Sunday, May 15, 2011

This Is The Way The World Ends...

So I'm on BART, and there's a couple, some older than me, on a date, and the woman is talking about how her son is all obsessed with how the world is supposed to end in 2012.

"Why 2012?" asks the man. She shrugs.

"Mayan calender," I say. They look at me. "The Mayan calender ends in 2012."

"Do you think that means the world will end then?" the man asks.

"No," I say. "I just know a bit about it because I taught high school. I think they just calculated one cycle after another, but you can only get so far ahead, and the Spanish came in the fifteenth century, and after that, the social infrastructure that supported calculating the calender and recording the calculations was destroyed. Anyway, Harold Camping says the world is going to end May 21, this year."

"My God, that's just a couple of days," the woman says. "Really?"

I show them the poster behind us. I explain that Camping has previously floated one end of world date in 1994. I explain that there's a conflicting group that believes it's May 21 next year. I discuss the Rapture, the various biblical prohibitions against this sort of nonsense...

"You sound really smart," the woman says.

"I wish I was smart about astrophysics or something," I tell her. "Theories about the world ending aren't very useful. Sooner or later, they all get disproven."

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