The Last Mechanical Monster. A Fire Story. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? Mom's Cancer.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Halfway Game
Long ago in a blog far away, I sometimes played The Halfway Game, guaranteed to put your life in perspective. The game works like this: think of something in the past and then count back twice that number of years to see what the event was halfway to. Ten years ago was halfway to twenty years ago. For best effect, the two events should have some connection.
For example, Michael Keaton's Batman 22 years ago (1989) is halfway to Adam West's Batman 44 years ago (1967). See how that works?
Also, Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989) is halfway to The Jungle Book (1967), which is halfway to the founding of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (1923).
U2's album The Joshua Tree (1987) is halfway to the Beatles' first album Please Please Me (1963).
The debuts of the comic strips Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side (1980) are about halfway to the debut of Peanuts (1950).
The movie Star Trek: Generations (Kirk meets Picard, 1994) is halfway to Star Wars (1977), which is halfway to Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943).
The comic books Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns (1986) are halfway to the debut of The Fantastic Four (1961).
The debut of Charlie's Angels (1976) is halfway to the first commercial television broadcast (1941).
The Apollo 11 Moon landing (1969) is halfway to Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic (1927).
Barack Obama's birthday (1961) is halfway to Ronald Reagan's birthday (1911), which is almost halfway to Abraham Lincoln's birthday (1809).
Sputnik (1957) is halfway to the Wright Brothers' first flight (1903).
The explosion of the first atomic bomb (1945) is halfway to the birth of Albert Einstein (1879).
Feeling old yet? Play along!
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The start of WWII (1939) is very nearly halfway back to the end of the American Civil War.
Yeah, I thought of that one but couldn't quite get the math to hang together. But it's close!
Real close. In another 15 months (2013!) it'll be right on.
In 1987, Matt Groening introduced "The Simpsons" on FOX Television.
Twice that time distance away (1963), Paul Henning introduced "Petticoat Junction" on CBS.
There's also an inverse to how we view the past when we consider some of the more distant events.
Example: we're pretty far away from 1776, but doubling that distance puts us into the age of Henry VIII. He doesn't seem like he should be that far in the past from the Founding Fathers, does he?
True. I think people tend to lack well-calibrated senses of scale in general. How big, how far, how small, how fast. One of my favorite bloggers, Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, wrote a post about his recent realization that Neptune is really, really far away--like, as far as you think it is, it's twice that far. You'd think of all people he'd already know that, but it hits everyone.
I sometimes imagine a string of 100-year-old people stretching into the past: someone alive today who was born in 1911, someone alive in 1911 who was born in 1811, etc. You only need 20 100-year-olds to get back to the time of Christ. We've done a lot in those 20 lifetimes.
We've done a lot to make ourselves more able in those 20 lifetimes, but I'm not sure we've made ourselves more decent.
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