World’s First Set of Nonuplets is 1-year Old!

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Halima Cisse, mother of nonuplets and the medical team in Morocco (Source: Africafreedomnetwork.com)

Can you imagine trying for one baby and ending up with 9 at once? It has been one year since the birth of the world’s first set of nonuplets. Conceived naturally, a first in the world, the 5 girls and 4 boys have all survived and are healthy and growing well. The parents, Abdelkader Arby and Halima Cissé, are from Mali. The babies have been taken care of by a full medical team in a hospital in Morocco. Initially, the medical teams both in Mali and then later in Morocco thought Halima Cissé was expecting septuplets, and so they were all surprised to find 9 babies in the end. Again, I salute the wisdom of the Malian government who saw fit to have the mother transferred to Morocco for more advanced specialist care; and I salute the immense dedication of the Moroccan team and government to the well-being of the babies. Excerpts below are from an article on the BBC website.

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The nonuplets (Source: BBC)

The world’s only nonuplets – nine babies born at the same time – are “in perfect health” as they celebrate their first birthday, their father has told the BBC.

They’re all crawling now. Some are sitting up and can even walk if they hold on to something,” said Abdelkader Arby, an officer in the Malian army.

They are still in the care of the clinic in Morocco where they were born.

He said their mother Halima Cissé, 26, was also doing well.

It’s not easy but it’s great. Even if it’s tiring at times, when you look at all the babies in perfect health, [in a line] from right to left we’re relieved. We forget everything,” he told BBC Afrique.

He has just returned to Morocco for the first time in six months, along with their elder daughter, Souda, aged three.

They will just have a small birthday celebration with the nurses and a few people from their apartment building, Mr Arby said.

Nothing is better than the first year. We will remember this great moment …”

The babies broke the Guinness World Record for the most children delivered in a single birth to survive.

Mrs Cissé and the children are currently living in what their father described as a “medicalised flat” that belongs to the owners of the Ain Borja clinic in Casablanca where the babies were born.

There are nurses who are here, in addition to my wife, who help to take care of the children,” Mr Arby said.

… [The] boys are called Mohammed VI [in honor of the Moroccan king], Oumar, Elhadji, Bah [in honor of the Malian president at the time], while the girls are named Kadidia, Fatouma, Hawa, Adama and Oumou.

Each one has a unique personality, their father said.

They all have different characters. Some are quiet, while other make more noise and cry a lot. Some want to be picked up all the time. They are all very different, which is entirely normal.”

Mr Arby also thanked the Malian government for its help. The Malian state has put everything in place for the care and treatment of the nine babies and their mother. It’s not at all easy, but it’s beautiful and something that is comforting,” he said.

Everyone [in Mali] is very keen to see the babies with their own eyes – their family, friends, our home village, the whole country.”

The Travelling Telescope – Stargazing in Kenya

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A student at Ololomei Primary School in Maasai Mara, Kenya, looks through a Dobsonian telescope during a school workshop with the Travelling Telescope (Source: Travelling Telescope)

Have you ever stared at the sky wondering what each constellation is? or whether you can see the surface of the moon? or other galaxies? I am sure many African children, and children everywhere have spent countless hours staring at the night sky trying to pierce its secrets, but very few will ever get the chance to look through a telescope. One organization which I have recently been introduced to, the Travelling Telescope, wants to change that. Any person in love with astronomy appreciates the value of a telescope, and will definitely love the idea. Based in Kenya, the Travelling Telescope is an organization which focuses on empowering youths and is dedicated to social change via the use of astronomy. It offers astronomy entertaining and educational tools and is the only astronomy company in the Eastern African region. The vision came to founder, Susan Murabana, when she met her now husband during a solar eclipse; their love gave birth to the Travelling Telescope – a gathering place for people to look through a telescope and observe the wonders of the night sky.

The BBC did a podcast on the Travelling Telescope, as well as Lessons in awe and wonder from Kenya’s Travelling Telescope from the Christian Science Monitor. The article from the Monitor – The Travelling Telescope brings stars to students is pretty good as well. Excerpts below are from Lessons in awe and wonder from Kenya’s Travelling Telescope.

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Susan Murabana, co-founder of The Travelling Telescope company, points out objects on the night sky with a laser pen for students at the Kisaruni Girls School in Kenya (Source: Travelling Telescope)

After watching a solar eclipse together in 2013, Susan Murabana and her partner, Chu Owen, hatched a plan to share the night skies with Kenyan schoolchildren.

They bought a big, 12-inch optical telescope and started an astronomy business: The Travelling Telescope. They’ve reached more than 200,000 kids. They charge Kenya’s wealthier private schools and safari lodges for astronomy lessons so that they can freely share the telescope and a portable planetarium with public-school children.

As they peer at the objects in our solar system, they hope to awaken a deeper sense of what makes this planet so special.

Yes, we want to get more astronomers. That would be good,” says Ms. Murabana. “But more than that, we want … the next generation of leaders and scientists – who will be in charge of our planet – to be more kind and make better decisions about our home.”

How Africa Copes with The War in Ukraine: Alternatives to Wheat – Ancient Grains?

Sanoussi Diakite demonstrating the capabilities of the Fonio husker to women (Source: RolexAwards.com)

Today, I would like to highlight the work of yet another African who has been working on alternatives, this time bringing back ancient grains to the forefront. Meet Senegalese Sanoussi Diakite, professor of mechanical engineering, who has invented a fonio husker machine. Diakite has been working tirelessly for several years to find ways to husk fonio. For those who know it, fonio is a cereal that has been cultivated for centuries if not millennia in at least 16 African countries from Cape Verde to Chad. Fonio is nutritious, gluten-free, high in dietary fiber, and drought resistant. It grows anywhere and does not need fertilizers. It is one of the fastest-growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, it is very labor intensive to husk. It takes about 2 hours to pound (yes you heard it right, women pound the fonio) to get 2 kg of fonio. It could easily take a woman the whole day to pound the fonio if she has a large family (not including the preparation of the meal afterwards), and this is one of the reasons many have shied away from the ancient grain in their nutrition. Diakite’s husking machine produces 5 kg of fonio in 8 minutes. Talk of a revolution! 

The Fonio Husker Machine has been patented, and effectively husks and cleans the fonio grains as they pass through the shifting and flexible paddle which is set on a vertical axis and on top of a fixed plate. The separation of grain and husk is done simultaneously. To learn more, take a look at the article on MyHero, Kumatoo, and and his bio as he was awarded the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. It might have taken time, but like he says himself to BBC, everything is endurance and perseverance; at the core, he wanted to help women and reinstate the millennial grain.

How Africa Copes with the War in Ukraine: Clean Energy Alternatives

oil3In recent weeks, we have all felt the effects of the war in Ukraine, particularly at the gas pump. Prices keep going up everyday, forcing many to either stop driving, start biking, use public transportation, or switch to electric or hybrid vehicles when possible. The gas prices unfortunately affect almost everything else, such as the cost of food, given that it costs more to transport from the place of production to the stores. Today, we will highlight two African inventors who have been working on energy alternatives for quite a while now, but have now come to the forefront thanks to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Elie Tubani (Source: Le Journal TV5 Monde)

Meet Elie Tubani, a Congolese University student in Goma, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, who has successfully powered cars with butane gas used for cooking. The city of Goma is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, which is known to be rich in methane; it is one of 3 lakes in the world, all in Africa, that undergo limnic eruptions, the African Lake with Explosive Power. Thus, Tubani’s invention is very important for Goma, the entire region, and using what the country has (natural gas) for energy production. As a side note, neighboring Rwanda has been using methane from Lake Kivu for electricity.

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Maxwell Chikumbutso presenting his hybrid helicopter (Source: GlobalBlackHistory.com)

Now comes Maxwell Chikumbutso, an inventor from Zimbabwe. Chikumbutso has created a Radio-frequency powered television: no power cable needed, and the TV is powered purely by radio waves similar to WiFi and Bluetooth. He said to The Herald, “With an RF-powered generator embedded on a TV set, it is now possible for many people to enjoy watching TV whilst they are off-grid. For me, this started off as a dream in 2003, but today it’s now a reality. We have successfully developed a solution that powers televisions, smartphones, laptop computers, fridges just to name a few.” His invention is a green energy solution, as it converts radio frequencies into clean renewable energy. Lately, he has manufactured a hybrid helicopter which runs on 6 different types of fuel, a green power generator which produces electricity with radio frequencies, cordless televisions, an electric car which does not need to be charged (watch out Elon Musk, there might be some competition in the future), and much more. Chikumbutso is the founder of Saith Holdings Inc.. Unfortunately, he has not had much support from the government; he was not able to patent his work because the authorities said that his inventions violated the laws of physics. To learn more about him and his inventions, please check out this article at the Perimeter and The Hub.News.

Now, these inventors remain underrated as our African governments still seem to think that great inventions will come from the West, or given that their agenda and development are run by foreign entities, their hands are tied. It is high time that Africans understand that in order to be competitive in the future, we need to be industrialized, and we have the manpower for it, as well as great minds that will propel us forward. Our deliverance will not come from the west or the east, as they after all look for their own interests not ours, but we have the potential to address our own problems directly with solutions that work for us. Is it not about time Africa believed in herself?

The Hoba Meteorite: The Biggest Meteorite ever Found on Planet Earth

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Flag of Namibia

As we have seen at the beginning of the week with the Gibeon meteorites, thousands of years ago, massive meteorites crashed on land in Namibia. Up until recent times, the local people were using the iron from these rocks to build tools and weapons.

In many cases around the world, the colonialists/foreigners/invaders have taken the meteorites, or large parts of them, from the native people who had used them for centuries. The one case where this has not happened is in the case of the Hoba meteorite, also located in Namibia like the Gibeon meteorites. Estimated to weigh a bit over 60 tons, the Hoba meteorite has remained too heavy to move since its fall on earth 80,000 years ago. It was buried until its discovery in 1920 by a farmer who was plowing his land. Since it has been found, its size has dwindled to about 60 tons today from 66 tons at the time of its uncovering, due to pieces getting chipped for scientific research, vandalism, and weathering.

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A side of the Hoba Meteorite (Source: AmusingPlanet.com)

All experts agree that the Hoba meteorite is the biggest intact meteorite ever found on earth to date. It is located about 20 km west of the city of Grootfontein, in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia. It is estimated that it fell on earth about 80,000 years ago. The meteorite has an overall area of 2.70 x 2.20 m at a height of about 1 m, and is estimated to be between 200 to 400 million years old. Like the Gibeon meteorites, it consists mostly of iron (82.4 %) and nickel (16.4 %) with traces of cobalt and some other elements. It was named Hoba after the Hoba Farm located in the Otavi Mountains. The word Hoba itself comes from a Khoekhoegowab word which means ‘gift‘; at 60 tons, it is indeed quite a gift!  In the early 1950s, an American research laboratory tried to have it moved, but it would not budge! Maybe the ancestors were against their gift to the Namibian people being moved away?… who knows?

It was declared a National Monument in 1955. Wouldn’t it be nice to stand on top of the Hoba meteorite and contemplate its extraterrestrial origin, and its age, imagining life 200 to 400 million years ago.

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Hoba meteorite (Source: TheVintagenews.com)

The Gibeon Meteorites: Prehistoric Extraterrestrial Vestiges in Namibia

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The Gibeon Meteorites Plaque by the National Monuments Council

Several thousand years ago, a massive meteorite crashed on land in Namibia. A large portion of space rocks were found not too far from the village of Gibeon in Namibia, thus the name Gibeon meteorites. The local Nama people, and their ancestors before them, used to make metal iron tools and weapons from these rocks. In more recent times, in 1838, Captain J.E. Alexander stumbled upon them during his travels and sent specimens to the world famous astronomer John Herschel in England, who also named the 7 moons of Saturn and the 4 moons of Uranus; Herschel identified the Gibeon meteorites as extraterrestrial.

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Some of the Gibeon Meteorites at the Post Street Mall, Windhoek, Namibia

Since then, over 150 meteorites have been tracked and recovered, although some of the more valuable specimens have been stolen or smuggled out of the country or donated to various research institutions around the world. In 1950, 30 of these prehistoric extraterrestrial wonders were declared National Monument. Today, they are exposed on the Post Street Mall in the capital Windhoek. Additionally, all meteorites found in Namibia are automatically protected and classified as National Monuments, and must not be removed from where they have been found or damaged in any way.

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Gibeon Meteorites, Windhoek, Namibia

The Gibeon meteorites are rich in iron, nickel, and small amounts of cobalt. More nickel has been found in them compared to some other meteorites found elsewhere. The rock is crystalline when polished and etched. The strewnfield for Gibeon meteorites is perhaps the largest in the world.

If you ever visit Windhoek, please do not forget to stroll down Post Street Mall, and enjoy these prehistoric extraterrestrial wonders, and remember that some of our ancestors’ tools came from these.

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Overall view of the Gibeon Meteorites, Windhoek, Namibia

Revisiting the Mpemba Effect … in Reverse

A while back, I told you about the Mpemba effect, a physics effect demonstrated by a Tanzanian high school student in 1963, Erasto Mpemba, whereby hot water freezes faster than cold water. This is a ‘modern’ (after the 1960s) physics law made in Africa, by an African high schooler, and named after an African (history is full of cases of ‘intellectual’ misnaming i.e. naming the work of an African or others after a European). 

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More recently, scientists John Bechhoefer at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and colleagues, have experimentally demonstrated the Mpemba effect in reverse, also called inverse Mpemba effect, where they observed that under specific conditions a cold particle will heat up faster than a warmer counterpart. The team used optical tweezers to create a tilted double-well potential that confined a colloidal particle, and then measured the particle’s response as a function of its initial temperature. The new measurements indicate the inverse Mpemba effect is much weaker than the conventional, forward effect. The work also experimentally corroborates some of the predicted mechanisms behind both the forward and the inverse effects. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January. Excerpts below are from Physics Today; check out the full article which also goes into detail about Erasto Mpemba, and explains the effect in depth. Enjoy!

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In 1963, a 13-year-old Tanzanian student named Erasto Mpemba and his secondary school classmates were tasked with making ice cream. There was limited room in the freezers, and he found himself falling behind other students. His classmates were boiling milk for the treat, then letting the mixture cool before placing it in the freezer. To stay on track, Mpemba put his hot concoction straight into the freezer. Checking on the dessert some time later, he found it perfectly frozen, while his classmates’ remained liquid.

The idea of water freezing faster when it starts at a higher temperature was christened the Mpemba effect after he published the finding in 1969 with physicist Denis Osborne. …

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Ice cream

… a decade ago, computational chemists simulated water molecules and observed the Mpemba effect despite the absence of the supposedly necessary mechanisms. Recently, researchers have also observed the effect in other liquids and magnetic alloys, which indicates that causes specific to water, like hydrogen bonds, cannot fully explain the effect. Further complicating the investigation of the Mpemba effect is that many water-based experiments involve a phase transition between liquid and ice, which is dependent on conditions like the container and environment; that makes measurements hard to obtain and extremely difficult to reproduce.

… Bechhoefer and his team used a simple and unambiguous definition to measure the inverse Mpemba effect: the time it takes a system that starts at one equilibrium temperature to reach another, higher temperature. By using a single colloidal particle, they avoided the unnecessary complications of phase transitions in water and other systems.

In their experiment, optical tweezers create a force and thus a potential in which the particle moves. The potential is a tilted double well, … . The particle can settle into two different local minima, the left or the right valley. The potential qualitatively mimics the states of supercooled water: One local minimum has a slightly higher free energy, representing liquid (left), and the other, representing solid ice (right), has a lower free energy because that state is favored.

… To get the same quality of results observed for the forward Mpemba effect, the team had to perform five times the number of trials—5000 rather than 1000—and they believe they know why. In the forward effect, particles fall quickly into one of the two potential wells. The fraction in the left and the fraction in the right, in general, differ from the fractions that should probabilistically be in each well in equilibrium, after the system has settled to its final temperature. That difference leads to a second, slower step, in which particles hop the barrier into the other well until the correct fractions are attained. If the barrier is tall, the process can be slow and create a sharp separation in time between the initial drop into the well and the hopping. When the Mpemba effect is working at its strongest, the hopping is minimal and the relaxation time to the final equilibrium temperature is short.

African Software Developers in High Demand Globally

Software_ComputerThe coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of upheavals around the world. Apparently, it was not all bad, as it has allowed for some gems to be uncovered and some local economies to focus on internal development vs being turned out to the outside. AfricaNews recently reported that the demand for African software developers has increased as a result of the pandemic. Below are excerpts from the AfricaNews article. Will this trend keep up and help to counter the African Brain drain?

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The demand for African computer software developers skyrocketed in 2021 due to the global economic crisis, and of course, Covid 19 also played a role, a new Google report reveals.

In the Africa Developer Ecosystem report, data was gathered from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

In an interview with 1,600 software developers, Google discovered that 38% of African developers work for at least one company based outside of the continent.

“Across the continent, the pool of professional developers increased by 3.8% year on year. The total number of developers in Africa is now 716,000,” the survey discloses.

In what may seem like a confirmation to the findings by google, recent research, highlighting the dynamic and growing market for the continent’s technical talent over the last two years also showed that Four out of every ten African software developers now work for at least one company based outside of the continent, while five work for local start-ups.

A 22% rise in the use of the internet by small and medium-sized businesses in Africa, a record fundraising streak by local startups in 2021 and demand for remote tech workers in more mature markets are all factors attributed to the rising awareness of Africa’s software development talent.

“Increased global demand for remote tech talent, which was enhanced by the pandemic, created more remote employment opportunities for African developers,” said Google.

The Berlin Papyrus: or when the Pythagorean Theorem was written 1000 years before the Birth of Pythagoras

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Berlin Papyrus 6619

Is there a child on this planet who has gone to high school and not been taught the Pythagorean Theorem in some shape or form? I am not sure that many African children know that the so-called Pythagorean Theorem was written by their ancestors over 1000 years before Pythagoras was born, and on African soil. You heard me right: Pythagorean Theorem was written on the Berlin Papyrus or Berlin Papyrus 6619, a papyrus from ancient Egypt from the Middle Kingdom. This papyrus dates back from the second half of the 12th (c. 1990–1800 BC) or 13th Dynasty (c. 1800 BC – 1649 BC).

The papyrus is one of the primary sources of ancient Egyptian mathematical and medical knowledge, including the first known documentation concerning pregnancy test procedures. See our ancestors were already trying to test pregnancy! Amazing!

The first problem found on the Berlin Papyrus states, “You are told the area of a square of 100 square cubits is equal to that of two smaller squares. The side of one is ½ + ¼ the side of the other. What are the sides of the two unknown squares.” In modern terms, we would express this as x2 + y2 = 100 and x = (3/4)y, yielding to y = 8, and x = 6. Although the papyrus shows a solution using Egyptian multiplication and a somewhat different way of solving it today, it is understood that they most likely had a good knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem. It is written in Hieratic script.

Next time you visit the Egyptian Museum Berlin, don’t just look at the bust of Queen Nefertiti which is next to the Berlin Papyrus and dwarfs it, but check it out also.

Lucy, the 3.2 Million Year Old Mankind’s Ancestor … in a Line of Ancestors

As we continue to learn more about Lucy, and the origin of mankind, I thought of sharing the video below. It is a short interview of Donald Johanson who found Lucy in 1974 in the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. It is “In Conversation with Donald Johanson, a film by Pierangelo Pirak” on the BBC Earth. It is just a snippets, but it helps to perceive the change that occurred with the discovery of Lucy in our understanding of the human evolution and origin. There are definitely other documentaries, much longer that will give more information, but this is to wet your appetite. Since the discovery of Lucy, more Australopithecus afarensis have been found, and even older remains like those of the Kenyantropus platyops (3.5 million years) or the Ardipithecus (dated 4.4 million years).  Enjoy!