Saturday, May 7, 2011


nnedi okorafor. credit: Wikimedia commons.

I live at Satellite town in Lagos and although I cannot speak for other literature enthusiasts, I know it is difficult finding novels or works of literature written by Nigerians living abroad. So, the day I discovered Nnedi Okorafor’s short story on the website, I quickly downloaded the page.

The short story is titled: The Go-slow. The author used a common situation in the country, traffic jams or go-slows, to paint a picture in her story of what she thought the truth was. I have to agree with her that “go-slows were like getting stuck in time warps.” I must say she has summed up the Nigerian situation very well; we are living a life that is haunted by the past, defeated by the past and indebted to the past that the present has become so frustrating, choked up by so much dirt and pollution, we have lost every desire to be innovative and progressive.

Nkem, one of the central characters in the story, manages to survive a go-slow that was capable of initiating a heart attack. Air pollution, noise pollution, frustration and abysmal deliberations are the elements Nkem has to undergo. Deluded in his belief that he has escaped, he encounters some birds, emus, who turn out to be humans imprisoned in animal bodies. Unaware that the bird he hits, tucked in the trunk of his car, is the leader of the emus, he is eventually arrested by her, a bird woman, Ogaadi, who is stronger than he is. She is a witch, an amusu, running away from her Uncle who had her imprisoned inside the soul of a bird. Ogaadi, though, is not the only prisoner in the story. Nkem is also a prisoner, haunted by the spirits of his birth because he is an Ogbanje child and the spirits want him dead so he can return to their world. Eventually, both persons agree to help themselves. Ogaadi eventually turns Nkem into an Eagle, a predator, a fitting animal that can help him fight the animals the spirit beings are using to disturb his life: hens, goats, horses and cows.

The writer, Nnedi Okorafor, believes that the situation of the characters, which I think mirrors the Nigerian situation, is due to the fact that the past has overtaken their present and future. They must have to defeat the past to live a normal life.

Nkem was born an Ogbanje. He has a rebellious streak that “made him marry [his wife] that much faster.” A popular actor, Nigeria’s “sexiest man alive”, who believes that he has defeated the burden of the go-slow, the general go-slow, Nkem is haunted by his friends in the spirit world who have used a hen, a goat and a horse to try to kill him in the past. As he sits through a depressing go-slow, they attempt, once again, to use an insane cow to kill him but he escapes with scratches on the mirror of his car.

Ogaadi on the other hand, was initiated into witch-hood by her Uncle who is an Ogbanje. I think the Uncle is afraid of her, suspicious that she must have used her powers against her mother and sister, so he imprisoned her in the body of a bird, an emu. Ogaadi has braided hair (I wonder if Nnedi is writing autobiographically here?), is strong willed and the leader of the emus. But Ogaadi is haunted by her powerful Uncle who she believes “… can stop everything! I know his ways!” She is paranoid about her Uncle’s abilities that she has to wrestle Nkem, screaming, ““He sent you!” she screamed. “You think I’m stupid?”

Nkem is the typical westernized Nigerian. He uses foul language a lot, although I object to the writer’s use, often, of the vulgar and obscene word: fuck. He rides an air-conditioned car, placing him in the middle-class, and is on his way for a sexual fling with Agnes, a woman who lives in Owerri, while his wife is waiting for him at Aba. Nkem desires a release from the troubles he is having with supernatural forces that he envies the seeming freedom of a bird flying in the sky. Older than Nkem, Ogaadi is a teacher, an amusu, who will later give Nkem the opportunity to have a taste of that freedom.

Like Nkem and Ogaadi, Nigerians are troubled by events of the past. Nothing seems to work because they are helmed in by traditions and “ways of doing things”, these are spirits that have successfully haunted and defeated the Nigerian persona that we are expect to always follow tradition. This must be what prompted the writer to intentionally use language that would seem distasteful to a moral traditionalist. Unless we become predators who can go back to fight these spirits and defeat them, we will never move forward. The past will forever keep us in retrogressive evolution.

Sometimes the writer uses pidgin in a way that is somewhat annoying. I wonder why she should write “Awo” instead of the exclamation, “Ewo!,” or “Na wow,” when she means “Na waoh!” Maybe Nnedi Okorafor is not pidginized enough. On the other hand though, she writes beautiful prose, prose that is worthy of emulation and her voice is natural and apt.

I’d recommend that you read the short story yourself. the go-slow is a story that struck a cord.

I did, on Tuesday, tweet about her new novel on amazon, akata witch. Pick one of her books and read.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conversion exercise in decimal and binary systems, part 2: fractions

In part 1 of these exercises, we treated whole numbers or integers. This second series will deal with fractions.

Fractions are divisions of numbers, as distinct from whole numbers. 2/3 is a fraction as well as 0.342. Most times, fractions are written as the latter, with a decimal place because it is more intuitive.

converting binary fractions to decimals:

Let us take a binary fraction like 0.1001 base 2 as recurring example. Note that the decimal point makes that number a fraction. The place values of binary fractions are determined starting from the decimal point and we count starting from negative 1 (-1). That is, the first digit after the decimal point has a place value of 2 raised to minus 1 or 2-1. The second digit has a place value of 2-2, the third a place value of 2-3 and so on and so forth accordingly.

Therefore, to convert 0.10012 using the expanded notation to base 10:

0.1001 = 1 x 2 + 0 x 2 + 0 x 2 + 1 x 2 
= 1/2 + 0 +0 + 1/16

Then make all the denominators the same

= 8/16+ 1/16
            = 9/16
            = 0.562510  

Alternatively, you could convert the fractions to decimals and then sum up the decimals although that route might take a long1er time.

Another way is this:

  1. Place the decimal point to a position at the end of the last digit. It is now an integer
  2. Count the number of places you moved the decimal point and denote it as n.
  3. Convert the integer to decimal or base 10.
  4. Divide the result in (3) to 2n.
  5. Produce the decimal from the fraction.

Place the decimal point at the end: 0.1001 becomes 1001.0

Count the number of places you moved the decimal point, n: 4.

Convert the integer to decimal: 1001 base 2 is 9 base 10.

Divide the result by 2n i.e 24: 9/16

Produce the decimal equivalent of the fraction: 0.5625 base 10.

converting decimal fractions to binary

Decimals fractions can take two types, the fractions whose denominators are prime factors of 2 and those which the denominator is not. Denominators of the earlier type have terminating binary fractional equivalents while the latter have binary fractions which do not terminate and this is important when doing the conversions.

Time to stretch your legs? Credit: Wikimedia commons.

Let's take the 0.562510 decimal as an example before we try some other exercise with a fraction without a decimal point.

The technique is:

  1. Multiply the decimal fraction by 2.
  2. If the result is less than 1, place a 0 after the next decimal point else the result is greater than 1, place a 1 after the next decimal point and remove the integer part of result. If the result is equal to 1, place a 1 after the next decimal point; you have reached the termination point for the binary fraction.
  3. If (2) has not terminated, go back to (1).

Decimal to binary fraction. Terminating.
Fraction Result
0.5625 0.
0.5625 x 2 = 1.125 > 1 0.1

The result of multiplying the fraction by 2 is greater than 1, so I added a 1 to the next decimal place after the decimal point. The binary fraction, (or the result) is not going to terminate. So, let's continue. But first, I will take away the integer from the fraction.

0.125 x 2 = 0.25 < 1 0.10
0.25 x 2 = 0.5 < 1 0.100
0.5 x 2 = **1.0 = 1** 0.1001

By repeating the steps above, we arrived at a doubled fraction which is equal to 1. The binary fraction has terminated to arrive at 0.10012 as the result. It's simple, right?

Binary fractions that do not terminate are fractions whose denominators are not prime factors of 2. A denominator is the number under the dividing line in a fraction. Let us say in 2/3 the numerator is 2 and the denominator is 3. Converting this decimal fraction to binary will not terminate, though you might end the manipulation when you get a repeating pattern. Let us take 2/3 as an example.

A decimal fraction producing non-terminating binary fraction.
Fraction Result
2/3 0.
2/3 x 2 = 4/3 = 11/3 > 1 0.1

The initial multiplication by 2 results in a number greater than 1. We place a 1 after the next decimal point, remove the integer in the fraction and continue.

1/3 x 2 = 2/3 < 1 0.10
2/3 x 2 = 4/3 = 11/3 > 1 0.101
1/3 x 2 = 2/3 < 1 0.1010

Note that the last row of the table is a repeat of an earlier row. The result is a repeating pattern: 0.101010... Binary to decimal system conversions and vice versa are fun. I find myself doing them sometimes even while listening to music. You can do the same. Gottfried Leibniz wrote an article about 300
years ago
on the usefulness of binary arithmetic. You will find the discussion on chinese figures of fuxi interesting.

conversion exercise in decimal and binary systems, part 1 :whole numbers

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conversion exercises in binary and decimals. Part 1: Whole numbers.

The decimal numeral system, the numbers that start from 0 and end at 9, are of everyday use in our lives. Sometimes we tend to think that all other systems play a little roles because we do not use them or see them in action.

Well, the binary numeral system might appear to be of more importance than the decimal system; especially if you are talking to someone who is conversant with electronics, computer languages and logic. They can also be of importance to you. Unknown to me, until I read a wikipedia article on
binary numbers
, the Ifa priest makes use of this system in divination. I do not recommend though that you learn geomancy or divination because you want to understand the usefulness of maths.

I took the above picture because the positions of the birds is a good example I can use for the positions of the 0s and 1s in a binary system. If you represent a bird sitting on the power line with a 1 and an empty space a 0, the picture will produce the binary number: 10110000100110100110 base 2. Alternatively, if I represent each bird to be a ten in the decimal system, I will oblige your indulgence and make it number 90 base 10. So, for the exercises, we'll try converting the 90 base 10 to base 2 and then 10110000100110100110 base 2 to base 10.

From base 10 to base 2 (or from decimal to binary numeral systems):

A simple system of converting from decimals to binary is to divide the decimal number by 2 and if there is a remainder, place the remainder, which will be a 1, at the rightmost bit position but if there is no remainder, insert a zero. Then divide the resulting decimal number again and continue placing bit positions based on whether or not there are remainders until we arrive at decimal number 0. Then write down the 1 and 0s on the remainder column, starting from the bottom of the column such that the bottom is the leftmost bit position in binary numeral system. Your work is finished.

Let's show this with a table using the birds sitting on the powerline, or decimal number 90.

Converting 90 base 10 base 2.
Result : Decimal number % 2 Remainder (leftmost bit position)
90 / 2 = 45 0
45 / 2 = 22 1

Note our technique. Taking 90 and divide it by 2, we get 45 with a remainder of 0. So we insert 0 in the remainder position. Because the result is not zero, we continue the division. The second division, i.e 45 divided by 2 gives 22 remainder 1.

22 / 2 = 11 0
11 / 2 = 5 1
5 / 2 = 2 1
2 / 2 = 1 0
1 / 2 = 0 1
1011010 base 2

This dividing and inserting remainders continues to the seventh row when the result becomes 0. When you write down the converted number in binary, from the bottom, taking 1 as the left most bit, then the next is 0 and then 1 and until we get to the last remainder, 0, we get 90 base 10 converted to 1011010 base 2.

From base 2 to base 10 (or from binary to decimal numeral system):

This time, we'll convert the bird positions in binary,10110000100110100110 base 2 to base 10. How many positions are there? Let us count: the leftmost is a 1, then a 0 and counting from there we have 20 bit positions.

There is a system of binary to decimal conversions that uses bit positions and successive additions of their face values and place values to get to the result. The face value is the literal value for a bit position and the place value indicates the bit position, counting from the right starting from 0, to which we raise the number 2. 101 base 2, for simplicity has three (3) bit positions, with the rightmost bit 1, having a face value of 1 and a place value of 20. The next bit position has a face value of 0 and a place value of 21 and the last a face value of 1 with place value of 22. This simple system of conversions adds up the face and place values thus: 1 x 22 + 0 x 21 + 1 x 20 = 4 + 0 + 1 = 5 base 10.

If we apply this technique to a binary number with twenty (20) bit positions, how enormous the multiplications and additions that have to be done, and furthermore, mistakes will surely creep in.

There is a simpler technique, and it is very elegant. In fact, this technique, which I found while reading the wikipedia article on
binary numeral system
was what prompted this blog. I just was impelled to share it. It is called the Horner scheme.

These are the steps to apply the scheme:

  1. Create a prior value and give it a value of 0.
  2. Multiply the prior value by 2.
  3. Take the leftmost bit in the binary number and make it the Next Available Bit. Add the result of (2) to the Nest Available Bit.
  4. Let the result of (3) be the value of a box you will call, the Next Value.
  5. Now, assign the Next Value to the prior value, or make the Next Value be the value of the prior value.
  6. Provided there are still some bits that have not been manipulated in the binary number, or the next bit still have some candidates from the binary number, go back to (2).
  7. If the binary number bit positions is exhausted, then the result of the conversion is the value of the Next Value box.

We can illustrate the Horner scheme with a little table using the 20 bit positions of the birds sitting on the powerline representation.

Illustration: Horner scheme for 10110000100110100110 base 2.
Prior Value x 2 + Next Bit Next Value
0 0 x 2 = 0 0 + 1 (the leftmost bit) = 1 1
1 (the previous Next Value) 1 x 2 = 2 2 + 0 = 2 2
2 2 x 2 = 4 4 + 1 = 5 5

We started with a prior value of 0, multiplied it by 2, got 0, then took the leftmost bit as the Next Available Bit, which is a 1 and added it to the earlier result to get a 1 which was placed as the Next Value and then transferred to the prior value. Since there were still bit positions remaining, we continued by multiplying the prior value by 2, adding it to the next bit which is a 0 to get a 2 that was placed into the Next Value box. Continuing this algorithm for the third row resulted in a next value of 5.

Horner scheme for 10110000100110100110 base 2 continued
5 5 x 2 = 10 10 + 1 = 11 11
11 11 x 2 = 22 22 + 0 = 22 22
22 22 x 2 = 44 44 + 0 = 44 44
44 44 x 2 = 88 88 + 0 = 88 88
88 88 x 2 = 176 176 + 0 = 176 176
176 176 x 2 = 352 352 + 1 = 353 353
353 353 x 2 = 706 706 + 0 = 706 706
706 706 x 2 = 1412 1412 + 0 = 1412 1412
1412 1412 x 2 = 2824 2824 + 1 = 2825 2825
2825 2825 x 2 = 5650 5650 + 1 = 5651 5651
5651 5651 x 2 = 11302 11302 + 0 = 11302 11302

So far, we have calculated for fourteen (14) bit positions starting from the leftmost bit. I am sure you have realized how elegant Horner's scheme is compared to the earlier one that depends on face and place values? Especially if your bit positions are in the high numbers. Man, am I breaking out in sweat? Yet, the job has to be completed.

Horner scheme for 10110000100110100110 base 2 continued still.
11302 11302 x 2 = 22604 22604 + 1 = 22605 22605
22605 22605 x 2 = 45210 45210 + 0 = 45210 45210
45210 45210 x 2 = 90420 90420 + 0 = 90420 90420
90420 90420 x 2 = 180840 180840 + 1 = 180841 180841
180841 180841 x 2 = 361682 361682 + 1 = 361683 361683
361683 361683 x 2 = 723366 723366 + 0 = 723366 723366

So, finally, when there are no bit positions remaining, we arrive at the value of 723366 base 10.

Try out some exercises at home. You'll soon using this scheme yourself.

I will like to end this blog by noting that the Horner scheme is the conversion from base 10 to base 2 using division by 2 and noting remainders in reverse.

I leave this as an exercise for you to compare both methods. This underscores a trait in mathematicians that I admire very much: they have an open eye for patterns, even the queer variety. They have a knack for knowing what works most of the time if it has worked once in their life. They have an amazing memory recall system. I know it because I have experienced it myself.

Surprisingly, ancient India used binary numbers and applied binary to decimal conversions prior to 2nd century A.D, more than 1500 years before their discovery in the west.

My next post will cover fractional conversions, conversion exercise in decimal and binary systems, part 2 : fractions.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011


If you are asked to mention one element in nature that is ambidextrous, I am sure that water will be one of them. The late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang about the varied uses that water can be made us of in one of his songs.

water is used in manufacturing various liquid beverages

Elements aside, one subject in life that is as versatile and can serve a trillion uses to human needs, that is as old as man itself, remember my post on counting?, is mathematics. One branch of mathematics that is prime to modern civilization, without which man would never have dreamt big dreams which have revolutionized science and technology, is calculus.

The count of the modern uses of calculus is endless, but I will attempt to mention some uses that will cover every faculty that man has endeavored to spend money and effort in his research endeavors. According to a professional resource on calculus,Calculus and Analytic Geometry by Thomas and Finney, Economists use calculus to forecast global trends, oceanographers use calculus to formulate theories about ocean currents, meteorologists use it to describe the flow of air in the upper atmosphere, biologists use calculus to forecast population size, medical researchers use calculus to design ultrasound and x-ray equipment for scanning the internal organs of the body, psychologists use calculus to understand optical illusions in visual perceptions and finally, drug companies use calculus to determine profitable inventory levels. The list can go on and on; I just have to stop here.

But whether calculus can help you to lose weight, or survive a zombie apocalypse, that is the subject of a book by Jennifer Ouellette, The Calculus Diaries: How math can help you lose weight, Win in Vegas, and survive a Zombie Apocalypse. You can get it from the bookstore online, or even Barnes and Noble.

The varied applications of calculus aside, the history of Calculus is laced with colorful characters lilke Isaac Newton, Baron Leibniz, René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat. The book also presents in vivid details how calculus can fit into your daily life; how you can use calculus to even calculate the stats on your blogger and Facebook Insights dashboard.

According to the reviews posted on the page for the book, I read that Jennifer Ouellette writes with a touch of humor, beauty and elegance. That her stint as a science writer and in physics gave her much material and experience to brace this daunting subject. She covers the basic principles very well. So if you are a student preparing for undergraduate degrees and you think an understanding of calculus is essential to your success, then you should lay hold of this book.

But the subject, calculus, has already defined the readership for the book, right? Don’t be in much of a hurry. Readers who are mathphobic, or afraid of mathematics, can even enjoy reading it. It doesn’t come with much mathematical formulas that could be daunting, one of the negative sides according to another reviewer but the writer did her majors in English and understands what mathphobic concerns her readers might and would surely face.

Why not get a hold of this book. I’d recommend it myself. I followed a link to her website and just subscribed to her blog feed.

So, for those who want to brave the world of calculus, I’d recommend the book:The Calculus Diaries: How math can help you lose weight, Win in Vegas, and survive a Zombie Apocalypse

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Saturday, March 26, 2011


When scientists discover new things they are aided most times by the patterns or models on which those objects are based. Calendars, for example the Gregorian calendar, were based on patterns drawn from natural observations, and so for so many scientific examples, like gravity, relativity etcetera. The list can go on and on.

I like to pretend I can be an inventor. Pretense or make-believe, where one works towards it, can lead to undiscovered treasures. So in my make-believe in looking for patterns in everyday objects like license plate numbers, colors of clothes people wear, shoe sizes at the market and telling the time, I search for factual patterns, hoping to make a sale.

Voilà, I did succeed one unholy day. That day was the tenth of October, two thousand and ten or when written in numerals, 10/10/10. It’s not everyday that the date and time gives you a pattern, and by the way, those do not look like patterns, just chance coincidences, so I decided to concentrate on the time.

Another eureka! It will surprise that when you copy and paste the hour hand on the minute and seconds side, you can get a pattern for every hour of the day, whether counting by 12-hour or 24-hours?

Let’s start from one o’clock in the morning. You will always get to the time: 01:01:01, that is one minute and one second to the hour. Another is 02:02:02 or two minutes and two seconds to two o’clock in the morning.



I noticed that every hour can be copied and pasted on the minutes and seconds side.


Even when the hour is close to midnight.


I really cannot find any functional value of this patterns except for the fact that they possess some aesthetic value. Also, I find much delight waiting for the next pattern to appear on the digital watch embedded on my handset.

There are times though when the patterns do not really make good matches on the hour, especially when you want to flip the hour.

For example, at one o’clock, when you flip the hour and paste it on the minutes side and then flip the minutes and paste it on the seconds side, sometimes the patterns follow but sometimes they do not.


The one o’clock hour do follow beautifully, but these pattern is followed until six o’clock.


But at six o’clock, when you flip 06 at the hour, you do not get a translation for the minute hand.

Notwithstanding, from ten o’clock, the pattern starts to make another connection.




And this connection continues until the fifteenth hour.


And breaks up at the sixteenth hour, when 16 cannot translate to the minute when you flip the hour readings. But at the twentieth hour, our pattern continues again.




Looking for unbroken patterns on flipping the hour hand is not possible, but the start and continuation of the patterns can create a good aesthetic graphic display.

As I said before, patterns in nature if one cannot find the functional value yet, can serve for their aesthetic value and also as a time killer, to kill the boredom. When I do find another pattern in nature, I’ll surely be blogging on it.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011


We all love nursery rhymes. I do remember, as if it was yesterday, the rhyme about counting ten green bottles on the wall, subtracting them by one until all the bottles on the wall have fallen down. I think it is a skill children learn about subtracting and how to count backwards.

Counting has always been with man since he knew how to acquire things. When one discovers that he has started accumulating material objects beyond the singletons, then he develops the innate ability to be able to remember how many they are, if one is lost, which it was and plan towards acquiring more. That is counting. While counting, one also develops the innate ability of naming the things counted so that he can group them together for remembrance and memorization. Therefore, a man possessing goats, yams and lands, names these things and counts each of them so he can distinguish all of them while being able to group them as his properties.
The simplest way of counting, which we all learn even from infancy, is to count by watching others. Then we express this ability with our lips. This is what some call recitation. From recitation, we decided to develop the number system so that counting can be done easily and quickly. Numbering can be done through tally or writing out numerals depending on whatever system one desires.

If you visit the market, you will be astonished that counting is a skill traders practice and have learnt to master. They have to know the totals of what they possess. They count as if by rote, even while sleeping, while walking and eating. They count the cash they have, the goods in the store, the debt they owe, the number of times the relative or girlfriend who comes to solicit for funds come every month. They have learnt to count so well that this skill has become a personal sin.

I think that is why from counting, they have also learnt to calculate.
Without the ability to calculate, we wouldn’t find a meaning to what is being counted. If you are counting forwards, do you wish to do addition or multiplication? Do not forget that multiplication is addition done in groups. Some count by adding one to the things before, some in groups of five i.e in multiples of five; some can also count backwards, doing subtraction or divisions.
Calculation makes it possible that you can predict the outcome of future counting. For example, if you know you have x goods in the store and you sold y number of them, by calculation of the subtraction, you can predict the outcome of a future count of those goods taking y from x.

Calculation also helps the counter understand the outcome of past counting and design appropriate counting projects. By calculating our counting, we can derive patterns from them due to repeated counting. For example, I have found that while counting the sum of the license numbers of Nigerian plate numbers that every time the sum is a multiple of 3, I can juggle the numbers so that they can fall in ascending order. Imagine a plate number is LH855KJA, the sum of the numerals adds to eighteen (18), which is a multiple of three, so I can rearrange the numbers as 666, then take one from the leftmost number, six (6), and add to the last six to derive a number that falls in ascending order: 567. Quite some maverick practice, but it works when you find pleasure in counting and numbers.

Counting and calculation has been as old as man itself. A short history of counting involves when we counted by recitation and with the fingers. A mechanical calculation device, the abacus, was thereafter invented to aid in faster counting and calculation.

A Scottish mathematician, John Napier developed logarithms in the sixteenth century. Logarithms made it possible that multiplication and division were converted to addition and subtraction respectively, thereby making counting and calculation of numbers more easy, especially for very large numbers. William Oughtred, an English Mathematician, built upon logarithms to invent the slide rule, a mechanical calculation device, for logarithms.

Calculators which are electro-mechanical devices successfully replaced the manual devices above and eventually, they have all been usurped by the computer. The beauty and sweat of man’s efforts to count and calculate efficiently is embodied in the computer. Thanks to the computer, the absolute impossible, for example, genotyping living beings, is possible. Every single gene in the human body can now be counted and understood.

So, even if all the green bottles fall off the wall, you and I will still be counting in some other way, either through an app on a mobile device or a computer game.

Talking about games, I intend doing research on games that can aid in numerical ability in the nearest future.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011


Life is so full of pain and suffering. Sometimes, you wonder why we care to endure life? No wonder so many persons crave the cold comfort of a peaceful, comfortable free-from-care life in heaven. That thought, of heaven, brings smiles to my face. Why? Because I’d rather think of what is observable and possible than what is unobservable, beyond the imagination and not of my control.

Although science has achieved so much, everyone knows there are things science cannot explain. Like unobservable things in the universe. Do you believe there are living beings on other universe? Is it because your eyes cannot see beings on planet Mars, Jupiter, Venus etcetera that you believe there are no beings on these planets? I shudder to think that is impossible, because it would go against the grain of a designer for the universe. Why should an all wise creator create this vast universe and want planet Earth to be the only universe with living beings in the Milky Way galaxy? It is quite inconceivable. But if life was to be found on any other planet and we make contact with them, then what is heaven and where is heaven? Can you imagine heaven without going there? If you had to go, wouldn’t have to die?

Just some foolish rambling of mine. I think Nigerians are deeply religious, so I do not want to disturb their brains with thoughts like these.

First Shot at the moon, after sunset

The picture above was shot with a Kodak camera, 4.0 megapixels. If you look very carefully, center right, top, you will see a very small whitish dot. That is the moon while I am standing on ground level. I thought I could catch a sharper glimpse of it. I really tried.

Second Shot at the moon, after sunset

Fifteen minutes later, I took another shot. You can see that the sky is getting darker. I had to move closer to the moon. You can see the balcony of an upper floor on the background.

The moon, sun, earth – my, all these works are lovely. If they are all created by a designer, what would the anti-designer have done? Destroy them?
When I reflect on the Devil, the Devil whom we all abhor, I think he is not a creature to be abhorred. I think he should be recognized as a designer in his own class and right, because only a designer can destroy another’s design. Imagine a non-programmer hacking at and introducing bugs into a software program? That is not possible.

If you don’t respect the Devil, I do. I think he is as intelligent as Jesus Christ! I am not talking about the Hebrew Devil, or the Bible Devil, but the Devil in general, a being or force that works against creative design. That is how I see him. Sometimes I wonder why, during the heavenly ceremony before Job’s trials, he had to appear in heaven? Why? Why? Because although he was out of favor, he still has INTERESTS or FUNCTIONS to perform which no other being up there can. You cannot trifle with interests and functions. If you ask me, I’d place him as the second ranking angel in heaven, if you are Christian and believe the Christian bible, directly after Jesus, that is why only Jesus had the power to throw him down. You do not trifle with that! Only Jesus had the power to throw him down? You don’t trifle with an anti-designer, rather you learn lessons of survival and subterfuge from him.

Because Nature abhors a vacuum, he wouldn’t have been thrown out of the heavenly places if Jesus didn’t learn the power, skills and function he serves, replace them and make his welcome distasteful. I think that is why it took him so many years before he could accomplish that feat.

Third Shot at the moon, after sunset

The picture above is the third shot of the moon. You can see that the view now is darker. It’s getting close to seven p.m. I really had to strain to get this shot before dark. I wish I had a better camera.

Just in the mood for some religious ramble and deep meditations about religious beliefs. You don’t have to agree with me. Would love dissenting views and comments.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


How often do you remember your local barber? Not often right, or maybe not until your hair looks shabby and dirty.

Unfortunately, the barber is always there, waiting for you, whenever and wherever you remember him. A local joke I used to play around with is whether the barber barbs himself? Well, not to worry, it’ll never be your problem because he’ll surely be barbing your hair if you walk into the salon and ask for a haircut.

That is what I did one sunny Saturday. I asked Ugo for a haircut, and so because I had to wait for some minutes before it was my turn, I thought: “Ugh, why not make my local barber the blog feature for the future?” So I asked and he agreed.

Ugo barbing a custome. credit: nnaemeka david

You can see Ugo holding the clippers on a customer’s hair. He told me the profession itself does not pay skyrocketing salaries but he can take care of himself, especially by supplementing his income. But it does pay well in terms of personal satisfaction and living a simple lifestyle.

“I supplement my income at Filterland,” he said. Filterland is a local company close to Satellite town, Ijegun precisely, that makes filters for cars, buses, motorcycles etc.

We joked about life in Satellite town. “I close late here,” he said. I had the opportunity one night to see him close shop at about ten o’clock late. The store does not only render haircuts as a service, it also rents local and foreign movies burned onto Blu-ray discs. “It’s what everyone does these days,” we joked. He also sells music CDs.

Front view of Tino baby barbing salong. credit: nnaemeka david

The picture above is a shot of the front of the salon. You can see the salon’s name painted on the right gate. The two loudspeakers are not imported; they are the ingenious creation of some local engineer. Do they blare out great sound! The two racks are where the Blu-ray discs for the Nollywood and foreign movies he sells are placed. Ugo just opened shop when I walked in. And the table is the place where he keeps the music CDs.

Some of ugo's customers while i was there. credit: nnaemeka david

The three children on the above picture were waiting for a barb while I took the pictures. They are some of the lovely children you can find at the neighborhood. How lovely they look. Chinasa, the first girl, the one at the left, was dancing to some music as the shot was taken. It really was a great atmosphere.

How to find Tino Baby Barbing Salon at Satellite town?

It’s simple. The salon is on Kessington Broadway, it’s among the low cost shops one sees on the left, before the woman who fries akara and yams, before Lizzy’s Business center where recharge cards are sold.

You can call the barber yourself. His mobile lines are: 07041348401, 08185540406, and his name is: Ugochukwu Ugkwuoma. His email address is:

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Saturday, February 19, 2011


A set is a collection of things where each thing in the collection is supposed to be unique. A collection of students in a class where each student has a distinct name is a set. As respects human abilities, a collection of the skills humans possess can be likened to a set because each individual, with a name, can be the set itself and the abilities and skills that individual possesses the objects or the elements of the set.

In brief, your abilities are a collection where each ability is unique within you and the control for each of them resides in your nervous system.

The set for human abilities is finite. This is because the abilities or skills follow biological, chemical and physical principles which of themselves are constant, well defined and unchanging. What is infinite is the ability of individuals to enhance these skills. A good example is Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth. Running fast is a skill which many persons possess but they possess it to varying degrees. Because the focus is on the generality of skills and not the specific, “Fast Runner” skills is a single element in a set. This observation is pertinent because a set can be the element of or contain another set.
Therefore, we can visualize a universal finite set of human abilities which I choose to call the UniversalSkill.

What is a disjoint set? If two sets do not have any common element(s), then they are said to be disjoint. That means disjoint sets do not intersect. In human language, they do not share anything in common. They are unique. Some examples are the set of local governments in Lagos state and that of local governments in Imo state.

We humans can be likened to disjoint sets if an individual possesses skills or abilities that are common only to him or herself.

In a situation where people are interdependent, is this possible? I think it is not, but the possibility could arise in some situations. There are cases of people who are termed mavericks or eccentricities because they have a way of doing things that are common only to themselves. It turns people off, not so? Such persons are usually thought to be self-centered, people who refuse to share what they have, who refuse to participate in the master mind network of intelligent persons, hiding whatever they have as to discoveries and research.

I think someone who tends towards the disjoint should be a superman or superwoman. I wonder how such a person can survive? If you look at the situation closely, a disjoint set is expected to know nearly everything that he needs to in order to solve his problems; he should not rely on anyone but himself. He should be a closed object, impervious to intersection. But is that possible in a networked interdependent world?

I was watching a game on television, football precisely, when my mind drifted to these thoughts. I was so bent when I realized one point: special people are persons like you and I. They did not fall from some planet. They share the same skills and abilities like all of us but they have so practiced and trained themselves over the years on these skills that they have fine tuned them to a high degree of sophistication.

The implication is that there is no special person who can claim to be a disjoint set. Special people are persons who have been helped by all of us to succeed. A good example is Jose Mourinho, who is presently coaching Real Madrid. Without the support of the players in all the teams he’s coached, the management of those teams, the media, his coaching crew, FIFA, and time and experience , he would not have honed his coaching skills to the high degree of sophistication for which we admire him today. Same also for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and so on.

On very close observation, one should realize that as the set of special persons intersect with other sets, these other sets who are unknown and mediocre, help the special persons to solve problems which are of a less important degree so that the special one can concentrate on solving the problems that are more important and more abstract.
That is why special people are paid better.

On the other hand, one contribution of having disjoint sets in leadership positions is that they tend to increase the level of powerful nucleuses in a region. These are the men called Great, but of what use is a Great person where he is unapproachable, narcissistic and highly selfish? What use is an autocratic to the survival of the greater society? Surely no one appreciates any of these so they need violence and force to succeed.

This is my working definition of a special person: Someone whom the society has helped to succeed more than others by solving his less abstract problems so that he’ll ensure the survival of the greater society or of other persons in the society by solving their more abstract or sophisticated problems.

Can we make some nominations from Nigeria? There are so many: Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Doctor Nnamdi Azikiwe, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Professor Chike Obi, etcetera. Unfortunately, all these names are from older generations.

It’s so difficult making a nomination from my generation. Can anyone help me out?
I promise to send a prepaid recharge card credit to anyone who nominates someone for the position of special person, according to the working definition above, who is below forty (40) years i.e an individual of our generation, someone born after 1970. Read my lips. Send your answers to my twitter account or my mailbox:; note the dot between both names.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011


I know LIzzy, the proprietor of Lizzy Business Center, as one would know a friend and a neighbor. I know when she started her business. When she came to the neighborhood, she was working under a master, (I wish he was in Satellite town when this story was being written). He used to only take care of her meals and other stipends, but how amazing that with a skillful use of thriftiness and rising early for the day, LIzzy has been able to make a humble business, that of selling prepaid cards for GSM networks in the country and offering mobile phone calls at fifteen naira (N15.00) per minute, an enviable one.

Granted, the business of selling prepaid recharge cards and offering paid mobile calls to the public requires humility and a readiness to serve. I think that is why many persons look down on this sort of business. But, how many persons know what the profit will be when you first start the business. You have to ask Lizzy and she’ll tell you that your profits will be next to nothing.

She had to offer other services to make ends meet like renting of Nollywood films nollywood films. Those services have been discontinued. It is amazing how much thriftiness is required for a startup in this business but when the momentum has been put forward, you’ll never want to stop.
Lizzy is one of the first business people to open her shop for the day. She’s up as early as 6:30 am. Very interesting indeed. She has to do this so that her customers who want to make early morning phone calls before they go for their business during the day can find her sitting down at her yellow canopy, a handset on her hand and a smile on her face.

At these times of poverty and high unemployment, we need to celebrate women of thrift like Lizzy. I believe so.

One thing though she should do is expand the business. She should return to the days of renting Nollywood movies. It will really do her much good. She can also offer snacks and make the place a little beehive for her nighttime customers, just my suggestions.

And if you think she looks lovely in the picture, then she could be your woman. She is still searching for the perfect man. I wish her all the best in her search.
This is my take for this week on people around my neighborhood who have to be admired in one way or the other because they bring smiles to our lives.

To reach her:

Name: Elizabeth.
Business place: Lizzy Business Center, Kessington Broadway, by Michael Orija Street junction, Satellite town, Lagos.
Mobile Phone numbers: 234-8036942874, 234-8084844825
She sells recharge cards for all networks in Nigeria. Her calls per minute are fifteen naira (N15.00).   

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Town hall elections are elections where every stakeholder is present when the votes are cast and counted, and the stakeholders leave the hall knowing who won and lost. But in a country as big as Nigeria of a hundred and fifty million (150m) people, town hall elections are impossible, right?

Well, they can be possible.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, as she is fondly called, was created to make sure our elections are free and fair and exempt from rigging. Well, that is the utopian case. INEC tries its best to do its job, but we know they can do better. That is why every party are on their feet to work with and watch them work.

In a simplified description, this is how the elections are conducted here in Nigeria:

1. On election day, possibly April 9 this year, voters meet at selected polling centers to cast their votes.

2. The ballot papers are counted by Electoral Commission officials in the presence of Party officials.

3. The balloting results are compiled by the parties in 2 above and verified.

4. The results are released to the public through the press and other media.
If we consider the recent events at Ivory Coast, greater involvement of the voting public in the stages above can increase the confidence in the results released. And by the way, they’d reduce our reliance on foreign observers.

It takes the use of technology and ingenuity by members of the voting public.

If we can make use of social media, the elections can be put in the hands of the public and the distrust taken out of the hands of the parties.


It involves a cycle of tweeting results (or posting facebook updates), compiling them by categories and retweeting the results of the compilation (or posting facebook updates) until we get the total aggregate results.

First, if just seconds after the hour when the election ends a volunteer for a polling center posts the results to a facebook wall or twitter noticeboard, and another does the same for another polling center in the same ward, eventually, people following that channel can pick these, collate them and produce a total results for the polling centers under a ward. These total results are then reposted through these channel as total results. These will take approximately five minutes.
Also, another channel dedicated to collecting results for a local government area collates the posted results for wards under a local government, less than fifteen minutes after the hour, the public will be informed of the election results for candidates in that local government. Eventually, another channel collates the local government total results into state totals and posts the results, eventually, less than forty minutes after the hour, with a little accommodation for errors, Nigerians in every state will log onto their facebook accounts or twitter timeline to be informed of the results for their candidates by parties, assemblies, etcetera, for a state, either using a PC or a mobile device.

Eventually, if another channel is dedicated to collating state results, less than an hour or an hour and thirty minutes after the election’s last hour, the public will be informed of who is the next president, their state governors, their senators and so on and so forth even before INEC begins the arduous task announcing the results.

By the way, this can be the People’s INEC, an alternative but unofficial way for the general public to be well informed of what they had cast on the election day. I believe it will in a big way forestall our witnessing another drama the like of Gbagbo versus Ouattara that just occurred recently at Ivory Coast.

But because these channels are unofficial, then there is the risk that fifth elements can hijack them. That is why it is beholden on members of the public to coerce the news media and other NGO’s in the country to take up this cause since they have the machinery on the ground, and the confidence of the people. It will involve people management and also political neutralism for this suggestion to see the light of day.

To prepare for such, such groups of persons, organizations or medium, should create alternate channels in case twitter channels are clogged. has a server that is free, open source, and effective as Also, for social networking, there are alternate sites to like Diaspora.  

Well, I wonder if anyone has other suggestions like mine. It is unwise for Nigerians to wait until a drama the like of Ivory Coast occurs at our doorsteps which could lead to a mass exodus of persons as was witnessed during the Abiola and Babangida debacle. I wish we don’t have a repeat of such in this country. It will also be wise to carefully read the “promotions guidelines” document on the facebook website.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011


I was tweeting on when the thought came to me – what if there was twitter when I was preparing for JAMB, would I not have scored above 300 and been admitted to read Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nigeria?

Well, there was no twitter then and I did not read Medicine.

I do not recommend that you cheat in your JAMB exams. Although I know that cheating goes on at the examination halls , but unfortunately, can help you cheat if you are only a little tech savvy.




36AAEBB 41CCBCC 46ADECB. Sucess.  

The blue text above is the first tweet my collaborator outside the hall would have sent me. The complete answer to the fifty (50) questions and with no sweat. No running up and down thinking about the invigilators, no wondering if the JAMBITO by your left will give you the answer to question number fifteen (15).

How to achieve it? Simply have an account on Tell whoever is going to be your collaborator to also have an account. Set your account to follow the tweets of your collaborator; for the period of the exams if you wish. Then set up mobile notifications on your twitter account for the tweets of your collaborator such that each time he tweets the answers, the tweets are delivered straight to your handset.

It’s really easy and simple in today’s world of technology and computers to cheat seamlessly in JAMB; it also takes a little smartness and ingenuity.

I discovered that one of the don’ts is that: 1. Don’t turn on sound for your SMS notifications. It would call the invigilator’s attention to your desk. And you might be discovered. 2. Don't allow sounds for incoming calls during the exams. 3. Don't spend so much time in copying. Better use a handset with text reader software and earplug.

You’re smarter than I am. Discover other ways you can make sure you succeed.

My parents were disappointed that I did not read Medicine and Surgery. They sent me to one of the best schools in Lagos, Alakoto High School and expected the best of and from me. Although they are deeply religious people, the urge to please them and the urge to pass in JAMB were two conflicting desires I could not satisfy at the same time. Fortunately, I refused to  cheat during my exams, for reasons of conscience, but in today’s Nigeria, it seems everyone has given their approval and go-ahead to the game.

It is appalling how much students spend to pay collaborators to do the Mathematics, English, Chemistry etcetera for them; run around to know the invigilators, bribe them with huge tips to allow the cheating answers enter the hall and every sort of gimmick.

It is laughable, but that is the reality of today’s Nigeria.

With, though, as long as the exam is on multiple-choice, a little tweet can solve so much problems. The only problem your collaborator would have is laying their hands on the question papers in good time so they can solve them and tweet the answers to you before the end of the exam.
But if you get caught, maybe in the exam hall , or because JAMB went to and asked for all tweets sent during the exams, then you are on your own. Think about it – if you start cheating at JAMB and WAEC, when will you stop?


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Monday, January 10, 2011


Have you found yourself doing maths while walking on the road? Sometimes I do, especially when I am looking for some distraction.

These are some of the facts I discovered on the road: that the sum of the numbers on most plate numbers fall between the numbers fifteen (15) and nineteen (19). Some eccentricity, right? I also found that it takes me thirty-eight minutes to walk from home to the market where I trade, on a very good day and when I want to walk fast, and fifty minutes on a bad day when I am just slouching it.

What about you? Maths does not need to be boring if you find creative ways of playing with numbers and keeping yourself busy.

Unfortunately, I have found out that people think it is boring because of its reliance on tradition. Tradition, as well all know, are stamped on time and do not easily change. That is the way with maths and mathematical equations. Not only the equations, the way maths is done itself.

Sometimes, you also find that the subject seems closed to outside influence or
changes. Maths deals with numbers and numbers only. Although so many disciplines play with maths, maths plays only with numbers and manipulation of numbers. It’s so unlike psychology, or linguistics, where you deal with laws that can be borrowed from even mathematics, physics, biology etc. Maths is like a foundation to every other field and how often do you want to change your foundations? Hardly.
Also, many persons rarely use maths after the high school, and if they do use it often in business, it is confined to the knowledge from high school and a little from college. So because at this stage of their life many young persons are inexperienced and are more taken to elegant, fashionable, or chic subjects, they throw maths to the background and stamp it the label, BORING. The teachers are also not helping matters. I think this will be the subject of another blog. I do not have to recall how many times I had a teacher at the class during my high school days? Not more than a month in a semester. Well, this will be the subject of another blog.

we could go on and on about why the uptake of maths is so deficient that one wonders whether Nigerians are interested in science and technology?

One of the ways I have found one can play with maths and remove the boredom is playing the game of Sudoku. You can find it daily on the back pages of punch newspapers. It’s really an entertaining game. During my teaching days, I try to de-emphasize the maths and emphasis the foundation character of mathematics. Rather than teach a boring lecture of longitudes and latitudes, I want to color every section and most examples with how applicable this subject was to Ferdinard Magellan, how google maps would not be possible without it, neither would the modern gps systems you can find even on your mobile devices. How many students know that the popular Photoshop graphics drawing program relies on matrices? Do you know that most banks do not like paying interest in savings accounts, which is against the law, but with a little knowledge of simple interests and compound interests you’d be in a position to question this lawlessness, if and when it applies to you?
What is your take on this subject? Does anyone have creative ways of playing with maths? How beautiful if we can share it.

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Friday, January 7, 2011


Henricia spp.; marine scavenger

Imagine, our soldiers are at the battlefield and suddenly they realize a nerve agent is being used by the enemy, or a farmer goes to the hospital to complain of muscular pains and the doctor tells him he is suffering from organophosphate poisoning from the pesticides he is using. These two scenarios have become everyday that the effective protection and treatment for organophosphate poisoning is a vital concern for public health.

How do organophosphates poison the body? At the cholinergic receptors of the brain or the synaptic clefts of neuromuscular junctions, acetylcholine, a chemical released to transmit messages between neurons or cause the muscles to contract, binds to a receptor molecule and causes action potential to be transported that causes contraction. When the task of acetylcholine is complete, it has to be degraded quickly otherwise, after the first contraction, flooding of acetylcholine would lead to repeated contractions at the postsynaptic membranes, neuromuscular paralysis and death might eventually be the result due to respiratory and cardiac paralysis.

The body responds to these need to degrade acetylcholine using bioscavengers. These scavengers seek out unwanted molecules in the body and either neutralize them or destroy them. Two bioscavengers that are of interest in organophosphate poisoning are acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE).
Acetylcholinesterase is produced at the nervous system. It degrades acetylcholine to acetic acid and choline, therefore preventing an acetylcholine flood at choline receptors at the brain or synaptic clefts at neuromuscular junctions, while Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) is produced at the liver and circulates in the blood of mammals and birds; its job is to search for molecules that desire to hinder or block the function of acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) destroys agents that act as an anti-cholinesterase or blocks the activity of cholinesterase by scavenging the agent. BChE is more of medical importance than AChE because it can easily be extracted from the blood supply and stockpiled.

Organophosphate poisoning has become a threat of visible importance in today’s world. Pesticides are used regularly in farming in Africa and they cannot do without them. The allure of using a nerve agent is very high, especially for rogue or terrorist organizations, as these lethal nerve toxins are relatively easy and inexpensive to manufacture and store.

That is why a research led by Tsafrir Mor, a biochemist in the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, is very important. He and his team have shown that BChE can be synthesized from plants and is effective against both pesticide and nerve agent organophosphate poisoning.
Currently, treatment for organophosphate poisoning is atropine. It is a chemical that saves lives and can alleviate acute symptoms of the poison but it cannot meet to the challenge of curtailing the long-term neurological effect of such poisoning which may include muscle weakness, seizures and convulsions, permanent brain defects and social or behavioral symptoms.

On the other hand, although BChE if sufficiently high in the blood can work better than atropine, this is not always the case. The need to extract BChE and stockpile it in preparation for a warfare involving toxic nerve agents is therefore important but deficient. If BChE can be synthesized at the lab, then doctors can administer them to patients when needed and then save lives. Tsafrir Mor has successfully synthesized BChE using transgenic tobacco leaves. This means that he incorporated the genetic code for BChE from mammals into tobacco leaves which successfully produced the enzyme and then extracted the enzyme from the leaves.

According to Mor, BChE synthesis is a breakthrough research because to extract these enzyme naturally, a few thousand troops would involve the entire blood supply of a country like the United States of America. Furthermore, in addition to its possible treatment for cholinergic ailments resulting from organophosphate poisoning, BChE could be used post-surgery for patients who naturally lack the enzyme and have difficulty recovering from the effects of anesthesia. Also, there is high evidence which suggests that BChE could be useful for treatment of patients suffering from drug overuse and addiction, especially cocaine and most possibly, as a prophylactic or preventive measure, which would save so many lives lost to that habit, drug addiction.

The research was successful. Mor’s group could demonstrate successful protection from pesticide and organophosphate poisoning in two animal models. In addition, the synthesized enzyme, when coated with Polyethylene glycol (PEG) had an extended half-life which more closely replicated the persistence of naturally-derived BChE in the bloodstream, as a proof of the effectiveness of the synthesized BChE.

On the other hand, more work still have to be done. According to Mor, the synthesized BChE acts stoichiometrically, that is, every molecule of an anti-cholinesterase needs a molecule of the synthetic BChE. He aims to make the molecule work catalytically such that a little quantity of BChE is enough to destroy or scavenge enormous quantities of an anti-cholinesterase at and as needed, permitting for a low effective dose of the enzyme.
The scare of an attack the like of the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, perpetrated by the religiously-motivated group, Aum Shinrikyo, is a possibility that can not be ignored. If the world can gain more insight into understanding acetylcholine-linked diseases like Alzheimer’s Dementia, as well as be able to solve the drug problem that has become global, in addition to making biological warfare less threatening, then it would become a safer world, where science and technology should not be seen as a threat but as allies to human efforts to solve his medical and social problems.
Inspiration for this article: Plant-derived scavengers prowl the body for nerve toxins