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Thursday, November 3, 2011

(Published in Sify.com on 3 November, 2011, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/the-7-billion-people-question-news-national-lldpnzeacbd.html)





“What’s all this about a bunch of random seven billionth babies? Were they all born at the same time? Or are people just bad at math? Or is it about affirmative action for true global representation?”
“I don’t think that management course is doing your vocabulary much good. So, you’re basically saying there should only be one seven billionth baby?”
“Yeah, and I think it should have been the people who went to the media first.”
“I think the media came to them, complete with cake and sob stories.”
“Sob stories?”
“Something along the lines of why bring a baby into this world of earthquakes and nuclear disaster and terror attacks and melting poles...”
“You mean melting pots?”
“No, melting ice caps. And social inequality and Occupy movements and riots and carbon footprint and environmental damage and ozone holes and mining accidents and no fuel and no space and...”
“I don’t think journalism is doing your optimism much good.”
“On the contrary, I think the last few decades have been the most peaceful in human history.”
“Relative to what?”
“To human history. The Greek and Roman conquests, Anglo-Saxon wars, Crusades, Mughal invasions, colonisation, the world wars...I mean, ever since Ogg and Glugg decided to impale an animal and cook it over fire...”
“Ogg and Glugg being cavemen?”
“Or participants in a reality show from prehistoric times. So, what’s all this crap about oh-don’t-bring-a-baby-into-this-bad-sad-greedy-mad-world?
“I think it has something to do with space constraint.”
“Well, there’s a lot of land on which skyscrapers haven’t been built.”
“Hmm, but with real estate prices still climbing...”
“Have you noticed that the people complaining are from the generation that’s already brought babies into this world? I mean, it’s not our fault there’s billions of us and counting. People may be starving, but they manage to find the time for unprotected sex.”
“Yeah, my dad sometimes tells me in this very creepy man-to-man tone that sex is for procreation, not for recreation.”
“It would have been a lot more sensible to voice the converse of that.”
“I’m sensing an insult somewhere in there.”
“Never mind. What irritates me most is this constant search for planets with similar climactic conditions to Earth. What do they want to do, anyway? Send people to some planet which is almost like earth about 400 light-years away?”
“How long would it take to get there? Light travels at 300,000 kilometres a second, right? And escape velocity is 11.2 kilometres a second, so...”
“No, escape velocity varies, depending on the gravitational pull of an object. So, if you head off towards the sun, for example, and want to change direction...”
“You’re fried unless you’re going at over...”
“No, you’re just fried. You need to be going at 600-odd kilometres a second.”
“Well, let’s assume they have the sense to head in the right direction.”
“Okay, so assuming that, and assuming they’ve upped their speed somewhat, it would still take them more than twenty-five thousand times that long – which means...uh, what’s four hundred into twenty-five thousand?”
“That’s hundred thousand into hundred, so ummm...one million into ten, so ten million.”
“Ten million years to reach a planet which we know existed about four hundred years ago, because what we’re seeing of that planet is an image from four hundred years ago. So, the planet would most likely have moved or disintegrated by the time they reach.”
“Are you sure we’re getting the math right on this? And they’re doing all sorts of stuff with speeds, right? Making some laser that can split vacuum, and trying to discover some thingamajig that travels faster than light?”
“Well, even if these people travel at the speed of light, it would take them four hundred years to reach. And where would they go for the fuel for that?”
“Uh...”
“Fine, assuming they have all the answers, you still have to find a bunch of idiots that are retarded enough to subject the next twenty generations of their progeny to the confines of a spaceship. Assuming the morons that sign up are attracted to each other in the first place.”
“Dude, and how’re they going to know what to do once they get there? They’ll probably land on the planet, and continue to live inside the space ship because that’s what they’ve always done.”
“No, I guess they’ll be in constant communication with us, or something. But then, what if there’s a virus, or an alien takeover of signals or some technological bug that cuts off communication? I mean, BlackBerry shut down for a few days. Do you trust NASA enough?”
“Why must it be NASA?”
“You think ISRO would handle this better? We’d get into a dilemma selecting the idiots. Everyone would want equal representation of religions, castes, states, classes, genders, sexual orientations, professions and what-not, so we’d have to select one from each sub-division of...”
“Hold on, you can’t just have one from each. They won’t intermarry, no? So you’ll have to have two of each.”
“Noah’s spaceship? Well, what will the kids do? You’ll end up having fewer people than you started with, remember.”
“No, maybe each one can have a whole lot of kids, and...”
“And tell them incest is the only way out?”
“I think people would prefer marrying out of caste, religion, whatever, to incest, huh?”
“Whatever they choose, they’ll end up overpopulating the spaceship in four hundred years, and have to throw out people like they did with horses in the Middle Ages. Or whenever they threw horses overboard and coined ‘Horse Latitudes’.”
“So, we’ll have what, ‘People Ether’?”
“There’s no agreement on whether ether exists, so we’ll have another raging debate about what to call it. Anyway, I was going to say there’ll be another problem with selection. If you can’t randomly pick two people from any particular sub-caste, and hope for intermarriage with other communities later, you can’t pick people from the same community either, because of the bhaichara issue.”
“All right, let’s leave the selection question aside for now. And maybe even if communications get cut off, people will pass on the mission down the generations.”
“Like Chinese whispers?”
“Hey! I think China might already have got started on some secret project along these lines quietly.”
“Nah, they’re cleverer than that. They would just wait for all the other countries to jet off into space and occupy the world once it’s empty.”
“True, that. So, you think a series of spaceships will jet off into space? That’s not a bad idea, actually. That way, you’d solve a lot of the matrimonial obstacles.”
“Like people could just hop from one spaceship to the next, never mind the gravity issues? And the speeds?”
“Oh, yeah, we can’t do that without the Chinese. Or at least, some of their Hollywood stuntmen.”
“So your main idea is that if all else fails, we can trust the nuts who dedicated the lives of their progeny to space travel to sing songs, leave notes and tell them how to get through life?”
“Dude, they’ll probably think Earthlings are Gods or something, and worship us when they reach that planet. And then fight over what we must look like, and how we put the first people on the spaceship, and...”
“Hmm. You ever think about how we landed up here on Earth?”

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