Tuesday, February 02, 2016


I've just finished Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western Power by Nial Ferguson. He makes some compelling arguments for the success of the Western world over the the rest. He terms the six killer apps
  • Competition
  • Science
  • Medicine
  • The Rule of Law
  • Consumption
  • Work Ethic
I broadly agree with his thesis and there is some interesting historical fact backing up the arguments. I found the bit about the protestant work ethic a bit of a stretch, but overall a really good read. It made me wonder if we really are seeding our own destruction by allowing the erosion of the rule of law and failing to instil a good level of education on the masses.

I got an example yesterday when my colleague and I were talking about a sugar free drink, I related a piece from BBC TV's Trust me I'm a doctor, in which they showed that saccharine an artificial sweetener can cause (in some people) a rise in blood sugar. At which point another colleague piped in "yeah because the Nazis experimented on the Jews with aspartame". I know what your thinking, saccharine is a different sweetener than aspartame! I'm not sure where on earth she got this one from. the NAZI's did indeed experiment on the Jews in terrible human trials. Not however with aspartame, given it wasn't actually synthesised until 1964, nearly 20 years after the second world war ended.

I put together a timeline;
  • 1879 Saccharin discovered
  • 1st September, 1939 Start of World War 2 establishment of Jewish Ghettos
  • 17th July 1941 Hitler gives Himmler responsibility to eliminate “any perceived threat to German Rule
  • October 1941 OPERATION REINHARD sees upto 2 million Jews killed across Europe
  • Spring 1942 establishment of Auschwitz-Birkenau as  a mass killing facility, in which 1 million Jews were murdered mostly using poison gas Zyklon B
  • 1st August 1944 Warsaw uprising, the aftermath of which led to the Germans raising the entire city of Warsaw. Up to 200,000 people were executed. There included soldiers, Jews and Polish civilians who harboured Jews
  • 9th May 1945 Victory in Europe
  • 2nd September, 1945 End of World War 2 following atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 25th June 1950 Start of Korean War
  • 27th July 1953 Division of Korea
  • December 1965, while James Schlatter was re-crystalling aspartame from ethanol, the mixture spilled onto the outside of the flask. Some of the powder got onto his fingers. Later, when he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper, he noticed a very strong sweet taste.