Friday, November 03, 2006

my favorite apocolypses

There's nothing like the combination of global warming news, the general drumbeat of world events, and a semester starting to wrap up to put me in an apocolyptic mood.   It's time for some perspective, so I've decided to document a few favorite apocolypse dates, many drawn from Alma Geddon's absolutely amazing collection.

2012.  I've had a soft spot for 2012, when the Mayan calender cycles, for a few years now.  There's something nice and round about it.  "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold'" as Yeats wrote.  2012 ties in nicely with his idea of gyres, cycles in the world.

2038.  As a computer geek, 2038-01-19 03:14:07 GMT has a special place in my heart. You see, Unix systems traditionally express time as the number of seconds since midnight, January 1, 1970, and they typicaly express it as a 32 bit value.  On January 19, 2038, that 32 bit value gets so large that it wraps around from being a positive number to a negative one.  Which means Unix computers may get confused.  (What am I saying.  Anyone who's looked at the source code of most Unix apps will tell you of course they're going to get confused.) Even worse, lots of Internet protocols express time the same way Unix computers do, so the Internet might get confused, too.  Sort of like Y2K but without the millenial hysteria.

Either 24.92 billion years or 100,000 years, depending on the prediction:  At this point, the accumulated weight of the National Geographic magazines people insist on saving will depress the east and west coasts of the North American continent, raising the middle two hundred meters into the air, causing nasty climate problems and turning the Rockies into an island chain.

5 billion years, give or take.  In five billion years or so, the sun goes nova.  As the inimitable Sam Hughes, who's studied such things and should know, so eloquently pointed out, "The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron". As apocolypes go, melting every piece of ice on the planet and turning the Rockies into an island chain is peanuts to a stellar nova.

I encourage you to check out Alma Geddon's list and a useful meta-list here.  If I've left out an apocolypse date that's near and dear to your heart, feel free to comment about it.

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