Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Needham about China

Here is an issue of Big Ideas I do not want to say too much about. I just want to encourage you to go and listen. Not only is the subject very interesting, the speaker also managed to deliver his talk in the most captivating way. (feed)

The podcast description goes:
Journalist, broadcaster, and bestselling author, Simon Winchester, tells the remarkable story of Joseph Needham, an eccentric English chemist who wrote a vast book on Chinese science which remains the longest book about China ever written in the English language. Winchester's lecture on The Man Who Loved China was delivered at the Royal Ontario Museum on October 14, 2010.

This should be enough, but let me add that apart from Joseph Needham coming alive and having us share his fascination with China, also Winchester comes alive. He manages to take you in with his fascination for Needham and has some spectacular tales about the road to his book.

More Big Ideas:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the quest against Islam,
Jewish Humor,
JRR Tolkien versus CS Lewis,
Malcolm Gladwell.

The mysteries of whites and of mass

New Books In History is my weekly stop for good history podcast (feed). Apart from some recurring themes in the series, host Marshall Poe frequently comes up, also, with very unusual, sometimes obscure, but invariably hugely interesting unexpected subjects. Take these two:

Massive for example, is a book about the history of the hunt for the Higgs-boson, the sub-atomic particle that is supposed to make up for the lack of mass in the known particles that atoms are comprised of. Marshall Poe speaks with Ian Sample who wrote the book and tells the most fascinating tale of this project in physics. It appears it is not just a project in physics, it is also about huge building projects (the Large Hadron Collider) therefore about money, politics and also about prestige.

Another subject was Poe's interview with Nell Irvin Painter about the history of white people. It is not politically correct and not even fashionable to speak of white or black or colored people anymore, but these ideas about different races among humans did arrive in the collective conscience at some point in time. Painter sought the origins of this racial thinking out and especially the origins of the concept of white people and skin color as the defining element of race.

More NBIH:
A Soviet Memoir,
This I accomplish,
Not your idea of World War II,
When Akkadian was Lingua Franca,
The 1910 Paris flood.