Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bless That Tilt

The odds that the tilt of the earth’s axis relative to the sun’s (23.4°) will change in anybody’s lifetime—including the babies who are being born as I write—is virtually zero. Never absolutely—not in this dimension where everything is ruled by flux. But given that zero, it is amusing to discover how many people have taken time to think about the consequences that would ensue if our axis and the sun’s were parallel—not least among them Isaac Asimov. We did so too, this morning, talking about seasons, and that because its “unseasonably” warm on this late January day. If our own axis matched that of the sun (see link on this blog), seasons as we know them would disappear—so what else would change?

Endless opinion, mostly negative. Brigitte took a, for her, innately more positive stance—always discovering, at least where humanity was concerned, that we would be, as always, active and creative. Thus she rejected the view that humanity would just be scratching out a meager living in an essentially undeveloped state just north and south of the tropical regions. No. Humanity would make the most of it; if the season did not change, humanity would do the moving. But the environment, at least, would be much less interesting. No seasons, neither Spring flowers nor the dreary view of leafless trees. No animal—and worse yet no butterfly—migrations. Some say no technology would ever have developed for lack of hardship that winter provides. But then, Brigitte says, there is human curiosity—also left out of the equation.

Asimov predicts an environment in which Ice Ages are Ice Permanencies—and keeps most of his article on another subject. His article was originally published in the August 1977 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction†; in it he is poking fun at John Milton who, in Paradise Lost, thought that the tilting of the axis was a kind of punishment that went with the Fall. To the contrary, says Asimov, the tilt was a blessing. Brigitte and I certainly agree. We’d rather believe in Global Warming causing this “hot” January morning (34° F) than the beginning of a slow process of axial tilt movement to the vertical. Global Warming, turns out, will have at least some of the same effects as a tilt-adjustment.
†Available on this site—if you are willing to page down, down, and down until the magazine’s cover comes into view.

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