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Posts Tagged ‘end of the world

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”*…

 

From The Road

As humans, we tend to construct narratives around things we don’t understand, especially when such things appear to have an arbitrary, limitless power. Dramatic, civilization-shaking events seem too meaningful to happen by pure chance — they seem like some sort of divine punishment. As a result, apocalypse narratives throughout history have often come with strong moral connotations. There are recurring themes in the eschatological mythology of many different cultures, often concerning a final battle between good and evil, with the righteous ascending to paradise and the latter condemned to hell. (Or, alternatively, they’ll be left behind on a godless and righteous-less Earth, which is implied to be pretty much the same thing.)…

Tom Hawking explores our fascination with apocalyptic story-telling, and asks why it so rarely addresses the actual dangers we face: “Not With a Bang: What If the Apocalypse Already Happened, and No One Noticed?

* REM

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As we batten down the hatches, we might send pointedly-ridiculous birthday greetings to Douglas Noel Adams; he was born on this date in 1952.  A writer and dramatist best remembered as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (as well as the Dirk Gently novels), his melodramatically-apocalyptic tales are both insightful and hilarious.  Adams passed away in 2001; still, one can honor his memory in a couple of month’s time by celebrating Towel Day.

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Written by LW

March 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Sure, everything is ending… but not yet.”*…

 

From 365 CE to 10100 years from now, apocalyptic predictions and who made them: the interactive “Timeline of When the World Ended.” (Lots of notice for our old friend Harold Camping.)

* Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

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As we sharpen a Sense of the The Ending, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation.

“…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
– Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society)

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Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

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Bullet, as yet un-dodged…

Readers may feel a sense of relief now that the Mayan prophecy of doom in 2012 has gone unfulfilled– understandable…  but maybe a bit premature.  As this handy reference from The Economist illustrates…

…while most of the major prophecies on record are past their due dates (the Norse and Nostradamus were canny enough to refrain from specifying exact timings), one apocalyptic alert is still active… and sadly for humankind, it’s from an all-too-august source.

Possibly the greatest and most influential scientist in history, Isaac Newton was also a pious, albeit unorthodox, Christian.  Early in his life, surrounded by the Plague, the Great Fires of London, and assorted other upheavals, Newton decided that the End Times were at hand.  But while Newton realized promptly that he was premature, millennial pronouncements continued from others.  So, in a 1704 manuscript (in which he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible) he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. He explained: “This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.”

Now, “no earlier than 47 years from now” gives one some time to prepare.

But could it be that even Sir Isaac made mistakes?  So argues David Flynn, author of Temple at the Center of Time: Newton’s Bible Codex Deciphered and the Year 2012.  Flynn revisits Newton’s logic and his calculations, and “corrects” it to find that the threshold for total termination may be much nearer–  indeed, this year– 2013…  Read the story at WND.com, along with “Just the Facts: How Satan Takes ‘Legal Authority’ Over You” and “Obama Staged Sandy Hook Massacre.”

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As we contain our credulity, we might send cosmic birthday greetings to Robert Woodrow Wilson; he was born on this date in 1936.  An astronomer, Wilson and his Bell Labs partner, physicist Arno Penzias, discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in 1964– a feat that earned them the Nobel Prize (in 1978), as CMB was a critical corroborator of the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe.

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A thought for your penny…

From Randall Monroe’s exquisite What If?, The Cost of Pennies.

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As we search for a larger change jar, we might recall that this was the date, in 1919, on which the world did not end.  American meteorologist Albert Porta had made a widely-publicized prediction that a conjunction of six planets on that date would cause a “magnetic current” to “pierce the sun”, causing an explosion of flaming gas which would engulf the Earth.  The hysteria that followed incited mob violence and some suicides… before, as the world did not end, it subsided.

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Written by LW

December 17, 2012 at 1:01 am

The End (Diagrammed)…

 

 click the image above, or here, for larger version

From Good, a breakdown of the 10% of the world’s population (!) that believes the world will end by the conclusion of this calendar year.

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As we turn to happier– but also unlikely– thoughts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1971 that the Houston Astros’ Cesar Cedeno, at bat with with the bases loaded and his team trailing the Dodgers 3-2, hit a pop fly that turned into an inside-the-park grand slam:

Written by LW

September 2, 2012 at 1:01 am

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