"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of the opportunity provided to serve self-interest when Al Gore created the internet; and we should also thank Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey for creating Facebook and Twitter out of the kindness of their big hearts and not the thinness of their small wallets."
-Ben Franklin, Autobiography (1742)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thomas Paine on the End of the World

In recent months doomsayers have begun proclaiming that they have again deduced the actual date that our time on this earth will come to a close. Despite all logical and spiritual evidence to the contrary, it has become a conspiratorially popular theory of late that TOMORROW is the end of the world. Yes, that's right - TOMORROW - May 21, 2011 = End of the World (supposedly).

This is indeed a weighty matter. Thankfully, it's also completely false, and we are happy to put any fears to rest so that you can all sleep soundly this weekend knowing that the world will absolutely still be there when you wake up. 

The truth of the matter is that the world WAS going to end on May 21, but it was going to be in the year 1987. How you ask? For that let's take a little trip through history back to a stormy summer night in the year 1774, to the private study of one Mr. Thomas Paine:

"Hell, like tyranny, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." - Thomas Paine, May 03, 1774.

The now famously mis-quoted remark was actually an excerpt from an argument Paine had been having with Benjamin Franklin on that fateful night. Doctor Franklin had recently made a harrowing discovery that an alignment of the planets would in fact place Earth directly within the path of an orbiting asteroid, likely wiping out most of the planet's surface instantly as a result of the devastating collision. According to Franklin's research, the event would take place on the afternoon of May 21st, 1774, merely a few weeks away at the time of his discovery.

Though unfortunately most of Franklin's notes from this time period have since been lost, and those that remain have been made almost illegible due to his habit of drawing over his words with pictures of women's breasts, it is clear that Franklin and Paine worked furiously to prevent the disaster. It also appears that they ultimately succeeded with a plan engineered by Paine that the pair dubbed "Enormous Jubblies at Midnight" (clearly Franklin's nomenclature).

All we know about Paine's maneuver is as follows:

1) It somehow involved several lightning rods, a weather-beaten parasol, and a jug of rye whiskey.
2) It's success saved the world from certain disaster with exactly 2 seconds to spare.
3) The ripple effect shifted the planetary alignment enough that the two heroes were certain that at least during the next orbital rotation (which would occur 213 years later on May 21, 1987) the planet would again miss the path of the asteroid by a hair's breadth.

Below is a depiction of how the event might have looked from space:

As you can see, we are clearly safe. For now. And for that safety we once again owe thanks to the tireless efforts of our founding fathers, who managed even amidst the political turmoil of planning a revolution to protect not only their country but the entire world.

On a serious note, this means that all signs point to the asteroid tearing us a new one on May 21st, 2200 (which totally sounds like a plausible day for the world to end), unless the world's top scientists manage to get their hands on Enormous Jubblies at Midnight, which seems unlikely.

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