June 2006

. . . Gothamist was made aware of a press release from a group claiming to be biblical scholars. The group predicts, with 98% confidence, that the “UN Plasa in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a terrorist nuclear bomb between Thursday evening June 29th and Tuesday evening July 4th”. The Poconos are looking really good for a weekend getaway. Oh, wait, a few weeks ago these so-called scholars were 85% certain annihilation was going to occur on June 9th and 10th, and this turns out to be their fourth attempt. Gothamist is impressed by their perserverence but not by their tenuous connection to reality.

See full text here, via Gothamist. Here’s hoping they’re not a volatile bunch, these alleged biblical scholars; wouldn’t want them to take out their frustrations with their poor predictive track record and turning them into affirmative action.

More from the “scholars” themselves, who seem to wish to channel Isaac Newton as part of their investigations, here.


Japanese animation showing what would happen if a giant meteor hit the Earth.

California’s water needs may have to be met using desalination plants in the future, but building and operating them now would be costly and would adversely impact the environment, said a report released by an independent research organization . . .

Costs may vary, but the process requires an enormous amount of energy, the report said. Fluctuations in energy prices may increase costs in the future. The process can harm the environment when chemicals used in extracting heavy salts get dumped into the ocean. Institute officials said more forethought is needed before the projects get under way.

All those people watering their lush green lawns in California, operating under the delusion that there will be some miraculous panacea that will solve California’s centuries-year old water crisis, better think again.  It turns out that in a world that is both oil-scarce and water-scarce, it really costs too much to keep 35 million Californians (estimated to be 50 million in 2025) from dehydrating, drying up and blowing away.

All of which means we’ll just have to get ready for the great reverse dust bowl — thousands of hybrid SUVs clogging the interstate highways with mattresses tied to their roofs, Grandma smoking a pipe in the baggage compartment, kids begging for Evian.  Might even save a few lives if they manage to get out of there before the San Andreas fault blows.

But then again, just think of all those Californians loose in the Midwest.

See article here.

As usual, I think the important question is — how many out of 300 million will be voting in the 2008 presidential election, and how many of them will be voting in the next American Idol phone poll?

In a dusty brown village outside this Shiite holy city, a once-humble yellow-brick mosque is undergoing a furious expansion. Cranes hover over two soaring concrete minarets and the pointed arches of a vast new enclosure. Buses pour into a freshly asphalted parking lot to deliver waves of pilgrims.The expansion is driven by an apocalyptic vision: that Shiite Islam's long-hidden 12th Imam, or Mahdi, will soon emerge — possibly at the mosque of Jamkaran — to inaugurate the end of the world. The man who provided $20 million to prepare the shrine for that moment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has reportedly told his cabinet that he expects the Mahdi to arrive within the next two years. Mehdi Karrubi, a rival cleric, has reported that Ahmadinejad ordered that his government's platform be deposited in a well at Jamkaran where the faithful leave messages for the hidden imam.

See Jackson Diehl's full column here.  So perhaps the maneuvering is not just about money, as I had theorized.  It is about money for a big fat Iranian Apocalypse shin-dig. 

Albert Brooks in Broadcast News delivers a classic description of the Antichrist:

What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing… he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax us along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us 'really being salesmen.'… And he'll get all the great women.

Along the same lines, Brent Simmons in his blog inessential.com gives us the following:

Whenever I imagine the anti-Christ, I imagine a super nice guy, universally beloved. Well-dressed, clean-shaven—he won’t look like he’s from Hell.

He’ll be charismatic. Philanthropic. It will seem like he cares about you, personally. He’ll have an air of quiet moral earnestness, like Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck.

If he makes something (movies, software, soft drinks, shoes) people will love his products. If he’s a politician he will be loved by left and right.

You won’t know he’s the anti-Christ. In fact, he would be the last guy you suspect.

He’ll have a wonderful speaking voice, and you’ll just love to listen to him talk. Everybody will.

The anti-Christ will successfully appeal to our best instincts.

He will enjoy wide bipartisan support. He will in fact be a uniter, not a divider.

He will lead us to become virtuous—and he will make it obvious and easy.

He will get high marks for his authenticity, for being a straight shooter, for being the same publicly and privately, for being unpretentious, for being at home with both academics and truck drivers.

He will solve some giant problem — he may bring peace to the Middle East or end war and suffering in Africa.

He will be reluctant to lead. We will say that we thought they didn't make heroes like that anymore — but we will thank God we have such a man in this century that needs heroes so badly. He will lead us.

When the battle between Good and Evil begins, most good people will be on the side of the anti-Christ. That's his trick.

Using these attributes as my criteria, I believe I have successfully eliminated Ann Coulter, Donald Rumsfeld and Gilbert Gottfried as potential Antichrist candidates. Now, back to the drawing board . . .

This has been around for three years now, but it bears some notice nonetheless.

In its 4.5 billion years, Earth has evolved from its hot, violent birth to the celebrated watery blue planet that stands out in pictures from space. But in a new book, two noted University of Washington astrobiologists say the planet already has begun the long process of devolving into a burned-out cinder, eventually to be swallowed by the sun.

By their reckoning, Earth's "day in the sun" has reached 4:30 a.m., corresponding to its 4.5 billion-year age. By 5 a.m., the 1 billion-year reign of animals and plants will come to an end. At 8 a.m. the oceans will vaporize. At noon – after 12 billion years – the ever-expanding sun, transformed into a red giant, will engulf the planet, melting away any evidence it ever existed and sending molecules and atoms that once were Earth floating off into space.

"The disappearance of our planet is still 7.5 billion years away, but people really should consider the fate of our world and have a realistic understanding of where we are going," said UW astrophysicist Donald Brownlee. "We live in a fabulous place at a fabulous time. It's a healthy thing for people to realize what a treasure this is in space and time, and fully appreciate and protect their environment as much as possible."

Leave it to a bunch of scientists to suck all the fun out of an end-of-the-world watch.  No Armageddon predictions, no nuclear accident, not even a stray zombie attack — just the Earth shriveling up and getting swallowed by the Sun.  How are we supposed to get riled up about that?

I think most of us would rather imagine a more poetic ending than that. 

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