“Give Me a Lever and a Place to Stand and I’ll Move the World”

The title of this post is attributed to Archimedes, a Greek genius whose amazing colossal brain not only devised new advances in mathematics and the sciences, but also invented defenses to protect his nation.

The quote concerns the lever, a simple device that everyone will recognize at once. In one context the quote can be taken to be nothing more than hyperbole concerning a common application of physics. But there’s something about it that always gets my heart to quicken just a little bit.

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Guns, Germs And Steel: A Book Review

It’s usually hard to go wrong reading a Pulitzer Prize winner and this book is no exception. Some books concentrate on a particular point in history, a particular event, or even – sometimes fascinatingly – the life of a single person. This book is on the opposite side of that spectrum. The author, Jared Diamond, attempts no less than describing the story of human social and technological development since the end of the last Ice Age, a span of about 13,000 years, in one 500 page volume.

But this is not a “normal” history book. You will not read about the Assyrians or the Hapsburgs. That is a scale so fine as to pass easily through this book’s filter. This book is better described as historical science. Diamond tackles the big, macro-scale questions of “How?” and “Why?” did the human race get to where we are today.

In the preface to this book, Diamond describes the book’s scope:

We all know that history has proceeded very differently for peoples from different parts of the globe. In the 13,000 years since the end of last Ice Age, some parts of the world developed literate industrial societies with metal tools, other parts developed only non-literate farming societies, and still others retained societies of hunter-gatherers with stone tools. Those historical inequalities have cast long shadows on the modern world, because the literate societies with metal tools have conquered or exterminated the other societies.

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December 7, 1941

This U.S. Navy website has a good written summary of the attack, plus many excellent photos. The 9/11/2001 attack is often compared to Pearl Harbor, for good reason. As the anonymous commentary on the Navy site puts it:

These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan’s far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition. American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered.

However, the memory of the “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on. Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan’s striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.

(via InstaPunk.com)

UPDATE: Jim Miller makes book recommendations.

A Matter of Perspective Pt II: The Hatfields, the McCoys, and the Mafia

In Part One I discussed how comparing the Iraqi situation with that in Afghanistan wasn’t a good idea. The main advantage that Afganistan has over Iraq is that, while both countries are oriented towards a tribal culture, there’s a greater variety of ethnic groups that allow the people there to overcome this mindset.

But what the heck do I mean by “tribal,” anyway? And why is it so significant?

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