Nov 252016

by Kim Pederson…….

Not surprisingly, many people here in the United States have been searching desperately for silver linings since November 8 (as many others celebrate finding theirs unexpectedly). So I went looking for TTCMUs (things to cheer me up) the other day and came across some news that, while not exactly good in nature, might be considered to have a silver hue by those desperate enough. Just to give you a clue, the title of the article I stumbled on is this: “One in 500 Chance Humans Will Be Extinct in a Year, Mathematician Claims.”

Who's your daddy now?*

Who’s your daddy now?*

The conclusion presented in the title stems from something called the “Doomsday Argument,” a calculation that purportedly “can predict the number of future members of the human species given an estimate of the total number of humans born so far.” One of the proponents of this argument is Dr. Fergus Simpson, a mathematician at the University of Barcelona’s Institute of Cosmos Sciences. According to Fergus, “the annual risk of global catastrophe currently exceeds 0.2 per cent.” By his computations, one hundred million people have been already been born and one hundred million more will be born before the human race hits its “sell-by” date. This translates to a thirteen-percent chance of us not making it out of the 21st century alive. Believe it or not, this is an optimistic prediction. Other astrophysicists have projected a fifty-percent chance of us exiting the mortal coil before 2100.

So what’s going to get us? Well, if we don’t get ourselves (nuclear weapons, greenhouse gasses, another season of Survivor, etc.), we may get sucked into a black hole (as Nova likes to tell us) or Chicxulub’s big brother might stop by to pay a visit. If that name isn’t familiar, it belongs to an six-miles-in-diameter asteroid that hit the earth sixty-six million years ago, creating the Cretaceous-Palogene extinction event that wiped out three-quarters of all plant and animal life on the planet.

I know, I know. What kind of person would view an extinction event as a silver lining? How despondent would a person have to be to wish for the cosmic equivalent of “kill me now” rather than endure one more day of our current political circumstances? I guess, as the saying goes, only time will tell.

* A major impact event releases the energy of several million nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously, when an asteroid of only a few kilometers in diameter collides with a larger body such as the Earth (image: artist’s impression). Public domain.

Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.

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Kim Pederson
Kim Pederson has been a freelance writer and editor since 1996. Prior to that, he was Senior Editor with Charles River Associates, an international economics consulting firm. Kim earned a B.A. in English (Honors) from the University of Montana and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop. His plays have won awards and been produced in Seattle and other locations; his screenplays have won awards and been optioned, and he has done work-for-hire scripts for film production companies. Kim lives in Key West with his wife Kalo and two Maine coon cats, VeuDeu and Pazuzu.
 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #194, Kim Pederson  Add comments