Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.
Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.
And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.
Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.
If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.
Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…
Sometimes our most loathsome villains have been misunderstood, their legacies forever stained by the thick-bristled brush of historical “common knowledge”. William Kidd’s name is uttered in the same venomous breath as Blackbeard, Black Bart, and that Rupert guy from Survivor. He makes nearly every list of famous historical pirates, and is the only documented privateer to have actually stashed some buried treasure in the dirt.
But how much actual pirating William Kidd undertook has become the subject of scholarly debate. Was he actually a foul-mouthed degenerate scumbag, out to pilfer profit and goodies from innocent traders, or was he simply a hapless schnook in a game too big for one man to control?
I’ll present the facts as I’ve found them through my countless minutes of research, and let you decide for yourself.
By 1695, William Kidd (who was already pushing 50) had earned a reputation as a successful sailor with a knack for catching pirates rather than losing his goods to them (though the pirate Robert Culliford did swipe his boat in Antigua once). He was a loyal citizen, pitching in on the construction of Trinity Church in New York. He got along well with Richard Coote, the Earl of Bellomont, who was acting as governor of New York at the time. The Earl decided the crown could benefit from Kidd’s skills, and formally requested Kidd’s assistance in capturing a most-wanted list of pirates. Read more…
You’d think with humankind’s great need to stretch our fences and occupy as much space as humanly possible, there would be no unclaimed land left. How could any snippet of earth be left flitting in the breeze, with no one to step forward and cram it into their pockets? Sure, there are parts of Antarctica that nobody really cares to plant their flag into, but Antarctica barely qualifies as ‘land’.
Actually, there are a few slabs of earth that fall into the realm of Terra Nullius, or ‘land belonging to no one.’ The most well-known areas in this category are Antarctica (of course), the middle of international waters, and items in outer space. So despite whatever certificate you may own because some joker bought you a star as a gift, you don’t own anything up there. Take that certificate back to the person who gave it to you and throw it in their face. Maybe demand a Starbucks card or something – something you can use.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, or if you truly want to liberate yourself from any and all tax responsibilities, why not see if you can get away with living in a real no-man’s land? Take a little trip out to Bir Tawil.
The border between Egypt and Sudan has a somewhat sketchy history. Back when England was running the show in that corner of Africa, the border was established as an administrative boundary, to delegate who has to do paperwork on any given patch of land. In 1899, they drew an imaginary straight line along the 22nd parallel, and called it the border. The hegemonic British ruler in Cairo took care of everything to the north, while the British delegate in Khartoum handled everything to the south. Read more…