Age Thirteen: I’ll Break Its Legs if I Have to
Star Wars was a blockbuster space adventure movie in 1977 that starts with the Star Wars signature screen crawl, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” With seven subsequent movies as of late 2016 and two more on the way, it stands as the fourth highest revenue producing movie series of all time with combined revenue of $6.5 billion. It has been nominated for 27 Academy Awards and has won seven. It dramatized a Christian-inspired good versus evil dramatic arc featuring the Jedi who master the “light” side of the “Force” protecting peace, democracy, and justice, versus the Sith, who use the “dark” side of the Force to promote evil and totalitarian control.
Although the graphics and special effects of the original1977 movie and its two sequels in 1980 (The Empire Strikes Back) and 1983 (Return of the Jedi) would seem quaint by today’s standards, it was a revelation at the time. The computer graphics technology of the late 1970s and early 1980s was not capable of realistically creating the elaborate vision of strange creatures, elaborate space battles and exotic spaceships that director George Lucas had in mind. Teaming up with John Dykstra they built Lucas’ imaginary world from highly detailed handmade models and puppets.
The Empire Strikes Back, the second movie in the series, featured Yoda, a modest but powerful Jedi master, who was rendered as a highly detailed puppet. Lucas and Dykstra set up a company, Industrial Light & Magic, to implement their ideas for rendering imaginary worlds, which established a new standard for movie effects. In the follow-on trilogy (which in the Star Wars world takes place prior to the original trilogy), Yoda and all of the special effects were rendered through CGI (computer generated imagery).
One famous scene in the original 1977 Star Wars movie occurs on the Death Star when rebels Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia fall into a room-sized garbage compactor that begins to contract. They desperately try to prevent the walls from crushing them. A Dianoga Creature that lives in the trash compactor to destroy vermin grabs Skywalker’s legs and pulls him down into the liquid in the room. At the last moment, at a remote access station, the robot R2-D2 inserts a command into the Death Star computer that disables the trash compactor and releases the rebels.
One famous scene in the original 1977 Star Wars movie occurs on the Death Star when rebels Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia fall into a room-sized garbage compactor that begins to contract. They desperately try to prevent the walls from crushing them. A Dianoga Creature that lives in the trash compactor to destroy vermin grabs Skywalker’s legs and pulls him down into the liquid in the room. At the last moment, at a remote access station, the robot R2-D2 inserts a command into the Death Star computer that disables the trash compactor and releases the rebels.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle describes to Liu how she feels when she gets her periodic panic attacks, as “Just the usual, you know. My chest gets tight. I can’t breathe. I’m shaking. My stomach is exploding. I feel the walls, floor and ceiling closing in on me.” Liu responds by comparing Danielle’s description to the garbage disposal scene in Star Wars.
The Tibet question refers to the ongoing debate over how Tibet should be ruled. For centuries, Tibet alternated between periods of independence and periods of rule by Chinese or Mongol groups. In 1912, when China’s Qing dynasty collapsed, Tibet entered another period of self-rule, which lasted until the People’s Republic of China invaded and formally annexed Tibet in 1950.
A peace agreement called the Seventeen-Point Agreement was drafted by Chinese authorities and under pressure from the Chinese government, the teenage 14th Dalai Lama and other Tibetan authorities signed it. The Seventeen-Point Agreement gave China sovereignty over Tibet but provided for autonomy over local governmental decisions, maintained Tibetan Buddhist religious institutions, and established religious freedom for Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet.
For nine years, the Dalai Lama, who led Tibet and was the chief spiritual leader for Buddhism around the world, lived under Chinese occupation in the capital of Lhasa. In 1959, many Tibetan Buddhists believed that the autonomy and religious freedom provisions of the Seventeen-Point Agreement had been broken and there was an uprising against Chinese rule. With perceived threats to his life, the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India where he set up a government-in-exile.
Ever since then, the issue of Tibet has caused fierce debate around the world. Many Tibetans in exile say that the People’s Republic of China should allow Tibet to become a fully sovereign and independent nation. Meanwhile, China’s government in Beijing takes the position that Tibet is rightfully a part of Chinese territory. They would like to see Tibet fully integrated into the rest of the country. The Dalai Lama himself takes a middle position and proposes that Tibet remain formally a part of China but should be granted autonomy over all its internal affairs, without interference from Beijing, as he believes had been promised in the Seventeen-Point Agreement.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, as Danielle recognizes, time may be running out to settle the Tibet question. As she tells President Hu of China, the current Dalai Lama is the only Tibetan leader with the authority and global standing to negotiate a settlement that will be widely accepted. When Danielle meets with the Dalai Lama for a discussion on Danielle TV, she explains that because so many ethnic Chinese people have moved into Tibet since 1950, it is not realistic to expect them to live under a fully autonomous Tibetan government. Instead, Danielle proposes a different plan that calls for full religious and cultural freedom throughout Tibet.
After massive protests in China and around the world, the Chinese government agrees to Danielle’s proposal. Later, however, through political maneuvering, Chinese Premier Dingxiang Zhongfa gets the landmark Tibet agreement suspended.
Hu Jintao (born on December 21, 1942) was the supreme leader of China between 2002 and 2012, holding the position of General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 2002 to 2012, and president of China from 2003 to 2013.
Earlier in his career, he was the Community Party Secretary (leader) for China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. There had been long standing conflict between independence minded Tibetans and the Han Chinese who had become the majority ethnic population in the region, with clashes going back to 1987. In 1989, tensions grew and Hu deployed 1,700 armed police into the city of Lhasa to warn against escalation of the protests. The result was serious rioting starting on March 5, 1989, five days before the 30th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Violence broke out and there has been a longstanding dispute on who shot first. Hu asked the central government to declare martial law in the region on March 8, 1989.
Hu was the first Chinese Communist leader without credentials from the original communist revolution. As president, he was considered an efficient but conservative leader, who presided over a period of outstanding economic growth that established China as a major world power. At the same time, he maintained repressive policies against minorities and political dissidents. Hu avoided conflict both within China and with China’s neighbors and focused on the development of China’s industries, especially manufacturing, resulting in ten years of strong economic growth. He strengthened China’s diplomatic and financial ties with Africa, Latin America, and other developing nations. His style was low-key and emphasized consensus-based decision making.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle meets President Hu, she finds him cautious, but he listens to her carefully and encourages her plan to work with the Dalai Lama toward a settlement of the Tibet question. Danielle argues that Hu should act while the Dalai Lama is still alive because no other Tibetan leader would be able to realize a settlement. Protests soon break out in Tiananmen Square in support of Danielle’s plan for full religious and cultural freedom in Tibet, led by Liu’s pro-democracy supporters and Chinese Daniellites (Danielle supporters). Hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1989 massacre and international criticism, President Hu agrees to Danielle’s plan.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, born as Lhamo Dhondup on July 6, 1935, is the exiled leader of Tibet and the foremost spiritual authority within Tibetan Buddhism.
For the last thousand years, it has been part of Tibetan Buddhist belief that Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva (in Buddhism, a person who is able to reach nirvana or enlightenment but delays doing in order to help suffering beings) of Compassion, has had a special relationship with Tibet. According to this tradition, he reincarnates himself as one benevolent leader or teacher after another. The most recent sequence of such leaders are known as Dalai Lamas, the first of whom was Gedun Drupa, who was born in 1391 and ruled until his death in 1474.
According to this tradition (the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the most influential), each time a Dalai Lama dies (leaves his physical body according to this tradition), the Dalai Lama selects the new child that will be his reincarnation. It is then the responsibility of the High Lamas (spiritual leaders) of this Tibetan Buddhist school and the Tibetan government to find that person. Each new Dalai Lama is not chosen but rather discovered through this process which can take several years. It took four years to find the 14th, and current, Dalai Lama. The search is generally limited to Tibet, although the current Dalai Lama has said that it is possible that he will be the last Dalai Lama, but if he is reincarnated, it will not be in a country under Chinese rule.
The High Lamas undertaking the search generally meditate at Lhamo La-Tso, Tibet’s holy lake, and wait for inspiration from the female guardian spirit of the lake who promised the first Dalai Lama that she would preserve the Dalai Lama lineage. Once they have identified a candidate boy, they administer a series of tests to confirm that he is the true reincarnation, which includes the boy correctly selecting former possessions of the previous Dalai Lama.
According to the traditions followed by the current (14th) Dalai Lama, there were about sixty persons prior to Gedun Drupa who were earlier incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, so the current Dalai Lama is regarded as the 74th reincarnation of the original Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Following the death of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933, Lhamo Dhondup was identified as the 14th Dalai Lama. He was taken (along with his family) to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and tutored so that he would have the knowledge of the previous Dalai Lamas of whom he is the reincarnation. In 1948, at age 15, he was formally enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama, under the name Tenzin Gyatso.
In 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Tibetan Jinsha River on October 6th and defeated the Tibetan army by October 19th. A peace agreement called the Seventeen-Point Agreement was drafted by the Chinese authorities, and under pressure from the Chinese government, the teenage Dalai Lama and other Tibetan authorities signed it. The Seventeen-Point Agreement gave China sovereignty over Tibet but provided for autonomy over local governmental decisions, maintained Tibetan Buddhist religious institutions, and established religious freedom for Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet.
In 1959, many Tibetan Buddhists believed that the autonomy and religious freedom provisions of the Seventeen-Point Agreement had been broken and there was an uprising against Chinese rule. With perceived threats to his life, the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India.
Since then, he has traveled all over the world, visiting more than 67 countries on six continents to spread a message of peace and compassion. Early in his career, he spent much of his time advocating for the political cause of the Tibetan people, but in recent decades has focused on his role as a spiritual teacher of Buddhism, and as a champion for universal values such as the sanctity of life, freedom of religion, and the need to protect the environment. Additionally, the Dalai Lama has been a consistent voice for interfaith dialogue and mutual cooperation in support of human and animal rights. He has become a universal symbol of human dignity, understanding and compassion. In 1989, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of these efforts.
The Dalai Lama has endeavored to bring about greater understanding between science and religion, and teaches that they are compatible and complementary, rather than competing, ways of understanding the world. He has embraced the possibilities unlocked by new technology, and urges people around the world to make wise use of the new material prosperity that technology is making available.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle realizes that because the Dalai Lama is becoming more elderly, time may be running out for him to use his leadership in settling the Tibet question with the Chinese government and achieving a just resolution. She meets with him face-to-face at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York, which is broadcast on Danielle TV. The Dalai Lama recounts the history of Chinese oppression in Tibet, but Danielle argues that there are now so many ethnic Han Chinese people living in Tibet that full autonomy for Tibet is no longer a workable solution. She proposes an alternative plan for full religious and cultural freedom in Tibet so that people living in Tibet who wish to follow their Tibetan Buddhist beliefs can do so. Both the Dalai Lama and President Hu of China are sympathetic to Danielle’s arguments.
The Seventeen-Point Agreement was a treaty signed by representatives of Tibet and the People’s Republic of China in 1951, following the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Tibetan representatives were summoned to Beijing, and signed the agreement on May 23 of that year. The agreement forced the Tibetan government to accept China’s sovereignty over Tibet. In return, it promised autonomy over local governmental decisions, and promised that despite the communists’ anti-religion policy, the Tibetan people would enjoy “freedom of religious belief.”
Since its signing, the document has become fiercely controversial. China’s communist government says the agreement was freely entered into by both sides. By contrast, the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration, say the Seventeen-Point Agreement was an “unequal agreement” signed under coercion.
Following the agreement, the communist Chinese government established military and administrative control throughout Tibet. According to the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, the Chinese government violated its promises and has seriously interfered with Tibet’s internal affairs. They consider this unjust treatment to be the cause for the uprising that broke out in 1959, which China violently suppressed. Seeing that he could no longer govern his country and fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama fled to India with his advisors. About 80,000 Tibetans followed them into exile.
Using the Seventeen-Point Agreement as a justification, the Chinese government implemented additional policies which limited Tibet’s freedom during the following decades. For example, from 1963 to 1971, Beijing banned foreigners from entering Tibet. When China was gripped by the Cultural Revolution in 1966, a new wave of revolutionary fanaticism took hold. China’s leader, Mao Tse-tung, established a mass paramilitary movement of students called the Red Guards to enforce the revolution. The Red Guards swept into Tibet, where they ransacked and demolished as many Buddhist sites and artifacts as they could. More than 6,000 monasteries and convents were destroyed throughout Tibet, along with countless ancient works of religious art and scholarship.
Then, in 1995, the Dalai Lama declared that he had found the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second highest religious leader in Tibet. After the death of the 10th Panchen Lama, Choekyi Gyaltsen (1938–1989), the Dalai Lama said he had been reincarnated as a boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In response, the Chinese authorities arrested Nyima and named another young boy called Gyaincain Norbu as the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. According to Tibetan leaders, this was a clear violation of the religious freedom promised under the Seventeen-Point Agreement.
Throughout the whole time from the Seventeen-Point Agreement to today, large numbers of China’s majority Han Chinese ethnic group settled in Tibet. Tibetan leaders maintained that this migration was the result of an organized government resettlement program. The Chinese Communist government maintains that this resettlement resulted from the voluntary decisions of the people who moved to Tibet. These positions are actually not necessarily inconsistent as the government did provide economic incentives for Han Chinese people to resettle in Tibet. The result has been that ethnic Tibetans are now a minority in the region that was once their independent country. Thanks to the construction of a high-speed rail line linking Tibet with China in 2006, it became even easier for majority Han culture to enter the country and crowd out traditional Tibetan culture.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle meets the Dalai Lama for an interview on Danielle TV, he explains to her the long history of the broken promises of the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Because of these promises, the Dalai Lama supports a resolution to the Tibet question that guarantees full autonomy for his people. Danielle replies that because so many Han Chinese people now live in Tibet, this is no longer a workable solution. If Tibetans were granted full autonomy, this would ignore the interests of the Han majority now living there. Instead, Danielle proposed a more ambitious plan calling for full religious and cultural freedom for all people in Tibet.
Following worldwide protests, including demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese authorities approve Danielle’s proposal. Later, China’s Premier Dingxiang Zhongfa uses political maneuvers to get the agreement suspended.
The 1959 Uprising in Tibet was the culmination of almost a decade of tensions. The Seventeen-Point Agreement signed in 1951 was disliked by most ethnic Tibetans, but especially those living outside the boundaries of Tibet as defined by the agreement. Many Tibetans lived in the nearby regions of Amdo and Kham, which were not promised autonomy, and were therefore subject to the full administration of the communist Chinese government. In addition to efforts to suppress the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, the communist government also forced Tibetans in Amdo and Kham to comply with Maoist economic planning. This included seizing their land and redistributing it into agricultural collectives, as well as confiscating other private property.
By 1956, resentment against communist rule flared up into an armed insurgency in Amdo and Kham. The Chinese government sent troops to the region and conducted harsh reprisals, but resistance continued to grow. In 1958, the rebels in Kham formed themselves into a group called Chushi Gangdruk, which began a major guerrilla campaign against China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The cycle of Tibetan raids and devastating Chinese retaliation sent a flood of refugees into the rest of Tibet, including the capital at Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama tried to preserve the fragile peace in the nominally autonomous areas of Tibet, but resentment against the Chinese continued to boil over. In March 1959, the Chinese made a strange invitation to the Dalai Lama. They asked him to attend a dance performance and tea ceremony at the People’s Liberation Army headquarters outside Lhasa, without any of his bodyguards to protect him. The Dalai Lama’s advisors feared that the Chinese were planning to kidnap him. Word spread to the people of Lhasa, and soon about 300,000 Tibetans had flooded the streets around the Dalai Lama’s palace to protect him from abduction. PLA troops confronted the demonstrators and brought in artillery to threaten the palace.
With the situation on the verge of violence, and fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama and many of his advisors fled into exile in nearby India. Two days later, the PLA attacked the palace with overwhelming force. The Tibetan military was hopelessly outmatched. In just a few days of bitter fighting, the Chinese achieved victory. Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed, and key officials were imprisoned or executed. Monasteries across Lhasa were destroyed, and their inhabitants forced to flee for their lives.
Although Tibet’s 1959 uprising was put down quickly, it attracted worldwide sympathy for the plight of the Tibetan people. In the years following, about 80,000 Tibetans joined the Dalai Lama in India. The exiles have continued to recognize the Central Tibetan Administration as their only legitimate government, and many Tibetans still hope that they can one day achieve independence. These hopes contributed to the unrest and violence that erupted in Lhasa in 1989 around the thirtieth anniversary of the uprising. Since 2009, there has been a series of self-immolations, in which protestors light themselves on fire, often fatally, to make an extreme statement against repression by the Chinese government.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle speaks with the Dalai Lama on Danielle TV, he tells her about the 1959 uprising, and the role it played in the history of the Tibetan struggle.
The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group in China, accounting for over 90 percent of the population. In addition, about 60 million Han people live outside the People’s Republic of China, in countries such as the Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States. In total, there are about 1.3 billion Han Chinese, making it the largest ethnic group in the world.
In general, the Han are descended from the peoples who lived under the rule of the Han Dynasty, which ruled China from the third century BC to the third century AD. This is associated with China’s eastern, northern, and central regions, and to this day, the Han people are most dominant in these areas.
The language spoken by the Han people during the late imperial period around what is now Beijing gradually evolved into the dominant Chinese dialect. Because it was closely associated with the capital and its bureaucrats, who were known as mandarins, this dialect came to be known as Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin formed the basis of Standard Chinese, which is the official language of both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan.
Han spiritual traditions include a wide range of beliefs and practices. Confucianism is the belief system most closely associated with the Han people. Confucianism is based on the teachings of Confucius (551–479 BC), a philosopher who emphasized the importance of virtue and good conduct in relationships between people. Taoism is the other religious tradition most closely associated with Han culture. Taoism emphasizes harmony with nature, simplicity, and balance. In addition, Buddhism has significantly influenced Han religious practices over the centuries.
Members of the Han ethnic group have also made countless essential contributions to science and technology throughout history. Chinese tradition recognizes Four Great Inventions that were devised many centuries ago: the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing. Of these, papermaking and printing were particularly important to fueling what I call the “law of accelerating returns,” which refers to the exponential progression of the price-performance and capacity of information technologies. The invention of paper made it much less expensive for information to be written down and stored, and the invention of printing vastly reduced the cost and effort required to reproduce written works. The easier it was to share ideas, the faster science could progress. And the faster science progressed, the more technologies were developed to share information more easily. This meant that information became exponentially more cost effective over time. More recently, Han people have won numerous Nobel Prizes and other awards for work that has enabled technological breakthroughs and ever more powerful information technologies.
Since the signing of the Seventeen-Point Agreement between the People’s Republic of China and Tibet, there has been a steady influx of Han Chinese resettling in Tibet. Tibetan leaders have maintained that this migration was the result of an organized government resettlement program. The Chinese communist government maintains that this resettlement resulted from the voluntary decisions of the people who moved to Tibet. These positions are actually not necessarily inconsistent as the government did provide economic incentives for Han Chinese people to resettle in Tibet. The result has been that ethnic Tibetans are now a minority in the region that was once their independent country.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, during a meeting with the Dalai Lama on Danielle TV, Danielle argues that because Tibet now has a majority of Han people, regardless of the cause of the migration, the goal of full Tibetan autonomy is no longer workable.
According to the Seventeen-Point Agreement, Tibet agreed to become part of the People’s Republic of China. In return for Tibet accepting Chinese sovereignty over its territory and its external affairs, the communist government promised that the Tibetan people would be allowed to keep autonomy over their internal affairs, and that their religious and economic system would be maintained. In reality, though, the government in Beijing interfered heavily in Tibetan affairs, and has suppressed religious and cultural freedom.
The defeat of the 1959 Uprising marked the end of any significant Tibetan autonomy. And when the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, Mao Tse-tung’s fanatical Red Guards led a violent purge of traditional Tibetan religion and culture. Despite the guarantees of the Seventeen-Point Agreement, thousands of monasteries and convents were destroyed, and centuries of Buddhist artifacts ransacked.
In contrast, China implemented a model inspired by the Seventeen-Point Agreement for two other territories it has annexed: Hong Kong and Macau. Both of these territories were longtime colonies of European powers, but the United Kingdom agreed to transfer Hong Kong back to China in 1997, and Portugal did the same for Macau in 1999. These policies, known as “one country, two systems,” formally united them with China, but allowed them to keep their existing systems of capitalism, democracy, and religious freedom. Although there have been some protests against Chinese rule, the government in Beijing has mostly honored the promises of one country, two systems, as established in the Hong Kong Basic Law and Macau Basic Law. Many in the Chinese government hope that the One Country, Two Systems policy could one day allow reunification with Taiwan.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle interviews the Dalai Lama on Danielle TV, he recounts to her the sad history between China and Tibet. He expresses sorrow that China did not honor the promises of the Seventeen-Point Agreement. The Dalai Lama’s idea for full Tibetan autonomy is inspired by the relative success of the “one country, two systems” model in Hong Kong and Macau. Danielle explains, though, that because ethnic Han people are now the majority in Tibet, this solution would no longer be workable. Instead, she proposes a more radical plan that calls for full religious and cultural freedom for everyone in Tibet.
The military of the People’s Republic of China is known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is descended from Mao Tse-tung’s force of communist fighters during the Chinese Civil War, which was called the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. The civil war in China was fought between the communists and the nationalist Kuomintang from 1927 to 1937, then temporarily suspended so both sides could jointly fight the Japanese invaders from 1937 to 1945, and resumed from 1946 until the final communist victory in 1950. Today, the People’s Liberation Army is the largest armed force in the world, with over 2.3 million personnel.
In 2004, President Hu Jintao defined the PLA as having four “historical missions” that are central to its identity. First, to “Consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party.” Second, to “Help ensure China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and domestic security in order to continue national development.” Third, to “Safeguard China’s expanding national interests.” Fourth, to “Help maintain world peace.”
During its early years, the People’s Liberation Army was a large but poorly equipped army of conscripts. The young men forced to serve in it faced chronic supply shortages and physical deprivation. The year after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, PLA soldiers invaded Tibet. The Tibetan military was even more poorly equipped, and soon laid down its arms. This allowed the communist government in Beijing to pressure Tibet into accepting the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Nine years after that, the PLA marched into Tibet, where it violently suppressed the 1959 Uprising.
Until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, China’s leaders feared a long land war against the Soviets. Even though both nations were communist, they had tense relations for decades, and the PLA’s main strategic worry was how to defend the Chinese interior in a long campaign of attrition. Once the Soviet empire disintegrated, China’s main concerns shifted toward Taiwan and the South China Sea. After the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang had fled to the island of Taiwan off the Chinese coast, and both sides claimed to be the legitimate government of all of China.
In reality, a stable situation developed where the People’s Republic of China controlled the mainland, while the Kuomintang governed Taiwan as the Republic of China. Since US President Richard Nixon opened full diplomatic relations with the communists in 1979, Taiwan has been treated by most countries as an independent nation, but most do not officially recognize it as sovereign. In order to preserve this state of affairs, the government in Beijing wanted to make the threat of invasion credible enough that the Taiwanese would not seek full recognition as a sovereign nation.
As a result, the People’s Liberation Army focused on expanding its ability to operate outside mainland China. During the 1990s and 2000s, the PLA Air Force and PLA Navy expanded and modernized with new technology. Thanks to advances in areas such as telecommunications, computing, and materials science, the PLA is now one of the world’s most modern and powerful militaries. Its state-of-the-art naval vessels regularly patrol far into the South China Sea, which is generally considered international waters, but which China claims as its own. China knows that if the PLA is strong enough, other nations will be reluctant to challenge its rights to the resource-rich South China Sea. By the 2010s, China came to see the United States as its only major military rival in this region.
The United States military is still too powerful for the Chinese to defeat in a major war, so China is working to make the PLA able to inflict a high enough cost that America will avoid armed conflict. Although China has around 260 nuclear warheads, it has declared that it would only use them in response if an enemy uses nuclear weapons first. For this reason, China is now pouring resources into developing conventional weapons that can threaten American forces. The PLA’s latest DF-21 missile system is known as the “carrier killer” because it is designed to defeat American missile defenses and sink or disable a US aircraft carrier.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, in addition to these strategic roles, the People’s Liberation Army is also used to suppress civil unrest in China. When Danielle’s call for religious and cultural freedom throughout Tibet causes massive protests in favor of the plan, the PLA intervenes. In Tiananmen Square, the site of the bloody 1989 demonstrations against communist repression, a huge crowd gathers to support the Tibetan protestors. PLA tanks head for the demonstrators, but President Hu calls off the tanks and avoids violence.
See entries for Mao Tse-tung, Chiang Kai-shek, Kuomintang, Chinese Communist Party, Mao’s Long March, President Hu, the Tibet Question, Seventeen-Point Agreement, the 1959 uprising, Thermonuclear weapons, and Anti-missile missiles.
Tibetan Buddhism is the most prominent tradition within Vajrayana, which is one of the three main branches of Buddhism, along with Theravada and Mahayana. In general, Buddhism is a religious and philosophical tradition based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a spiritual leader in ancient India around the sixth century BC.
Gautama, known as the Buddha, is said to have been born into a life of privilege as the son of a king or chieftain. He enjoyed wealth and status, but as he grew to be a young man, Siddhartha realized that these things did not give him true fulfillment. He gave up his possessions and spent time as a humble beggar, devoting himself to extreme fasting and meditation. These did not bring him enlightenment either, so he resolved to follow a Middle Way—moderation between self-indulgence and self-denial.
Known as the Eightfold Path, this involved eight practices. Right Understanding is the idea that a person should seek to understand life in its proper spiritual context. Right Thought means purposefully choosing to seek enlightenment and practice virtue. Right Speech means using language for noble purposes, while avoiding lies and insults. Right Conduct means practicing nonviolence and compassion, and seeking to live in harmony with other sentient beings. Right Livelihood means making one’s living in a way that does not harm others. Right Effort is working sincerely to avoid negative thoughts and destructive emotions. Right Mindfulness is striving to always act deliberately and with conscious awareness. Right Concentration is practicing meditation to open the path to greater spiritual awareness and enlightenment.
While following the Eightfold Path, Siddhartha sat under a tree in meditation and vowed to stay there until he reached enlightenment. After 49 days, he achieved a dramatic awakening. He spent the rest of his life traveling around India, teaching others about the insights he had gained. These are summarized in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. The first is that dukkha, or suffering, is inherently part of life. The second is that dukkha is caused by cravings and attachments to things outside oneself. The third is that letting go of these attachments frees people from suffering. The fourth is that following the Eightfold Path is the way to liberate oneself from attachment.
These teachings were passed down orally and later recorded as written scripture. Over a thousand years after Siddhartha Gautama’s lifetime, Buddhist scriptures were brought into Tibet over the Himalayas. Tibetan king Trisong Detsen invited two Buddhist teachers into his realm, Śāntarakṣita and Padmasambhava. They shared the Buddha’s insights with the people, and Śāntarakṣita built a monastery to train others in Buddhist scripture and rituals. The first Tibetans to adopt Buddhism brought some symbols and practices from the shamanistic Bön religion native to Tibet.
Over the following centuries, Tibetan Buddhism developed several traits which distinguish it from other forms of Buddhism. First, it is a heavily monastic religion. At its peak before China’s Cultural Revolution devastated Tibetan Buddhism, Tibet had over 6,000 monasteries and convents where Buddhist monks and nuns devoted themselves to spiritual practices. This amounted to about 20 percent of the total population of Tibet. The monastic nature of Tibetan Buddhism promoted a strong tradition of scholarship, scriptural interpretation, and debate. Training for monks involves a great deal of time spent analyzing and debating Buddhist teachings in order to gain a deeper understanding of them.
Another important practice in Tibetan Buddhism is focused on meditation, in which one intensely contemplates an idea on their own in order to unlock deeper insight than surface-level thought allows. Sometimes, this meditation includes repeated chanting or recitation of mantras, which are words of sacred significance on which Buddhists focus their attention to clear the mind of unwanted thoughts and open themselves to spiritual growth. Tibetan Buddhism also expresses spiritual practice through art and music, much of which was lost during the Cultural Revolution.
The most senior and respected teachers of Tibetan Buddhism are called lamas, and the people give them special reverence. Both monks and lay people often find one lama whose teachings they follow very closely, in a manner inspired by the Indian tradition of devoting oneself to a spiritual guru. For much of Tibet’s history, these lamas acted not only as religious leaders, but also as important secular leaders. A defining point of Tibetan Buddhism is the belief that some of these lamas are able to consciously reincarnate following death, and return to earth again and again to help more people achieve enlightenment. This is known as the bodhisattva ideal, where a person frees themselves from the samsara cycle of suffering, attachment, death, and rebirth, but chooses voluntarily to be reborn in service of others.
Tibetan Buddhism recognizes many bodhisattvas and, influenced by the native Bön religion, sees the world as abounding with many other spirits and supernatural beings. This promotes a worldview that sees human beings as deeply interconnected with the natural world and the rhythms of the ecosystem around them. Such perspective shapes many rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, with perhaps the most dramatic example being sky burial. Sky burial is a traditional Tibetan funeral rite in which after death, a person’s body is left exposed in a high place where it is devoured by vultures and other animals. Many Tibetans believe that this is the ultimate expression of nonattachment to one’s own body, and allows a final act of compassion by providing nourishment to living beings.
Tibetan Buddhism is divided into several schools of thought and tradition. The Nyingma school is the oldest school, and most closely follows Buddhism’s origins in India. The Kagyu school focuses more on meditation and learning subtle teachings from gurus. The Sakya school emphasizes scriptural study and careful spiritual development. Finally, the Gelug school, the newest major strand of Tibetan Buddhism, teaches the importance of skepticism, logic, dialogue, and debate. Gelug is currently the dominant school, led by the Dalai Lama.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Tibetan Buddhism is the leadership of the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is seen as the 14th incarnation of the same enlightened being who has been a spiritual and secular leader for Tibet for about six centuries. This being is known as the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. According to Gelug tradition, each time the Dalai Lama dies, Avalokiteśvara is reincarnated into a new baby. Then, the High Lamas (senior spiritual leaders) practice ancient rituals to find and identify the child. Beginning with meditation at the holy lake of Lhamo La-Tso, they seek spiritual signs of where to search for the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.
When they think they have found a candidate, they administer tests to see whether he is really the reincarnated Dalai Lama. This involves showing him groups of objects, and if he can pick out those that belonged to the former Dalai Lama, this is an indication that he is the genuine reincarnation. Once the child is selected, he is taken for education and study, preparing him to reassume the leadership of the Tibetan people when he reaches the age of majority.
Today, there are around 20 million practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. They are mostly in Tibet, but large exile communities exist in India, and the religion has also attracted many seekers of spiritual truth from Europe and the United States.
According to quantum mechanics, physics at extremely small scales has very different characteristics from physics on the scale of our ordinary experience. Newtonian physics, based on the laws discovered by Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), does an excellent job describing objects we can see directly. For example, if you roll a bowling ball down its lane, it is possible to observe the mass, speed, and direction of the ball at the instant you let it go, and calculate which pins will be knocked over. The outcome is determined when the ball leaves your hand. Using this approach, scientists can calculate the exact future path of a rocket ship as it interacts with planets and moons.
Physics at this macro scale is considered deterministic, meaning that we can predict the state of a system at any point in the future if we know its current state.
This is not necessarily the situation for subatomic particles such as photons and electrons. There are both deterministic and nondeterministic theories regarding these quantum scale particles, although the nondeterministic school of thought is currently in ascendency.
According to the probabilistic interpretation, if you fire a single photon toward a target, it is not possible to predict exactly where it will land. Rather, quantum mechanics explains this in terms of probabilities—such as finding that there is a 50 percent chance that the photon will land in one spot and a 50 percent chance it will land in another.
The probabilistic nature of physics means that at the tiniest scales, we shouldn’t think of objects as having fixed properties like the color of a bowling ball. Instead, it is more useful to think of these properties as a range of probabilities. Another difference is that for normal-scale objects, properties like mass, speed, and direction are “continuous variables,” which means that there are a very large number of possibilities. We may say that a bowling ball weighs 16 pounds, but its actual weight might be 1.6 pounds, or 16.0000001 pounds.
On the other hand, the properties of quantum-scale objects have a fixed number of states that they can take, and these are called “discrete variables.” For example, an electron can spin “up” (represented as +1/2) or “down” (represented as –1/2). It cannot spin 0 or 1/4 or 1/3. Spin (denoted as s) is just one of four quantum numbers used to describe electrons. The others are the principal quantum number (n), which describes how energetic an electron is, and therefore how far away it is likely to be from the nucleus of its atom. The azimuthal quantum number (l) describes an electron’s angular momentum, which determines the shape of the area it is likely to be found in. And the magnetic quantum number (m) describes the orientation of that area in space.
In quantum mechanics, space is represented as a “field” which is excited in the places occupied by objects like protons, electrons, and photons. Quantum numbers are used to describe the different states that they can occupy. Taken together, this information allows us to describe these particles in terms of the relative probability of them occupying each possible. By analogy, if you know that you have nine black bowling balls and one red one, if you close your eyes and reach into the box they are all in, you can be 90 percent sure that the first ball you touch is black.
In some cases, we can study a particle and figure out exactly what one of its properties is. In the analogy above, this is equivalent to opening your eyes to confirm that the bowling ball you’re holding is black. Once you measure this, you no longer have to describe its color as a probability distribution of 90 percent black and 10 percent red. Instead, you can say: “It is black!” Since physicists often describe the probability distribution as a wave, making a direct observation is the “collapse” of the wave function to a single value.
In one interpretation, this “collapse of the wave function” is caused by observation of the system by a conscious observer. This is sometimes referred to as the Buddhist or Eastern view of quantum mechanics, that rather than the actions of particles causing conscious observation, it is conscious observation that causes particles to “decide” what state they are in.
The trouble is that it is never possible to know all the information about a particle at once. This is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, after the German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976). For example, the more information we have about an electron’s position, the less information we have about its momentum. The more information we have about its momentum, the less certain we can be about its position.
A helpful analogy in the human-scale world is photography. If you are photographing a ballerina in the midst of her leaps and pirouettes, you can set the camera’s shutter speed to allow either a short exposure or a long exposure. If you use a short exposure, you will get a stunningly sharp photo that shows the dancer’s exact position and pose. But if you show the photo to your friend, they won’t be able to tell whether the ballerina is moving up or down, or whether her leg is kicking outward or coming back in. On the other hand, if you use a long exposure, the photo will be blurry. Your friend will be able to see the speed and direction of the dancer’s motion, but cannot be certain of her exact position at any particular instant during the exposure.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle and Liu work on quantum physics together, Danielle comes up with a new theory which she hopes will be deterministic. Following in the footsteps of Albert Einstein (1879–1955) and other famous physicists, Danielle speculates that although the behavior of subatomic objects seems probabilistic, there may be unobserved forces that actually determine what happens. She says that these “hidden variables” could act like gears inside a subatomic particle like a photon, and although it is not possible to see the position of the gear directly, it might be possible with a very sensitive experiment to use many simultaneous measurements to infer the position of the gear. This could allow full knowledge of all information about a particle and its quantum states at the same time. Such a deterministic interpretation of quantum scale physics is not ruled out by contemporary quantum scale experiments.
After Liu changes his relationship with Danielle, they focus their energy on finding the hidden variable, and Danielle successfully conducts an experiment that confirms its existence. Nonetheless, this experiment reveals another multidimensional field that determines the position of the “gear.” Because this multidimensional field has a probabilistic element, quantum mechanics remains nondeterministic, so Danielle does not resolve the issue of whether quantum scale physics is determined. Danielle and Liu share a Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, Quantum, Hidden quantum variable, Indirect measurements in physics, Probabilistic elements in physics, Multidimensional fields, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
A quantum is the smallest possible unit of a physical property, and a key concept in the physics of subatomic particles. At larger scales, objects have apparently “continuous” properties, which means that the properties can differ by very small gradations, for example, the speed of a tennis ball in flight could be 69, or 69.9 or 69.9999999 miles per hour. However, at subatomic scales, particles have quantum properties, which means that they exist as a relatively small set of discrete possibilities. The particles which form the building blocks of matter and energy only exist in integer-sized increments. For example, you can have one photon of light, but not half a photon or one-and-a-half photons of light. Therefore, the photon is considered the quantum of light—the smallest possible unit of light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. When Danielle starts telling Liu her plan for a quantum physics experiment, Liu uses the concept of a quantum metaphorically, asking her to explain her ideas one step-by-step, joking “one … quantum at a time.”
Thinking about physics in quantum terms has allowed scientists to better understand the smallest known scales of the universe. Researchers use this idea to explain the properties of atoms and the particles that comprise atoms, and to account for interactions between particles that can’t be explained with the physics we use for larger bodies.
A key issue in quantum mechanics is whether or not the outcome of interactions are determined. Physics at the macro level follows apparently determined processes. For example, if you flip a coin, it’s possible to know for certain whether it will land on heads or tails if you have enough information about the coin’s exact shape and mass, and the magnitude and direction of the force you apply to it. According to the probabilistic theory of quantum mechanics (which is in the ascendency among today’s physicists), quantum scale objects such as subatomic particles do not behave in a precisely predictable manner. Instead, there is an element of probability. For example, among all the possible values that an electron’s properties can take, known as quantum states, some are more likely than others.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, although the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics is believed by most physicists, a deterministic interpretation is consistent with experiments. Danielle believes that there is actually a “hidden variable” which determines quantum behavior. She conceives of this like a hidden gear inside particles that determines which states they take. Working with Liu, Danielle proves the existence of a hidden quantum variable, but the position of the metaphorical “gear” turns out to be determined by another probability-driven process, so the probabilistic nature of quantum physics is preserved.
In addition to its advantages in understanding subatomic processes for the sake of knowledge itself, quantum physics has played a crucial role in many important technological advances. Transistors, which are the basis of the modern digital age, take advantage of the quantum properties of electrons. We have accurate GPS and fast telecommunications thanks to signals timed to quantum shifts in cesium atoms. Even MRI scanners and digital cameras would not be possible without quantum effects.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Indirect measurements in physics, Multidimensional fields, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
According to the prevailing theory of quantum physics, the outcome of events at subatomic scales is probabilistic rather than deterministic. This means that even knowing all possible observable information, it is not possible to predict exactly what particular particles will do or where they will go. Instead, physicists understand these processes in terms of probabilities—for example, that an electron is much more likely to be in one region than another. But while probabilities are good for describing many particles together, they do not explain the behavior of an individual particle. If we shoot two photons at a target, currently prevailing theories in quantum physics do not offer any reason why one photon would hit one part of the target and the second photon hit a different part. As far as physics can tell, this behavior is truly random.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle believes otherwise. Like renowned physicist Albert Einstein (1879–1955), she speculates that there must be some “hidden variable” that accounts for seemingly random quantum behavior. In talking through the problem with Liu, she visualizes the hidden quantum variable as a gear within each particle that determines the quantum states it takes. Danielle speculates it might be possible to design a scientific experiment that would take many simultaneous measurements of a particle to infer the position of the hidden gear.
After Liu changes his relationship with Danielle, they dedicate themselves to finding the hidden quantum variable. After figuring out the appropriate design for an experiment, Danielle confirms the existence of the hidden variable, yet she also finds that the “position” of this “gear” is determined by a multidimensional field, which is itself probabilistic. Thus, quantum mechanics remains nondeterministic. As a result of their discovery, Danielle and Liu win a Nobel Prize in Physics.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, State information in a quantum field, Quantum, Indirect measurements in physics, Probabilistic elements in physics, Multidimensional fields, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
For many physics experiments, it is often possible to directly measure many of the properties in question. If you want to know the weight of a marble, you can measure it on a scale. If you want to know the marble’s size, you can measure it with a ruler. If you throw the marble, you can measure its speed by timing the time it takes to travel a premeasured distance. If you want to know how many marbles are in a jar, you can count them. In all these cases, the properties you are observing are the ones you are interested in measuring.
In many cases, though, it isn’t practical to measure a property directly. Maybe you want to know the proportions of different chemical elements in the marble. Short of grinding the marble into powder and looking at the powder through a powerful electron microscope, you won’t be able to see the individual molecules. And even if you did, it would take too long to count them all to figure out their relative proportions. Instead, you can use indirect measurements to infer what elements make up the marble. For example, you could shine a strong light through the marble, and measure how the light is distorted and refracted. Based on the known properties of different elements, you could potentially use this information to figure out what the marble is made from.
Sometimes, direct observation is impossible because something is too large or distant to study directly. For example, because telescopes are not yet sensitive enough to pick up the light reflected from planets orbiting distant stars, astronomers detect these planets by measuring the dimming of the stars’ own light when the planets pass in front of them. And while it is not possible to measure stars’ speed directly, directly measuring their color through telescopes allows astronomers to infer stars’ speed indirectly. Those that are coming toward earth look more blue, and are said to be “blue shifted,” while those moving away from earthbound observers are “red shifted” because they appear more red.
Similarly, subatomic objects are too small to measure their properties directly. Because atoms and smaller particles are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, it isn’t possible to see them directly through light microscopes. Instead, for large atomic structures, scientists use electron microscopes, which shoot beams of electrons at objects they wish to study. Based on the pattern of how the electrons bounce off and are absorbed, it is possible to indirectly measure many of an object’s properties. At the smallest scales, though, even electron microscopes don’t work. Instead, scientists use particle accelerators that smash atoms together to break them into their subcomponents. These components scatter from the point of impact, guided by powerful magnetic fields, and precise detectors record how much energy, and what kinds, is transferred to the surrounding area. Based on this information, physicists can piece together the particles’ properties. For example, the less a particle’s path is affected by a magnetic field, the more energetic the particle is. Similarly, when particles emit radiation as they pass through the detectors, the angle of this radiation allows indirect measurement of the particles’ velocity. To study the properties of the quarks that comprise protons and neutrons, experiments must use many layers of sensors and mathematical inferences.
When CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) used its Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator to discover the elusive Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle,” because it is responsible for the existence of mass) in 2012, this required extremely complex indirect measurements. For example, physicists used several different measurements of particle decay patterns to rule out alternate explanations and ensure that the phenomena they observed could only be explained by the existence of a Higgs boson.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle uses similar indirect measurements in trying to find the hidden quantum variable. In designing and conducting her experiment, she takes many simultaneous measurements of a particle. Using the combined information from these indirect observations, Danielle demonstrates she can infer the position of the hidden “gear” that determines the particle’s quantum states, without having to observe the gear itself. Using the equipment of the CERN accelerator, Danielle succeeds, and shares a Nobel Prize in Physics with Cheng Liu for the discovery.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, CERN Accelerator, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Quantum, Probabilistic elements in physics, Multidimensional fields, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
In 1954, a large group of European countries established a research organization called the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, based on its French acronym, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire. There are now 22 countries participating in the project, with contributions from over 10,000 scientists from all around the world. Headquartered in Switzerland, CERN operates the world’s leading high-energy physics laboratories. The centerpiece of these facilities is the largest particle accelerator on earth, known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The LHC is the world’s largest and most expensive scientific instrument, and lies in a 27-kilometer circular tunnel that runs under the French-Swiss border. The tunnel was originally completed in 1988 for a previous particle accelerator, but from 1998 to 2008, it was overhauled to accommodate the LHC. The LHC itself is essentially a long pipe that runs the length of the tunnel, and is designed to minimize effects from the outside world. In this environment, with the atmosphere pumped out to form a vacuum, scientists use magnets to accelerate beams of protons around the track. These reach very high speeds, up to 99.999999 percent of the speed of light. At these speeds, the colliding bunches of protons have a combined kinetic energy almost as great as an anti-tank shell. When these beams are smashed into each other, the enormous energies cause the protons to break apart into their constituent quarks. The LHC is ringed with extremely sensitive detecting equipment to analyze how the resulting quarks, which cannot be observed on their own, behave after the collisions.
For example, the collision areas are subject to powerful magnetic fields. Higher-energy particles travel on straighter trajectories, while the trajectories of lower-energy particles are bent more as they travel through the fields. The LHC is also built to detect the forms of radiation emitted by these particles, and measure the radiation’s angles and precise timing.
During the accelerator’s first operational run from 2009–2013, CERN used it to try to detect the presence of the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is a particle that was first theorized in the 1960s by physicists including Peter Higgs, François Englert, Robert Brout, Gerald Guralnik, C.R. Hagen, and Tom Kibble. The theory was developed to explain why certain particles have mass when known physical laws say that they shouldn’t have mass. According to the theory, mass comes from a special kind of particle interacting with a universal field.
The problem was that in the 1960s, it was impossible to detect such a particle should it exist. But once the Large Hadron Collider was fully operational, it did not take long to discover a particle that fit the profile of the long-predicted Higgs boson. CERN spent months confirming its results and ruling out alternate explanations for the experimental data. By 2012, they were confident they had discovered a new particle to five standard deviations of certainty—meaning that there was less than a one in three million probability that there was no new particle there at all. By carefully observing how this particle decayed, and how it interacted with other particles, they concluded that it was indeed the Higgs boson. The effort had taken around $13.25 billion and collaborative efforts by scientists from over 100 countries.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle devises her experiment for finding the hidden quantum variable, Claire helps her arrange access to CERN’s LHC accelerator to conduct it. The experiment successfully reveals the presence of a hidden variable “gear” that governs the seemingly random behavior of subatomic particles. Yet it also finds that the position of this gear is determined by a multidimensional field with a probabilistic component of its own. Thus, quantum physics remains nondeterministic. As a result of this discovery, Danielle and Liu share a Nobel Prize in Physics.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, Indirect measurements in physics, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Quantum, Probabilistic elements in physics, Multidimensional fields, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
According to most of the interpretations of string theory, the physical world has more spatial dimensions than the three we can perceive in everyday life. In a number of these theories, these extra dimensions are tightly curled into the smallest subatomic scales. One intuition for thinking about this is to imagine a pad of Velcro. From a distance, it looks like a flat two-dimensional surface, but when you examine it more closely, you can see that the surface is made of many tightly curled hooks. Similarly, if you look at a garden hose from a distance, it looks like a curved two-dimensional line twisting in three-dimensional space. But when you look at it up close, you can see that the hose actually has a three-dimensional cylindrical shape. The third dimension can be said to be tightly curled.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, when Danielle conducts her experiment with the CERN particle accelerator, she tries to confirm a “hidden quantum variable” that explains the apparently random behavior of subatomic and other fundamental particles such as photons. Her goal is to show that although quantum physics seems probabilistic, there are actually deterministic processes underlying its “decisions.”
To accomplish this, Danielle takes many measurements within the field of the CERN accelerator. By taking readings from different points in space and time, she seeks to indirectly measure the hidden variable in a subatomic particle. Danielle’s ideas go beyond string theory to encompass “n-dimensional branes.” In string theory, fundamental particles are modeled as one-dimensional curved lines in a space that has many dimensions (from ten to over twenty, depending on the version of string theory). In Danielle’s theory, the particles are “branes” (for membranes) that themselves can have many dimensions. For example, a two-dimensional brane would be like a piece of paper twisting in a space of more than two dimensions.
Danielle reasons that the hidden variable is like a “gear” inside a particle, and through multiple measurements, it might be possible to find the “footprints” of the hidden variable in these tiny n-dimensional branes, and thereby infer the position of the gear, which in turn would enable predicting the outcome of apparently random trajectories of particles.
The experiment is successful, but Danielle discovers that the hidden quantum variable is determined by the action of a field that operates across the tiny scales of multiple coiled dimensions. Although the position of the gear is determined by the multidimensional field, the behavior of the field itself has a probabilistic element. As a result, quantum physics remains probabilistic overall. Danielle and Liu share a Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, CERN Accelerator, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Quantum, Probabilistic elements in physics, Indirect measurements in physics, Multidimensional manifolds, String Theory, Quarks, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
More than three centuries ago, British physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) discovered that physics in the observable world obeys broad, precise, and predictable mathematical laws. Newton summarized these as his three laws of motion. Newton’s First Law states that objects that are not moving relative to their surroundings tend to stay still unless a force acts on them. Likewise, objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless a force acts on them to counter that motion. This is known as the concept of inertia.
Newton’s Second Law defines the relationship between the force applied to an object, the object’s mass, and the resulting acceleration. Namely, the force acting on an object is equal to its mass times its acceleration.
Newton’s Third Law states that whenever an object exerts a force on another object, that object exerts an equal force back in the opposite direction. For example, when one billiard ball hits a second billiard ball, the amount of force that accelerates the second ball also slows down the first ball. This concept is known as the conservation of momentum.
These laws form the basis of what is known as Newtonian physics. They sparked a scientific revolution because they allowed people to see the world as fundamentally predictable. If you knew the speeds, directions, and masses of objects, you could in theory predict how they would behave in the future.
Other scientists elaborated on Newton’s theories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and figured out how properties like shape, rigidity, and density affect the way that objects interact. Using these mathematical principles, if you knew all the relevant properties of a set of objects, you could predict precisely how they would behave over time. For example, as soon as you hit the cue ball in billiards, if you know its exact speed and direction, you can figure out where all the other balls will end up. This is known as deterministic physics.
One caveat is that once a system exceeds a certain level of complexity, the calculations become impractical. The apparently simple system of the cue bill hitting the starting billiards arrangement is generally not feasible to predict because very slight changes in shape, position, and angle produce very different results.
Nonetheless, for many situations, deterministic physics works well enough for many practical engineering needs. We use it to build airplanes, construct skyscrapers, and predict the motion of celestial bodies and manmade objects in space.
A fundamental development in twentieth century physics was the discovery that deterministic physics breaks down at the atomic and subatomic scales. A famous example is Thomas Young’s “double slit” experiment (see Double slit experiment) conducted in 1801. When he beamed a light wave at two closely spaced, adjacent slits, an interference pattern was generated on the back surface. He explained this by describing light as being comprised of (light) waves which interfere with each other to create the interference pattern. Young’s explanation was deterministic, but in experiments about two centuries later, it was shown that the light was comprised of individual particles (called photons) and that each particle “decides” to take one path or the other in an unpredictable manner.
Scientists found that instead of treating subatomic particles like tiny deterministic balls with location and other properties precisely fixed, it was more useful to treat them like waves of “probability.” Where the wave has higher amplitude, it is more probable that the particle will be found there. For example, physics can predict that an atom of a given chemical element will probably have its electrons orbiting at particular distances from the nucleus. In these regions, the amplitude of the wave is highest. At other distances from the nucleus, the amplitude of the wave is low. Yet for any given atom, it is impossible to predict with certainty whether an electron will be in a high-probability region or a low-probability region.
The same principle applies to many different particles and their properties, which are known as quantum states. At these tiny scales, particles and their quantum states only come in integer-sized increments. So you can have one photon of light, but not half a photon or one-and-a-half photons. Likewise, an electron can spin either up or down, but not half-up and half-down. Yet because it appears impossible to predict which quantum states any particular particle will exhibit, physicists use “wave functions,” which are mathematical expressions that describe the relative probabilities that a particle will have each possible quantum state. Thus, quantum physics is called probabilistic.
In 1926, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) published an equation that describes how wave functions change over time. Known as the Schrödinger equation, it formed the probabilistic basis for modern quantum physics. The most common school of thought, called the Copenhagen interpretation, is that quantum phenomena only exist as probability waves until we observe them. The act of measurement or observation pinpoints a particle’s position or quantum state as being exactly one of the possibilities. This is said to “collapse the wave function,” meaning that the probability rises to 100 percent for the value observed, while the probabilities of all other values fall to 0 percent.
A contentious philosophical issue is whether the collapse of the wave function is caused by observation by a conscious observer or just measurement by a measuring device.
Deterministic Newtonian physics can approximate quantum physics for larger objects because when dealing with groupings of billions of particles, the results always come extremely close to the initial probabilities. One intuition for thinking about this is coin flips. If you flip a fair coin twice, there is a 25 percent chance that it will come up heads both times. Even though there is a 50 percent chance that you will get one heads and one tails, you cannot be confident that this will be the result on any two given flips. On the other hand, if you flip a coin a billion times, the odds of getting approximately half heads and half tails (to a high degree of precision) are virtually 100 percent, and the odds that it would come up heads every time are approximately 0 percent.
The insights from probabilistic quantum physics have contributed to many technological innovations. The digital age is based on the transistor and the transistor is based on the phenomenon of “quantum tunneling,” namely that an electron may “tunnel” through a channel with a certain probability. Laser technology relies on light being amplified as it passes through elements with electrons whose wave functions show electrons in specific unpredictable states. The precision atomic clocks that enable accurate GPS and fast telecommunications work by timing probabilistic quantum shifts in cesium atoms. Other technologies facilitated by the probabilistic model of quantum physics include MRI scanners, digital cameras, and the mass spectrometers used to identify chemical elements.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, as a twelve-year-old, Danielle becomes fascinated with probabilistic physics. Her idea is compatible with Albert Einstein’s intuition that there must be some deterministic process guiding phenomena that appear to be probabilistic, in other words a deterministic process that we are unable to detect (at least with our current technology) that determines the apparently probabilistic “decisions” of particles. She conceptualizes this as a “hidden variable” acting like a gear inside subatomic particles. Although it is not possible to observe the gear directly, it might be possible to infer the position of the gear from indirect observations.
Working with Liu, she designs an experiment that successfully confirms the existence of the hidden quantum variable. This experiment also shows that although the gear provides a cause for a particle’s behavior, the position of the gear is in turn determined by another probabilistic process. And so, quantum physics remains ultimately probabilistic. Danielle and Liu win the Nobel Prize in physics for their breakthrough.
See entries for Double slit experiment, Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Quantum, Indirect measurements in physics, Multidimensional manifolds, Multidimensional fields, String theory, Quarks, and Indeterminate nature of quantum mechanics.
Until the 1920s, most physicists assumed that subatomic particles occupied clearly defined points in space and that, if one could create sensitive enough instruments, it would be possible to measure their position and other properties precisely. But as quantum physics was developed, scientists realized that it is impossible even in principle to have all pieces of information about the state of a particle at the same time. This is known as quantum indeterminacy. The most famous formulation of this is known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, based on the work of German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976). According to this principle, the more information you have about a particle’s position, the less information you can have about its momentum, and vice versa.
One analogy that can capture this intuition is photography. If you are photographing a tennis match, you can set your camera’s shutter speed to take either short or long exposures. If you take a short exposure, you will get a crystal-clear image of both players and the ball. It will show their exact positions at the instant the photo was taken. But if you show the photo to a friend, they won’t be able to tell how fast the ball is moving. And they won’t be able to tell whether a player jumping in the air is going up or coming down. On the other hand, if you take a photo on long exposure, the moving objects in the image will be blurred. Your friend will be able to see the speed and direction of the ball and players, but will not be able to pinpoint their exact positions at any particular instant during the exposure.
In physics, the probabilistic nature of quantum phenomena means that until a particle such as an electron is observed, it exists as a probability wave. Once it is observed, the wave function “collapses,” and it becomes clear where the electron is. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle says that the more closely an observer measures the electron’s position, the less information is available about its momentum, and vice versa.
This idea is often mathematically expressed this way:
- Δx refers to the range of uncertainty about a particle’s position. As it gets smaller, we know the position more precisely.
- Δp refers to the range of uncertainty about the particle’s momentum. As it gets smaller, we know the momentum more precisely.
- h/4π is an extremely small constant.
What the expression is saying is that the uncertainty about position times the uncertainty about momentum cannot be less than a certain extremely small value. If measurement of position lowers Δx so much that Δx Δp would be smaller than h/4π, then Δp must increase to keep the expression true.
Quantum indeterminacy also applies to other relations besides position and momentum. For example, the more precisely one measures the energy of an unstable atomic nucleus, the less information is available about how long the transition will take to a stable energy state, and vice versa.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, at age thirteen, Danielle talks with Liu about indeterminacy in physics. Their conversation also seems to be a metaphor for the uncertainty she feels about their “unrelationship” and Liu’s promise to wait until Danielle is twenty-one.
When Danielle conducts her experiment that confirms the existence of a hidden quantum variable, she uses multiple indirect measurements that help compensate for indeterminacy. This experiment also discovers that the hidden quantum variable is itself determined by a probabilistic field, meaning that physics remains probabilistic in nature.
See entries for Hidden variable, Probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, Falsifiable experiment, Collapse of the wave function, State information in a quantum field, Hidden quantum variable, Proababilistic elements in physics, Quantum, Indirect measurements in physics, Multidimensional manifolds, Multidimensional fields, String theory, and Quarks.
When the Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded on July 1, 1921, it was a small revolutionary movement with few followers and small chance of success. It grew quickly, though, and attracted support from many different groups within Chinese society. According to communist doctrine, the party was officially governed by its National Congress, which brought together delegates representing all CPC members to make important political decisions. Yet the National Congress only met once a year, so in 1922 the 2nd National Congress elected a Central Executive Committee to run the ordinary affairs of the party. Starting in 1925, the National Congress gave the Central Executive Committee responsibility for electing the party’s Central Bureau, which governed its day-to-day operations. In 1927, the Central Bureau was renamed the Politburo, and the Central Executive Committee was renamed the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
During the 1920s, the communists were alternately allied with and fighting against their rivals, the nationalists. The conflict with the nationalists became a full-blown civil war in 1927, and lasted until the end of 1936, when the CPC formed a united front with the nationalists in order to resist the Japanese invasion of China. After the Japanese defeat in 1945, the civil war resumed, culminating in a communist victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China across the Chinese mainland in 1949. During this whole period, the Central Committee was a small council of important revolutionary leaders. For example, from 1928 to 1945, it consisted of Chairman Mao Tse-tung (1893–1976) and thirteen other key figures.
But once the People’s Republic was an established country, the Central Committee took on a more ceremonial role. Mao Tse-tung centralized power, and filled both the Central Committee and Politburo with people personally loyal to him. By 1956, the Central Committee had swelled to 97 members, representing the 1,026 full delegates to the National Congress, which in turn represented over 10 million CPC members. Meanwhile, Mao ensured most real decisions were made by the five to nine handpicked members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The larger Central Committee usually acted as a rubber stamp to approve Mao’s decisions.
Since Mao’s death in 1976, power in the People’s Republic of China has gradually become less centralized. The Politburo Standing Committee still has enormous influence, but the Central Committee is slowly gaining a more active role in governance. When President Hu Jintao (born in 1942) took power in 2002, he worked to encourage more “intra-party democracy,” allowing the Central Committee to engage in some genuine debate, instead of merely approving decisions made in advance by senior leaders. Today, the Central Committee has 205 full members with voting privileges, and 171 alternates. It is elected by the 2,924 full delegates to the National Congress, who represent more than 75 million members of the Communist Party of China.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle starts thinking about the Central Committee after Liu and Chairman Zhao are arrested. Danielle’s father explains that the membership of the Central Committee will meet within a week to elect a new Party Chairman. He tells Danielle that she needs to find a way to be elected Chairman herself in order to protect Liu and preserve her political efforts in China and Tibet. Danielle answers that she only has 23 supporters on the Central Committee, so her father suggests raising the Danielle priority level to 9. This priority level system urges millions of Daniellites across China to urgent action on her behalf.
Thanks to the rapid communication allowed by technology, it takes only minutes for the Daniellites to surge into action. By a combination of protests, coercion, and even some open fighting (which Danielle tries to discourage, wanting to keep her movement nonviolent), Danielle manages to increase her support on the Central Committee to 78, which is six votes short of the 83 members supporting her opponent, Premier Dingxiang Zhongfa. After raising the priority level to 9.15, Danielle is able to secure a majority of the votes. She hopes to rely on a longstanding custom of the Central Committee that once a frontrunner emerges, the other members vote for that person to give the impression of unanimity. Unfortunately, Zhongfa’s supporters cause a procedural delay that foils Danielle’s plans and she has to flee China for her own safety.
Danielle later returns for a secret meeting in Shanghai with former Chairman Zhao, who tells her that Zhongfa has been detained and the vote has been reinstated. They race to Beijing for the vote, and the Central Committee’s tradition of overwhelmingly backing the frontrunner gives Danielle decisive support. She is elected chairman of the Communist Party of China with 200 out of 205 votes.
See entries for Mao Tse-tung, Chiang Kai-shek, Kuomintang, Chinese Communist Party, Mao’s Long March, President Hu, the Tibet Question, the People’s Liberation Army, Han Chinese, Tibetan Buddhism, Seventeen-Point Agreement, Deng Xiaoping, and Chairman of the Communist Party of China.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded in 1921 as a revolutionary political movement, in association with the Comintern, the Russia-based international communist organization. Unlike in Russia, though, there was not a single united government for the communists to overthrow. Instead, China was ruled by a patchwork of warlords and political factions. For this reason, the CPC joined forces with the nationalists of the Kuomintang party to defeat warlordism and unite the nation. The CPC hoped that by joining this so-called United Front, they could spread communist ideas inside the Kuomintang and eventually take over the party from within.
In 1927, nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975) began a purge of communists from his movement. This initiated the Chinese Civil War, with fighting across the country as CPC forces fought against the Kuomintang and its allies. The nationalists’ forces were better equipped and numerically superior, and Chiang Kai-shek gradually encircled and destroyed many of the communist units. By late 1934, the communists had been defeated in Guang-dong along the southeastern coast, and began a lengthy retreat as nationalist armies pursued them. Traveling mostly on foot over rugged terrain, the communists traveled about 5,600 miles over a full year. Gathering in the northwest, they rebuilt their military forces and emerged united under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung.
Although most of Mao’s army had been lost to attrition over the course of the march, he achieved a huge propaganda victory. The communists had escaped destruction at the hands of much larger nationalist forces, and established a reputation for toughness and perseverance. The retreat came to be known as the Long March, and was the subject of myths and legends that inspired many Chinese peasants to support the communist cause. Mao also won the approval of the peasants by ordering his soldiers not to loot the possessions of the common people.
Then, in 1937, Imperial Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China. Again, the communists and nationalists put aside their differences and formed a Second United Front to resist the invaders. The Japanese conquered much of the country along the coast, and inflicted severe losses on the united Chinese defenders. Gradually, though, the tide turned, partly thanks to aid sent by the Americans and British. When Japan was defeated in 1945, the two sides quickly resumed their civil war.
During the period of the Second United Front, the CPC had become much more powerful, and now outnumbered the nationalists. In over three years of bloody fighting, the communists drove the Kuomintang out of Mainland China. With Chiang Kai-shek’s forces left only with the island of Taiwan, Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Now the CPC was no longer merely a revolutionary party, but was the ruling party in a single-party communist state. This meant that it was responsible for governing the world’s most populous country, and for making policy decisions about industrialization and development. Mao was ambitious to modernize the Chinese economy rapidly, and hoped to accomplish this by enacting a series of communist policies called the Great Leap Forward.
The Great Leap Forward began in 1958 with the forced collectivization of agriculture in China. This meant that landowners, whether owners of giant plantations or humble peasants, had their land confiscated by the state. The government made them join People’s Communes, which regulated their labor on commonly owned land, and decided how much food and supplies they would get in return. These policies were brutally enforced and poorly planned and proved disastrous. For example, the communists’ belief that sparrows were eating grain that rightfully belonged to the people led to a massive sparrow-extermination campaign. This had the unintended consequence of eliminating the major predator of locusts, which formed gigantic swarms that decimated crops and left the peasants starving. Similarly, Mao ordered steel production to be doubled within one year. To meet this target, the Party pressured peasants to operate “backyard furnaces” and melt down tools and household objects for industrial uses. Unfortunately, the backyard furnaces were technologically primitive, and mostly produced steel of such poor quality that it was useless.
All across the economy, the Party placed so much pressure on officials to meet their production quotas that there was widespread falsification of reports. This created a vicious circle of unrealistic expectations leading to bad data, and bad data leading to more unrealistic expectations and more bad decisions. As a result of all these policies, agricultural production plummeted. Starvation spread across China, especially in rural areas. In just three years, up to 45 million people died in the Great Chinese Famine.
After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Mao Tse-tung’s political position was vulnerable. It was impossible to completely hide the reality of the situation, so Mao blamed his critics for the famine. He claimed that right-wing elements within the CPC had sabotaged the Great Leap Forward with capitalist ideology. Based on this pretext, Mao ordered a purge of many high-ranking officials who he accused of being disloyal. All across the country, millions of people were persecuted by the Party, ranging from public humiliations to forced labor and executions.
In 1966, Mao announced the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a sweeping campaign to implement radical communist ideology. In so doing, he planned to tighten his grip on the CPC and the nation itself. Mao established the Red Guard, a fanatical paramilitary student movement, aimed at carrying out this revolution. The Cultural Revolution targeted the “Four Olds” to be swept away: old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas.
The process began with intensive propaganda and the renaming of public places to revolution-inspired names. It quickly spiraled out of control, though, with Red Guards violently rounding up teachers, artists, and intellectuals. Some were publicly shamed in “struggle sessions” and forced to admit perceived betrayals of communist ideals. Others were beaten or killed. As the Cultural Revolution became more intense, the Red Guards turned their fury on cultural and religious artifacts. They destroyed ancient books and priceless works of art, ransacking and destroying museums, temples, shrines, and libraries. They even desecrated the cemetery where the great philosopher Confucius was interred. In Tibet, which Communist China had annexed through the Seventeen-Point Agreement in 1951, Red Guards demolished more than 6,000 Buddhist monasteries and convents, and burned countless irreplaceable works of scholarship. In place of the Four Olds, the Red Guards promoted a personality cult of Mao Tse-tung. Instead of religious texts, they carried around copies of the Little Red Book, a book of Mao’s quotations. Much of the artwork and cultural artifacts of China’s five thousand-year history was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
After two years, Mao recognized that the Cultural Revolution had gotten out of control. He disbanded the Red Guards, and returned authority to the party’s normal governing bodies, the Central Committee and Politburo. He also increased the role of the People’s Liberation Army in CPC affairs. Still, Mao never publicly acknowledged the atrocities committed by the Red Guards. Mao died in 1976, and it was not until 1981 that the Central Committee formally repudiated the abuses during the Cultural Revolution. When it did, it took the startling step of laying some of the blame on Mao personally.
In 1987, under Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997), the Central Committee officially shifted its focus away from implementing pure communism, which had been Mao’s radical vision. In pure communism, private property is abolished, and all production in the economy is centrally planned according to the Marxist principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” According to Deng Xiaoping, this would only be possible when Chinese society had been fully developed and modernized to maximize the productive capacity of the economy. Therefore, the CPC’s new focus became “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In practice, this was a blend of state-owned industry and free-market capitalism. Deng allowed foreign companies to invest in China, and the country began a period of rapid economic growth that continues to this day. Although the CPC is becoming more open to capitalist ideas, including encouraging entrepreneurism and venture capital starting around 2014, it remains authoritarian, and does not tolerate genuine opposition parties.
In the alternative reality of Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, Danielle’s experience with the Communist Party of China begins when senior party leaders are alarmed by her flash mob dance celebration. Using social media and advanced telecommunication technology, she mobilizes half a million people to dance in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, and 100 million people elsewhere around China in a matter of hours. Premier Dingxiang Zhongfa realizes that her popularity and ability to quickly organize the Chinese people is a threat to the CPC’s authority.
Once Danielle proposes her religious and cultural freedom plan for resolving the Tibet question, conservative CPC officials oppose her. Nonetheless, by using technology to orchestrate cooperation among her followers, Danielle successfully puts pressure on the communist leaders. Ultimately, she is elected Chairman of the Communist Party of China. She indicates, however, that she prefers the title “Chairgirl.”
Danielle uses her position as chairgirl to introduce open democracy to China and to expand protections for human rights. She transforms the CPC away from a political party and into a service organization called the National Service Corps. She then organizes a free, fair, and direct election for the next president of China. Most of the rival political factions decide that there is no one better to serve in this position than Danielle herself, and they pass special exceptions to the age and nationality requirements in order for her to run. In a closely contested election, Danielle defeats Pinyin Shaoqi and is elected president of China at age fifteen.
See entries for Mao Tse-tung, Chiang Kai-shek, Kuomintang, Chinese Communist Party, Mao’s Long March, President Hu, the Tibet Question, the People’s Liberation Army, Han Chinese, Tibetan Buddhism, Seventeen-Point Agreement, Deng Xiaoping, Authoritarian, Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and Chairman of the Communist Party of China