Scale of Time

Harold-Edgerton-MIT-professor-strobe-flash

 

“Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books.
For to you Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but
to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking
of a finger.”

A long time ago I had a friend who asked me a provocative question. Jerry Stoddard was a DJ at a local radio station. “How long is a long time?” I thought a time so long ago that legend and inference substituted for knowledge. “Six thousand years.” Jerry, who you will remember was in radio, said “Six seconds.” A few seconds of dead air is an eternity in broadcasting.

I don’t think there is a right answer. I get in trouble with my views. At a long time scale empires rise and fall. Dark ages come and go. I don’t expect the United States to be around forever: Three centuries is a long time in the life of a country. We’ve just gone 55 years without adding a state. This is a different country from the USA that had states wanting to join every few years. Britain in about 2000 AD changed its basic constitutional structure that had lasted from 1705 AD. These are all accurate but miss the short term phenomenon.  I have a hard time sequestering groups in my mind. It’s only been several millennia since the Irish and Iranians were the same people. The Jews and Arabs are a pair of squabbling siblings to me.

In the life of my father fields have gone from being plowed by animals to being plowed by robotically controlled tractors. Money has gone from gold coins to bank debit cards backed by nothing. [Are they really money? Cards only seem to work when banks wish them to, regardless of account balance.] All the free markets have gone. When people do legal transactions that are not popular with the establishment, they are tainted with the name of ‘Grey Market.’ Buy a Mercedes legally and drive it to another country and the warrantee may not be honored because you have cheated the company.

In the last fifty years we have entered the age of the placebo. Expected results are divorced from efficacious mechanisms. Somehow walking in circles at a school will cure cancer. Affirmations will provide wealth. Saying unpopular things will jinx one. People buy imported water shipped from far away which will make them smart or save the Earth. Energy drinks would be drug use were they actually effective. In the same fifty years we have gone from divorces being a rare scandal to marriage being an uncommon virtue.

In the course of twenty-five years we went from the worlds largest creditor nation to the worlds largest debtor. Anyone with a long view such as mine would never have seen that coming.

In the course of a decade Japan and Germany established empires and lost them. They were to have lasted 10,000 and 1,000 years respectively. Computers went from floppy discs of 1.44 MB to CD’s to flash drives of 128 GB. CD’s have vanished as a lost art. In the same time frame World War One changed the entire international system and propelled the USA from a country of the third order to a country of the first order.

In two years Egypt declined from a respectable regional power to a mess. Same with Iran, Libya, Wiemar Germany, Vichy France, Manchukuo…. Declines can be fast. In some of these nations bright people with long views, such as mine, didn’t flee. They knew what was coming, but couldn’t conceive of such rapid change. This is happening today in Ukraine. Jews are being asked to register. They know what is to come. They have remembrance of things past. They just think they have time.

Nobody would ever believe the way an H-bomb works without adjusting to the time scale. We’ve plenty of nanoseconds to work with before it falls apart. Plenty of nanoseconds.

 

Plenty of Nanoseconds

 

 

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