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Scientists Report Earth's Days Are Numbered



August 13th, 2009 10:27 am | by Ed |

That sounds like a really catchy headline doesn't it? In fact, it's even better than the one used on a recent slashdot article "Earth's Period of Habitability Is Nearly Over. In either case, on the surface they both look like the science boys have determined that life on Earth is just about done for and that your life insurance rate is probably going to go through the roof if the insurance guys get wind of this prediction.

The problem is that there's a matter of time scale and a matter of perception. The time scale the science guys are talking about is on a "cosmological timescale", where time is measured in the tens of billions of years. They're saying that in 500 million to 1 billion years from now the sun will be hot enough to make it impossible for liquid water to exist on Earth, Etc. Etc. .... like anybody alive now or in the next 10,000 years is gonna care half a flip about something that won't be an issue for 500 million years after they're dead.

The perception however isn't nearly as cheerful. This is because while the science guys understand the timescale they're talking about, Joe and Jane Average don't always get it. This leads to all sorts of dire end of the world predictions and people doing all manner of stupidities because of it.

It'd be really helpful if the science guys would think about this when they're releasing reports like this. It'd also help if the media goons wouldn't splash it all over the place with scary sounding headlines.

Technorati Tags: world end predictions, scary news, sensationalist media, cosmological timescale

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