Tuesday, December 28, 2010

STIMULATING YOUR BRAIN WITH ELECTRICITY CAN IMPROVE YOUR MATHS ABILITY?

It is widely believed that disruption to your brain can lead to loss of function. Everyone thinks that the brain is a computer that has to be taken very good care of. But on the other hand, disrupting your brain, especially where the disruption is noninvasive or does not involve penetration of the neural cortex, can make you better at sensory activities such as mathematics. This is really interesting research and can have wide ramifications for the performance enhancement in science and technology, intelligence quotient and even the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This claim is backed up by research conducted by Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. The original article can be found in the November 23 issue of Current Biology. His findings are paradoxical because just as I said in the preceding paragraph, for better brain performance you need a good environment, comfortable level of stress, motivation and good health, amongst other needs. But Dr. Alvaro contends that to enhance your brain performance beyond the ordinary, you should disturb the brain in a way that one part of the network, say the parietal lobes, becomes dysfunctional, while other parts of the neural network remain intact. He found out that this disruption, especially using electric current, enhances numerical ability in patients so tested.

You should not go about attaching electrical diodes above your head or exposing your skull to hot dryers the type you find in beauty salons without protection because the research is still ongoing.

You can read about it yourself, online, original article; also Scientific American has a blog on this subject.

Now, if you could do this, what is the cons of enhancing performance? There is no free lunch. What would it cost you to improve your numerical competence? As with exercises, the muscles use up energy, there are action potentials to consider in muscle contraction and relaxation and ionic interactions. What are the hidden costs of noninvasive disruptive brain stimulation? Those are questions for the future.

As they say, you cannot eat your cake and have it, but you can decide to munch your cake in bits so it’d last for days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

WHAT IMPORTING TOOTHPICKS AND SIMILAR PARAPHERNALIA MIGHT INDICATE.

One wonders what is so difficult a task in manufacturing toothpicks, where chewing sticks are part of our daily routine of mouth washing? If it is so difficult for Nigerians to slice up a chewing stick into slender sticks to make a pick, then I’d say I am pretty na├»ve about the capabilities of this country and the inventive veins that flows within us.

Maybe the feats of architectural ingenuity that one sees all over Lagos are not of our making; we are just profiting from the benefaction of some foreign construction company, like Julius Berger, to dot Broad Street with imposing skyscrapers.
With a grin, I might be accused of stupidity to say that we do not need intelligence or intelligent people in this country.

It is not an easy statement, but that is what importing toothpicks suggests. At least, chewing sticks were the playthings of our ancestors; how could we lose a micro chewing stick to foreign supply? It beats me; I am sure it would you, yourself, but if the President pronounced it to be so, then he in his wisdom knows it all along that Nigerians do not want to bother their brains any longer. So why should he bother himself?

If I am correct in my dismay, then we have collectively sold our creative and entrepreneurial inheritance to foreign imports. Creativity and entrepreneurship would surely go the way of power – into the hands of some cabal who would do anything to stifle it, even strangle it to death. Gone are the days of Industrial estates, gone are the days of assembly plants. Goodluck Jonathan has just heralded the dawn of an age where the Apapa Ports have become our industrial showpieces.

It makes me shudder.

Importing toothpicks would also cause a thinking person to conclude that Nigerians have stopped bothering themselves about solving their problems. We’d rather pay someone else some money to do the abstract problem solving. We can afford to maintain this culture of paying for solution providers from overseas but one day, the oil well will run dry. I really do foresee an apocalyptic breakdown in law and order on the streets of Lagos; an apocalypse with mayhem as its close cousin. There is no way we can beat our chest that our sovereignty can ever stand the test of nationhood. I wonder if the marionettes at Aso Rock belong to either Washington or Beijing? Either way, that is the true story and no one is ashamed or afraid to deny the truth.

Another truth, if there is anything like the truth really, is that, intelligent people in this country or people who want to lay a claim to such an exalted position, are being destroyed. Without destroying them, the culture of mental, moral, financial and inspirational dependency would be resisted. I don’t see anyone recognizing this fact in our media. Yet, this is the truth. How come no one realized importing toothpicks should be a declaration done in secrecy, without public knowledge, and not on the front pages of a national newspaper?

Those that have not been destroyed, because of the stifling climate, financially of course, have refused to express their intelligence. They’d rather shove it into some closet and work for some bank with luxurious cars as the reward for doing a work which even persons without brains can do, and do it beautifully well too.

Who is to blame then? Whose fault is it? I wish I could dig up some research about power in this country, but if you recall that the millions of generators that have become a household necessity in Nigerian homes are as a result of the fact that power will never belong to Nigerians, because the dam will never be solved, because the transformers will always fail, because their salaries are always paid even when services are not rendered, then you will understand how strong the grip on the Nigerian intellect some cabal can have to make sure creative and entrepreneurial abilities are stifled.
I keep wondering what sovereignty a country can possess if it is totally dependent on another for its existence? The speculation will never end; not until I am proved true.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

GOOD MATHEMATICIANS TURN OUT TO BE LEADERS

In a past blog, I made a remark on the qualities I observed in high school students who are proficient in maths. Hidden qualities in maths high school students. In this blog, after a chat with a friend online about the benefits of mathematics to Nigerian society: “Maths is only for the pleasure of solving abstract problems,” he argued, I was tempted to write that aside from solving problems, mathematicians who delve into other fields of human endeavor, turn out to be leaders in those fields.

I do not know why it is so, that great men like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Galileo and other notable men in the field of inventions learnt maths first before mastering their chosen fields of physics, biology and etcetera, but I have noticed that it is so.
I sometimes think that it is because maths is as old as the world itself. The Babylonians were good in maths, and I read somewhere, in a textbook while in the university, (about ten years ago), that mathematics started, modern mathematics, from Babylon. Maths, especially algebra, was a prerequisite in ancient Greece as well as Rome.
If you take a stroll along Otigba Street, Ikeja, in the hot afternoon, you will see one of the high achievements of maths and mathematical innovation on display: the computer and mobile phones. The computer industry, that started from the abacus machine, is the reason behind why men go to space today and why we can surf the Internet. It is also the reason why we can communicate today, your reading my blog on a screen, without reading it on paper and your ability to do business in any country or clime irrespective of the currency.
And talking about money, every measurement involves maths, be it in the field of social science, pure sciences or arts, you must have a knowledge of maths to do any measurement at all. I wish someone would tell me what system the Igbo were using before the decimal system came but I believe that the limitations of tallying that they must have relied upon would not involve their counting nothing much more than hundred or a so tubers of yam. Today, they can count thousands of goods on containers coming from asia; no pun intended, I am igbo myself.
So why is maths education looked down upon in this country? I really can’t answer that question. If no one thinks it’s a social problem, I think it is. We’ll never get to develop scientifically if we do not emphasis maths education in this country. By the way, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, of which I am a graduate, is a good example of the denigration of maths and mathematics education. People used to feel sorry for people in the maths and statistics department that they do not have much options in the job market. I do not think so now; but I wonder why that feeling was well imbibed in youths at that time? I wish we could invest more in maths and maths literacy, just the like that the makers of cowbell milk in Nigeria, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, are doing, sponsoring maths competition and employing them in the banking industry. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the company website on the web. It would be a helluva surprise the day I’d see a job advert that states maths is required for employment in the banking industry.