Thoughts in Perspective

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Rise of China

China is maybe the biggest ”threat” to the Anglo-Saxon unipolar world order, it has a rapidly growing economy, over one billion citizens, huge potential, but modest technology. 

History shows us that the Chinese civilization is one of the oldest and greatest, we should all know, for example, that the printing press was invented by Bi Sheng around 1040, not by Johannes Gutenberg who created his machine some 400 years later. This advancement gave China the opportunity to become a truly modern state, why this did not happen as expected could be the subject of another article. Nevertheless culture and knowledge now were far more easily transmitted and expanded.

The voyages of Zheng He, seven to be more exact, were conducted by huge fleets of large vessels, some of them being junks. The greatest of this ships was the Treasure Ship (Chinese: 宝船 / baochuan), which had a length of 126 meters and 52 meter wide, by comparison, the ship Christopher Columbus used to reach the New World was 17 meters long. Officially, he went as far as Hormuz, but because of the destruction of the records of his last two voyages, considered the longest there are speculations that he went past the Cape of Good Hope. With ships of that size I am convinced he even got to East Africa but I am puzzle why he did not go further. The huge fleet he had at his disposal was everything an explorer wanted. There are speculations that the maps Columbus had of the "Americas" before even setting sail were of Chinese origin.

These are two details about China I felt were needed to be mentioned, the first which sustains evolution and knowledge, think of it as earth, and the second being a tree, that if planted in a fertile ground will flourish. Discovering the globe and establishing trade posts and colonies was proved productive. Well, things do not seem to have evolved this way because in the 19th century China was on its way to destruction. The 20th century even more, was a time of great social and political changes, you can read more about this here and here and soon more articles to come.

But what about the present? Well, the keyboard I use to write this article is ”Made in China”, everything is made there, even my IKEA table and my iPod. This is nothing new to any of you I am sure. The reality is that they produce all that we in the West consume, and the West excels at this kind of activity. China is fueling its own development with our money. This is not really a bad thing, unlike countries like UK, France, Spain and Portugal that in the Age of Discovery used to practice slavery everywhere they went (more or less), the Chinese actually work for their future.

There is a phrase that says much: ”China's peaceful development" used by Hu Jintao, at the Boao Forum in 2004. If we look at a world map we see America and all of her allies (Anglo-Saxon world order) and we see her enemies (the ones that appose this order), well, China is with neither. It has its own way of becoming a global power, at least this is the official propaganda, the truth is China is following the American example and by this I mean it tries not to get into trouble while it develops internally. Before the Second World War, the United States had a non-interventionist policy.

As I said in the beginning, it has the potential to become a world power, even a solar system power, being the third country that sent a man in space (Yang Liwei on 15 October 2003) with its own technology. Recently America chose to step out of the manned spacefaring nations "club", leaving it all to the private sector, while the Russians still enjoy what the Soviet Union left them (Soyuz, Progress). There is plenty of room for others and personally I am very curious of what PRC will achieve in this field. 

"Carrying out space programs is not aimed at sending humans into space per se, but instead at enabling humans to work in space normally, also preparing for the future exploration of Mars and Saturn."
 Qi Faren, CAS Academician

Recently, the Chinese and Russians started a little dispute, the Shenyang J-15 which resembles (copies) the Sukhoi Su-33 is built using "home made" radars and weapons. Trying to shorten their period of transition, the Chinese adopt tactics of espionage, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The only problem for the Russians, especially, is that they may end up losing money competing with the cheaper J-15.

We are left with the most important thing, actual living conditions. Hu Jintao came up with the idea of a "Harmonious Society" in 2005, and I would personally like to see it implemented in Europe as well. The main ideas are that developments in the economy most be seen in the life of all people, in fact the reason economy must grow is for developments in the way of life and in society overall. In a Harmonious Society, people at all levels respect each other, there are improvements in education and healthcare.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

War Trash by Ha Jin

It is pure coincidence that I started to read War Trash, by Ha Jin, just as I was getting ready to study about the Korean War. Although it is a work of fiction, you get the basic dose of information needed to have an overall opinion about the conflict.

Yu Yuan, the main character, studied at Huangpu Academy, an important institution for Kuomintang. From the start we are immersed in a world barely recovering from a civil war, when the communists managed to get control of mainland China and established a Socialist State. Yu Yuan like many others, although in a lesser extent, had difficulty accepting the new system, but did not have choice, he went with the flow so to speak. He did not care to much about the communists, but had socialist sympathies, he only wanted to live a normal life.

The start of the Korean War did not involve China from the beginning, but soon, seeing that the communists from Korea were loosing the battle, they joined along with the Soviet Union in fear that the Americans will come after the Chinese next. This conflict was one of ideologies, fought with the gun not with the mind. Most of the book describes how life as a POW (prisoner of war) was. Many Chinese and Koreans had this fate. The Chinese especially gone through a weird situation, two camps were formed, the Communists and the Nationalists. Its easy to guess what this meant. Many soldiers and officers sent to fight wanted to go to Taiwan, where Chiang Kay-shek managed to form a government and an independent country controlled by nationalist forces. The reason for this is that they have been educated in nationalist schools before the Civil War.

Conflicts appear in this camps that originated from blind faith in ideologies and raising them to the rank of religion. Yu Yuan soon gets important roles to play, mainly as translator and representative. He knew English and this made him an important pawn in the game, so important that leaders from both camps needed him. Knowledge is power. He did not have the fanaticism characteristic to many others, he only wanted to have a normal life without useless conflicts. In his free time he pursued activities like reading and improving his English, while others gambled and wasted their time basically.

Yu Yuan is really a great character compared to all the others, he managed to stay loyal to his heart and mind through all the hard times. I must stop here, the reason why people make books is for others to read them so I think this short review will convince you to read this marvelous novel.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Awil-um magazine, 1

Got some new candy for you kids, the first issue of Awil-um Magazin just got out of Scribus and it`s hot like a Cuban missile crisis. It is a humble start, but it`s a start nonetheless. In many ways this first issue is a demo to see what to change and what to leave for future editions. About the content, you will be able to read in-depth articles, but only starting with the second issue, other than this, the same things that apply to the blog are present in the magazine. You can view this experiment like an archive with a few extra things thrown inside.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Iran going nuclear

Iran going nuclear is a big debate all over the world for some time, but this is not the real issue, in the end it is all politics, global politics. If we look at North Korea we see a hardcore communist leadership that managed to get the nuclear bomb against all the UN sanctions thrown at it and against all of Bush's hard words about countries that sponsor terrorism. Clearly, what the UN tries to do now to Iran has been proved worthless.

Iran has and will have nuclear weapons just like Saddam had his weapons of mass destruction, the ones that seem to have magically disappeared. The US could of framed them, putting a few nukes under Saddam's pillow, but nobody bothered. The real issue is not even oil, although having it is not so bad, but control, global control. After WW2, the US had a great foreign policy overhaul. The result was the building of American army bases all over the globe and diplomatic relations with all sorts of states, from Pakistan to Canada.

What Iran is trying to do is obvious, they challenge American control in the region. If we look at the Islamic republic's foreign policy we see states like Venezuela, Brazil, Turkey, China, North Korea, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Sudan, as well as Russia. It also has strong economic relations with the EU. Can we condemn a state for trying to follow its own road? Personally I don't believe Iran is a threat to anyone, certainly not to the states named above.

It has a population of over 70 million, a rich history, dating back to the beginning of the human civilization, and a rapid growth, by all accounts it has the makings of at least a regional power. We should accept Iran as a global player, diversity never hurts, in fact it helps cooperation and evolution, doing so could also be a breath of fresh air for its internal politics. Nuclear energy is a must for any modern state and only cooperation and goodwill can help humanity.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sergey Korolyov

Korolyov is the father of the Soviet space program and in a way the one responsible for starting the space race. To put it simply, after the end of World War 2, German scientists working on a number of projects, in our case the A4 (or later called V-2) rocket, were hunted down by the Russians and the Americans, along with their allies. The key figure at this time was Wernher von Braun, whom we all know was the creative mind behind the rocket program of the Third Reich. He along with part of his team, managed to surrender to the Americans, taking all their knowledge with them. The Russians were left with nothing apart some scattered bits and pieces.

- Biographical notes

I must add that Germany was not the first and only in this field of research, the thing that made them unique was that they managed to produce large numbers of a rocket type that revolutionized warfare. Korolyov could be thought at as the Soviet version of von Braun, perhaps without the political support of his German counterpart, at least in the late 1930s. His stepfather was an engineer, surely one of the reasons for his approach to this field of study. In 1923 he joined ”Friends of the Air Fleet Society”, a year later moving to Kiev Polytechnic Institute. In 1926 he managed to transfer to Moscow, at the Bauman High Technical School.

In 1929 he graduated, joining the Central Aero and Hydrodynamics Institute in 1931. In 1932 he was appointed chief of the Jet Propulsion Research Group (GIRD), later being reorganized and named RNII, Jet Propulsion Research Institute, where he held the position of deputy chief. The main projects were rockets and gliders. Their achievements were modest to say the least, GIRD-9 for example reaching the altitude of 400 m.

Having this slow progress in mind it was believed that Korolyov was deliberately trying to sabotage the research, so, at the hight of Stalin's purges, on June 27, 1938 he was arrested, spending over a year at the Kolyma gold mine in Siberia, not the best place to be. By 1940, the authorities realized that he was the only one with sufficient experience and knowledge to continue the research, so in September that year he along with other engineers were transfered to a sharashka, a design bureau in prison. The sharashka where Korolyov activated was led by Andrei Tupolev and located in the city of Omsk, it was officially named TsKB-29.

Another important moment in his life was July 27, 1944, when the authorities ”paroled” him. In September 8, 1945 he traveled to Germany to see the A4 ballistic missile in action. This evaluation was conducted by the US and its allies so Korolyov was forced to see the demonstration from behind the fence. NII-88 or Scientific Research Institute No. 88 was situated in Podlipki, northeast of Moscow, and beginning with August 1946 Korolyov held the position of chief of a department created to develop and produce missile technology based on German hardware, in practice, reverse engineering the V2.

A very important step for space exploration as well as a military benchmark was the R-7 ICBM which in October 8, 1957, put Sputnik 1, man's first artificial satelite, in orbit. This was the beginning of the Space Race, and until his death in January 14, 1966, he managed to give the USSR a reputation as leader of space exploration.

- His work

He worked as lead engineer at Tupolev's TB-3 heavy bomber. The aircraft was of poor quality, being introduced in 1932 and retired in 1939, it still operated during the Second World War mainly as a transport plane. The M-17 engines provided a range of 3,250 km. Defensive armaments consisted of five light machine guns.
During the GIRD period, Korolyov led a brigade, or team composed of:
N.A. Zheleznov, A.V. Chesalov, E.S. Shchetinkov, S.A. Pivovarov, G.N. Fedotov, V.V. Gorbunov, V.V. Ivanov, B.A. Bivovarov, A.M. Durnov. The RP-1, a maned rocked powered glider had an OR-2 engine. Korolyov worked on maned rocket planes and cruise missiles.

During the sharashka period he worked on the Tupolev Tu-2 and Petlyakov Pe-2.

Korolyov continued to design rockets, bigger and better, and finaly the R-7 Semyorka was born, the first ICBM. It was a two-stage design with a maximum payload of 5.4 tons. It was the rocket that (in some cases being modified) made Sputnik 1, and the first maned missions to space possible.

The Moon was a destination targeted by him, but died before it could become a reality. It turns out that his N-1 rocket that would of sent men to the Moon never managed to lift of the ground, leaving the way open for America.

Korolyov's main interest was space travel, just like von Braun, but what Korolyov managed to do was to ignite the engines that made our species capable of space travel.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The old... the new...

This painting was created by Turner, the famous English romantic artist, as a way to show the changing times. The title is "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last breath to be broken up" and it dates from 1838. The sun is setting, the sea is calm. A sensation of peace seems to overwhelm you as you watch this scene, at least this is the case for me. In the right side of the painting we see darkness, shadows, these await the old ship that will soon be replaced. The industrial Revolution was well underway by this time so the feeling of change could not escape the field of art.

J. M. W. Turner, the painter of light.

Monday, June 7, 2010

About Humanity, a few ideas

Our species is shaped by war, by conflict, but also by the pursuit of knowledge and progress. Our instinct of self conservation creates every so often the environment for evolution. These are the two sides of the coin, destruction and creation, forces that try to dominate one another but end up in a delicate balance.

I've been asking myself what is the future of humanity and unlike many others, I see progress. The wars that are present in every decade of our history end up pushing humanity forward. I am not an advocate of war, and do be frank, it would be hard for me to embrace such a theory with bombs flying around, but this seems to be the truth. For humans, death is normal, although not wanted, you can also think about the spring-fall cycle.

Science and technology seem to be growing at a faster and faster rate, giving us new opportunities for the future and solutions to present problems, at least this is the theory. It is not an easy thing to admit, but the vast majority of humans seem distant from the road of progress. It is true that the world needs not only researchers and university teachers, as examples of well educated people, and letting the machines do the ”dirty” work is far too early for our present stage of evolution. In most countries the economic and political environments do not value the mind, in this way many do not achieve their full potential.

We should not discriminate people because of their education. You may not see this now, but wait a few decades, the world could be torn in two, not based on race or wealth, but on education and access to it. I must admit that knowledge is not like falling in love, at least for most people, it is a tree you must take care of for a long time before the fruits start to appear. We must learn from history and learn to appreciate one another, not doing so will mean the end of the human race, sooner or later.

This conflict between the ones who control and those controlled is present from East to West. Just read my article about How to manipulate man. I am confident that the human mind will prevail and we will be free of the stupidity of one dominating the other, this could be just an utopia, but i like to think that not only the ”bad” things can be real. This first two problems, knowledge and access to it and the relation ruler-subject, are all based on instincts that helped us survive harsh times in our development, don't forget, even as a child you are under the control of your parents, in a way at least. The primitive human societies managed to survive because the strong got the power and knew how to use it.

If we talk about democracy we are in a predicament. Officially the people have the power and their leaders are only elected as a type of spokesmen who end up not representing the people, but the interests of different groups. We can see a cycle forming and breaking it is hard, but necessary.

Humanity must go through a real revolution to survive the things to come, we must rethink our mentality and our position in this universe. This is a hard task, but I am confident we will eventually be successful. Until then, let us individually try to surpass ourselves and whatever our jobs are, do not let the mind and soul die.