Earlier this month I posted about the movie 10,000 BC, which I find to be a delightful mess of a movie, the Paleolithic Diet and Red Ochre People. That post was so in the past, both in content and in the sense of my daily blogging ritual. Entitled “Life & Death & Early Modern Humans”, it was the out growth of one of the Schlafly and WashU “Science on Tap” talks. Today I would like to move 10,000 years in the other direction, into the future. Roman Mars, I love that name, has a podcast that has recently partnered with Slate called 99% Invisible. It is a podcast about design and is rather multifaceted. This week’s episode was about the inherent problems in design, when it comes to designing warning signs about our buried radioactive waste, for humans 10,000 years in the future.
Mars framed the problem like this, 10,000 years ago human beings were only first learning about farming that was their new technology. Culturally, we modern humans have almost nothing in common with those people. How do we prepare to warn people 10,000 years in the future who could be just as different from us as those in the past were? Actually, nuclear waste remains radioactive for 100,000s of years, but the experts studying this problem limited their scope to only 10,000 years, as a practical matter. Language won’t work. Beowulf was written in the English of the day, only 1,500 years ago and now is unintelligible to modern English speakers. Symbols are thought to be more endurable and Carl Sagan once suggested using the skull and crossbones, but in its only few hundreds of years old history its meaning has morphed a lot. Originally a religious symbol found at the foot of the cross, it symbolized Adam. Pirates adopted it as a means of intimidation. It next became a symbol for poison. Now it appears on toddler’s clothing as a cool ornament. The funniest suggestion by a government expert was to breed genetically modified cats. These cats would change colors, when exposed to radiation. Released into the wild, they would serve as living Geiger counters.
Within this 20,000 year timeline that I’ve staked out here, another 10,000 milestone has been passed. On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs lost their 10,001 franchise game to the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Baby Bears still have a winning record, with 10, 451, but as of late they have been on a skid. While I’ve been bouncing around eons here, the Cubs have been bouncing around since 1876. General Custer died at the Little Big Horn that year. Jimmy Fallon teased the Cubbies about their milestone, “The Cubs are the third team to lose 10,000 games. Even at losing the Cubs can’t win.” The Phillies were first, followed by the Braves. Fallon went on, “The only cub who has had worse luck was Simba.”
Six years younger (1882) my beloved Saint Louis Cardinals are in better shape. They have a franchise record of 10,400 wins and 9,649 losses. That last loss was Monday’s series opening drubbing (17-5) by the Cubs. Whether we’re talking about 10,000s of years or 10,000s of games, both are long and enviable runs, at least from a numerological point-of-view.