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​Nigerian scientist invents ‘mobile intercom’

A Nigerian scientist, Engr. Michael Friday, has come up with an invention aimed at relieving subscribers of telecommunications services of the need to buy recharge cards.
Michael, who met the Director General, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Engr. Danazumi Ibrahim, in Abuja, expressed readiness to patent his invention tagged, ‘Mobile Intercom.’

He explained that the quest to free the country from over-dependence on expensive imported telecom services informed the idea.

He said: “The source of Internet we depend on is in foreign hands. Even our telecommunications companies depend on them. If you want to manufacture a mobile phone, until you buy the operating system chips and insert it on your system, it can never access any of these technologies.

WIFI and Bluetooth are minute ICs embedded in the PCV that makes them work.

“Why don’t we have such a thing here? It is because there is no backing. Late last year, I came up with an application. I was at a function and the moment a bigwig came in, all mobile phones stopped working. And I said to myself, ‘If there is any security issue here, now, everybody is doomed.’

He added: “So, I coded an application that I can use to make calls, send SMS, do video calls and all of that without mobile spectrum, without Internet or network. We have completed it and it is working. Our chip sets can transmit up to 5000 metres, that is about 5 kilometres.”

Friday is a global award winner for developing the smallest storage micro chips in 2009, at a science competition in China. He emerged the overall best scientist in 2009. He is also a two-time award winner of the most outstanding youth in Nigeria in 2009 and 2011.


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​NASA invites public to “join” first mission to sun

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Friday invited people around the world to join the new Parker Solar Probe mission by submitting their names. According to a NASA online statement, a microchip that stores all the names collected before April 27 would be installed on the mission, “and your name will go along for the ride’’. The mission would be launched this summer for a trip to the sun’s atmosphere about 6.4 million km from the surface to study how the star affects space and other planets. A car-sized spacecraft would approach the sun at a fast speed that would reach approximately over 690,000 km per hour at the closest distance. The spacecraft has a thick carbon-composite shield of 4.5 inches to withstand the sun’s heat which can reach nearly 1371 degrees Celsius. Scientists expect the mission could help study the sun’s magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind at room temperature. “This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we’ve not been able to understand,’’ project scientist Nicola Fox said in a NASA statement. (Xinhua/NAN)

​Tiny organisms discovered in Earth’s driest desert raise hopes that life could be lurking in the soil of Mars

When rain hits the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, dormant microbes spring back to life. This is a model for how life on Mars could persist.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest places on Earth and is comparable to the dry surface of Mars.

Researchers recently discovered that when it rains in the Atacama, microbial communities that lay dormant for decades or even thousands of years spring back to life.

It’s possible that similar life could have evolved on Mars and may persist in subsurface niches where there’s moisture.

Long ago, small oceans and lakes dotted the surface of Mars.

Microbial life could have thrived in the waters of the now hyperarid red planet. Currently, there are only traces of this past environment — water hides frozen in the soil, and potential nighttime snowfalls dust the dry surface.

It might be easy to assume that the loss of atmosphere and liquid water would have killed off all traces of life on our neighboring planet. But a new study » of one of the most Mars-like environments on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile, reveals that life may persist, lurking beneath Martian soil and waiting a chance to re-emerge.

Researchers found that in the extremely rare occasions when rain falls on the Atacama, there’s an explosion of microbial life. This is the first thriving life that has been observed in this desert, the driest non-polar environment on the planet.

In the rare rainy conditions, long dormant bacteria below the surface wake and reproduce until the area starts to dry out again and they revert to a dormant state, leaving behind traces of DNA and decaying material.

“We believe these microbial communities can lay dormant for hundreds or even thousands of years in conditions very similar to what you would find on a planet like Mars and then come back to life when it rains,” Washington State University planetary scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, who led the study, said in a news release » .

Life in extreme environments

This discovery comes thanks to a stroke of luck. It happened to rain while the research team was in the desert in 2015. (It’s so dry in the region that there are weather stations in the desert that have never seen rain).

That rainfall allowed the team to see that even this extreme environment can be habitable. The creatures that live there only become metabolically active after an increase in moisture.

This remarkable finding suggests that similar forms of life could persist on Mars in some subsurface niche that gets periodically exposed to moisture, the authors wrote in the study.

The team plans to continue their analysis of life in extreme environments. They will return to the Atacama in March and Schulze-Makuch said he’d also like to examine the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, a pool so salty that it remains liquid even at a Martian-like -58 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It has always fascinated me to go to the places where people don’t think anything could possibly survive and discover that life has somehow found a way to make it work,” Schulze-Makuch said. “Jurassic Park references aside, our research tell us that if life can persist in Earth’s driest environment there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion.”


​Scientists just got a step closer to treating incurable diseases using a revolutionary gene-editing tool

Researchers using the genetic editing technology CRISPR were able to successfully modify DNA from Huntington’s disease patients in a safe and effective way.
        null (Shutterstock/vchal)
Researchers using the genetic-editing technology CRISPR have successfully modified the DNA in cells from Huntington’s disease patients.

The feat shows it might be possible to to use CRISPR to treat Huntington’s, which is currently incurable and fatal.

CRISPR is a way to edit DNA cheaply and efficiently; researchers think it could transform the ways we treat any sort of genetic condition.

But before CRISPR can be used to edit the DNA of living humans, scientists say it needs to be made safer and more efficient.

In people with Huntington’s disease, the nerve cells of the brain start to break down over time.

The disease is fatal, often within 10 to 30 years » , and as of now, there is no cure.

But Huntington’s disease is caused by a

single genetic mutation » — it’s triggered by an inherited gene, making it something researchers call a Mendelian disorder » . Because of that, it’s a prime target for scientists working with technologies that edit specific parts of genetic code.

In a recent study, scientists took a step » toward using what’s often referred to as the most revolutionary genetic technology » in existence, CRISPR, to tweak the genes that cause Huntington’s.

In people with the disease, due to a certain repeated section of genetic code, a toxic protein gets produced that accumulates and causes neurodegeneration. Usually symptoms

begin to appear » when patients are in their 30s or 40s. People start having trouble controlling movements and balancing, which is followed by difficulties with speech and swallowing as well as cognitive problems.

But a group of researchers from Poland were successfully able to edit cells from Huntington’s patients. The team took cells from those patients, and used CRISPR to slice and inactivate disease-causing sections of DNA. That drastically reduced the amount of neurodegenerative proteins produced — by approximately 70%.

“Our strategy is safe and efficient, and no sequence-specific side effects were observed,” Dr. Marta Olejniczak, an associate professor at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Poland who led the study, said in a news release » .

Getting to the point when we can safely and accurately edit genes to treat Huntington’s disease with CRISPR would be a huge deal. Not only could this enable researchers to treat what has long been considered an incurable disease, it may also indicate that other Mendelian disorders like sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis could be effectively treated with similar CRISPR techniques.

Demonstrating effective use without side effects is a big step in getting there. But showing that a method works safely in cells is many steps away from using a treatment in humans.

The promise of CRISPR

CRISPR is essentially a cheap and easy way to edit DNA.

The tool involves a small group of molecules that uses RNA to find a specific section of DNA that it can tweak. It can cut a section out, add in new genetic material, or even replace an undesired section with new genetic code — a biological “find-and-replace” operation for genetic code.

Jennifer Doudna, a biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, is credited as one of the first researchers to discover CRISPR.

“We’re basically able to have a molecular scalpel for genomes,” she previously

told Business Insider » . “All the technologies in the past were sort of like sledgehammers.”

If the tool proves successful in people, it might be possible to do far more » than address genetic disorders. Scientists could change genes to reduce risk factors for other diseases and potentially even improve human health in other ways.

Treating Huntington’s — and then more diseases

As the researchers wrote in the new study, prior studies have used other genetic editing tools to prove it was possible to remove the segment of genetic code that’s responsible for Huntington’s. Unfortunately, doing so created new complications, especially when genetic editing tools sliced both of the connected strands of DNA.

Editing genetic code with CRISPR can lead to unintended consequences, too. Researchers have been able to successfully make desired edits by delivering a package of CRISPR molecules to cells, but sometimes these packages have only made some of those edits, not all. Other times, the tool has made too many undesired off-target tweaks, which could be dangerous.

In this particular study, the research team overcame these obstacles by using a specific CRISPR package designed to avoid off-target effects. (There are many different collections of molecules that can form different CRISPR tools.)

The Polish team used what’s known as a CRISPR Cas9 nickase. Instead of slicing both strands of the DNA double helix (something that can result in new undesired mutations), the nickase just slices one of the strands, which the study authors wrote can make for a much more precise edit.

At least in the cells they tested, that approach worked.

However, researchers say they’ll still need to make this method more precise and better understand it before it could be tried in people. For now at least, there’s still a lot we don’t know about how modifying the genetic code affects patients.

But making modifications without causing off-target effects is an exciting, important step toward eventually using CRISPR to help people. Researchers think it could even be possible to edit human embryos » and remove the sections of genetic code that cause these diseases before people are born.


Scientists to make tech revolution: Dead people will return in form of robotic clones

        Robotic clone of a dead person                       (Representational picture).

Swedish scientists are trying to make a digital copy of those who have passed away by using artificial intelligence to store reconstruct the voices of a diseased person.

In Indonesia, Torajan people are known for keeping the dead bodies of their loved ones to live at home with them. Swedish funeral agency Phoenix is now looking for such volunteers, who are willing to offer their dead relatives for this study, as the objective of this research is to create a communication between both sides through technology.

Torajan people provide food, washe the dead bodies and change their clothes regularly, even provide a bowl in the corner of that particular room, where the body is placed, that apparently serves the purpose of their toilet. These bodies are injected with Formalin, a kind of preservative that restricts the body to decompose.

But now, maybe the new technology could help these people who want to feel the connection through making physical contact with their relatives and loved ones, as the scientists are trying to build a robotic clone of a dead person, which would be the exact replica of the diseased.

According to Sputnik News , these robotic clones might have the capability to answer simple questions related to the weather, what time it is and daily life.

While earlier, people used to keep pictures of their dead relatives to remember them, the new technological revolutionary project would help them to re-live the memorable moments with their departed loved ones.

Even though famous scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned about the virtual dangers of AI technology, if this cloning technology comes true, then digital immortality could become a real phenomenon, exactly like the movie plot of Alex Garland’s ‘Ex Machina’.

Dr Michio Kaku, who studied theoretical physics and studying the strong force, the weak force, gravity and electromagnetism said in a documentary that it is possible to create an exact robotic replica of a dead person if their personality has been downloaded into a computer as an avatar.

These avatars would contain memories and personality that will help to communicate with relatives as if they were still alive. Kaku said that they would, in effect, become immortal.

At a conference in Lisbon recently, the 76-year-old Stephen Hawking told the audience that humans must know how to control computers as AI is associated with incredible risks.

Earlier, Tesla’s Chief Executive Musk had called AI as humanity’s biggest threat. But his company is working on a developing ‘neural lace’ technology, called Neuralink, which implants tiny brain electrodes, which would be capable enough to upload and download thoughts.

According to him, if they can effectively merge with AI, then humanity could achieve symbiosis with machines. Later, he also said: ‘We don’t have to worry about some evil dictator AI because we are the AI collectively.


Why Nigeria must not lose the Igbo

I  have tried to measure the contribution of Igbos to the development of the Nigerian project and the conclusion I have reached is that Nigeria must do everything possible to get the Igbos to remain within the Nigerian union. They (Igbos) have contributed unprecedentedly to the development of the country in every sector. They are an exceptional nationality, comprising ‘born’ entrepreneurs, industrialists, academics, adventurists, etc. A Nigeria without this set of people and their drive for economic success might be boring and uninteresting.

In terms of their industrial spirit, the Igbo are probably the only nationality that has built several industrial estates across Nigeria. In 1997, an Igbo engineer, Ezekiel Izuogu, produced Nigeria’s first indigenous prototype car in Imo State. Africa was excited by his ingenuity. However, due to financial constraints and dirty Nigerian politics, the Izuogu Z-600 model could not hit the Nigerian market as a mass produced car. His workshop was later vandalised and his efforts destroyed. The dream died.

Few decades later, another Igbo, Innocent Chukwuma, has launched Innoson cars, making him the first indigenous car producer in and from Nigeria. Anambra and Enugu states alone have over six indigenous estates. By indigenous, I mean industrial estates built by indigenes, and with little or no government support. Nigeria’s first indigenous car is made in one of those estates – in Nnewi precisely.

The industrial estates are hosts to several other indigenous manufacturing companies, including one of the biggest plastic manufacturing plants in Africa.

One would be pleasantly surprised to see what the Igbos are producing in their industrial estates. It will not be wrong to say that Igbos are driving the indigenous manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy with little or no government support. The first indigenous Nigerian company to produce an internationally certified brand of computers, Zinox, is Igbo, by the name, Stanley Nnamdi Ekeh from Imo State. The Igbos dominate the electronics market and have built a series of ‘computer villages’ across the country. Nigeria’s leading pharmaceutical companies – Emzor, Juhel, Orange, Rico, etc. – are Igbo owned.

Anabel Mobile, the first indigenous Nigerian phone manufacturer, is also Igbo owned. There are several industrial breakthroughs the Igbos have made in Nigeria than I can presently count.

On the level of trade and retail businesses, Igbos are the most successful traders and retailers in Nigeria, and possibly around the world. Across every Nigerian city, they do not only control the major retail markets, but they equally dominate small and medium scale industries, and are synonymous with the description of being ‘importers’.

Their natural inclination towards economic activities has driven them across the globe in search of opportunities. There is hardly a country in the world where you don’t find an Igbo man doing one legitimate or illegitimate form of business. The Igbos have proven to the rest of Nigeria beyond reasonable doubt that they are not lazy people.

In literature, the father of modern African Literature is an Igbo man by the name Chinua Achebe. His work, Things Fall Apart has remained one of Africa’s most read book, which brought international attention to Nigerian literature. Chinua Achebe remains an inspiration to most African writers.

In politics, the Igbo are the only nationality to have successfully executed Nigeria’s first and only political revolution, with the subsequent military coups being merely revenge ploys and schemes for political power.

In 1966, a group of senior Igbo officers forcefully took over power and wiped out a set of corrupt politicians in a bloody putsch. While the Igbos laid the foundation for political revolutions in Nigeria, today they are demanding for an independent nation. The Igbos like to fight for what they believe in and they always do while damning the consequences of this.

The Igbos control a fair share of the oil and gas servicing industry in Nigeria. The biggest indigenous oil servicing contractor in Nigeria today is Igbo-owned. The first indigenous and independently (without any shred of government funding) owned gas power plant was built by an Igbo in Aba – the Geometric Power Limited name (Uche Ogar). 

From haulage to logistics, procurement to real estate, finance, sports, entertainment, manufacturing, engineering to medicine, science, etc., the Igbos have been making Nigeria proud, locally and internationally. The Igbos might be arrogant and even exploitative in their quest for profits and expansionism, yet Nigeria can ill-afford to lose them from the union. They technically control the formal and informal sectors of Nigerian economy and they are everywhere making progress, with or without political patronage.

I was surprised to find out sometime last year that Igbos still engage in rural-riverine-onshore trading across the remotest villages of the Niger Delta. In this remote village near the Atlantic ocean in Bayelsa State which is only accessible through water and the air, these entrepreneurial Igbos have designed a floating market. They bring in their goods, dock their big boats once in two weeks, make sales and move to another village along that dangerous terrain – a business idea the indigenes of that area have never considered venturing into. The Igbos are definitely risk takers!

In this community where I have stayed for the past few months in Anambra State, the number of modern houses in this non-industrial, non-commercial small Igbo village is more than I have seen in all the oil communities I have visited in the Niger Delta put together. The Igbos are that successful and they always remember to invest in real estate in their home states.

The Igbo influence in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is amazing. An Igbo, Cardinal Arinze, was once rumoured to become the first black Pope! The Igbos have a strong affinity with the Roman Catholic church and they have made a mark on the church globally.

Anyone who thinks the Igbos cannot survive as an independent nation might need to have a rethink., and it will be in the interest of Nigeria if they stay. 

  • Osborg is a public affairs analyst.

Source: Tribune online