The End of the World as We Know it?

So according to certain “scholars” the world is going to end tomorrow. Or, I guess more accurately, in about 6 ½ hours (give or take a few micro-seconds). But the six some odd hour’s thing is just a guess since the Mayans did not actually say when on the 21st the world was actually going to end.

Now don’t get wrong here, I am not thumbing my nose at the Mayans or the scholars who “deciphered” the calendar that suddenly stops on the 21st of the 12th 2012. I will have to admit that I don’t care enough to spend too much time searching the net for additional references to the day the world ends. I probably should though just to be on the safe side.

I don’t want to wake tomorrow morning and waste my time being superior and doing the “See! I told you this was a load of bull pucky;” only to have everything blow up in my face at noon or twelve midnight of the 21st of December.

I know that they came up with this really awesome calendar and that’s great! But do we really think that a race of people who practised human sacrifice could predict the end of the world? Really?

If these ancient Mayan’s were so clever, why did their civilization collapse? Oh sure, a 200 year drought may have had something to do with it, but, they also could have been overthrown by folks who did not fancy being the latest sacrifice to the Gods they worshipped.

In fact, if I have the “facts” straight, their wonderful calendar does not “state” that the world will end on the 21st. It just does not go beyond that date. There could be a lot of different reasons for this.

  1. They could have gotten tired doing all that etching in stone and laid down for a rest. While they were resting, the civilization collapsed and no one cared about finishing the calendar.
  2. Maybe the royal Mayan calendar maker died (or was sacrificed) and they could not find another one.
  3. They might just have gotten bored. After all some new neighbours might have moved in next door and they needed to make them feel welcome.
  4. Last, but not least, perhaps they lost their version of the Abacus they were using and they didn’t have enough fingers and toes to finish the calendar.

But seriously why does anyone believe that an ancient civilization could tell when the world was going to end. I’m pretty sure that the lack of dates past a certain time does not indicate the end of time or dates.

Folks have been saying that the world’s going to end a lot. Okay, most of these folks are religious cranks that usually belong to a cult and believe that angels are going to descend in a space ship and take them to heaven. Of course not all cults believe this, some just think they need to be at a certain place or they’re going to miss the “heaven” train.

Talking to a bank teller today, the subject of the world ending tomorrow came up. “Well, if the world’s ending tomorrow, I’d better wish you a happy Christmas now.” He was laughing when he said it. After we finished laughing at his funny remark I wondered if I still needed to send out Christmas cards this year. I could always send them late with the excuse that I wanted to save money on the postage, especially if the cards would never get there anyway.

But on a different note altogether, I saw somewhere that it was being predicted that the world wasn’t going to end tomorrow, but that all things electrical would cease functioning for three days.

What?

I’m still not sure where this one came from, except I know for sure that it would not have been from the Mayans. Unless of course they really were that advanced and had written on their calendar that electricity would not only be invented, but, that it would be down world-wide for three whole days starting on the 21st.

Now that would be impressive. Not enough for me to believe it, but enough for me to give the Mayan’s more credit for telling the future than I have so far.

Still, if by some chance they were right, I’ll never know and that is how it should be. If we all knew when world was going to end I believe that we would all be a pretty miserable lot.

But if you don’t hear from me after tomorrow…

 

Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) Gone But Never Forgotten

I was sad to hear that Neil Armstrong died yesterday. He was a true American hero and pioneer. He will be missed but he will live on in the history books of the world as the man who walked on the moon and said those iconic words as he planted the American flag on the moon’s surface.

I say that he was a hero. Of course he was. My somewhat limited definition of a hero is pretty straightforward. A hero is an individual who generations of schoolchildren and other more adult people look up to. They are touched by their achievements and strive to live their lives as the hero in question does.

I also say that he was a pioneer. My definition of a pioneer is also quite straightforward. As a child raised on stories of the settlers in the early years of America making their way across a country so vast to find places that no man had seen before, Armstrong fall in that category easily. He was making his way across space.

All the astronauts were heroes and pioneers, and they still are. Like the Star Trek narration states at the beginning of every episode, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I was ten, almost eleven, years old when the moon landing was televised worldwide. I can remember sitting with my parents in front of the television and watching the ‘scratchy’ and noise filled images that came from space of these brave men and their first steps on the moon.

All of us in the room that day were excited and fearful. No one knew what this might mean to the world. We had not only broken our earthly boundary but we’d landed on another ‘planet.’ We were all very proud to be Americans that day. The first country in the world to put a real man on the moon to interact the the existing ‘man’ on the moon.

I do remember, much to my embarrassment, that just after Neil Armstrong had utter those words destined to go into the history books, I turned to my parents and said, “How come we can land on the moon, but we can’t get a decent picture of it? Why is it so fuzzy?” If I remember correctly I think both my parents laughed and then told me to ‘Quieten down’ until the broadcast was finished.

You can read books that were written about that time that have nothing to do with space and a lot of them will have made a reference to that event. The date 20 July 1969 is an important date for all of mankind not just for America. I remember reading a book by John Ketwig called …and a hard rain fell: A GI‘s True Story of the War in Vietnam. In it he tells of walking around the countryside in Thailand and telling, and showing with the aid of matches and a rubber band,  local villagers about the moon landing.

Neil Armstrong hero, pioneer, father, brother, man. Like Icarus, he flew and challenged the Gods. His words, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Will be his legacy for generations to come.  Neil has made his last journey, one that has taken him higher than the moon.

Neil Armstrong gone, but never forgotten. RIP great man, we’ll remember you as long as we breathe. I know for certain that I will.

Today Mars, Tomorrow the Universe

Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey
Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday was a real red letter day for NASA (You see what I did there?). Their nuclear powered discovery vehicle, the aptly named ‘Curiosity‘ has not only managed to land on Mars but it has sent it’s first pictures back.  Pretty exciting stuff and it’s guaranteed to pique the interest of every ‘wanna-be’ astronaut and space scientist the world over.

NASA is also one step closer to building that ‘giant’ rocket that will be necessary to send bigger payloads up into space. With a projected launch date of 2017, it’s beginning to look like a manned mission to Mars might just happen in my life time.

It’s about time.

NASA,  like everyone else, has suffered from the world-wide funding problems that plague us all. The space program has had some pretty devastating cutbacks in recent history and they are now moving ahead at ‘warp-speed’ to catch up.

With the world concentrating on the 2012 London Olympics and daily bad news updates of scandal, shootings and subterfuge it’s nice that outer space issues can still generate interest.

Most importantly, this Mars landing is a benchmark event. The next step will be, of course, a manned flight. If we can send folks to Mars and it turns out that we can use the planet as a ‘stepping stone’ to the rest of the galaxy, how wondrous would that be. We could literally explore, in person, the rest of the galaxy and the universe.

I can still remember the first moon landing in 1969. I was eleven and my brother was about three or four. We all watched this momentous event on my parent’s huge Curtis-Mathis entertainment centre. My father was, if you’ll pardon the expression, over the moon. He told us about one of his school teachers, Mrs. Jones.

She had told all her students that man would one day walk on the moon in his quest to conquer the stars. Needless to say, way back in the early 1940’s this was an almost heretical view. Man had only really come to grips with aeroplanes and jets were just making their appearance known towards the end of WWII. She was called ‘crazy old Mrs. Jones.’

My father said that she was fairly old (although to a child, anyone over the age of thirty is old)  when he was a child, but he hoped that she had lived long enough to see the landing and to hear those historical words. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

I like to think that she saw and heard her vision come true as well.

It was ‘crazy old Mrs Jones’ that I instantly thought of when the Curiosity sent back her first low resolution pictures of Mars surface. I can only hope that live long enough to see the first manned flight land on Mars.

English: Manned mission to Mars : Ascent stage...
English: Manned mission to Mars : Ascent stage (NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0) fev 2009 Français : Mission habitée vers Mars : étage de remontée (NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0) fev 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)