Seven of the week's best reads
- 23 September 2012
- From the section Magazine
Seven articles published elsewhere on the web this week, as selected by Bob Trevelyan, editor of The Browser.
1. China, Japan and the world's Agadir Crisis (1911)
The dispute between China and Japan over some barren islands poking out of the East China Sea may look absurd from a distance. But it isn't. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says it's "a calibrated crisis to test the strength of the US alliance with Japan". He sees parallels with the Agadir Crisis before World War I, when Germany sent a warship to Morocco to prevent French annexation and, he says, probe the depth of the British entente with France. In that instance, the entente didn't break. In East Asia today, President Obama "has an impossible task maintaining 'neutrality', and Beijing knows it". But which way will he go?
2. Where is Cuba going?
This is a lovely, meandering account of a visit to Cuba. Sullivan's wife is from a Cuban family, which means they're among the few Americans allowed to fly direct to Havana from Miami. But even that is hardly straightforward, given a relationship between the US and Cuba that remains deeply dysfunctional. "Thanks to the embargo, when the Castros rail against us as an imperialist enemy, they aren't really lying. We have in effect declared ourselves the enemy of the Cuban people and done it under the banner of their freedom, hitting Cuba in a way that, after all, makes only the people suffer, and far from punishing those in power, rewards them and buttresses their story. All this because a relatively small but highly mobilised exile community holds sway in a state that has the power to elect presidents."
3. The new MakerBot Replicator might just change your world
Anderson visits a New York-based company, MakerBot, that intends to be part of the next industrial revolution. It's producing affordable 3D printers with the aim of bringing desktop manufacturing to the masses. In traditional manufacturing, mass production comes cheap, but flexibility, variety and complexity are expensive. In 3D printing, the reverse is true. Here's what's coming. Or, if your dentist is on the ball, what's already happening.
4. In plain view
Or, how child molesters get away with it. This exploration of the modus operandi of paedophiles was prompted by a huge scandal in the US, which resulted in the conviction earlier this year of a former assistant football coach at Penn State university on child molestation charges. Gladwell describes the character traits and carefully calibrated behaviour of the man convicted, Jerry Sandusky, and suggests that it adds up to a typical profile of a predatory paedophile. It makes for interesting, unsettling reading.
5. The twin child of the Big Bang
On the origins of the universe. "Matter is not the Big Bang's only child. It was born with a long-lost twin: antimatter." They are the yin and yang of reality, says Close. But what happened to the antimatter? "All of the evidence suggests that everything hereabouts is made of matter. However, there is still a lot of unexplored space where antimatter could dominate. As the universe expanded and cooled after the Big Bang, could matter and antimatter have become separated into large independent domains?"
6. The inside story of a controversial new text about Jesus
Several days ago, a Harvard divinity professor, Karen King, unveiled a scrap of ancient papyrus that has written on it the words: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" King stressed that she didn't see the document as proof that the historical Jesus was married. But it provides a tantalising glimpse into the world of early Christians, whose interpretation of their religion may have been more diverse than has generally been assumed. This is the story of how the fragment came into King's possession, and what she thinks it means.
7. Take a number
In many ways, climbing Mount Everest is safer than it's ever been. Storm forecasting is much improved and high-altitude rescue helicopters wait at the ready. So why have 10 people died there this year? "There are no prerequisites for how much experience would-be climbers must have and no rules to say who can be an outfitter. Many of the best alpinists in the world still show up in Base Camp every spring. But, increasingly, so do untrained, unfit people who've decided to try their hand at climbing and believe that Everest is the most exciting place to start."