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Posts Tagged ‘predictions

“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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“The future ain’t what it used to be….”*

Just over a hundred years ago, in 1910, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette in Iowa published a list of advances and innovations that they believed would appear during the century, a fascinating list of things scientific/technical and social/political:

  • Cure for cancer.
  • Discovery south pole.
  • Prevent or cure insanity.
  • Influence sex by parental treatment.
  • Create living organisms by artificial means.
  • Phonograph records substitute for letter.
  • Rationing clothing reform, health, comfort, durability only considerations
  • Settle question of communication with Mars. Wonderful astronomical discoveries.
  • Power of mind over matter a practical science devoid of superstitious elements.
  • United States constitution rewritten, providing improved means for conservation of original democratic principles.
  • Marvelous progress in transportation, largely aerial; airships and dirigible balloons crossing oceans and continents in remarkable time. Racing planes make five miles per minute. Inland waterways carry slow freight by improved methods. Monorail supplants two tracks. Electricity replaces steam. Convenient, economical city traffic system broadens city areas, opening suburban lands to householders. Pneumatic tubes for mails and express. Horses curiosities. Automobiles relegated to short distance burden bearing. Ocean steamers for freight, improvement toward speed rather than size.
  • Produce rainfall at will.
  • Temper gold and copper.
  • Roads of nation paved.
  • Conservation of sun’s heat and power.
  • Cure for and elimination of tuberculosis.
  • Development psychic research with fraud eliminated.
  • Movements for universal language, universal religion, universal money.
  • Non-existence of blindness by eliminating causes except accidents.
  • Construction largely of concrete and metal or newly discovered materials.
  • Electricity will move world’s wheels. Later radio-activity may substitute.
  • Terrors of war so multiplied by death dealing inventions, chances of war minimized.
  • Utilization of all energy, reducing consumption of wood and coal. Many fuel substitutes.
  • Population of United States based on present ratio of increased, 1,317,547,000 at opening of twenty-first century.
  • Rational diet with greatly reduced consumption of matter with increased nourishment from proper mastication and choices of foods.
  • Machinery largely substituting manual energy, will promote pursuit of finer arts and sciences; give ample opportunity for relaxation and amusement; emancipate wage slaves. Three-hour work day predicted.
  • Sea water for irrigation.
  • Photographs in natural colors.
  • Women’s political equality.
  • Government control of corporations.
  • Animated pictures in natural colors, transmitted by wireless.
  • Substitution of heavier metals with aluminum, etc.
  • Natural colors reproduced in newspaper pictures.
  • Reduction of elimination all forms of gambling, including stocks.
  • General acceptance of public ownership or control of public utilities.
  • Government operation banking system, elimination of private banks. Postal savings banks.
  • Moral, intellectual and economical awakening in dark sections of Africa, China a world power.
  • Beautiful and healthful cities, offering with homes and work places all forms of free amusement, culture and recreation.
  • Greater premium on brains with corresponding decreased in respect for position not gained by individual achievement.
  • Revision judicial system, deciding causes on improved scientific plan, insuring equal justice. Pathological and psychological treatment for criminals. Crime reduced.
  • Due to universal education, with special reference to hygiene, doctors and drugs be largely eliminated; average age to be near 60 years; men taller, stronger, higher intelligence and morals.

Some of their predictions were spot on (“Natural colors reproduced in newspaper pictures”); some, sadly as yet unrealized (“Cure for cancer”); and some, ironically backwards (“Government control of corporations”). But overall, it’s consoling to be reminded that things that seem wild, even radical at one moment in time– in this case, things like women’s rights and child labor laws– can, with the passage of time, become so obvious as to become human rights that we take for granted.

[TotH to Paleofuture, from whence the illustration above; via the always-excellent Next Draft]

* Yogi Berra

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As we live in the past, we might send twisted birthday greetings to August Ferdinand Möbius; he was born on this date in 1790.  A mathematician and theoretical astronomer, Möbius was so important to the fields of analytic geometry, topology, and number theory that several mathematical concepts are named after him, including the Möbius configuration, the Möbius transformations, the Möbius transform, the Möbius function μ(n), and the Möbius inversion formula

But he is best remembered, of course, as the creator of the Möbius Strip— a two-dimensional surface with only one side…. more specifically: a non-orientable two-dimensional surface with only one side when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space… It can be constructed in three dimensions: Take a rectangular strip of paper and join the two ends of the strip together so that it has a 180 degree twist. It is now possible to start at a point A on the surface and trace out a path that passes through the point which is apparently on the other side of the surface from A.

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Written by LW

November 17, 2013 at 1:01 am

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