Saturday, June 30, 2012
The Wrong Tomorrow
Today, I lost my cell phone, and was unable to locate it -- wherever I looked. It wasn't in its charger, and it wasn't by my bed. I started looking in all sorts of crazy places: drawers I hadn't opened in years, the trash, inside the refrigerator - all to no avail. Fearing the disaster of not having a phone, I posted to Facebook that someone should call me, so that I could attempt to listen for where the sound was coming from. Before anyone called, I opened a flap at the bottom of a recliner and my cell phone fell out. It had fallen out of my pocket while I was sitting in my chair.
This incident from my life kind of reminds me of what has happened with the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse idea. So you discover this highly-accurate, fascinating calendar, and you notice that it only covers a limited (albeit large) period of time. You discover more calendars, and they all end at the same date. You scour the remains of the Mayan Empire for more calendars, but by the time you find a calendar with a later date, everyone in the world has started to fear disaster from the missing years. They did find a new calendar (link here), and they discovered a symbol for an even longer period of time, roughly equivalent to the period of time depicted in the present Mayan Calendar (link here). The missing years have an explanation, and it wasn't any of the outlandish theories investigated by predictors of doom, many of whom still believe the world will end on December 21, 2012.
I can't put a date on it, but a real world-ending event could loom for us. Recently, the crater of an asteroid impact large enough to wipe out all life on Earth was discovered (article here). Well, at least, all higher life would be destroyed, leaving only bacteria behind. The date of this asteroid impact was 3 billion years ago, long before life developed into the myriad forms that it takes today, so it probably didn't kill any plants, animals, or fungi -- but the fact remains, today we'd all be dead from the extinction level event that would occur after that impact. After 3 billion years, are we "due" for another impact of that size? All we can do is watch the sky, and hope that we are not. Regardless of what tomorrow holds, someone will be wrong. It's more likely that you'll be wrong, however, if you speak with certainty about something that can't be measured and predicted. Uncertainty is never the enemy of good science.