I don’t know if you’ve

I don’t know if you’ve ever wanted to see this, but I’ve always been curious: the full list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I’ve managed to see 14 of them, so far, with one more to come this week. Yay. It’s an interesting list, heavy with castles and cathedrals in Western Europe, and low on my pet human heritage favorites like bridges. Also interesting is the average age – though I’ve not taken a particularly rigorous sample, I’m left with the impression that all the good cultural heritage is roughly 800 years old, plus or minus a few centuries. A function of urban erosion times, certainly, and of the fact that “historical importance” is not properly granted to something without a lot of hindsight.

Segue. The world has been changed forever because some people smashed planes into buildings full of other people. I’ll take “changed” to mean that a unique trace of the event has not been obliterated by the normal actions of time, because otherwise the world has been changed forever because I just sneezed and played chaos theory with the weather. So then, in the case of the New York City skyline, “forever” apparently means “about 40-50 years,” as that seems to be the time scale for new, important buildings going up. In the case of airport security, major changes such as universal metal detectors (c. 1972), or the toughened screening of electronics and the elminiation of non-accompanied bags (1988) seem to occur on a roughly 20 year timescale, with minor changes happening continuously as technology improves. So here “forever” means “20 years, or thereabouts.” It’s of course harder to predict the impact of Operation Fuckbomb Afghanistan on the geopolitical scene, but even if one assumes that September 11 marked the end of the American Empire, “forever” will probably mean no more than about 500 years, until the rise of the next fat hegemony. Now, I’m a scientist, so you have to trust me when I say that 500 years is piddly compared to forever.

Geez, I’m bitter tonight.

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