Lenny Bruce is not afraid   Leave a comment

What’s your sign?

Recently, the news broke that the signs of the Zodiac had changed. The dates of all the 12 signs had shifted, and a new sign, Ophiuchus, had been added. So what gives?

Basically, as the solar system drifts through the cosmos, the position of the stars in the sky have slowly shifted since the time when the ancient Babylonians created the modern zodiac. Astrologers haven’t updated the zodiac signs to match the shifting locations of the constellations in the night sky. Then on January 14 reporter Bill Ward interviewed astronomer Parke Kuncke of the Minnesota Planetarium Society in an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Regarding any confusion between the words astronomer and astrologer: an astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets stars and galaxies, whereas an astrologer is someone who makes a living giving superstitious suckers advice on how to live their lives based on a bunch of mumbo-jumbo horse plop). The article apparently went viral in a major way, and the next thing you know we have ourselves a revised Zodiac.

The funny thing is that people have know about this discrepancy for centuries, but they just went ahead using the same old Zodiac. I first heard about this in an astronomy book I read when I was ten, so it’s kind of funny that the entire world is just discovering this fact as though it’s a breaking story.

Of course, the astrologers are arguing that there’s no need for this change to be made, because most Western astrology uses something called a tropical zodiac, in which the zodiac signs still apply regardless where their respective constellations are in the sky. Interestingly, Indian astrologers and some Western astrologers do actually use a sidereal zodiac, which does shift as the night sky does, so they’ve been using 13 constellations for a while.

For the record, I’m still an Aquarius either way.

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Mayan Apocalypse

The world is ending. Or maybe not. There’s been talk over the past couple years about how the Mayan calendar predicts that the world is going to end on December 21, 2012. In the ancient Long Count calendar used by the Maya and other Central American cultures, dates are measured by their distance from the date of creation, which was 3114 BC in our years. The largest unit of time was the b’ak’tun, a length of 144,00 days or 394.25 years. We are currently in the 13th b’ak’tun, which will end on 12/21/2012, at which point the 14th b’ak’tun will begin. Now, according to one account of Mayan beliefs, our universe is the fourth one that has been created. The first three were imperfect, and the gods only created men after the fourth creation. The thing is, the third creation lasted for exactly 13 b’ak’tuns, and the current universe was created at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun. Some have concluded, therefore, that at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun on December 12, 2012, our world will extinguished and another will take it’s place.

There are two problems with this theory. First, the third cosmos was a failure, unlike ours, so there’s no reason to believe that our universe will be replaced after the same period of time. There’s no mention of an apocalyptic event on that date in Mayan writing, and experts say there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that the Mayans thought the world would end at that time.

Secondly, the Mayan religion is mythological and not actually true. I can’t stress this fact enough. The universe will not be ending late next year.

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Animals: Dropping dead left and right …

A bit more concerning were the massive numbers of animals which were dying in groups all over the globe in the first days of 2011. The hubbub started on New Years Eve in Beebe, Arkansas, where 3,000 red-winged blackbirds flew headlong into buildings, trees and even straight into the ground. Experts say that fireworks could have spooked the birds and sent them into fatal hysterics. There had been other incidences earlier that week. About 100 miles away, nearly 100,00 dead and dying drum fish washed up along the Arkansas River, possibly victims of illness; in Kentucky, a couple hundred red-winged blackbirds, starlings, grackles and cowbirds died within a few blocks of each other; and three endangered whooping cranes were found dead in Georgia. Reports of massive die-offs kept coming. Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3, 100 tons of sardines and other fish washed up on the coast of Brazil; on Jan. 3, 500 starlings, red-winged blackbirds and sparrows dropped dead in Labarre, Lousiana; hundreds of snappers, many with their eyes missing, washed up on New Zealand’s North Island on Jan. 4; 2 million dead fish were found floating in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland on Jan. 3; a 50 birds were found dead in Sweeden on Jan. 4 and 5; 700 dead turtle doves were found in Italy on Jan. 5; 40,000 dead devil crabs washed up along the coast of Kent in England, along with starfish, lobsters, sponges and anemones, all believed to have been killed by hypothermia in the coldest December in Britain in 120 years; over Jan. 8-9, over 100 dead birds were found over a stretch of California highway; over the same weekend, thousands of gizzard shad (a tiny herring-like fish) surfaced in Chicago harbors.

So what should we make of this? The thing is, die-offs like this happen all the time. Flocks of birds drop dead, millions of fish wash up on shore – these things happen across the globe many times each year. Some experts say that the publicity generated by the first few events has increased word-wide interest in these phenomena, and the deluge of these stories is due to a combination of coincidence and increased reporting of these events in the media. Still, that seems like a few to many mass deaths to be just coincidence. It’s been suggested that global warming might be playing a role, although it will be hard to say until the specific causes of death for these events has been determined. Maybe it’s not the beginning of some new disaster, but I’d still feel much better if the Doctor would come investigate.

He'd have it all sorted out in no time.

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