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Thursday, May 26, 2005 06:09 pm

capital voices 5-26-05

We have mixed feelings about Uncle Oscar. On one hand, there’s that nasty episode with the butter cow at the Illinois State Fair; on the other hand, he’s the only family member ever to chair the MIT departments of astrophysics and applied mathematics at the same time.

No matter. Feelings one way or the other become moot when Uncle Oscar disappears two days before his scheduled court appearance, the same day my PC starts displaying a screen full of mathematical formulae at sign-on. It is two months before I notice that the formulae are formatted in letter style. A salutation of algorithms? A signature line of linear equations? Six more months pass before I can translate any it — any of Uncle Oscar’s messages.

It seems Uncle Oscar invented both time travel and across-time communication. He contends that he jumped to the year 4000 for a quick summer vacation — and got stuck. Unfortunately (or fortunately), he rushed his design.

Because I must also communicate back by way of his formula language, I suffer for weeks to construct even simple questions.

Consequently, after nearly a year’s worth of trying, my knowledge of the future is limited, but what I do know is, in my humble opinion, encouraging.

• Mathematics is not only the common language in year 4000; it’s the only language, as in: ? (in v)2 + c = “Hello”; –e – x (x + 1) = “Have a nice day”; and {[c – f] + XXX} = “In a building stacked floor to ceiling with cheese bricks, the butter cow was my only option.”

A fortunate language transition indeed, especially for English-speaking folks, for Uncle Oscar reports that by 2106 the word “like” has replaced 67 percent of all other English words, so that the warning “Don’t drink the Drano! It’ll kill you!” read “Like, drink, like! Like, Drano likes, like you.”

• By 2406, “nation-states” defined by land boundaries have gone the way of tribes, city-states, and religious states. The world is evolving to be politically organized by people’s names. For example, there is a country of Bill Johnson(s), a country of Mary Shaw(s), and a country of Lee Wang(s).

Wanting the best for their children, wanting them to be affiliated with the most powerful group, people start naming their offspring most ordinary names and eventually drop surnames altogether. By the year 4000, every man, women, and child is just plain Bob and everyone lives in the country of Robert — or, mathematically speaking, ([R]).

• With the exception of identity theft, which is rampant, crime is almost nonexistent and there hasn’t been a war since 3018, when the last of those Evil Empire WMD-hoarding Larrys was slaughtered off.

• The Cubs may or may not have won a World Series in 3502. Take your pick, because all professional sporting teams have been called the Bobcats since 3409.

• There really is a parallel world to ours existing in another dimension, where everything is exactly the same as in our world — except that people eat tapioca pudding with deer knives.

• Dick Clark is still alive, but he’s not feeling well.

• Fossil fuels are completely depleted by 2987, and cars are powered by liquid marijuana. The universal speed limit is reduced to 10 mph shortly thereafter, which is fine, ’cause no one seems to be in a hurry anymore.

• Global warming proves to be a left-wing lie to cover up the global tanning conspiracy, which almost brings the world to ruin after the average world temperature reaches 92 degrees and half of the Earth’s land mass becomes sandy beach, ironically by the same year the fossil fuels run out. Tanning is made illegal in 2988; by 4000, all is much as it was in 2005.

• There’s only one kind of pie: mincemeat.

• All diseases, with the exceptions of the neighbor’s dog, male-pattern baldness, and low-riding pants, have been eradicated, and so people live as long as they want to — usually to their 107th birthday, at 9 in the evening, just after the day’s last rerun of Law & Order.

• Social Security is still solvent, but because the monetary system has yet to recover from the Larry Wars, payouts are in photographs of fish, most often perch.

• Everyone is pretty good-looking.

• {y1 – x/2 <Z2}

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