Our Humanity is Enriched by the Splendor of a Young African Scientific Mind

Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.
Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.

This is a wonderful, beautiful interview about West Africa’s first female astrophysicist, Marie Korsaga, from Burkina Faso. This young woman breaks all the stereotypes. Much of our western culture does not appreciate science. Science, discoveries by the human mind, the power of hypothesis, is the driver of civilization’s growth. Science, not money, is the underlying source  of economic value. Science demonstrates, and celebrates our uniquely human powers, which no other living creature possesses, or could ever posses. We are truly in the image of the Creator when we are exercising the higher scientific powers of our creative mind. I strongly believe that the world would be better off if we had more of youth becoming scientists (and engineers). 

Excerpted questions and answers:

Where does your passion for astrophysics stem from?

From an early age, I have always been interested in the phenomena of the universe, such as the appearance of life on earth and shooting stars. I also enjoyed watching documentary films on astronomy, especially on the Apollo missions. But at the time, I never imagined that I would become an astrophysicist, because astronomy was an unknown domain in Burkina Faso. Besides, I had never met — let alone talked to — an astronomer in real life before my doing my degree.

Growing up, I intended to become a civil engineer because I also like construction. When I did my degree, astronomy had just been integrated as an optional subject in physics in Burkina Faso, and I seized this opportunity. My interest in scientific subjects allowed me to excel more easily in the subject and to pursue my postgraduate studies in astrophysics.

In a continent where there is a lack of water, electricity and even food, does opting for astrophysics ignore the fundamental problems facing the region?

Since astronomy is a science that requires a vast field of knowledge, it enables skills to be developed at the local level. For example, if you take the telescope construction project in South Africa, which is one of the biggest projects in astronomy, it was established by engineers, computer scientists, technicians. So, in addition to strict astronomy, skills are developed that can be used effectively in other sectors.

An astrophysicist is someone who is almost a complete all-rounder in science — someone who has skills in physics, engineering, programming. All this is what makes people describe astronomy as the mother of all sciences. As well as being fascinating as a science, astronomy can be used as a development tool through, for example, education and tourism. The International Astronomical Union understands this and is trying hard to address the development component in developing countries, working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The typical example in Africa is the case of South Africa where the installation of telescopes has not only popularised science and created jobs for young people, but also boosted the local economy and infrastructure. Burkina Faso could well draw inspiration from these success stories and position itself as a centre of excellence in West Africa.

Read: West Africa’s First Female Astrophysicist

Ethiopia Celebrates Launch of First Satellite-Science is the Driver of Economic Growth

Ethiopia Launches First Satellite into Space from China
Ethiopia’s satellite orbiting the earth. (courtesy of africanexponent.com)

December 22, 2019

Space exploration is an essential driver of economic growth. Mankind’s discovery of new physical principles of the universe leads to the creation of new technologies, which transform economies to higher levels of production of physical wealth.  It is science and assimilating new technologies like fission and fusion energy that are the  engines of real economic growth; not money or stock values. Exploration of space stimulates the mind and breeds optimism.  

“Ethiopia’s first satellite was sent into space on Friday, a landmark achievement for the ambitious country that also caps a banner year for Africa’s involvement in space.

“A Chinese Long March 4B rocket hoisted the first Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite (ETRSS-1) aloft from the Taiyuan space base in northern China.

“Scores of Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Centre outside the capital, Addis Ababa, early Friday to watch a live broadcast.

“The 70-kilogramme (154-pound) satellite was developed by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology with the help of 21 Ethiopian scientists, according to the specialist website africanews.space…

“For us as a society, we are valuing this launch as something which lifts our national pride,” Paulos said.

“You know, this is a very poor country. Many in the younger generation don’t have big hopes of reaching space. But today we are giving this generation hope, helping this generation to think big and have self-esteem.”

Read: Ethiopia Celebrates Launch of First Satellite

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Nuclear Energy is Necessary for Africa’s Growth

Russia’s Rosatom already is building a $29 billion nuclear plant complex for Egypt, and the company is also helping Nigeria, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda establish nuclear facilities. The El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt will have four VVER-1200 reactors, or water-water energetic reactors, which are Russian-designed Generation III+ reactors. Russia is financing 85% of the project with a loan of about $25 billion to Egypt, and Egypt is paying the remaining 15% over a period of 13 years, wrote Darrell Proctor in Power on Dec. 2.

Africa’s only current operating nuclear power plant is the 1.8 GW Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, north of Cape Town, which is owned and operated by Eskom, South Africa’s power utility. The plant recently had its operational period extended for another 20 years from 2024 when it was originally supposed to be decommissioned.

African nations are trying to increase their power generation capacity on a continent that has long struggled to sustain reliable power. The International Energy Agency recently reported that 57% of Africa’s population still does not have easy access to electricity, and those with access to power deal with frequent power outages.

African nations desperately  need nuclear power for their survival. Without access to plentiful energy,  people will die and nations will not develop.

 

Is “Climate Change” Scientifically True or Just Culturally Popular?

I am posting a provocative article that challenges our society’s accepted cultural beliefs about climate change. Admittedly more analysis and discussion is required, but let me convey a few concepts that should provide food for thought.

The current hysteria about that the planet is facing impending doom is strongly reminiscent of the old discredited Malthusian theory that too many couples having too many children would over run the capacity of our planet to produce food. We now have over 7 billion people, and we know that our planet can feed billions more, if we properly developed its potential. In the 20th century, Malthus’ unscientific babbling was further extended by the Club of Rome and World Wildlife Fund to assert that the our planet had limited-fixed resources that could only maintain a fixed number of human beings. Of course, none of this is true, nor was it ever scientifically proven, but it became part of the popular culture. I am now approaching 68 years of age, and know how this propaganda spread from the late 1960s on. I was there and organized against it!

Tragically, our culture today has accepted the new mantra of climate change, without a healthy scientific debate and analysis. For example CO2 is not deadly, it is one of the building blocks of life. If you look at weather events over time, a century or more, you will find that there is not an increase in hurricanes, and tornadoes. If you go back hundreds of thousands of years you’ll find several ice ages and warming periods.

Also, why assume the planet has one fixed condition? Tens of millions of years ago there was no Sahara desert; it was caused by the Africa plate banging into southern Europe. Since then, the Sahara becomes moist and dry following a 22,000-25,000 year cycle based on the wobble of the earth’s axis.

If we study our planet and universe over long periods of time, we will discover all kinds on patterns and anomalies. However, they all indicate a self developing universe. Mankind is not an antagonist to our planet and its environment, but rather, a co-contributor to its growth and development, which is not finite.

The principles of our physical universe are coherent with the principle of creativity that all human being posses. This leads to another discussion for a future time.

A special note to my African friends. Beware of propaganda that tells Africans they should have less children and forego industrialization, because it will destroy the planet.

Our planet is about 4.6 billion years old. Separate continents began to form approximately 200 million years ago-(mya). Early stages of mankind emerged only 3-4 mya. Homo sapiens sapiens emerged only a few hundred thousand years ago. Our universe is constantly developing and changing.

The complete article follows the excerpts below:

“The question is not whether, but to what extent human-caused changes in the atmosphere drive climate variations, and whether such changes are good or bad. Meaningful statistics (but ones that do not exist) would include responses to the following questions:

• What would be the impact of doubling atmospheric CO2?
• To what extent does water vapor cause a feedback effect?
• To what extent must we take into account the solar magnetic field’s effect on the creation of clouds via cosmic radiation?
• What is the certainty range on these predictions?
• How well have climate models of the last two decades fared at predicting the global climate during the past 5 to 10 years?
• Will the specific, foreseen changes in climate be beneficial or harmful, or a mixture of the two?

“The climate of the Earth, as it exists in the solar system, is much more complex than a foolishly simple, yes-no question about “believing in” or “denying” climate change.

“How can any such changes be determined? An individual cannot possibly notice that the climate is changing through their personal experience, which is necessarily limited in location and time. And it is absolutely ludicrous to claim that anyone could know, through their personal experience of weather, the cause of any such changes.

“Science is not fashion. It is not decided by taking a poll or by seeing what is most popular…

“A cultural paradigm shift occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, transforming the understanding of the relation of human beings to nature, and transforming the meaning of “progressive” from supporting progress to preventing it!

“From this paradigm shift arise the unstated assumptions that underlie the emotional responses that many people have to these issues. One such assumption is a definition of “natural,” which excludes human activity, implicitly creating a goal—humans should simply not exist. This goes along with the shift from global warming (a specific change that could cause problems) to climate change, taking the assumption that any change to the climate would be bad, simply by virtue of its being change. Is this really true?…”

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China & the US Can End Poverty by Exploring Space: Africa Gains

Exploring outer space is a natural driver of economic growth. Discovering the universe beyond earth stimulates the mind, excites the imagination, and challenges our human understanding of the physical laws-principles that govern our planet. Discovering new scientific principles leads to new technologies that transform our economic mode of production. Knowledge, understood in this way, changes i.e. improves our relationship to nature-the physical universe. There is no so-called environmental limit to continued economic growth for the human noetic-creative species. The last great burst of productivity in America was a result of President John K Kennedy’s vision for man to land on the Moon. All the new discoveries that were required to accomplish that feat created new technologies here at home, on planet earth. Kennedy’s space program resulted in a 14:1 return on investment. This will happen again as mankind continues to probes further into space. China has taken the lead. However, if the US, instead of demonizing China and Russia were to collaborate with space fairing nations, in searching out new scientific principles of the universe, we would cause a revolution in science. In possession of this scientific knowledge we could end hunger, poverty, and conflict throughout the world. Africa has much to gain by supporting new endeavors into outer space.

“Get Rid of Poverty, But Also Aim Deeper into the Sky”

In the context of the press conference today by China National Space Administration (CNSA), CGTN conducted an interview with lunar mission chief designer, Wu Weiren, with its “face-to-face” reporter. The title of the interview is: “face to face Wu Weiren: a big step for mankind.” He was asked more than once about cooperation with the U.S. Wu responded that there is, in fact, some cooperation with the U.S. on this mission. The Chang’e-4 relay satellite “will extend its service life, and they can use it at that time, after the Chang’e-4 mission… The U.S. made a request to know the landing time and location in advance, so that their satellite can be adjusted to [pass over] the landing site, and record the precise location of the landing site.” This would be of benefit to China.

He continued: “This is a golden opportunity for the United States. It always wants to measure the meteorites hitting the Moon, which can raise the state of the moon dust. This is very difficult. The probability [of observing a meteorite hit] is too small; it is difficult to achieve. But this time we have such an opportunity, so Americans want to seize it, and we are willing to provide them the opportunity.” Asked numerous times about cooperation, Wu said, that “the scientists of the two countries still hope to cooperate together,” providing examples of areas of complimentary science investigations.

When asked by a reporter, “Our country has spent so much money and used so many scientists to do this. Why do we have to help people [do this]?” Wu Weiren responded: “China has fallen behind in the past few hundred years. From the perspective of modern science and technology, we still benefit from the Western countries. We have bathed in the rain of world science and technology development, and we enjoy the benefits. Now that we have the ability, our economy has developed, and our science and technology are gradually catching up with the pace of world development. As General Secretary Xi said, big countries must take on big tasks. I think we should contribute to the world’s science and technology now. We can do this in an era of contribution.”

Wu added: “A nation needs to look up at the stars, and China’s deep space exploration will fly further and further. [We have had] the successful landing of the Chang’e-4, the relay link connection, payload start-up, two-unit separation [of the rover from the lander], rover moon-day dormancy and wake-up, and two-way mutual [photograph] shootings were completed. Every move and every step attracts the attention of the world.”

“Of course, we must do our own things well,” advised. For example, the tens of millions of people in our country have not yet gotten rid of poverty. This should be solved. However, we should also aim deeper into the sky. One philosopher has said that if a nation does not look up at the starry sky and only buries its head and feet, this nation has no hope and no future.

We have 1.3 billion people and we are a big country. I hope that in our generation or the next generation, we can turn our big space power into a strong space power. Now we say that we can catch up with the world’s advanced level. Next we can lead the world. That is the dream of our generation.”

‘A Nation Needs to Look Up at the Stars’

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) held a press conference this morning on the on-going Chang’e-4 mission, and future lunar exploration missions. Giving the briefing was Wu Yunhua, deputy chief commander of the agency, and Wu Weiren, general designer of the lunar program. Wu Weiren
said that CNSA is organizing Chinese experts to work on the follow-on lunar missions, and that three future missions are being planned:
* Chang’e-5, which will launch at the end of this year, will return a sample from the near side of the Moon * Chang’e-6 will conduct a south pole sample return. Whether it will be conducted on the near side or the far side of the Moon depending on the results from the sampling mission of Chang’e-5.
* Chang’e-7 will conduct comprehensive exploration of the south pole, including its land forms, material composition, and environment
* Chang’e-8 will test key advanced technologies on the far side, and companies will be invited to industrialize the technologies. {China Science and Technology Daily} reports that Wu Yunhua added, “On Change-8 we are planning even more crucial experiments for our lunar exploration, including to determine the
possibility of establishing a lunar base for scientific research, if we can do 3D printing on the Moon, and whether it is possible to use the lunar soil for the construction of buildings, in order to jointly construct a lunar base for further exploration of the Moon.”

Previously it has been stated by CNSA that the first Chinese lunar base will be robotic, with periodic visits by astronauts. China has said that its first manned lunar mission will take place around 2030.

At the press conference, the importance of international cooperation was stressed by a number of speakers. All countries are welcome to participate in China’s follow-up lunar exploration and deep space exploration projects, he said.

Ouyang Ziyuan Gives His Views on Chang’e-4 and Future Exploration

Geologist and Academician Ouyang Ziyuan, in an undated, but recent, interview on CCTV, commented on the Chang’e-4 mission. The program was titled “Why We Want To Go to Far Side of the Moon?” Ouyang said that it had been the dream of scientists immemorial to find out about that side of the Moon that we never see. In addition, the far side, which is open to the universe — and all its effects — would no doubt contain ancient rocks that would reveal the secret of the origin of our Solar System. Scientists have chosen a level area of the Moon in the Aiken Basin and have concentrated on an ancient crater, the Von Karman Crater, Ouyang said, which could be one of the oldest parts of the Moon.

Eventually, he said, one task would be bringing ancient rocks back from the crater for examination on Earth. In addition, the Moon could serve as a base for future exploration.

“Our task in the final analysis is twofold. One is the low-frequency radiation. The other is the record contained in the ancient rocks. Our next phase on the Moon must be scientific research, and we have to plan a base for scientific research and gradually improve that base for our work. I am convinced that in
this way we will look forward to new knowledge and to new breakthroughs,” he said.

Africa Advancing With Science, Technology, and Infrastructure

China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Its Long-Term Impact on African Countries

Dr. Alexander Demissie of Ethiopia, an expert in China-Africa relations, spoke in Germany, November 26, 2017.

Below are excerpts from an excellent presentation by Dr. Demissie on the increasingly productive relationship between China and Africa to develop the continent’s infrastructure, which Europe and the Unites States have refused to do.

‘My third point: the BRI is primarily an infrastructural undertaking. We don’t yet have political institutionalization. We have infrastructural ideas. We have corridors, but we don’t yet have political institutions. So, if we talk about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), or the Silk Road Bank, these are just connected
to infrastructure; they are not political ideas.

“Interestingly, this idea fits perfectly into the current African need—infrastructure development. Africa wants infrastructure, going back here to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 strategic framework that has also, coincidentally, been coming up. Together with the BRI, Africa wants a good infrastructure connection, a good internal interconnectivity. So, the idea of the BRI coming from China is perfectly fitting into the idea—actually happening or being discussed—within the African continent.

“China has also been very clear since Johannesburg in 2015 that they want to cooperate more with Africa more on infrastructural projects that create regional connectivity. That is where the BRI comes in. That’s why I mentioned earlier that the BRI is primarily an infrastructure topic.

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Putin and El-Sisi Sign Economic Deals in Cairo; Russia To Build Nuclear Power Four-Plant Complex for Egypt

December 11, 2017–Russia and Egypt have signed an agreement to construct Egypt’s first nuclear plant, which will be followed by construction of three more. Costing $21 billion, the porject is scheduled to be finished by 2028-2029.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met today in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. They discussed economic matters, energy, and politics, as well as the possibility of resuming air travel between Russia and Egypt, which was suspended in November 2015 after the crash of a Russian passenger jet over Sinai in what is believed to have been an act of terrorism.

President Putin stated, “I am pleased to note that our economic links are developing at a fairly high pace, and we really have a lot of good projects ahead.”

President al-Sisi responded, “Since the 1950s and ’60s, Russia has always supported Egypt and still supports our country: both with metallurgical plants and the construction of the Aswan Dam, and today we will sign a contract for the construction of a nuclear power plant.”

The preliminary agreement between the countries was signed in 2015; a loan from Russia will cover 85 percent of the construction costs. Russia’s Rosatom will service the complex’s four reactors for 60 years, its chairman Aleksey Likhachyov said today, RT reported. Representatives of Russia’s Rosatom nuclear corporation and Russian universities have recently visited Egyptian universities to prepare engineering students to work at the Daba nuclear power plant in the future. The Russian delegation gave a number of presentations at the Russian Center for Culture and Science in Cairo.

One day after Eyptian President El-Sisi and Russian President Putin witnessed the signing of a deal for the construction of four Russian reactors in the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant project, it is reported that the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA) has already begun a study at the El Nagila site, which takes about three years, to see if it is suitable for the construction of four nuclear plants, according to sources at the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity. The study will be carried out parallel with the construction at the Dabaa site, where the first reactor is scheduled to come on-line in 2026. When that plant is complete, it will become only the second country in Africa, following South Africa, to have a nuclear power plant.

The {Daily News Egypt} reports that Egypt has signed protocols and MOUs with 10 countries for cooperation in nuclear energy, to help with training and the utilization of expertise in reactor management, and security, safety, and the possibility to provide formal advisory services to the EAEA

Africa’s Ports Revolution: Railway Ports of the East

This an informative article written on February 23. 2017, reporting on the exciting potential for the developments of Africa’s East coast ports with railroad connections to the interior of the continent. 

The population of Africa is presently 1.2 billion and growing at a rate of 2.5% a year, more than twice that of any other continent. In two years’ time, it will gain the population of the UK; in 12 years of compounded growth it will gain the population of China.

All these extra people may add dynamism to economies, but only if the increase in labour supply can be matched by an equivalent increase in economic activity; otherwise,  rising population density may destabilise social and political systems – an effect already seen in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This challenge has led to a different pattern of development for ports on Africa’s east coast, compared to the west coast. In the west, the centres served by these ports are close by, sometimes right outside the port gate. In east Africa, by contrast, they are between 500km and 1,000km away, and most of the infrastructure needed to reach them has not yet been built. In the case of the Doraleh container terminal at Djibouti, the goal is the Ethiopian highlands and the valley of the White Nile at Khartoum, a cluster roughly equivalent to the population of Japan. In East Africa, a similar-sized population is grouped in the Great Lakes states, South Sudan and the DRC. All of these centres, with the marginal exception of the DRC, are landlocked.

Their ability to attract investment and benefit from globalisation depends, among other things, on having efficient rail, road and pipeline links to the Indian Ocean “transit  states” of Kenya, Tanzania and Djibouti.

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