invention of gunpowder

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pages: 281 words: 79,958

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter


agricultural Revolution, Anne Wojcicki, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Drosophila, food miles, invention of gunpowder, out of africa, personalized medicine, placebo effect, profit motive, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, Skype, stem cell, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, X Prize

They certainly would have today, though. Just forty-six years later, a healthy fifty-year-old man can expect to live to the age of eighty. At least since the Enlightenment, when science effectively replaced religion as the dominant ideology of mankind, progress has been our purpose. We have moved from the discovery of the compass (and our sense of where we are in the physical world) to the invention of gunpowder, to the astonishing ability to take pictures that see through human flesh—only to arrive at the defining event of the twentieth century: the splitting of the atom. As Manhattan Project scientists gathered in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, to await results from the first test of the atomic bomb, they were anxious and afraid. Many took bets on whether they were about to set the sky ablaze and destroy the world.

pages: 235 words: 62,862

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman


autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey

Indeed, ever more countries are arriving in the “Land of Plenty,” at the top right of the diagram, where the average income now tops $20,000 and life expectancy is over 75. Source: Historians estimate that the average annual income in Italy around the year 1300 was roughly $1,600. Some 600 years later – after Columbus, Galileo, Newton, the scientific revolution, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, the invention of gunpowder, printing, and the steam engine – it was… still $1,600.3 Six hundred years of civilization, and the average Italian was pretty much where he’d always been. It was not until about 1880, right around the time Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison patented his lightbulb, Carl Benz was tinkering with his first car, and Josephine Cochrane was ruminating on what may just be the most brilliant idea ever – the dishwasher – that our Italian peasant got swept up in the march of progress.

pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton


agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix,, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

The fact that the outcome of the Scientific Revolution as a whole was not foreseen or sought by any of the participants does not make it any the less a revolution – but it does mean it was not a neat epistemological break of the sort described by Koyré.vii So, too, when first Thomas Newcomen (1711) and then James Watt (1769) invented powerful new steam engines, neither foresaw that the age of steam would see the construction of a great railway system girdling the Earth – the first public steam railway did not open until 1825. It is this sort of revolution, a revolution of unintended consequences and unforeseen outcomes, that Butterfield intended to evoke by the term ‘the Scientific Revolution’. If we define the term ‘revolution’ narrowly as an abrupt transformation that affects everybody at the same time, there is no Scientific Revolution – and no Neolithic Revolution, or Military Revolution (following the invention of gunpowder), or Industrial Revolution (following the invention of the steam engine) either. But we need to acknowledge the existence of extended, patchy revolutions if we want to turn aside from politics and understand large-scale economic, social, intellectual and technological change. Who, for example, would object to the term ‘the digital revolution’ on the grounds that it is not a singular and discrete event, localized in time and space?

To get a sense of its resilience one need only think of Machiavelli, almost a hundred years later, who opens the Discourses on Livy (c.1517) with a reference to the (relatively recent) discovery of the New World and a promise that he, too, has something new to offer, only to turn sharply and insist that in politics, as in law and medicine, all that is required is a faithful adherence to the examples left by the ancients, so that it turns out that what he has to offer is not a voyage into the unknown but a commentary on Livy. Unsurprisingly, Machiavelli thought it perfectly obvious that, despite the invention of gunpowder, Roman military tactics remained the model that all should follow: the whole purpose of his Art of War (1519) was to write for those who, like himself, were delle antiche azioni amatori (lovers of the old ways of doing things).48 Naturally, Copernicus, half a century after the discovery of America, was careful to mention Philolaus the Pythagorean (c.470–385 BCE) as an important precursor in proposing a moving Earth.49 Copernicus’s disciple Rheticus, in the first published account of the Copernican theory, held back any reference to heliocentrism for as long as he possibly could, for fear of alienating his readers.50 The text of Thomas Digges’s Prognostication of 1576 emphasized the absolute novelty and originality of the Copernican system; but the illustration which accompanied the text made no mention of Copernicus, claiming to represent ‘the Cælestiall Orbes according to the most auncient doctrine of the Pythagoreans’, and in later reprints this phrasing was picked up in the table of contents and the chapter headline.51 Even Galileo, in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), repeatedly coupled Copernicus’s name with that of Aristarchus of Samoa (c.310–230 BCE), to whom he (mistakenly) attributed the invention of heliocentrism.52 What was new was not yet admirable, and thus it presented itself, as best it could, within the carapace of the ancient.

But maps function by substituting symbols (here, pins stuck into an imaginary board) for real places and by locating places in abstract space. In Apian’s diagram there is nothing to suggest that Venice is a port but Vienna is not; that Erfurt and Nuremberg are Protestant while Munich and Prague are Catholic; that these cities differ in size or belong to states. Real cities have been replaced by coordinates; real places by theoretical spaces. Geometry also acquired new importance as a result of the invention of gunpowder: fortifications had now to be built to resist cannon balls, which fly (as seen from a bird’s-eye view) in straight lines. In order to provide raking and flanking fire along every wall, forts needed to be designed on the page, with carefully measured angles and distances. Bastions (called by the French the trace italienne and by the American colonists the ‘star fort’), were being built not just in Europe but in Asia and the New World – wherever cannons were fired – from the late fifteenth century on, so every commanding officer required some knowledge of geometry.

pages: 385 words: 105,627

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester


Berlin Wall, British Empire, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, Etonian, Fellow of the Royal Society, index card, invention of gunpowder, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, New Urbanism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, stakhanovite, Stephen Hawking, Ted Kaczynski, trade route

My numerous inquiries about the History of Science problems caused a general stir and various members of the Institute were running about digging out interesting stuff they’d come across, e.g. passages about firecrackers in 2nd century AD; accounts of great explosions; and decrees forbidding the sale of gunpowder to the Tartars in AD 1076, i.e. two centuries before Berthold Schwartz’s alleged original discovery in the west. His search for the Chinese origin of just about everything—the central obsession of his life, as both critics and admirers would later say—had thus been rewarded by this one visit to a small Yangzi-side town in central Sichuan. The Chinese invention of gunpowder was far older, he now suspected, than had hitherto been assumed. The second reason for the importance of the visit to Lizhuang was his discovery of a remarkable man, a chemist named Wang Ling. Wang had come to the impromptu lecture Needham had given on the history of Chinese science—and without waiting to be asked, he immediately set about “digging out interesting stuff” for the visitor.

pages: 419 words: 124,522

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron


Ayatollah Khomeini, British Empire, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, failed state, invention of gunpowder, invention of the telescope, Lao Tzu, Pax Mongolica, South China Sea, trade route

The heavy stirrup was a Chinese brain-child as early as the fourth century AD, it seems, and as it travelled westward, stabilising its rider in battle, it made possible the heavily armoured and expensively mounted knight. To this simple invention some have attributed the onset of the whole feudal age in Europe; and seven centuries later the same era came to an end as its castles were pounded into submission by the Chinese invention of gunpowder. The birth and death of Europe’s Middle Ages, you might fancy, came along the Silk Road from the east. These imaginings followed me at will through the dim vaults of the Qin emperor. He himself lies a mile away beneath a 290-foot mound, where years before I had wandered alone. Now the Chinese tourist board had discovered it. A flight of steps beetled to the summit among firs and marigolds.

pages: 436 words: 140,256

The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond


agricultural Revolution, assortative mating, Atahualpa, Columbian Exchange, correlation coefficient, double helix, Drosophila, European colonialism, invention of gunpowder, invention of the wheel, invention of writing, out of africa, phenotype, Scientific racism, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, the scientific method, trade route, V2 rocket

I have argued that we were fully modern in anatomy and behaviour and language by 40,000 years ago, and that a Cro-Magnon could have been taught to fly a jet aeroplane. If so, why did it take so long after the Great Leap Forward for us to invent writing and build the Parthenon? The answer may be similar to the explanation why the Romans, great engineers that they were, didn't build atomic bombs. To reach the point of building an A-bomb required two thousand years of technological advances beyond Roman levels, such as the invention of gunpowder and calculus, the development of atomic theory, and the isolation of uranium. Similarly, writing and the Parthenon depended on tens of thousands of years of cumulative developments after the arrival of Cro-Magnons—developments that included the bow and arrow, pottery, domestication of plants and animals, and many others. Until the Great Leap Forward, human culture had developed at a snail's pace for millions of years.

pages: 503 words: 131,064

Liars and Outliers: How Security Holds Society Together by Bruce Schneier


airport security, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Brian Krebs, Broken windows theory, carried interest, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, commoditize, corporate governance, crack epidemic, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, desegregation, don't be evil, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, Douglas Hofstadter, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, George Akerlof, hydraulic fracturing, impulse control, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, iterative process, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock company, Julian Assange, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nate Silver, Network effects, Nick Leeson, offshore financial centre, patent troll, phenotype, pre–internet, principal–agent problem, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, security theater, shareholder value, slashdot, statistical model, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, too big to fail, traffic fines, transaction costs, ultimatum game, UNCLOS, union organizing, Vernor Vinge, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Y2K, zero-sum game

Think about it: because both travel and communications were hard, local groups had to pick one of their own to go all the way to the capital and help make laws in the group's name. Now that travel and communications are easy, there's probably a better system. Chapter 16 (1) It would be interesting to chart, as a function of historical time, how much damage an armed group of ten men could do in society before they were subdued. The amount would be pretty stable until the invention of gunpowder, and then would grow continuously until today. Future advances in chemical, nuclear, and biological weapon capabilities will increase that number even more in the future. (2) I don't mean to compare now with ten years ago, or even thirty years ago. I mean to compare it with 100 years ago, 500 years ago, and 1,000 years ago. If you drew a graph, it would be jagged, but over the long term, the rate of technological change has been steadily increasing.

Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production by Vaclav Smil


agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of gunpowder, Louis Pasteur, Pearl River Delta, precision agriculture, recommendation engine, The Design of Experiments

Annual exports began rising rapidly after 1880: they surpassed 1 million tonnes in 1895, reached 1.33 Mt in 1900, and were nearly 2.5 Mt in 1913 (fig. 3.4; appendix G).18 Although foreign companies initially controlled most of the output (the British ones produced about 60% of all nitrates before the end of the century, and the Chilean stake became dominant only after 1915), a large share of nitrate profits had always remained in the country as taxes accounted for about half of the production cost.19 But not all of the imported NaNO3 went to replenish nitrogen in cultivated soils: the compound also became the richest known source of oxygen for use in explosives. Since the invention of gunpowder in the eleventh century, its main ingredient, KNO3, came either from relatively rare mineral deposits (the easiest ones to harvest Exports of Chilean nitrate (kt NaNO3 /year) New Sources of the Nutrient 47 10 3 10 2 10 1 10 0 1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 Figure 3.4 Exports of Chilean nitrates, 1840–1940. were mineral efflorescences on soil surfaces in the Ganges Valley) or from nitrates obtained by bacterial conversion of N-rich organic matter in so-called nitrate plantations.20 NaNO3 could be used directly for producing blasting powder (its typical composition being 74% NaNO3, 16% C, and 10% S), or it could be converted to KNO3 for uses in gunpowder (75% KNO3, 15% C, 10% S).

pages: 859 words: 204,092

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Rise of the Middle Kingdom by Martin Jacques


Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, credit crunch, Dava Sobel, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, land reform, land tenure, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, one-China policy, open economy, Pearl River Delta, pension reform, price stability, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, special economic zone, spinning jenny, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Westphalian system, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game

Urbanization proceeded apace, such that by the late thirteenth century Hangzhou, China’s largest city, had a population of almost 7 million, making China by far the most urbanized society in the world, its cities accounting for around 10 per cent of the population.16 The cities were not, however, to play the same role as centres of political and personal freedom as those in Europe: autonomous urban development was constrained by China’s centralized imperial structure, a pattern that only began to change in the twentieth century. Encouraged by the government, there was a flowering of learning and a wave of remarkable inventions during the Song dynasty, especially in the century and a half of the Northern Song (960-1126).17 What is sometimes described as China’s Renaissance witnessed the development of a classical examination system, the birth of neo-Confucianism, the invention of gunpowder, mortars and woodblock printing, the spread of books, and major advances in mathematics, natural sciences, astronomy and geography.18 A large spinning machine was invented that was to fall only slightly short of what might - at least theoretically - have ushered in an industrial revolution along the lines that Britain was to experience centuries later.19 In contrast, Europe’s Renaissance only began two centuries after the end of the Northern Song.

The Battle for Jerusalem, June 5-7, 1967 by Abraham Rabinovich


Boycotts of Israel, invention of gunpowder, Yom Kippur War

Except for some lower courses dating from before the birth of Jesus, the wall was not very old by Middle Eastern standards. It had been built by the Turks 400 years before on the ruins of ancient battlements. Although Renaissance European cities of the same time were built with walls suitable for defense against cannon, Jerusalem’s was a medieval construction that hardly acknowledged the invention of gunpowder. Instead of cannon redoubts, it had firing slits for crossbows, for the wall was intended only to keep out bedouin raiders. The isolation of the city had served to spare it any more serious assault until Israel’s War of Independence. The Jordanians since then had lined the ramparts facing Jewish Jerusalem with pillboxes and filled in the tall arrow slits with concrete, leaving only small firing holes.

pages: 797 words: 227,399

Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer


agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Atahualpa, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bill Joy: nanobots, blue-collar work, borderless world, clean water, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, cuban missile crisis, digital map,, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Frank Gehry, friendly fire, game design, George Gilder, Google Earth, Grace Hopper, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, New Urbanism, pattern recognition, private military company, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Yogi Berra

The fact is, however, that while technology may not have ended the warrior’s trade, it certainly has affected our definition of the attributes soldiers must have when they go to war, most especially that ultimate value that so defines a soldier, courage in the face of danger. In the days of swordplay, individual ferocity often carried the day in battle (think Mel Gibson in Braveheart), and so it was an attribute that was greatly admired. With the invention of gunpowder and forces lining up in battle to fight each other, the ultimate value became steadfastness under fire; courage now meant standing in the line with “passive disdain,” as bullets came flying at you (think Mel Gibson in The Patriot). But when the machine gun entered war, this old definition of courage became ineffective if not insane (think Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, or on a Malibu highway).

pages: 1,199 words: 332,563

Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition by Robert N. Proctor


bioinformatics, carbon footprint, clean water, corporate social responsibility, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, facts on the ground, friendly fire, germ theory of disease, index card, Indoor air pollution, information retrieval, invention of gunpowder, John Snow's cholera map, language of flowers, life extension, New Journalism, optical character recognition, pink-collar, Ponzi scheme, Potemkin village, publication bias, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, speech recognition, stem cell, telemarketer, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Upton Sinclair, Yogi Berra

Many of these same techniques were being used as late as the eighteenth century, when starting and keeping the home fires burning was a vital necessity throughout the world. In England, stories were told of homes where fires had been kept alive for more than a hundred years. Chemical means of kindling fires have been around for centuries, though elaborate preparation was sometimes necessary, and techniques were not always reliable. China’s invention of gunpowder in the ninth century made it possible to make a fire by impact, but this was never very practical. The British philosopher Robert Boyle, better known for his invention of the air pump, by 1689 had found that phosphorus rubbed against sulfur could cause ignition, but there was not yet any good means of controlling the combustion. Not until the nineteenth century were matches with a controlled phosphorus burn devised.

pages: 343 words: 41,228

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds - the Original Classic Edition by Charles MacKay


clean water, invention of gunpowder, invisible hand, joint-stock company, railway mania, South Sea Bubble, the market place

Those who are curious to see the manner in which these combats were regulated, may consult the learned Montesquieu, where they will find a copious summary of the code of ancient duelling. 118* Truly does he remark, in speaking of the clearness and excellence of the arrangements, that, as there were many wise matters which were conducted in a very foolish manner, so there were many foolish matters conducted very wisely. No greater exemplification of it could be given, than the wise and religious rules of the absurd and blasphemous trial by battle. In the ages that intervened between the Crusades and the new era that was opened out by the invention of gunpowder and printing, a more rational system of legislation took root. The inhabitants of cities, engaged in the pursuits of trade and industry, were content to acquiesce in the decisions of their judges and magistrates whenever any differences arose among them. Unlike the class above them, their habits and manners did not lead them to seek the battle-field on every slight occasion. A dispute as to the price of a sack of corn, a bale of broad-cloth, or a cow, could be more satisfactorily adjusted before the mayor or bailiff of their district.