SCIENCE and technology is pivotal to the growth and development of any nation. The earth has progressed through it. Any society or nation deeply rooted in it has an edge over those that do not.
Today, science and technology has made difficult works easier and faster with less effort than before and has made life better. We depend a lot on it.
Science and technology is of advantage to every human but of greater benefit to nations that appropriate it the more. A country can be at par at its formation or independence with another, but they can’t be on the same scale of development as issues pan out.
For those that will embrace science, technology, and invest in it, only a matter of time before they leave behind those on the opposite direction.
Scientific findings have benefitted societies through discoveries and innovations thus leading to breakthroughs that brought profound transformation. Such application of new knowledge is pivotal for societal benefits to the future of nations and global society.
Every year begins and ends with news of some scientific and technological breakthroughs or discoveries, 2019 is no exception. The year began with the news of 3 January China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) Chang’e 4 mission first soft landing on the far side of the Moon.
Chang’e 4 mission is a robotic spacecraft mission, part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program as the country intensifies effort to land humans on the moon.
On 23 January Chinese scientists reported the creation of five identical cloned gene-edited monkeys, it used the same cloning technique that was used with the first ever animal; Dolly the sheep in 1986, the genetically modified monkey clones were made in order to study several medical diseases.
The next day National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists reported the discovery of the oldest known Earth rock on the Moon. Scientists determined that a fragment from one of the rocks Apollo 14 astronauts returned to earth with contained “a bit of Earth from about 4 billion years ago.”
In February scientists, announced a new form of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the molecule responsible for carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses.
The new DNA, named Hachimoji DNA, composed of four natural, and four unnatural nucleobases. The eight-base DNA system may include an enhanced ability to store digital data, as well as insights into what may be possible in the search for extraterrestrial life.
At the same time, Astronomers led by Scott S. Sheppard announced the discovery of ‘FarFarOut’, the most distant object yet found in the Solar System. FarFarOut is the nickname of a trans-Neptunian object discovered while beyond 100 AU (15 billion km) from the Sun.
Space exploration received further boost in May with the news that the United Kingdom’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and University of Leicester announced it has generated the first generation of usable electricity from americium, which could lead to the development of “space batteries” that power missions for up to 400 years.
Space batteries are power sources for space probes which would use the heat from americium pellets to power sensors and transmitters as the probes head into deep space where other power sources such as solar panels will no longer function. NNL said with the development of the new batteries it means such probes can carry on sending back vital images and data to Earth for many decades – far longer than would otherwise be possible.
The quest for cleaner energy got cheery news with China’s completing the groundbreaking artificial sun project dubbed HL-2M that was constructed by China National Nuclear Corporation in collaboration with Southern Institute of Physics.
When it comes into operation in 2020, the HL-2M is supposed to pave the way for clean energy – similar to the real Sun. The reactor is capable of reaching temperature 13 times hotter than the sun.
The HL-2M will be able to reach 200 million degrees Celsius (360 million degrees Fahrenheit). By comparison, the Sun “only” gets as hot as 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit) in its core.
It’s so hot because the fusion process in the Sun relies on forcing atoms to merge, which releases heat that can be transformed into energy. The result is energy that is cleaner and cheaper than current nuclear options, resulting in less toxic waste.
As the year winds down the news came that the Ebola scourge which has ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo in particular could become one of those plagues that hit the continent with the news that the European Union has approved a vaccine known as Ervebo.
The EU has given the pharmaceutical company Merck the approval for the vaccine which has been 100 per cent effective during its trials in Guinea. Merck’s plan is to start manufacturing the vaccine in Germany in 2020.
On the African continent, Rwanda appeared to take the shine on advancement on technological innovations with the manufacture of the first African high specification, affordable smart phones made to compete in a market dominated by South Korean and Chinese brands.
The Mara X and Mara Z phones which will use Google’s Android operating system give a boost to Rwanda’s ambitions to become a regional technology hub.
Nigeria got little mention with the four Nigerian boys that did country proud at the International Festival of Engineering, Science & Technology (I-FEST) held in Tunisia in March.
The students, Ugwu Ogonna; Chuka-Umeora Anthony; Nwachukwu Daniel; and Machi Dominic, are of St John’s Science and Technical College, Alor, Anambra State at the 9-day I-FEST innovation-driven competition of science and technology among scholars of between 11 and 24 years, aimed at giving youngsters the opportunity to bring innovation to the fore in the world of technology won a bronze medal.
The students achieved the feat with two devices they called the Adaptable Alternative Power Supply for Sub-Saharan Africa which is a single, fully-packaged solar technology.
The device electric inverter with a solar panel enables it to absorb energy from the sun, warehouse the energy in inverter and subsequently distribute it in households and offices as the case may be.
The other device is a noiseless inverter system all locally sourced and produced by them. The competition had participants from 30 countries such as Canada, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, China, Sweden, Ukraine, Malaysia, Brazil, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Indonesia, and Tunisia, among others.
Last year Anambra State made Nigeria proud when five female students of Regina Pacis Model Secondary School, Onitsha, clinched gold medal at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, United States.
The team, named Save A Soul, comprises of five brilliant girls: Jessica Osita, Promise Nnalue, Nwabuaku Ossai, Vivian Okoye and Adaeze Onuigbo, who represented Nigeria and Africa in the contest. The girls developed the “FD-Detector”, an app that combats the menace of fake drugs in Nigeria.
Nigeria got mentioned again but in diaspora when Chika Ofili, a 12-year-old Nigerian boy based in the United Kingdom, received the ‘TruLittle Hero Awards’ for discovering a new mathematical formula.
The ‘TruLittle Hero Awards’ is an annual ceremony that recognizes, celebrates, and rewards outstanding achievements of remarkable children and young people under the age of 17 years all over the UK.
The little mathematician discovered a new formula for divisibility by 7 in mathematics. His new formula for divisibility of 7 is to multiply the last digit in the figure and then add everything together, then check if the new figure is a multiple of 7.
The young scholar also worked out an algebraic proof to back this up. Chika isn’t the only Nigerian in the diaspora to have earned accolades for a phenomenal achievement in recent times, Fathia Abdullah, 12-year old Nigerian girl invented a robot that folds laundry. Fathia created the solution to one of the most tedious household tasks – folding the laundry in just about three seconds.
That Nigeria received attention on innovations by students, but at this point in our history, much more is expected both in the academic world and on commercial and industrial scale.
The fact that Nigeria still suffers shortage of food does not begin and end with land or weather. It centres on deficiency of modern technology and by extension ineptitude of leaders.
In the internet age, most Nigeria farmers still depend on crude implements for farming. In the 1950s and 1960s, the was a leading exporter of palm oil.
In pre-colonial Nigeria, major export was oil until commercial exploration of oil began. Jaja of Opobo’s death resulted from palm oil trade fallout with British merchants. Nigeria was ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia in the palm oil sector in the 1960s but these countries applied science and the necessary technology to palm oil production and its allied products, dusting Nigeria behind.
Today, experts from Malaysia are in Nigeria teaching our farmers on modern techniques in the sector. Research institutes the vehicle that drives scientific and technological advancement suffer financial paucity in Nigeria.
Science and technology seems not attractive to most Nigerian students. No factor motivates them to take up science as a course or career except for the few influenced by their parents or guardian because they want them to read certain science courses.
The precarious nature of science teaching in Nigeria is punctured with challenges, from ill-equipped laboratories in most secondary schools and tertiary institutions, to dearth of science teachers and demotivation on the part of some teachers.
Interest in science teaching wanes in Nigeria on each passing day, fewer schools offers science courses and do not retrain its teachers in a fast changing world. Most secondary schools teachers are theoretical in their teaching than practical. some of them have no idea what the chemical elements they taught their students look like.
The private sector has not expended much effort and resources in promoting science in schools in Nigeria, but each year they spend millions of naira on entertainment promotion with mouth-watering prizes. The world touts Nigeria as the entertainment capital of Africa.
Not undermining the role entertainment plays, but science and technology would do much more for the country, if corporate organisations in Nigeria pump half of the resources spent on entertainment on science and technology. Federal government policies over the years hasn’t help issues.
Imagine having a talent show where inventors, innovators, and scientist are discovered every year in the country and their inventions shipped overseas. For once, imagine having millionaire inventors, innovators, and scientists, the economic and political significance it will offer Nigeria on the international scene.
Since independence it appears Nigeria lacked ambitious appetite for science and technology, as Nigeria lag behind countries like South Korea, India and a host of others who were at par with her decades ago.
As we wave 2019 goodbye, Nigeria’s dream of giant developmental strides should be to embrace huge investment in science and technology to accelerate the country’s advancement in 2020.