invention of gunpowder

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pages: 447 words: 141,811

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atahualpa, British Empire, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, David Graeber, Edmond Halley, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, glass ceiling, global village, greed is good, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, out of africa, personalized medicine, Ponzi scheme, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, urban planning, zero-sum game

But jumping pot lids were an annoyance, especially if you forgot the pot on the stove and the water boiled over. Nobody saw their real potential. A partial breakthrough in converting heat into movement followed the invention of gunpowder in ninth-century China. At first, the idea of using gunpowder to propel projectiles was so counter-intuitive that for centuries gunpowder was used primarily to produce fire bombs. But eventually – perhaps after some bomb expert ground gunpowder in a mortar only to have the pestle shoot out with force – guns made their appearance. About 600 years passed between the invention of gunpowder and the development of effective artillery. Even then, the idea of converting heat into motion remained so counter-intuitive that another three centuries went by before people invented the next machine that used heat to move things around.

Gunpowder’s subsequent career is even more telling. One might have thought that the Daoist alchemists would have made China master of the world. In fact, the Chinese used the new compound mainly for firecrackers. Even as the Song Empire collapsed in the face of a Mongol invasion, no emperor set up a medieval Manhattan Project to save the empire by inventing a doomsday weapon. Only in the fifteenth century – about 600 years after the invention of gunpowder – did cannons become a decisive factor on Afro-Asian battlefields. Why did it take so long for the deadly potential of this substance to be put to military use? Because it appeared at a time when neither kings, scholars, nor merchants thought that new military technology could save them or make them rich. The situation began to change in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but another 200 years went by before most rulers evinced any interest in financing the research and development of new weapons.


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, 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: Gapminder.org 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.


Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society by Nicholas A. Christakis

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, assortative mating, Cass Sunstein, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, different worldview, disruptive innovation, double helix, epigenetics, experimental economics, experimental subject, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, invention of writing, iterative process, job satisfaction, Joi Ito, joint-stock company, land tenure, Laplace demon, longitudinal study, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, out of africa, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, replication crisis, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, social web, stem cell, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, twin studies, ultimatum game, zero-sum game

Some have proposed that the (very ancient) cultural invention of weapons mooted the advantage of big canines. Stones in men’s hands superseded teeth in their mouths. This is known as the weapons-replacement hypothesis. But the reduction in male canine size predates the appearance of tools in the fossil record.13 And larger size and bigger teeth could still be useful in fighting even after weapons became available (at least until the invention of gunpowder, which radically equalized all people regardless of size).14 These observations suggest that the maintenance of upper-body dimorphism in humans—despite the reduction in dimorphism in other traits, like teeth—may not be entirely explained by direct male competition. So what else might explain it? Physical anthropologist Coren Apicella has argued that some dimorphism in upper-body strength has been maintained, evolutionarily speaking, because of women themselves.

Plavcan, “Sexual Dimorphism in Primate Evolution,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 116 (2002): 25–53; J. M. Plavcan and C. P. van Schaik, “Intrasexual Competition and Body Weight Dimorphism in Anthropoid Primates,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 103 (1997): 37–68. 14. In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, dated October 28, 1813, Jefferson also notes this: “Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction.” The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams, ed. L. J. Cappon, vol. 2 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), pp. 387–392. 15.


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, en.wikipedia.org, 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, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, 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: 281 words: 79,958

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

23andMe, 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: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, Skype, stem cell, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, twin studies, 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.


The Ages of Globalization by Jeffrey D. Sachs

Admiral Zheng, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, Commentariolus, coronavirus, COVID-19, Covid-19, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, domestication of the camel, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, European colonialism, global supply chain, greed is good, income per capita, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, mass immigration, Nikolai Kondratiev, out of africa, packet switching, Pax Mongolica, precision agriculture, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, South China Sea, spinning jenny, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons

The Greek and Roman massed infantry, the phalanx, supported by the cavalry, achieved major victories in land battles. The Macedonian phalanx was empowered by the innovation of the sarissa, the long spear, giving Alexander a decisive advantage in his Asian conquests. Greek and Roman oar-powered galleys were effective battering rams against opposing navies. The steppe-region archers sweeping in on horseback landed decisive blows on opposing infantries. China’s invention of gunpowder gave rise, centuries later, to the musket and other firearms that, in turn, decisively ended the advantages of the archers. The cannon artillery enabled by gunpowder helped to account for the spectacular successes of the Ottoman, Mongol, and Timurid empires. When the Atlantic powers, including the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English, successfully added cannon power to their ocean vessels, they were able to dominate the Indian Ocean trade routes.


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.


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: 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, longitudinal study, out of africa, phenotype, Scientific racism, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, the scientific method, trade route

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.


City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age by P. D. Smith

active transport: walking or cycling, Albert Einstein, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, business cycle, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, congestion charging, cosmological principle, crack epidemic, double entry bookkeeping, edge city, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, en.wikipedia.org, Enrique Peñalosa, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Gehry, garden city movement, global village, haute cuisine, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of gunpowder, Jane Jacobs, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, Kickstarter, Kowloon Walled City, Masdar, megacity, megastructure, multicultural london english, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, peak oil, RFID, smart cities, starchitect, telepresence, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the High Line, Thomas Malthus, trade route, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Victor Gruen, walkable city, white flight, white picket fence, young professional

Remarkable Assyrian bas-reliefs survive, such as those in the British Museum in London, vividly depicting the first walled cities and the techniques used to besiege them: engineers tunnelling under walls to create cavities beneath the foundations which would be shored up with timber and then fired to bring about a catastrophic collapse; giant battering rams assaulting brazen gates; and infantry using flimsy ladders to scale ramparts.77 But before the invention of gunpowder (and unless you had a god on your side, as did the Israelites at Jericho), the advantage lay with the defenders. From the walls they dropped everything they could find on to attacking armies: boiling liquids, pots of scorpions and even beehives.78 The stakes were high: if the walls were breached, no mercy was shown to the defenders. In about 1100 bc, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser gloated about his ruthlessness in destroying the city of Hunusa: ‘their fighting men I cast down in the midst of the hills, like a gust of wind.


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, longitudinal study, 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.


pages: 474 words: 149,248

The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo--And the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation by James Donovan

active measures, colonial rule, El Camino Real, financial independence, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, invention of gunpowder

LANCELOT SMITHER Siege warfare had changed little since the introduction of artillery bombardment centuries before. An attacking force would begin investment of the defensive position—surrounding the target and blocking the escape of troops and the ingress of reinforcements, provisions, and supplies—and then employ any combination of well-proven methods to reduce the fortifications and destroy the defenders. Siege machinery was one option; that meant cannon, primarily, since the invention of gunpowder had allowed artillery to replace more primitive weapons, such as catapults and trebuchets. Mining, or sapping, was another option; this meant that the attackers would dig tunnels right up to the walls and place explosive charges under them. The besieging force could then use the trenches to move men and machines gradually closer to the besieged position. The attackers might also use the technique of deception—seldom quite as simple as the Trojan Horse, but following the same age-old principle: fool the enemy and then infiltrate its defenses.


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: 604 words: 161,455

The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life by Robert Wright

"Robert Solow", agricultural Revolution, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, British Empire, centre right, cognitive dissonance, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, fault tolerance, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Gilder, global village, invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the telegraph, invention of writing, invisible hand, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Marshall McLuhan, Norbert Wiener, planetary scale, pre–internet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, social web, Steven Pinker, talking drums, the medium is the message, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, your tax dollars at work, zero-sum game

But getting from here to there is no snap. Secession movements usually inspire resistance—which, in turn, usually empower militants within the secession. So things could get messy in a lot of places fairly fast—a classic “transitional instability.” Making things even messier is Inevitability Number Two: the growing power, compactness, and accessibility of lethal technologies. This trend dates back to the invention of gunpowder and has now gone beyond chemistry, into nuclear physics and biotechnology. Meanwhile, knowledge of how to harness the new lethal forces is rendered ever more available by ever-subtler information technologies. It seems likely that, for some time to come, more and more people will have the option of committing atrocities of greater and greater severity. These people will include frustrated nationalists, but also lots of other people—most notably people who in one sense or another suffer from the cultural dislocation that globalization brings.


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, lateral thinking, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, 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.


pages: 789 words: 207,744

The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning by Jeremy Lent

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atahualpa, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, conceptual framework, dematerialisation, demographic transition, different worldview, Doomsday Book, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Georg Cantor, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of gunpowder, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, mass immigration, megacity, Metcalfe's law, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, Pierre-Simon Laplace, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Kurzweil, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, social intelligence, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, ultimatum game, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, wikimedia commons

The very idea of using pure logic to arrive at a universal theory of something was an absurdity, since nothing existed in an isolated theoretical form without context. Finally, the use of technology was quite acceptable as a way of enhancing civilized life, but, with no conception of humanity's separation from nature, the idea of “conquering nature” was unthinkable. With this cognitive structure, even the most potentially disruptive forces, such as the invention of gunpowder or the invasion of the Mongols, could be subsumed and incorporated into the social fabric. During the Song dynasty, when Chinese civilization was at a peak of creative flux, the most brilliant minds were focused not on achieving a disruptive break with the past but on synthesizing their three major philosophical traditions into Neo-Confucianism. It seems likely that, barring the onslaught of Western powers, Chinese society would have continued evolving in stable fashion into the distant future.


pages: 797 words: 227,399

Wired for War: The 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, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, cuban missile crisis, digital map, en.wikipedia.org, 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, social intelligence, 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: 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.


pages: 897 words: 260,608

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

intangible asset, invention of gunpowder, the market place

Saxe had told us that irrational battles were the refuges of fools: rather they seemed to me impositions on the side which believed itself weaker, hazards made unavoidable either by lack of land room or by the need to defend a material property dearer than the lives of soldiers. We had nothing material to lose, so our best line was to defend nothing and to shoot nothing. Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power. The invention of bully beef had profited us more than the invention of gunpowder, but gave us strategical, rather than tactical strength, since in Arabia range was more than force, space greater than the power of armies. I had now been eight days lying in this remote tent, keeping my ideas general,* till my brain, sick of unsupported thinking, had to be dragged to its work by an effort of will, and went off into a doze whenever that effort was relaxed. The fever passed: my dysentery ceased; and with restored strength the present again became actual to me.


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, global pandemic, 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.