Beginning of the Road

Published May 22, 1995

By Dane C. Sorensen

Last week’s column may have created some panic.  An otherwise brilliant column was mortally changed with the typesetter changed 1032 years to 1032 years.  Those of you who remember their high school math know that 1032 years is shorthand for 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.  I couldn’t pronounce that number in a million years.  I get lost after quadrillion.  The   British have an easier way of saying 1032 years.  It would be One Billion Billion Billion years.  That is still a mouthful.  It is obvious to see why the Soudan scientist need a thousand ton detector to try and find only 6 proton decays a year. 

Going from One Billion Billion Billion years to a mere thousand years probably made some folks to realize that the end was really near.  If protons are already checking out now, it would not be too long before things started falling apart.  Tires would go flat, paint would peel, buttons would pop off without notice.  It would mean the end of civilization.

During this week, it was observed that some folks were in a mild panic at the thought that all the protons in the Universe decaying in only 1032 years.  In the article, it discussed how scientists in the Soudan Mine are watching 6 x 1032 protons in hopes of seeing 6 protons decay a year.  With the typo error of 1032 years those scientists would be seeing proton loss everywhere.  You wouldn’t need a diet to lose weight if all protons were checking out in time to meet a 1032 year deadline.  The world as we know it would be fading before our eyes.

Word must have leaked out before Monday delivery of the Echo as to our thousand year fate.  On Sunday, I observed a lot of people had given up on their normal weekend routine and went fishing instead.  Lawns were ignored.  Beds left unmade.  Church was skipped.  Lines were baited.  By Sunday afternoon, most public accesses were crowded with trailers.

Another irrational reaction was that people were headed in droves to the many fine restaurants in Ely.  Many of the women were given corsages.  Large quantities of food were devoured in a vain attempt to replace those decaying protons.  Perhaps all were hoping that. . . .

Excuse me.  Snow White, my wife informs me it was Fishing Opener this weekend.  I guess that explains the fishing frenzy.  What Dear?  Oh, it was also Mother’s Day.  Sorry Dear, I didn’t realize.  I guess the only Universe ending is my own.  Happy (belated) Mother’s Day, Dear.

Anyway, on behalf of the paper we are sorry for the typographical error and hope no one worried too much.

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