Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome to the year 13,747,629,108

I've often wondered, being of that frame of mind, why we arbitrarily assume that there is something significant in numbers. Take the date 1/1/11. Ooooo. Why didn't the world end then? Or on 1/11/11. Perhaps it will end this November 11th. Or something wonderful will happen on that most positive of binary days.

For that matter, why didn't the world end on November 11th, 1111 AD? An even more auspicious day. Or maybe something wonderful did happen, like the Rapture, and left the rest of us sinners back down on this imperfect earth. And we were none the wiser for it.

My dog, Bob, was born on that auspicious day, 9/9/99, as foretold in prophecy. The Expected Puppy. He is a particularly good dog, very affable, smart, affectionate, loyal. Everyone who sees him runs up to pet him, like he's running for mayor. Perhaps his auspicious birthday was significant and perhaps he is The Dog both humanity and caninity has been waiting for.

I've been thinking about this because of the shocking news (to those of us who don't follow astrology) that the zodiac has recently been changed. In fact, they've added a 13th sign (would hate to be born under that number), Ophiochus, The Snake Handler (make of that one what you will). Now, this shouldn't bother me because I never held much truck with that stuff in the first place. It was all I could do to remember my own sign as Capricorn. I'm told, since I was born before the year 2000, that I can keep that (just keep it to myself). And I understand that as the Solar System makes its way around the perimeter of the Milky Way, that constellations are bound, over time, to shift in relation to the Sun and other planets as we move at 841,446 mph around the galactic center--or something. I get all that. What I don't get is why these things are supposed to be significant.

The date 11/11/11, for instance isn't a significant number. In fact, that day is just that by arbitrary coincidence. Our entire Gregorian calendar is arbitrary, hooked to some speculative birthday of Jesus (who, it turns out may have been born as much as four years plus or minus that).  And since most of mankind doesn't believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, it becomes even more arbitrary, not to mention imperialistic, and not to mention base-10-centric.

In the Hebrew Calendar, based on the Biblical date of creation (at least more logical if wrong), the date is the seemingly meaningless 14/8/5772. I'm sure, though, that if you are of the cabalistic bent, you could make something meaningful out of this, too. It does seem like a familiar phone number.

In the Mayan calendar, the one that's supposed to predict the end of the world sometime in 2012, the auspicious date of 11/11/11 translates to'Eb.0.Keh.G6, which just happens to be the unlock code for my Adobe CS5 program.  Ooooooo. What does it MEEEEEAN?

Even this computer I'm writing on is based on a Julian Calendar, which was thrown over for the supposedly more solar-centric Gregorian on the auspicious date of 2/24/1582 (though Wikipedia doesn't say, significantly, whether that date was Julian or Gregorian). So we can't even agree on that. But if you're a programmer, you need to start somewhere as zero, and Gregorian dates, with their fractional days, are just inconvenient in a digital world.

If we were to be logical (at least like most cultures, basing their start date on the presumed beginning of the world), why wouldn't we set a Year Zero as the scientifically derived estimate for the formation of the earth? Making this the year 4,519,345,611 more or less. But that would be both imprecise and earth chauvinistic. At what precise instant did the earth transform from being an increasingly dense aggregate of interstellar dust to a planet you could stand on? Now? No? Now? No? Now? At some point it must have been not much smaller than Pluto, which, sadly, never did make it to planetdom.

Or why not from the Big Bang? They've figured out to a remarkable degree of precision, using minute analysis of Microwave Cosmic Background Radiation, etc., that the Universe is 13.75 billion years old, plus or minus 130 million. So why not start the calendar there; the creation of not just space, but time?

Of course that's all so arbitrary, too, since time is relative (as Einstein proved) and the unit "year" is based on a rotational period of a minor rocky planet orbiting just one of some 300 sextillion stars in the universe, which itself is changing over time.

So, aside from aesthetic appeal, the secret codes or coincidence in dates is just random.  An amusing way to pass the time. Like crossword puzzles. And this blog.

But I know why we call it 2011 instead of 13,747,629,108. No room on a check.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of our speech.