Tag Archives: Napoleon

Book: The Power of the Sea

The Power of the Sea
This book is as dark and precise as its cover.

Disaster-focussed book mostly about deep-water dynamics.
320 pages, ★★★

I disagree with the gleaming reviews that this book has received on Amazon for purely personal reasons. First, The Power of the Sea is too disaster-focussed for me. It talks too much about maritime disasters and hurricanes, and there are two whole chapters dedicated to the December 26, 2004 tsunami. Second, this book concentrates mostly on what goes on below the surface, which is neither visible nor friendly to human beings. I was almost dragged out by a strong tide once, so I prefer to stay above water, especially while reading.

That said, I learned a lot from this book. The opening chapters are the best, and they’re filled with historical details of Napoleon’s Battle of the Pyramids and his escape into the Red Sea, and the slow discovery of what causes tides (basically, the sun and the moon, and the wind). We learn that tides are “giant waves”; and the vivid description of the Queen Mary’s being broadsided on page 99 also stuck in my mind.

Page 29 was best of all, which describes tides as a combination of three oscillations: the elliptical orbit of the moon (1.90 cycles per day); the position of the moon in relation to the ground (1.93 cycles per day); and the effect of the sun (2.00 cycles per day). Calculated together, these predictable rhythms give us the precise tide tables that all coastal inhabitants will be familiar with. (Tide tables are the things we’re supposed to read before surfing in dangerous waters. I know that now.)

The Power of the Sea is a well-written, well-researched book, and it’s worthy of five stars even if I can’t give them. My low score is entirely a matter of personal taste: I prefer studying visible, less scary stuff such as atmospheres, weather, climate and how they interact with oceans, so The Dance of Air & Sea was the five-star book for me. ★★★

Book: On Revolution

Entropy decreases wherever humans exist. All successful revolutions follow that law by consolidating more power than they destroy.
272 pages, 

I’m 23, and am therefore to young to understand this book. It requires background reading on the American and French revolutions and discusses them in great detail, which I’ve never done. I should read this again when I’m 30.

However, chapters 1 and 2 of On Revolution were understandable. I learned that successful revolutions put order back into society (i.e. decrease entropy). Revolutions destined to fail take order away. (I think.)

Chapter 4 backed this up. The US constitution created far more power than it destroyed. And since [destructive] violence defeats [constructive] power, which defeats the law (chapter 4), the French Revolution descended into destructive violence and left France to Napoleon, whereas America thrived. (Or something like that.) I learned that revolutions, in order to succeed, must build more than they destroy.

Three thoughts on “On Revolution

This makes me wonder: today’s China is the China that would have existed 30 years ago if the Nationalists had one the Civil War. In China, we are now surrounded by all the ideas and institutions that the Communists originally vowed to destroy. It’s classic Animal Farm: it’s only because they changed mindsets in 1978 (Opening Up & Reform) that the “Communists” are still in power.

Which makes me wonder more… successful revolutions just ‘spur on progress’, rather than turn things upside-down. Successful revolutions encourage lazy governments to be more effective leaders. (Talking about roles, not individuals).

Which leads to… governments are toppled not because they become too large (a view I’ve heard in reference to ancient Chinese history), but because they stop growing, (i.e. they stop decreasing entropy, or stop consolidating power). Revolutions occur in politics for the same reason that recessions occur in economics: if you halt growth (i.e. the consolidation of power) then the laws of political and economic entropy will solve all your problems through recession or revolution.

Two more thoughts (are these in connection to the book? I don’t know)

  1. Where humans exist, entropy always decreases.
    The absolute number of people in power will always increase despite political and economic crises. Despite their appearances, revolutions and recessions consolidate power more than they dissipate power, i.e. they decrease entropy. (The number of UK and US billionaires increased during the recent financial crisis.)
  2. As productivity increases, so does the consolidation of power.
    Even if inequality within a developed country shrinks, the corporations who outsource their factories abroad to facilitate this shrinkage counteract the domestic inequality reduction they created by consolidating their power, wealth and influence in markets overseas. When dollars move across borders with such ease, measuring Gini Coefficients and GDP within national boundaries just disguises the truth: only technology and population growth have made humans more productive, while financial trickery has merely accelerated the consolidation of wealth. (But as long as productivity increases, then we don’t feel the effects). (Not only do 1% of Americans control 42% of America, but they control large parts of the rest of the world as well. That’s the “consolidation of power” that we tend to ignore.)

I might be completely wrong, because I’ve never studied anything, ever. Would anyone who understands this book more than I do please share their insights? Thank you. ★★★★★