The Long-Term Forecast


So Australia’s looking like they’re committed to not asking me to prime ministrate for them. Fine, all right. It’s time for some long-term planning. If you don’t agree it’s time for that, come back in ten minutes and see if it’s time then. If that still doesn’t work, come back in 1,425 years and then we’ll see who’s saying what. No, that’s not me tricking you into long-term planning. I’m thinking of something that’s really long term. Like, longer even than 1,430 years.

If we keep looking forward we find the Sun’s going to keep shining. This just makes sense. The costs of constructing the Sun have been nearly completely amortized. Replacing it with something else that would provide the same services would be fiscally irresponsible. Just complying with the changes in zoning regulations would make the whole project economically dubious. If you disagree I can put you in touch with the Comptroller, but do be warned, he’s a hugger.

The thing about the Sun shining that’s relevant here is that it puts out all sorts of light. A bit of it presses down on our ground. The rest goes off somewhere, we don’t know where. It’s probably harmless. But while light doesn’t have mass, it does carry momentum, as it had the idea that this would make it more popular in middle school. This worked as well as every plan to be more popular in middle school. Nevertheless, when light hits the surface of the Earth, it delivers this momentum, pushing down on the planet just like tennis balls hitting the ground would, only without the benefit of line judges.

Imagine the Earth were made of Play-Doh. This is a simplification for the purpose of planning. It’s really made of a Silly Putty alloy. Nevertheless, if you take a gob of Play-Doh out of its can you’ll quickly get distracted by that weird not-exactly-polymer smell. Push past that, though. Roll the thing into a ball and set it on a table. It doesn’t stay round forever. The pull of gravity will spread it out. This takes time, but that’s all right. You can let this run for billions of years, if that’s what it takes. You don’t have plans that far out, even though you somehow don’t have the time to do anything either.

The Earth isn’t just sitting on a table, which is a relief, since it would probably leave a stain on the tablecloth. But the pressure of that sunlight has a similar effect, except for going the opposite way. As the sunlight presses on the Earth, the planet’s also rotating, which implies we’ll eventually have the planet rolled out into a long and skinny pole, several inches wide and unspeakably long. It’s astounding enough to think of it twirling around the solar system like an enormous baton. But imagine the size of the matching cheerleaders and marching band. All Jupiter would barely be enough material to make the tuba.

What can we expect for life on this Pole World to be like? The obvious supposition is that it will serve very well the descendants of modern large cities. People who’ve gotten very used to standing on crowded buses and subway cars would be great at clinging to a pole for stability. This is too facile an analysis. It overlooks that, obviously, subway service will have stopped long before the Earth becomes a rod only a couple inches across. Bus service can continue a bit longer after subways become impossible, of course. But even that will have to end no later than when the Earth is a cylinder at most ten feet in diameter.

Without subway or bus service most large-city commuting will be impossible. This will require a major restructuring of the economy. But given how much demand there’s likely to be for hooks or straps that could catch onto the Pole World, for stability, this restructuring was probably going to happen anyway.

It’ll also be tough for burrowing animals. But they’ll evolve adjustments to these changes gradually. This means we will most likely not get a great moment where a groundhog shuffles off, confident it’s going to get away from whatever is annoying it, and starts digging, and then accidentally pops out the other side of the planet and looks stymied and confused. Reality does have a way of spoiling the cool stuff like that. But animals that cling to branches or vines seem set to do well. Two- and three-toed sloths may find the geography extremely comfortable except when someone’s trying to pass.

But who really knows? As the city-dwellers example shows, the full reality of something can have weird and counter-intuitive results. This is why it is so hard to predict the distant future. Well, we can check back in a couple dozen gabillion years and see how it’s all turned out.

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Found While Attempting To Clean Out My Wallet


Ocean County Library Card. I haven’t lived in Ocean County, New Jersey, for 27 months. Even my parents don’t live there anymore. It’s nearly a thousand miles away and while I do sometimes return to it the chance I will be seized with an urgent need to borrow a book while in the area and couldn’t just use the Rutgers library instead seems pretty small. Verdict: Yes, needs to be kept.

Loyalty Card, Subway chain, New York Yankees design style. Acquired in April of 2012 again in Ocean County, New Jersey. Yankees pattern might arouse a low-level grumbling from the people who could, theoretically, spit in my egg-and-cheese flatbread sandwich if I took my eyes off them and they were particularly devoted fans of the Detroit Tigers or such other teams that aren’t the Yankees. Loyalty points never redeemed. The last time I attempted to use it was in Trenton while trying to buy some cookies in early 2013, which resulted in the discovery that the Trenton-area Subway didn’t respect the loyalty cards of the Ocean County-area Subway shops. This also implies that if I did try using it in mid-Michigan I might just get slugged. Verdict: set it on the dresser underneath where I keep my wallet so it’ll be on hand whenever I might go out and possibly need it.

MTA subway card. Goodness knows when I’m going to find myself in Manhattan or Brooklyn or maybe some other borough if New York City still has them anymore and I might need to get to the Port Authority and I’m certainly not going to go buying another card when my old one still has easily $7.35 on it. Verdict: Definitely keep. Maybe get another just in case.

Loyalty Card, Panera Bread. With my track record of buying stuff from Panera Bread sometimes four, maybe even six times per year it would be foolish to give this up. I’ve surely worked my way nearly to getting a free small coffee or whatever is going on. Verdict: Move to the little plastic-covered pouch up front where it’s more accessible than even my driver’s license.

Little Metal Tab Containing A Combination Lock’s Default Code. Verdict: absolutely keep, for the overwhelming sentimental value.

Movie Ticket Stubs. Granted the risk is small that a genially cranky police officer from a pulp series of detective fiction, under the belief that I am a world-renowned jewel thief who’s only pretending to go straight even though I keep solving miscellaneous non-jewel-related crimes for him, will demand to know my alibi for the late afternoon of the 14th of August this year, but if he does then I can suavely pull out the receipt showing I bought tickets to see the Rifftrax version of Godzilla, and thus come under greater suspicion because why would I be able to answer where I was and what I was doing unless I were covering up my participation in the Tubbsworth National Bank heist, anyway? Similarly for the times I saw Frozen, Star Trek Into Darkness and Lincoln. Verdict: talk with my old pal Alan the fence who’s working the pawn shop down on the waterfront and get myself kidnapped by the actual bank robbers who’re figuring to put an end to my meddling, and Jeanette, give me three hours and telephone the Inspector to report I just left for the laundry just opposite the bank.

Discover Card. Originally put in the wallet just in case I find myself at the Great Adventure theme park, where the card offers a discount on buying expensive but tolerable pizza and soda, and to draw the pleading attention of the Discover Card Corporation, which really wants me to use it for stuff and things, like, you know? Verdict: Leave in the little cubby-hole on the nightstand and try to plug my ears at night so the desperation of the card, wanting so much to be used for something, anything, doesn’t deprive me of sleep.

Curiously Sandy Grit of Some Kind. Possibly sand, possibly dust, possibly unused coffee grounds, possibly industrial-grade diamond chips. Verdict: attempt to clean out, only to find it’s impossible to clean this kind of wallet.

Notes From The Dream World: Al Roker Subway Nudity Something Or Other


So, if we can trust what I’m getting out of my dreams, apparently New York City has some portion of the subway system where there’s nice wide cement platforms elevated high enough that the entire train runs underneath the platform level. Probably there’s a way of getting into the trains underneath the concrete and you just use the very high platforms for getting around. It all seems kind of risky but you can hop from one platform side to the other when the train’s in the station, which is nice. Also, apparently, Al Roker’s going to spend a lot of time wandering around and waving merrily to people on top of the platform.

But there’ll be hazards yet, such as the several honor guard hollering at people to clear a swath about twenty feet wide to make way for the baggage being carried for His Majesty, the King of the Nuditarians. This is peculiar, since certainly I’d imagined the King of the Nuditarians didn’t need all that much luggage. I’d have guessed it at maybe a duffel bag for his gym shorts and a toothbrush. Maybe carry along a bowling ball-style bag for his crown. But the ways of royalty are strange, on the New York City subway or not.

You know, if it weren’t for the honor guard, I’d have suspected him of being an impostor.