Science & Technology

Of Physics, Economic Growth and National Development

I recall that in his Inaugural Lecture in 1973, 44 years ago, Professor Muyiwa Awe, first President of West African Association of Science and first African Professor of Physics on the African continent, afiirmed that Physics is the proverbial  goose that lays the golden Eggs. Interestingly, Professor Awe was “Best Man” to the Economist, now late, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, who had served all Nigerian Heads of Government from Balewa to Babangida.

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Bearing in mind this relationship, maybe Professor Awe, now late, should have been asked to write a book on what happened to Physics in Nigeria and consequently what happened to the Nigerian economy. Physics made the United states what it is today- A super power and the world’s largest economy.

It’s a fact that there have been vultures sucking up the Nigerian commonwealth but there are instances of glaring omissions by well meaning Nigerians in and out of government.

Professor Ojetunji Aboyade referred to economics as the life blood of the Nation. But which comes first? Physics or economics?

The answer to this question might be gleaned from the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Economic History which cites studies that”attribute 90 per cent of income growth in England and the United states after 1780 to technological innovation, not mere capital accumulation.”

On the technology  chess board, Mathematics is King, Physics the Queen and the various branches of engineeering the Knights in Shiny Armour.

Physics has given rise to a whole new range of technologies that have contributed trillions of Dollars to the global economy. One of these is Nanotechnology. World sales of Nanotechnology enabled products are  expected by the US’s National Science foundation to climb to $3000 billion by 2020. Increasing the number of Jobs in Nanotechnology is projected to hit 6 million in 2020

If there are no golden eggs there might be little of an economy to co-ordinate.

Furthermore the Sub discipline known as Exploration Geophysics enables us to extract Oil and Gas from under the Sea bed, same with much of Solid Minerals and Underground water resources but you discover that its obsolete equipment and outdated Books in our Departments devoted to Geophysics. Another Man who perhaps should write a book on what happened to Physics in Nigeria is Chief Festus Marinho a graduaute of Physics from the University of Ibadan and first Managing Director of the  Nigerian National Petroleum Company(NNPC).

We all love Physics when you come to think of some of  our prized possessions or some of our most pleasurable experiences.

Physicists have given rise to Hydro electricity, Nuclear Power, Radio, Television, Mobile Phone, Microwave Oven, Laser CD, digital computer and Satellite and in the area of Healthcare as it concerns the Imaging, screening, Diagnosis and treatment which many of our politicians and the rest of the elite go to “enjoy” outside the country. In Physics we have the sub discipline of quantum mechanics which is credited by way of inventions of being responsible for one third the economies of western Nation.

For instance Quantum Mechanics gave rise to the invention of the device known as the Transistor. The domestication  of the Transistor being responsible for creating the famed Silicon Valley now referred to as the world’s largest and most successful  industrial estate. It is also the transistor that the Japanese Entrepreneurs, Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka (of the SONY electronics fame), used to transform the Japanese economy in the 1940s and 1950s

President  Muhamad Buhari’s daughter, Zarah  is a biological scientist, precisely a microbiologist and so like many biologists and like a trusted adviser she might have said to her Father “Daddy, Physics is dead. Biology lives. The first world War was won by the Chemists, the Second World War by the  Physicists and Economists but Daddy the third World War is not a conventional War. It is A War against poverty and  disease to be won by the Biologist because it is about Food and  Health.” But Physics still lays the Golden eggs. No matter what the Biologists would want to do or claim they would still need instruments like Microscopes for instance.

Lastly we must reinforce the notion in Nigerians particularly our elected representatives that Physics is not only “the Queen” but also the foundation of Modern Society.

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