Apocalypse Now - or Never
The prediction that the world would end last Saturday was the biggest bust since Geraldo opened Al Capone's vault or Lenin's Tomb (or whatever it was) and found it empty.
For those who took Saturday off as a personal day, there is this preacher in -- where? -- California named Harold Camping who has made something of a career out of predicting the end of the world.
His most recent prediction was that the world would end at 6 PM local time on Saturday, May 21, 2011. It did not, happily, come to pass. Undeterred, he has announced that he forgot to carry a one or forgot to convert miles to kilometers (like NASA did the time they missed Mars) that the new end of the world date is October 21, 2011.
When I first heard of the precise nature of Preacher Camping's prediction I was concerned about that 6 PM local time thing.
Camping's work comes out of the wide-spread practice of just about every faith and cult - Judaism, Christianity, astrology to name but three - called numerology which is, according to Webster's Third Unabridged, "the study of the occult significance of numbers."
Camping has read the bible, calculated the values of words and phrases, and come up with his predictions.
Let's go back to that 6 PM local time business.
Although the exact dates of the books of the New Testament are a little hazy, I think it is fair to say they were pretty much finished, proofed, typeset and printed sometime prior to 1884 when the International Meridian Conference met to develop the current international time zone system.
If Greenwich, England is where the day starts, then would Parisians have gotten to watch the whole rest of the world end before the next 6 PM came there? The French probably would have thought, until the very last second, that their own personal prophecy had come true and France was the only country left on Earth.
Of course, people have known when it was dinner time in their village since villages were caves and cave people were characters in a Gieco commercial, but it's not clear to me that the cave people in southern Europe understood the concept of lunch time in Chicago.
Maybe they did.
So, Rev. Camping, having teased out the fact that the end of the world would come at 6 PM in England (which is only 1 PM in New York) by decoding texts which were written prior to 300 AD, is nothing short of miraculous in and of itself.
The other thing which is miraculous is the amount of time and energy people spent waiting to see what would happen at 6 PM wherever they were.
My guess is, not that many people in Ethiopia were gazing up at the sky at 6 PM Saturday but, given the amount of coverage I saw on the U.S. cable nets, it's a good thing Rev. Camping called for the world to end on a Saturday. Had it been during the work week - the Western work week - it would have had a measurable impact on productivity figures for May.
I need someone to put February 21, 2012 on their Outlook calendar and remind me to check and see if, nine months after many couples may have thought there was no real downside risk to … you know, there will be an uptick in births.
The best line of the whole thing was reported to have been from the WSJ's James Taranto who wrote that the people who were wrong about the rapture shouldn't worry because being wrong wasn't the end of the world.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Geraldo/Al Capone fiasco, the Wikipedia entry for Rev. Camping, and a short history of time … zones (nothing I love more than a Stephen Hawking joke). Also a really nice Mullfoto of the U.S. Capitol from last Wednesday afternoon and a Catchy Caption of the Day.