The end of the world

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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David Loftus
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The end of the world

Postby David Loftus » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:04 am

Since "2012" made a bundle over its opening weekend, someone asked me my opinion of this latest millenial scare. This was my response:



The world (as we know it) will not end in 2012. It won’t end in my lifetime or during the lives of anyone alive or born today. But it will end, and fairly soon, as measured by a slightly larger frame of reference -- say, the life of a tree.

Let’s dispose of the Mayan calendar schuck. Anyone who knows anything about Mayan culture and religion has been happy to tell the media that according to the Maya, December 2012 is not a deadline for the end of the world but the turning point of a cycle of life. I am certain that nobody who worked on the film “2012” believes the world will end any time soon; they simply found a hook for yet another thrilling disaster movie in a long line, from “When Worlds Collide” to “Millennium” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

What’s more interesting -- indeed, troubling -- is the readiness of so many Americans and “less civilized” people around the world to accord the slightest doubt or credence to the notion of “the end of the world” by some fateful or extraterrestrial design, whether aliens or The Rapture. If I may speculate, it probably comes from our sneaking suspicion of our own mortality and the simultaneous need to deny it. The world will indeed end for each of us when we die, and nobody wants that. The knowledge makes us feel that we don’t control our lives, and any time we don’t feel in control, many of us automatically want to shift the blame elsewhere.

Now, much of the time, we actually do have more control over the situation than we believe -- at the very least, over our responses to it -- but we choose to pretend otherwise in order to dodge the responsibility. In the case of death, it really is out of our hands. That knowledge is terrifying, so many of us find comfort in thinking it’s really out of our hands by telling ourselves that on the day we die, the world will end for everyone and not just for us.

But I did say the world as humans know it will end soon, didn’t I? I’d guess it will happen within the next 150 years. It will spark from either of the two historic sources of tension: scarcity of resources or an overabundance of waste (or a combination of both). On the one hand, diminishing amounts of sufficient energy, clean air and water, or food will heighten local violence and the frequency of wars; on the other, increasing amounts of plastic, PCBs, heavy metals, and nuclear waste in the environment will drive up disease and cancer rates (not just for us but for the domestic and wild animals that support the human diet).

It won’t be a bang, perhaps, but a series of small bangs all across the planet, accompanied by billions of whimpers.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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FrankChurch
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Re: The end of the world

Postby FrankChurch » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:34 am

David, one hundred percent correct. You are on point. You get the Frank Church seal of approval.

Live with that.

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Steve Evil
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Re: The end of the world

Postby Steve Evil » Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:19 pm

I dunno Dave, looks what's happening in 2012:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2009/ ... ml?cid=ETF

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Lori Koonce » Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:04 pm

Evil

That's not the end of the world, but only the end of America as we've known and loved it for the past... oh, 250+ years.

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:25 pm

I'm not psychic but I can tell you exactly how the world will end, and I won't charge you a penny.

Our sun is a pretty typical middle-aged star. About 5 billion years from now, give or take a few hundred million, the sun will have exhausted its store of hydrogen. The core will shrink while simultaneously coughing out its outer heliosphere. All the rocky inner planets of the solar system, including dear old earth, will be licked clean and then vaporized.

Of course it's extremely doubtful that anything resembling homo sap will be around to observe its destruction.

Maybe some litchen.
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Re: The end of the world

Postby Moderator » Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:10 pm

"Lichen"


I've always been fond of the chapter in THE TIME MACHINE in which Wells describes what essentially is the end of time for life on Earth,

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Time_Machine/Chapter_XI

It is a fiction, but it quite nicely describes a time we could not possibly know.

(Of course, science would tell us it's ridiculous to speculate.)
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Re: The end of the world

Postby Steve Evil » Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:08 am

Lori Koonce wrote:Evil

That's not the end of the world, but only the end of America as we've known and loved it for the past... oh, 250+ years.


I wouldn't put it past those two to "press the button", which would cause dramatic changes indeed.

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Re: The end of the world

Postby NeonMosfet » Fri Nov 20, 2009 3:23 am

In a perverse sort of way, the world could end according to any end time scenario. It's already written down. It's been hammered into our heads. The Japanese have an expression. " We are racing toward an apocolypse of our own creation." All it takes is someone with enough fire power and a working knowledge of such scenarios, to set one in motion. Al Quaida and the Taliban have proven they possess such power. There's nothing supernatural about them.
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Re: The end of the world

Postby Duane » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:51 pm

Call me naive if you want, but I believe we'll go a bit longer than 150 years.

If you look around at the madness taking place in the world, it's easy to be more than a bit pessimistic. But over time, some important changes have been taking place. I'll illustrate one: Conservation.

Compared to thirty years ago, there is a much greater movement afoot to hold back rampant development and preserve the remaining pristine landscapes we have left. There is also work to clean up and return to a more natural state vast areas that have been misused over hundreds of years. I know this, because I'm involved in this movement.

Pick up the latest issue of Scientific American (November 2009) and read two articles: "A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030," and "The Rise of Vertical Farms." The first article is a bit pollyanna-ish -- the current oil industries will have much to say about the ideas expressed in the article, but I imagine at some future time they will be brought on board if a way can be seen for them to contribute to and profit from it. The second is a much more exciting (to me) trend, because it speaks to my conservation ethic and it's literally ready to go now; in fact, a few vertical farm prototypes are up and running in Arizona. Imagine the ability to grow crops year round with little, if any, need for fertilizers, phosphorous or herbicides. A 30 story vertical farm described in the article will free up 2,400 acres of land to be returned to its natural state, which will reduce global warming, the carbon footprint, the.... well, read the article.

Next, pick up last month's National Geographic (October 2009) and read the cover story, "The tallest trees."

Back in the 1980's it appeared the redwood trees were doomed. The conflict between those who wanted to preserve the tall trees and those who needed logging jobs even escalated to murder. But 25 years later, a new logging practice has sprung up, thanks to scientific research, and not only are the big trees preserved, logging companies stand to make more money with less work and far less environmental degradation.

And it's likely that these new technologies will enable countries like China and India to leapfrog over the mistakes we made earlier in our industrial history. That is something I hope I live long enough to see.

So, in the end, feel free to wallow in the mudhole of your own discontent, my Webderlander friends; we're saving your butts along with ours (snide Atlas Shrugged reference)! ;)

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Duane » Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:30 pm

Here's a photo set of an invasive species removal project I worked on last year. Thirty years ago, very little of this work was being done. Last year, the trip filled up in less than an hour and I nearly missed it.

It's not the prettiest wilderness area you'll ever see (though I think it's gorgeous, especially in early spring), but the point is not to preserve just the pretty spots; it all has be preserved. And in this local case, it looks like it will be, though threats from oil, gas and off-roading still exist.

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:24 pm

I'm looking forward to all the crap that the Chicken Littles are going to be suckered into buying over the next three years.

It's just the latest flavor of God's Wrath Against The Heathen Who We Should Kill. 2000 started without the much-squawked disaster... & then so 2001. We've apparently dodged Terrasim & SARS & ebola & anthrax & H5N3 & now H1N1. Maybe with the clock ticking down, the mouth-breathers will stay focused for a while & stop thrashing around.

I haven't seen the cinematic disaster yet, but it bugs me greatly that some key premises (& a few trailer snippets) look like a blatant ripoff of When Worlds Collide.

Sod the Mayans: some Native American myths mention "When the World Turns Over." As I recall, this is when all the little bits of goodness that permeate the world begin to entrain, resulting in more-generalized goodness. Whether someone preaches Rapture or Apocalypse, I'd just as soon they offed themselves ASAP, because I'm easily bored. Either way, God or gunshot, we can have their cars.

On another site, a member has the signature block:
There is a theory which states that if anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Moderator » Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:51 pm

Anthony Ravenscroft wrote:I'm looking forward to all the crap that the Chicken Littles are going to be suckered into buying over the next three years.


Me? I'm just looking forward to dawn on the morning of December 22nd, 2012.
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Re: The end of the world

Postby swp » Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:09 pm

Barber wrote:
Anthony Ravenscroft wrote:I'm looking forward to all the crap that the Chicken Littles are going to be suckered into buying over the next three years.


Me? I'm just looking forward to dawn on the morning of December 22nd, 2012.

I wonder if they included leap days, minutes, and seconds in their calculations. Could be off by a little bit. Maybe you should make that sunset instead. Just a thought.
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Re: The end of the world

Postby Anthony Ravenscroft » Fri Nov 27, 2009 8:37 pm

I figure that someday linguists will decode the last squiggle at the end, & it'll say "see next stone."

I'm a little more concerned about the end of the Unix Epoch on January 19, 2038. The original system time is a signed 32-bit integer, & that's the day all uncorrected versions of Unix will essentially roll over. According to the Wikipedia, some 30-year mortgage calculations made in 2008 decided the mortgage went from 2008 to 1970 (-38 years) or 1901 (-107 years); years ago I heard about this being tested, so some installs will just lock up, while others will take the absolute value of the span & calculate accordingly.

This might kinda suck for communication satellites or for critical process controls like chemical handling or power plant regulation, the same as worried over for Y2K. Even if corrected in software, the problem is coded into chips & some file formats, both of which would take more than an OS kludge.

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Re: The end of the world

Postby Moderator » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:07 am

Anthony Ravenscroft wrote:I figure that someday linguists will decode the last squiggle at the end, & it'll say "see next stone."

I'm a little more concerned about the end of the Unix Epoch on January 19, 2038. The original system time is a signed 32-bit integer, & that's the day all uncorrected versions of Unix will essentially roll over. According to the Wikipedia, some 30-year mortgage calculations made in 2008 decided the mortgage went from 2008 to 1970 (-38 years) or 1901 (-107 years); years ago I heard about this being tested, so some installs will just lock up, while others will take the absolute value of the span & calculate accordingly.

This might kinda suck for communication satellites or for critical process controls like chemical handling or power plant regulation, the same as worried over for Y2K. Even if corrected in software, the problem is coded into chips & some file formats, both of which would take more than an OS kludge.


I'm reasonably sure that very few systems operating now will be operating twenty nine years from now -- is your computer using 1998 software? How about 1988?
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.


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