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…
People often ask me whether or not I worry about running out of interesting topics before this thousand days is up. My response is always the same. “Of course not,” I tell them. “I haven’t yet written about toilet gods.”
Well, today I throw caution at the swirling fan and cash in on one of our species’ most notably bizarre predilections: assigning a higher power to the place where we poop.
Modern religions have spent too long on the proverbial fence, blindly adhering to its monotheistic principles and paying no mind to our spiritual doody needs. There is no patron saint of having eaten too many spicy enchiladas last night, nor am I aware of any Hebrew or Muslim prayer to combat lactose intolerance. We must look to the faiths of the ancients for this.
In old-timey Japan, bodily waste wasn’t buried underground and forgotten. It would be collected and spread around the fields, acting as a fertilizer and completing that grand circle of life that most of us would rather not think about. For this reason, the kawaya kami (toilet god) was a god of fertility. Not the fun kind of fertility that we usually (but not always) reserve for another room in the house, but the food/crop sort of fertility. Sometimes family members would sit in front of the toilet and eat a bowl of rice in order to appease the god.
The other big plus in praying to kawaya kami was for protection. Collecting fertilizer material from toilet basins was dirty work, but also a bit on the dangerous side. There was the risk of tumbling into the muck and drowning, which is probably the worst way to die this side of inhaling next to Ann Coulter. Kawaya kami – if properly appeased by your consumption of malodorous rice – can save you from such a fetid fate. Read more…
If you haven’t read the article or seen the t-shirt, you’re probably nevertheless aware that our ninth planet, Pluto, was demoted in 2006 to the meager status of dwarf planet, a lower classification that for whatever reason enraged pockets of the populace. I suspect a chunk of that outrage had to do with one of our ingrained snippets of knowledge – the names of our solar system’s planets – that we remember from elementary school being altered. It’s fundamental, like the names of our Canadian provinces (which has changed) or the five senses (though actually there are several others).
But amid all this weird hype over a remote ice-rock and whether it still gets invited to the same imaginary shindigs as Saturn or Venus, we forgot to celebrate little Ceres. Ceres was also tossed into the dwarf planet class along with Pluto and three others, but for Ceres it was a promotion. Where once she was just a passenger amid the rush-hour gridlock of the asteroid belt, now she reigned supreme.
And as much as we all have Pluto’s name etched in our brains as the last fuelling post before the great black expanse of deep space, we know almost nothing about Ceres. And her secrets might be among the most interesting in our little corner of the cosmos.
Much like the grainy footage of Bigfoot, this is all we’ve got of Ceres: a blur, courtesy of the Hubble Telescope. We know surprisingly little about this chunk of rock, though NASA is aiming to change that when the Dawn spacecraft pays Ceres a visit early in 2015. Ceres was discovered due to math, which means that I’ll be covering this portion of the story using the most vague and non-researched terms possible. Read more…
The reaction to yesterday’s article, which outlined future planetary events over the next couple centuries, was overwhelming. “It changed the way I see the world,” said one fan that I made up. “So much information in such a callipygian space!” said another, who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘callipygian’ (it means well-proportioned buttocks).
But the question that was asked most often – I’d like to say by curious fans, but truthfully just by myself during the commercials of a M*A*S*H rerun last night – was what about our lives? Sure, maybe Venus will eclipse Jupiter in 2123, but certainly there must me more I can find out about life on this planet during the short window I’ll get to see.
Well, good news. With 400 articles yet to be slapped upon the giant refrigerator of this project, I have grabbed my next magnet and selected a good mix of forecasts about life on earth to form the basis of today’s entry. Let’s see what we can expect over the next fifty or so years.
I hope it’s all good news.
For starters, there are going to be a lot of us. We just passed the post of seven billion souls (and a handful of soulless folks) on this planet, and in the next 12-13 years we’ll hit eight. Nine billion in the early 40’s, and the United Nations is confident we’ll be bursting at the seams with ten billion people by 2083. I suppose the upswing to global warming is that the toastier temperatures should make the real estate in Greenland a lot more valuable – that’ll take some of the crowd-burden off the rest of us. Read more…
So you want to learn more about astrology. Maybe you’re seeking answers and guidance from the stars, or perhaps you’re just looking to fleece a few bucks off the gullible suckers who think they can find answers and guidance in the stars. No matter – you’re going to need to learn the skill of identifying astronomical symbols.
These little pictographs were used to represent various thingies in the sky, beginning back in the days of the Greek papyri from the late classical era. The standard symbols have been used ever since, from the Byzantine era up through modern times, as a means for astronomers and astrologers to keep track of all those chunks of rock and gases that flicker and fly through the cosmos.
Here’s a handy guide to remembering which symbols are which. Because astrology appears far more mystical and cool when you’re reading unintelligible symbols instead of actual words. Read more…
We all know that the USSR and America spent much of the 1960’s throwing stuff up into space to see who could be more sci-fi awesome than the other. But at the same time as highly educated, meticulously-trained astronauts and cosmonauts were taking turns staring down at the planet from a distant orbit, filmmakers were competing for the disposable income of the slobs back home. This was also – though most consumers didn’t know it – an international affair.
I already wrote a piece on the B-Movie phenomenon: cheap throwaway flicks designed to buffer double features and offer a little extra incentive for folks to turn off that newfangled TV and take a trip to the local cinema. I’ve also written about the twisted films in the various exploitation genres that aimed to shock and entertain the most colorful of palettes. This is a fusion of both, but with a weird international twist.
It may not look like it, but those are stills taken from one of 1962’s most sophisticated and high-budget science fiction films. It tells the story of ships travelling from Earth to Venus, encountering danger and death and pterodactyls. The movie is called Planeta Bur, and it was a huge hit in the USSR. Well, it may have been – not a lot of box office stats exist from this period. Read more…
Good morning, children of the star-spooged cosmos. How are you? It’s okay, it’s okay. Madame Chakra-Lubowitz knows how you are. It’s her job to know how you are. It’s also her job to tell you how you shall be. And you shall be well. Most of you, anyway. Some of you are screwed. But let’s not dwell on that. Let’s unlock the stars, plug into the planets and Facetime the future through the mystic sneeze-guard of Zodiac truth.
Make sure you check the expiry date of that yogurt before you callously shove it into your face. Also, that person you loaned money to last week spent most of it on microwavable food at Costco, and knew before they’d freed the first alfredo noodle from its flash-frozen prison that they would never pay you back. Take care, for every third quarter in your pocket is going to tumble through a vending machine or parking meter like pit-stink through cotton. Better bring more than you’ll need; it’ll be one of those damn days.
You’ll need this if you even want a hope at that sweet, sweet Mr. Pibb nectar today.
Bighorn Airways bills itself as Wyoming’s largest and most complete Aviation Service Center (caps on those three words come courtesy of the company’s website). At first I didn’t know how many Aviation Service Centers would be competing with Bighorn to be the largest and most complete. I figured this would be like finding the largest and most complete emu wrestling league in Wyoming – there probably aren’t more than two or three.
I was wrong. I found a few others:
– Aviat Aircraft Ltd.: Nope, they make planes.
– Call Air: This company made planes too. Also, they no longer exist.
– Challenger Airlines: There’s a triumphant story about this airline that braved the winter storms of 1949… but the company merged with a larger one based elsewhere in 1950.
– Great Lakes Airlines: Great Lakes began in Iowa, is headquartered in Wyoming, and has hubs in Denver, Phoenix, LA and Vegas. None of these places border on any Great Lakes. Maybe this is the more interesting story here.
I stand corrected. The company changed its name from Spirit Lake Airways (named after the town where it was founded) to Great Lakes when it was renamed after the “Great Lakes Region” of northwest Iowa. Again, Iowa is not a state that makes contact with any of the actual Great Lakes. This is like renaming part of Saskatoon the “Seattle District” because they have a Starbucks.
I’d like to introduce you to Pukar Hamal, Ann Cooper, and Vivian Lee. These are not the stars of an upcoming blockbuster film (“Pukar Hamal IS… The Revengerator!), nor are they the three members of Das Matzoh-nugen, a Swedish a capella klezmer-rock trio. No, these three are actually planets.
Not ‘planet’ planets, but minor planets. A minor planet is a chunk of stuff that orbits the sun, but isn’t quite cool enough to be a full-blown planet, which (as Pluto constantly reminds us with his endless kvetching) is an increasingly exclusive club. Pukar, Ann and Vivian are far from exclusive, being three of over 540,000 objects that are being tracked by the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian.
So what’s with the names? The first minor planets discovered were named after Greek and Roman mythological beasts, beings and deities. As those titles started to run thin, the planets’ discoverers began using their wives’ names, children’s names, even their pets’ names. Then they borrowed from famous people, literary characters, and even started mining TV character names. So, we end up with minor planets named 2309 Mr. Spock, 6042 Cheshire Cat, 9007 James Bond, and 26858 MisterRogers. The numbers are assigned when the planets are discovered. Not all minor planets get names, but it’s clearly more fun when they do.