The world as I see it
There’s a queer romantic relationship between a Scientist and his field, something that keeps him/ her up at night pondering into the almost immaterial world of his (both male and female included) thoughts. History has been filled my men of such stature, what else after all would prompt Michael Faraday, a mere boy with no formal learning to visit a lecture by Humphrey Davy later on write a 300 page analysis of the lecture and after working as Davy’s lab assistant, to poke into the laws of nature only to give the world the laws of Electromagnetism? Or Newton, who developed calculus during a one year period in which the university of Cambridge was closed furthermore creating his laws of motion (from a mere bet) and later on working on optics and even philosophy only to experience nervous breakdowns for days without end before dying a chaste virgin? Or perhaps Madame Curie the only person to win the Nobel prize in both Physics and Chemistry whose work enhanced our understanding of radioactivity only to die of some form of anaemia caused by radioactive poisoning?
The world of today is exponentially more advanced than the world Newton left behind, many countries such as China favoring research in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and while piles of scientific papers are being considered for review by top Journals, Africa seems to be left behind in this era of ‘scientific madness’. There seems to be a huge gap not only economically but also when parameters such as information and invention rates are considered. It is approximated that 12% of the world’s population comes from SSA (Sub Saharan Africa) yet SSA only produces 1% of the world’s scientific papers and to make it worse, we’re low on inventions. The lure of discovery of scientific truth that raised geniuses like Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin seems to have been thrown away and many of those in scientific fields these days are in it for the money; after all who can blame us?
We’re brought up in a rigorous Academic system that requires teachers to constantly ask: what would you like to be in future, somehow the career you choose always has to have the lure of a lot of money, they call it teaching children to dream big. And yes, times are hard, the economy keeps taking blow after blow, everything seems to be on loan and going downhill, but in reality what is causing this worrying trend? An anti-intellectualism of sorts where every problem can be blamed on the political class and the Illuminati, where our youth seem to prefer spending 90% of their time on social platforms rather than channeling the excessive creativity somewhere, not going to University for the mere degrees but for a global purpose?
The Big Problem
The world has questions it wants answered. Physicists need a theory of everything that unites Quantum Physics ( the science of the very small) with Classical Mechanics (the physics of the big) and String theory (hypothesizes the existence of one dimensional strings whose frequency of vibrations creates our reality) so that they can be able to describe everything in the Physical Universe, biologists need to find a way to prove Darwin was right because he’s theory of evolution is the most acceptable explanation for many biological phenomena yet despite the rapid improvements in genetics, Speciation has never been proven fully, Astronomers need to find life or a planet habitable, somewhere humanity can thrive as many have expressed concern that the earth is dying and someday we’ll need to migrate either because of a natural or a man made catastrophe but before we do maybe knowing our neighbors won’t be bad, Neuroscientists are in need of a theory of consciousness and while everyone seems to be working, somehow our progress is lacking.
The world is making progress but what it really needs is a person capable of looking at a problem from a radically different perspective that before the arrival to a solution, everyone screams genius. The world doesn’t need more scientists to retest truths, it needs braver better scientists like Barry Marshall who despite having his hypothesis on the speci that causes ulcers revoked by many proved his point by drinking the cultured bacterial specimen then went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine after taking antibacterials of course.
The Game Changers
The question with Africa’s situation seems not to lie in the hands of how many scientific papers we produce but how far we are willing to go to lead the world in scientific progress. Africa as a continent should not just be dismissed as being purely dark, its brought out some of the greatest heroes of Science.
I know you might be asking whose Elon Musk and what does he have to do with Africa after all he owns a multi billion dollar motor company named after my favorite scientists (Tesla) that manufactures cars that run purely on electricity- not enough, right? Wrong!
Elon Musk was born in South Africa and he only moved to America when he was 18. Growing up, he was the ultimate geek. He went to Stanford, started X.com that would later be renamed Paypal, started Tesla and another Company- SpaceX in America and more recently Solar City which designs, finances and installs solar power systems.
In 2010, SpaceX became the first Corporation to build a Rocket from scratch and until late, he and his crew managed to make a rocket that could land vertically, a problem that NASA had tried but failed to for years. He sees his work as that which will lead humanity’s next epoch- the migration from home, earth. Perhaps if such an event will.
You’ve gotta Admit, this guy is a real life Tony Stark; we’ve gotta a living Iron Man and he’s from Africa.
Then there’s this guy:
Zewail became the first Arab to win the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1999. He’s considered the pioneer of femtochemistry, a branch of chemistry that allows for the study of chemical reactions at very short time scales (femtoseconds/ 10^-15 seconds)
Such that its quite easy to understand how transition of states occur.
So What Does that Mean:
Stories such as these are a reminder and a bracing slap to the face; a marker that in between our ears we’ve got the greatest feat of engineering yet we rarely use it in an objective way. That we are more concerned with our superficial subjective selves to realize that something great lurks outside and it is our responsibility to find it. They are also a confirmation that there’s always hope at the end of the day, that many at times all the world needs is a hero brave enough to step forward. So this is me telling you that you’re not that hero but to be a hero, you’ll have to prove me wrong.
PS: Don’t die a virgin or go all mental. Feel free to science
RIP Zewail,you played your part well, the world owes you.