Tag Archives: China

Selected Readings February 13, 2011


I’ll be trying, with oao’s help to put up a list of good links daily. Anyone who wants to send me links to include, by all means. (And if you want to add a paragraph of introduction, I’d appreciate it.)

Niall Ferguson: Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America (MUST READ)

Spengler: Chinese weather on Tahrir Square (MUST READ)

Yoram Ettinger: Impact of Mideast Turmoil on Israel’s Security Requirements

Little Green Footballs: Egyptian Protestors Hate on Israel

“CrossTalk”: The Great and Small Satan

Roya Hakakian: Egypt Through the Lens of Iran’s 1979 Revolution

The Telegraph: Arab Revolutions and European Future

John Rosenthal, Mubarak and Anti-Semitism: A Boomerang Effect?
American pundits say that the deposed Egyptian president fomented anti-Semitism in Egyptian society. But on closer examination, the charges again reveal that it was the anti-Semitism of the opposition that toppled him.

The Supernova of 1006: Chinese vs. Monotheist responses

I just gave a lecture here at the Internationale Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschungen (IKGF) in Erlangen. The scholars here are a wonderful combination of Sinologist (primarily Chinese religion) and Western medievalists.

In preparing my talk on the year 1000, I went back to an astronomical incident seen round the world, which had an enormous impact on Arab Islam and Christendom, and, with the help of my Sinologist colleagues here, found the contrast with how it affected China quite instructive — the Supernova of May 1006.

Put briefly, the spectacular celestial phenomenon triggered feverish apocalyptic expectation – what, in my book, I call an “apocalyptic moment” – both among Muslims and Christians, while in China, a wisely advised emperor managed to calm his people.

Let’s begin with the incident, starting with a definition of a supernova.

A supernova (plural supernovae) is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short interval a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span. The explosion expels much or all of a star’s material at a velocity of up to 30,000 km/s (10% of the speed of light), driving a shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium. This shock wave sweeps up an expanding shell of gas and dust called a supernova remnant.

In May of 1006, the most spectacular Supernova ever to be visible from earth occurred 2,700 light years away from earth. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated -7.5 visual magnitude. A thousand years later, the Hubble Telescope photographed the still-expanding shock-wave created by this explosion.

This picture represents the shock-wave of gases emanating from the explosion in all directions, 1000 years after the explosion.

Prometheus Unbound: Astounding… Awesome

H/T: Mark Sherman via Derek Thompson at the Atlantic Monthly

Shanghai 1990-2010

In my book (whose copy-edited version I just sent back to the publishers after two months constant work – and hence neglect of my blog), I analyze an oft-repeated claim by Lenin in the aftermath of his treaty with the Germans in 1918 that Russia was only months away from a complete reorganization and economic power. While some dismissed this claim as a rationalization of the dubious treaty, Trotsky insisted that Lenin meant it.

The reorganization of Russia on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the nationalization of the banks and large-scale industry, coupled with exchange of products in kind between the towns and the small-peasant consumers’ societies, is quite feasible economically, provided we are assured a few months in which to work in peace. And such a reorganization will render socialism invincible both in Russia and all over the world, and at the same time will create a solid economic basis for a mighty workers’ and peasants’ Red Army.

I use this passage to describe the warped sense that invades people who have entered “apocalyptic time” in which the body social appears to be infinitely and rapidly protein. (It contributes mightily to the development of totalitarianism, which I define as the effort of apocalyptic believers who, having taken power and becoming impatient with the dismal failure of the millennium to materialize, chose to carve out the perfect society on the body social.)

What the two pictures above illustrate are the marvels of modern technology and the stunning dynamism of Chinese society (economy, technology, planning), and a realistic acceleration of time that, were it not empirically true, would be close to unbelievable. Prometheus unbound, turn of the third millennium.