The Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an – Part II

This is Part II of experiencing the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an. You can read Part I here. Part I highlights the discovery of the warriors and gives some amazing views of the extent of the site. Part II takes a closer look at how the figures have been restored. The largest of the three pits housing these magnificant funerary art forms is mind-boggling in expanse and impressive in the sheer numbers of figures.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. When the corridors were unearthed, most of the figures had been smashed. The painstaking work of reconstruction begins by excavating the spaces and systematically collecting the broken terra cotta shards.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

From there the pieces are brought to a laboratory area where workers combining the skills of artists, surgeons, and masons carefully rebuild each individual warrior. Supporting pieces, like legs and hands, are solid clay, while the upper bodies and heads are usually hollow for lightness.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

Almost done, some only have to wait for heads.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

At a first cursory glance of the reconstructed figures they look exquisitely plain. This is misleading. Originally, the figures were coated in wondrous color, which immediately began to fade to the gray you see now as a result of oxidation and mold when the pits were exposed to the moist air. If you look closely at some of the figures, such as this pair of horses, you can seen hints of what they may have looked like when they were created.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

Even these don’t do them justice. These fallen (or perhaps resting) warriors show the full range of color that graced the terra cotta. Among the colors are purples composed of barium copper silicate, as well as pink, red, white, and lilac.

Xi'an terra cotta warriors

But still the figures are awe-inspiring. What they have lost in color they retain in sheer numbers and the knowledge of how much effort was involved in creating the thousands of figures. One can’t help but be equally impressed by the effort being made to restore the figures and the site.

Xi’an takes some planning to get to from Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, but it’s well worth the effort. And if you haven’t already, check out Part I of the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an here.

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and is currently working on a book about his experiences traveling in Argentina. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1864

th_LincolnAs the Civil War raged on, things weren’t looking so good for the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. In August 1864 Lincoln asked his entire cabinet to sign the back of what became the “blind memorandum,” essentially a promise to work with whomever wins the November elections to save the Union before the new president would be sworn into office.

 

And yet Lincoln was reelected, by a wide margin in fact. How did this happen?

Find out on the 150th anniversary of that election, on November 8th, 2014 at the E. Barrett Prettyman District Courthouse in Washington, DC. That’s when the Lincoln Group of DC is sponsoring a full day of expert historians examining The Election of 1864.

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At the symposium you’ll find out why Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee tried so hard to disrupt the northern elections. You’ll find out how Lincoln prepared for what appeared to be a looming defeat. And you’ll find out what changed all that, from critical military victories to strategic political maneuvering. The result was the reelection of Abraham Lincoln and the saving of the Union.

Join distinguished Lincoln experts Michael Burlingame*, Thomas Horrocks, Elizabeth Varon, Jennifer Weber, and Jonathan W. White as they explore every facet of an election that is without a doubt one of the most important elections in our nation’s history. The very fact that it occurred at all during a Civil War is significant; even more so because a different result would likely have split our nation apart.

It’s not too late to register for the event. Click to go to the Lincoln Group website and join us for what is guaranteed to be a highlight of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Also, Like our Facebook page to keep up to date on Lincoln Group events and information on our sixteenth president.

[*Note: Michael Burlingame has graciously agreed to stand in for our scheduled keynote speaker, Dr. Allen Guelzo, who has had to withdraw for personal reasons. Watch for Dr. Guelzo to join us next March at the Lincoln Inaugural reenactment and gala.]

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. His most recent article, “Lincoln and the Rule of Three,” was published in the September 2014 issue of The Lincolnian. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Experiencing the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an – Part I

If you’ve never been to Xi’an, you’re missing one of the world’s greatest wonders. This ancient megacity is one of the four great dynastic capitals of China. The two Chinese characters making up the name of Xi’an mean “Western Peace;” ironic given that it is the location of the Terra Cotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Terra cotta warriors Xi'an

Discovered only in 1974 by local farmers digging a well, the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an have become one of the most awe-inspiring funerary art forms in the world today. Built around 210 BCE, the pottery figures were buried with the emperor to protect him in the afterlife. The scale of the burial site is impressive. As you first enter the enclosure covering Pit 1 – the largest of four that have been uncovered – it’s like walking into a football stadium.

Terra cotta warriors Xi'an

To date approximately 2,000 warriors and horses, along with about 20 wooden chariots, have been unearthed in a space of about 4,000 square meters. This is only a small proportion of the total area still to be uncovered, which is anticipated to include more than 6,000 warriors and horses and 50 chariots in an area of over 14,000 square meters. Even more impressive is that the figures aren’t simply copies of each other; there are warriors representing middle and high ranking officers, cavalrymen (with their steeds), archers, infantrymen, and war chariots, all ready to march into battle to protect their emperor. Two other pits contain what appear to be a military guard and a command center. A fourth pit is empty and presumably was a work in progress.

Terra cotta warriors Xi'an

You can’t help but stare in awe at the massive clay army lined up in 11 corridors making up the expanse of Pit 1. The more intimate views of Pits 2 and 3 are equally inspiring. But in a way, all these views are misleading. When the pits were first located the figures were largely broken into pieces, some large, some miniscule. Workers have spent myriad hours cataloging the shards and reconstructing the figures.

Terra cotta warriors Xi'an

I’ll explore the reconstruction in Part II of this series on the terra cotta warriors, including a revelation about what colors were discovered. Yes, I said colors. Tune in for more in Part II.

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and is currently working on a book about his experiences traveling in Argentina. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Separating Science from Non-Science When it Comes to Climate Change

phony baloneyAs noted last Friday, The Dake Page has recently begun a weekly series exposing climate denialism. This week the site takes a look at how you, the interested and informed citizen, can “separate the actual science from the pseudoscience, or worse, the crock.”

One way is to employ what professional skeptic Michael Shermer calls the “Baloney Detection Kit.” In the video that follows, Shermer lays out ten questions everyone should ask themselves as they evaluate various claims.

After you watch the video, go here to finish reading how these apply to man-made climate change.The Dake Page publishes a new post every Thursday morning. You can read archived articles here. Links to The Dake Page will be periodically posted on this Science Traveler site for those who are interested.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

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A Little Hot White Snow

Science Traveler is my official author website and focuses primarily on my non-fiction writing – Nikola Tesla, Abraham Lincoln, Science Traveling. Not long ago I started a new blog for my more creative writing endeavors – memoir, writing prompt experimentation, and even a little preview erotica. It’s called Hot White Snow.

Bryce

The blog’s title comes from the first piece I wrote for the site, a response to a writing challenge on a now largely defunk writing website. The prompt asked us to write a story using a color as a theme, especially concentrating on any emotions connected to that color. The result was a somewhat dreamy scene involving a hot tub, frolicking snowshoe rabbits, and some steamy snowmelt.

The blog header photo above was chosen for the heat evoked by the redness arching through the cool white snow.

Other posts have included vignettes derived from my travels, some creative musings, and memoir-ish meanderings from life and loves. One of my most recent involved my Great Wall of Books.

Feel free to follow me on Hot White Snow, or check in periodically for updates cross-posted here on Science Traveler.

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and is currently working on a book about his experiences traveling in Argentina. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Grand Palace Guard – Bangkok, Thailand

Grand Palace Bangkok

A close up look at one of the guardsman standing watch over a temple in the Grand Palace, alongside the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, Thailand.

This is a preview of future posts on Thailand. Follow the link for a look at my adventures riding elephants in search of tigers and gibbons in Khao Yai, a major national park in Thailand.

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and is currently working on a book about his experiences traveling in Argentina. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Science Traveling Through Climate Change Denial

5 stages of denialMan-made climate change has been described by scientists and policymakers as one of the greatest challenges of our time. It has also been called a hoax by fossil fuel industry lobbyists and oil-state politicians. The fact is that human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon into the atmosphere and oceans, is warming our planet. This has both short- and long-term ramifications for economic, political, ecological, and social structure. No amount of denial will stop that, only action to reduce carbon emissions.

The Dake Page has been reporting on science issues for many years and recently began a series exposing climate denialism. The goal is to discuss the tactics and tall tales of those who deny the science of climate change. Links to The Dake Page will be periodically posted on this Science Traveler site for those who are interested.

The first in the current series relates to an internet communication campaign by a website called Skeptical Science, and the resulting “rebuttal” by climate science deniers. Others in the series can be found at this search term: exposing climate denialism. Earlier posts on The Dake Page are also relevant to the discussion.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.

Tens of Thousands of New Tesla Fans – And More on the Way

These are great days for Nikola Tesla. Tens of thousands of people have become newly aware of Tesla because of the efforts of people like Nikola Lonchar (Tesla Science Foundation), Jane Alcorn (Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe), Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), Joseph Sikorski (Tower to the People), Nenad Stankovic (Tesla Magazine), and many, many more.

I’m happy to have been a part of this…and even happier to announce that Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is selling so fast in Barnes and Noble stores right now that the publisher has already ordered a 3rd printing to be released in February 2015. This will bring the total print run to over 50,000 books!

Electrical Execution

As anyone who has read the book knows, it consists of very readable text and is chock full of illustrations, photographs, and vintage comic strips printed on intricately designed high quality pages. And yet the book is being made available at an affordable price in an effort to reach out to as many people as possible. That strategy means that about 25,000 books have already been put in the hands of people who may not have known about Tesla before. After 2 months on the shelves, the books are still selling at more than 1000 copies a week! And with another printing on the way, many more tens of thousands of people will enter the world of Nikola Tesla.

What can you do to help spread the word?

Develop a curriculum: Currently there is an effort to build a Tesla curriculum for schools. This is being spearheaded by Nikola Lonchar and the crew at Tesla Science Foundation and Ashley Redfearn Neswick at the Tacony School. If you have ideas then please plan to attend the 3rd Annual Tesla Memorial Conference on January 10, 2015 at the New Yorker Hotel. Check out the Tesla Science Foundation Facebook page for more information.

Signing books 1-11-14

Signing books at the Tesla Memorial Conference

Donate to local libraries and schools: One of the most gratifying responses to Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity has been the number of people who say they believe the book would be a wonderful addition to the curricula of schools ranging from middle school, high school, and even undergraduate college. Many people have told me that they are buying an extra copy of the book specifically to donate it to their local school or public library.

The need for such a book has been obvious. Traditionally the Tesla book market has been split between three categories – highly technical reprints of Tesla’s papers and patents, long scholarly studies of Tesla’s life, and books aimed at children or very young teenagers. Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is an entertaining and affordable book to stimulate interest in Tesla across the range of readership – and that means more people will want to learn about this fascinating man and his contributions.

Review the book: Share Tesla with the world. More ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and BN.com means more people will hear about Tesla. So go ahead and give ratings to my book and all the other books you’ve read on Tesla. Then share them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever other social networking sites you use. Let’s get the word out!

Here are more ways you can spread the Tesla word to others.

If you haven’t already, check out my e-book, Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.

Abraham Lincoln and the Rule of Three

Abraham Lincoln rose from a nearly non-existent formal education to become the 16th President of the United States. In a brief biography provided to friends endorsing his 1860 nomination he wrote “I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all.” That was the extent of his formal schooling.

Lincoln sum book rule of three

Page from Lincoln’ sum book. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Anyone with an interest in Lincoln – or frontier schooling in general – has likely heard those words, but very few people probably know what they mean. The reading and writing make sense, but “ciphering to the rule of three?”

It turns out the “rule of three” is a way of solving proportions, what we more commonly today call “ratios.” It is a form of cross-multiplication in which the problem is set up such that the unknown quantity is the last “extreme” in a series of numbers exhibiting a proportional relationship. The basic form is:

 

Rule of Three basic form2

The idea is to determine the value of x when you know the values of a, b, and c. The Rule of Three states that you simply rearrange this simple ratio formula into:

Rule of Three rearranged

Another way of looking at it is by laying out the three known terms in a linear sequence (a –> b –> c) and then multiplying the last term (c) by the middle term (b) and then dividing that product by the first term (a).

That’s it. Not very complicated on its face, but this simple rule could incorporate not only multiplication and division but also addition and subtraction. Lincoln likely used it to figure out proportions and costs for different supplies during the time he was a young storekeeper in New Salem. Of course, Lincoln went on to learn long division and other math functions as well, not to mention he mastered the six books of Euclid geometry. He also taught himself the law, political oratory, and the logical thinking that helped him define the slavery debate and, eventually, make him one of our greatest presidents.

Not bad for a guy with less than a year of formal schooling.

[The above is adapted from my recent article published in The Lincolnian, a publication of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia.]

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. His most recent article, “Lincoln and the Rule of Three,” was published in the September 2014 issue of The Lincolnian. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

 

Book Review – Congressman Lincoln by Chris DeRose

Congressman Lincoln by Chris DeRoseAuthor Chris DeRose takes a more detailed look at a period in Abraham Lincoln’s life that is normally glossed over in other biographies – his single term as a U.S. Congressman. The first few chapters highlight the political status of the time, as well as the political wrangling between different factions both within and external to the Whig party. The book goes into various aspects of the key question of the day, slavery. Doing so makes it clear that the post-Civil War reinvention of history to suggest the South wasn’t fighting to maintain and expand slavery is hogwash.

Despite dismissals by others that Lincoln’s term in congress was lacking, DeRose shows that many important decisions were made and that Lincoln was much more active than most freshman congressmen. Unlike first termers in general, Lincoln was willing to stand up for what he believed, even when it wasn’t particularly popular. Several actions related to slavery that would become important later, e.g., the end of the Mexican War and how California and New Mexico were brought in to the Union, were argued and somewhat decided. Critical friendships with players that would be allies or adversaries during his own presidency are also discussed.

Overall, this is much-needed survey of Lincoln’s time in Congress.

Further note: After I had written the above review I had the pleasure of meeting Chris DeRose in September 2014. Chris presented his new book “The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them” to the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia. He has recently become Chair of the Scholarly Advisory Group at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. His most recent article, “Lincoln and the Rule of Three,” was published in the September 2014 issue of The Lincolnian. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.