The new products promised a rate of return of 50% on the investment in 45 days or double the investment amount in 90days. Ponzi advised investors that he would achieve such returns through a “network of international agents,” they would purchase the postal reply coupons on his behalf. He withheld further details of how he would achieve such returns “due to competitive reasons.” In reality, Ponzi was merely paying off early investors with new investors’ funds while making no new purchases of postal reply coupons.
Ponzi schemes are dependent on new investors to pay earlier investors; by definition they are mathematically doomed to fail. Ponzi schemes are not sustainable because eventually it reaches a point at which there are no newer investors in existence to fund investment returns and returns of capital to existing investors.
The Red Flags and Warning Signs
Impact on the Economy
These fraudulent schemes mostly focus on potential victims who share a common bond, such as faith group, social club, and professions, to build especially trust. History proves that, this affinity fraud links has been the key factor to the success of most such fraudulent schemes across the globe.
Prevention by the Regulators and Citizens
Fraudulent investments schemes have some common characteristics that run through them all, the promise of high rate of return above the offering market rate, guaranteed returns and concealing of investment risk from the investor. Several fraudulent investments schemes have occurred in Ghana, some examples of these are R5 and Pyram Ghana, MMM Ghana, Savanna Gold Ltd, US Tilapia, DKM and God is Love and Menzgold etc. These investment schemes have something in common which is the offering of higher rate of return and guaranteed return.
It is very important that every individual seeks investment advice or consult professionals with experience before signing on to any investment scheme. Proper due diligence must be carried out on any non-financial investment institution/investment bank before dealing with them.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi sanctioned an impromptu meeting yesterday – dubbed a “special conference” – at the height of disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
He begged for reconciliation amid the warring factions ahead of the national congress and general elections later this year.
Masisi assured the members of the party that he was not afraid of dying. There had been talks of security threats made against him by the warring factions.
Tension among the factions had escalated following veteran politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intended to challenge Masisi for the presidential position.
Venson-Moitoi’s decision to throw her name into the hat for the presidential race had angered party members who were sympathetic to the president.
They regarded her as a proxy of former president Ian Khama.
There has been a feud between Masisi and Khama after he used his first state of the nation speech last year to openly attack Khama in an unprecedented clash.
Khama’s “no show” at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the impromptu meeting set tongues wagging among party members who are aware ofthe feud.
Khama later made a grand entrance, much to the amazement of party followers attending the meeting in Palapye, about 300km outside Gaborone.
Masisi had already delivered his opening speech when Khama arrived.
The meeting was seen as one of the platforms where the two could reconcile.
Masisi had appointed a team of elders, comprising, among others, former president Festus Mogae, to spearhead a mediation that had hit a snag.
Ahead of the meeting the party emphasised to invited members that only those who had been accredited would be allowed to attend – a move that was meant to deter chaos within the party and at the meeting.
Masisi was quick to point out in his opening speech that there wasa need for peace and unity in the party.
He emphasised the need for members to continue to work together peacefully.
He indicated that the feud between him and the former president had attracted wide condemnation from the international community who were unhappy about Botswana’s political climate.
The president noted that one of the prime ministers – whom he did not name – had shed tears about the political climate in Botswana.
“What are you doing in Botswana? Why are your damaging our reputation?” the prime minister had asked Masisi.
He noted that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had warned that there was a need for the country to continue peacefully, as it had in previous years.
Masisi shared Museveni’s message with those at the meeting.
“You are the salvation of Africa. If you don’t hold hands together, every criticism of our instability as a continent cannot be defended because Botswana would have sunk. You are the last hope,” Museveni had told Masisi.
Masisi noted the allegations that he had not acknowledged Venson-Moitoi, the challenger for presidential position.
“Venson-Moitoi has every right to want to be the president of the party – unusual as it might be.
“You get to be used to unusual things [as president]. Your responsibility is to decide what you want. You think I have a problem, but I do not,” said Masisi.
A number of party elders, such as Mogae, had endorsed him and castigated Venson-Moitoi for challenging the president.
Masisi asked members of the party not to fight over the candidates and said the best candidate would win.
“I don’t want members to fight,” he said, adding that the party would be the winner.
“I have never been afraid of a challenge,” he said.
He assured members of the ruling party that he was not out to fight with anyone.
He emphasised that his detractors within the party were happy that he had brought back dialogue in the country and that the Batswana people were known for consultation.
The president told members that he was not afraid to die. Some people had told him, he said, that developments in the country were a threat to his security.
“I met the businesspeople who were afraid for my safety. I told them that I don’t waste my time thinking I am going to die. It is certain that I am going to die. All of us, we are going die. We don’t know when and how,” said Masisi.
Source: City Express