It is now 2009. We have come so far in the past eight years that – even if you pay really close attention – the speed with which we have grown as a species in knowledge and capability is so ferociously fast as to be virtually invisible.
In 2009 you can buy a 1 Terabyte disk drive for your computer for $95 (this much storage would have cost you $4,000 in 2001).
Between 2001 and 2009 – following the old saw about “Human Knowledge doubling ever year” – we as a species had acquired 256 times as much knowledge about the world around us than we did between the dawn of humanity and 2001 (when we already thought we were pretty bright, and we were).
In this period of time, we discovered Small RNA – abundant molecules that drive the transcription of genetic code and mapped the human genome. We launched the WMAP satellite which has gone on to produce the most detailed map of the universe ever:
WMAP has produced a convincing consensus on the contents of the universe, erasing lingering doubts about the existence of dark energy, and severely limiting the density of hot dark matter. WMAP has determined the age of the universe, the epochs of the key transitions of the universe, and the geometry of the universe, while providing the most stringent data yet on events in the first fraction of a second of the universe.
We’ve proven where gamma ray bursts come from (super novae), identified the oldest human remains ( Homo sapiens idaltu at 160,000 years old, and yes we’re still from Africa), figured out that the Y chromosome is not a regressive left-over after all. Stephen Hawking – inarguably one of the brightest humans of any time – in this period proved himself wrong and demonstrated that black holes do not in fact destroy information, but release it back into the universe.
We’ve narrowed down the age of our galaxy (from a six billion year range down to within 0.4B years either side of 13.6B – keep the candles ready), delisted Pluto from planet status (it’s a Kupier Belt Object, and always has been despite our labels) and discovered Sedna – now the furthest spot in the solar system with an orbit around the sun of 10,500 years.
We have increased in size from a population of six billion to 6.75 billion (despite sustained attempts to reduce population through weaponry and starvation) and we have had rovers cruising the surface of Mars for five full years.
In short, the past eight years have been – more than any before – a period of incredibly accelerating growth and learning. So much has changed that it is hard to believe that at least a century hasn’t passed to fit it all in.
And in the midst of this swirling torrent of change (and, at least in many aspects, Progress) there stands to this day a single stone causing the current to eddy and – in places – seemingly to reverse itself entirely and flow back up the hill of history.
I don’t even mean this in the simple Bush bashing fashion, but it just seems to me that there is a zone of infinite inertia hanging around our soon-to-be-former President. I almost expect him to vanish from sight if I hold his picture at a certain distance like a demonstration of the laws of physics or biology. In so many ways it seems that while the world has moved dramatically forward time has stood still in his shadow, and in some cases actually reversed itself. If only Einstein were here to do a better job than I explaining the absence of entropy that has gathered around this faded statue that we perceive as our commander in chief. Regardless, I suggest you hang onto your seatbelts as the fabric of space and time rebounds six short days from now.
What other things have you seen occur while time stood still in Washington DC?
[Time Machine Update – Bush’s Farewell]
Thanks all around, and BTW: 9/11.
Most returned to normal life, “but I never did”.
Afghanistan is a success.
Iraq is a success.
“America has gone seven years without another terrorist attack on its soil.” OK, it was eight years since the one prior to 9/11, so don’t get too cocky.
“Freedom is a gift from Almighty God.” Thanks for keeping church and state separate…
“America has been providing AIDS medications…” But not condoms…
“Students are striving to meet higher standards.” NCLB is a success?
“Addicts are better served by faith-based initiatives…”
“Facing the prospect of financial collapse, we took decisive measures…” Ummm…
“With determination and hard work we will restore our economy…” Is that like saying ‘with some effort you can rebuild this to where it was when I showed up’?
“The gravest threat is another terrorist attack.” Well, I disagree.
Katrina – principal who reopened a school.
“We have faced danger and trial, and there is more ahead.”
I see a defeated man trying to rewrite his own history, but I don’t see a single word about an accomplishment – a goal achieved – in his tenure even in his own best attempt at a retroactive sales pitch.
Chris Matthews: (sic) “He is awarding himself a prize in a contest he designed himself. One of those where every kid gets a prize.”
In Pat Buchanan’s own words, “This is an unreflective man.”