It is that time of the year again when prophets, poets and philosophers make their predictions for the New Year. Some will prophesize the words of their gods, while some will present the expectations of their oracles. Some will make dramatic U-turns that will leave the souls of their followers in perpetual somersault.
Here are my expectations for 2015 AD.
Last year, European scientists’ Philae probe landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko millions of miles away in space. Amongst its missions was to conduct tests that may help us prove that water on earth came when a comet with ice slammed our planet. The test it conducted showed that the water on the comet has a different composition than the one on earth. So the search for the source of water and, consequently, life on earth continues.
Though Philae’s mission was unaccomplished due to battery failure, the potentials it opened up were unlimited for spacecraft and the world outside our imaginative range. And with Rover Opportunity making more strides on Mars and Orions spacecraft preparing to take astronauts to the red planet, 2015 will take mankind farther than ever and solve some of the mysteries that fuel the web of superstitions around us.
Last year we saw for the first time in astonishing details, a photo that showed the planet-forming dust disk around the infant star called HL Tau. The one million-year-old star exists in the constellation Taurus, the Bull, and is some 450 light-years from Earth. Our own star, the Sun, is 4.5 billion years old so the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimiter Array(ALMA) will allow scientists to observe the birth of new planets in 2015.
The spectacular observation of the birth of new planets and the near assurance that there are planets out there that are more conducive to life than earth are fascinating. Already, a team of NASA astrophysicists confirmed last year that Saturn's moon, Enceladus, holds a liquid ocean below its icy surface. In a matter of time, we will encounter the great revelation that will consign all the past revelations to an extended Dark Ages.
Of course, it all starts with the mind. The mind of man is a crazy space. Neuroscience researchers are closing in on a great revelation. There is the possibility that what we call free will does not exist. We often think that our decisions and choices happen outside the activities that take place in our brain. Now scientists have their doubts. Neuroscientists through several experiments performed last year now know that the brain engages in unconscious information processing that predicts behavior. Neurons have been observed firing in a particular manner in your head before you become aware that you have made a decision. It raises the question of whether we are the ones who make decisions or if our brains do it for us.
So when you encounter a mob about to lynch a suspected thief, the decision to participate in putting tire around his neck, pouring fuel on his body or bringing out the matches to set him on fire may be taken by your brain even before you have time to consult your mind. Neuroscience advancement and imaging technology in 2015 will help us understand how much conscious control we have and how much of our behaviors are beyond our control. The implications are far and wide. It could turn around the basis of our legal system. It could also bring us closer to understanding the things we call conscience, mind, spirit and God.
As crude oil prices fluctuate and disrupt economies of several countries of the world, including Nigeria, scientists in Glasgow last year made a great breakthrough in the quest to create hydrogen fuel from water. It is one of the alternative energy dreams that could revolutionize renewable energy search. The team successfully stored gas in carbon-free liquid until needed. It is opening up the possibility of replacing petroleum in cars with a cheap and clean form of energy.
So that long-term quest for my own oil block may have to wait. Let me take a second look at the sea and the shapes of the pebbles it pushes to the beach. In 2015, the common things may become the basis of the new gold.
In the health field, as new diseases emerge, new technologies lead us to new medical treatments. Even stubborn diseases that have defied modern medicine are going on their knees gradually. Ebola may have scared the hell out of us in 2014, but advancements in stem cell research has given hope to so many. Stroke patients who received stem cell therapy saw significant improvement in their situation. And at Harvard University, scientists last year cured Type 1 diabetes in a rat that received stem cell therapy that continues to generate insulin. If the treatment works in humans it could be the most significant medical breakthrough in more than a generation.
I have an aunt in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. My long held dream is that one day she could fax the soup, Edikang Ikong, to me in New York City. For that reason, I have been studying how the fax machine really works. I wanted to know how a paper put inside a machine here in New York City ends up in Okitipupa in minutes.
Faxing of Edikang Ikong to me was just a dream until last year when NASA staff in California emailed a wrench to the International Space Station. They achieved this by emailing a 3D file of a wrench to the International Space Station. Astronauts at the space station printed the wrench with a 3D printer and used it to do a plumbing job. Suddenly, it opened up the possibility of getting Edikang Ikong from Ikot Ekpene to New York City via an email. I’m sure it will happen in my lifetime. The push for it continues in 2015 as 3D printing technology improves.
As I maul my prophesies and expectations of 2015, I now have to master the fax technology if I’m ever going to understand the 3D printer technology.
Oh, and by the way, this year, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect a president. They will choose between continuity and contingency. And I trust Nigerians, they will make a choice that will rhyme with their self interest.
Happy New Year!
Rudolf Okonkwo writes the column Correct Me If I'm Right for Saharareporters.com
He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show on SaharaTV. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC148BC0F690DFD76