My Studies

Last updated 2010-05-18


I hold a four-year BEng and an MEng (Electronic Engineering) degree and a three-year BCom (business) degree from the University of Pretoria.

My engineering studies focussed mainly on electromagnetics, with a variety of control systems, signal processing and digital systems thrown in. My Master's dissertation was on a cryptography policy for a distributed utility metering system, as a contribution to work being done on a unified system for Europe. In the business studies, I specialised in Aviation Management, with the emphasis on ergonomics, decision-making and safety management. I was part of the first group to tackle the newly-introduced Aviation Management degree, starting in 1999. I managed to complete the degree in the minimum period of three years, the only part-time student to do so. Given my rather chequered academic past, I was rather pleased.

During 2001, I also took second-year courses in German Grammar and German Literature at the University of South Africa. I'd had occasion to practice my German to the extent that it had become fairly fluent, and I decided to take the opportunity to learn the grammar a little more rigorously. The subjects ended up being a lot of work, but I certainly achieved my objectives. Judging by the results, it seems that I've even achieved my lecturers' objectives!

From 2002 to 2003, I studied Russian, Astronomy and some Physics. Nothing serious--just a bit of fun.


Around 2006, I concluded that further study would be needed if I wanted to hold my own in my new field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I made a false start on a PhD in the field of pattern recognition using Bayes's networks. After discovering that algorithmic thinking doesn't come easy at my age, I changed direction into the field of unmanned aircraft. These robots operate in an environment that I, as pilot, know well. I'm hoping to contribute to insight into the technology required to admit unmanned aircraft into civil airspace. I'm pursuing the PhD through the Stellenbosch University.


I still have a few ideas for things I'd like to study. As soon as the PhD is complete, I'll start some new projects.

The front runner is an MTh through the South African Theological Seminary. It's a major undertaking, but I look forward to the opportunity to get some firmer ground under my feet in a field in which I have little more than self-study to rely on.

There are a few other projects, too. First and foremost is to learn Chinese or Japanese. I've made a start and can recognise several hundred Chinese characters (or Kanji). However, I need the discipline of formal study to force me to work at it hard enough.

My second project is even more fanciful. I want to do a thesis on the acoustic characteristics of ladies' high heeled shoes. I've done some preliminary investigations, and it turns out that the sound of an approaching high-heeled shoe can be shaped almost at will by changing the shape of the cavity between the heel and the sole. Imagine the impact of this discovery on the fashion world! The solitary individuals that want to go unnoticed, can now buy those fancy high-heeled shoes with a cavity pad, and sneak quietly down the corridor. Those that want to attract attention, can add a different insert and make sure that the entire office block knows that they are coming. Those female Machiavellians can carry two sets of inserts in their handbags, allowing them to generally warn of their approach, but also to sneak up on someone with the advantage of complete surprise. At last: A thesis that can transform an industry!

A final pet project has been in refinement for years: A theory to explain how Bill Gates has managed to become the richest man on earth by selling inferior products at high prices. Face it, he is in competition with better products that are given away for free! None of the theories of Adam Smith or other economists have explained this amazing phenomenon satisfactorily, but I think I'm getting a grip on it. It's worth at least a PhD or two. The theory relies heavily on a knowledge of organisational psychology, human vanity and the instability of bad software.

Although it doesn't quite fit into the category of studies, I might mention that it's only a matter of time before a novel sees the light of day. I'm working on several plots. Roll over, James Bond!

I actually started writing a novel once, but abandoned it after writing the first part. The reason was that the first part had set such a high standard of tension and intrigue that anything else was bound to be a complete anti-climax to the reader. The first part was: "'I missed you, darling', she said, and fired another shot"...

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