The future of historical research

Yesterday (New Year's Eve), the temperature here in Melbourne reached 41 degrees Celsius (that's just under 106 Fahrenheit for those of you in the United States and Belize) -- the hottest day of 2007, as it happens. The overnight minimum was 30 degrees (86 for those of you etc), which I think is higher than all but a few days I experienced in the northern summer just past. Today is predicted to be another 40 degree day, though at least a weak change is predicted for the afternoon. Even now (a bit after 11am), it's nudging 38 outside. Inside, my little flat at the top of my building is disgustingly hot and I can't think, so I'm going into town to work at the State Library instead, which should be nice and cool. (I do have a sadly-neglected desk in the department, in an air-conditioned room, but they've changed the building entry codes or something and I don't think I can get in.)

But what of the future? All else being equal, as global warming begins to take hold, and the average temperature rises, we will see more days like today and yesterday, and hotter days too. So more and more poor postgraduate students like me, who can't afford to live somewhere cool, will tend to gravitate towards the SLV. Eventually, a point of no return will be reached: so many postgrads will have gathered there that the mass of the combined SLV+postgrads aggregate will be enough to form a black hole. Then, even if they do finish writing their theses, how will their examiners read their theses? If Hawking is right, they'd have to wait until the black hole had evaporated before the outside world could know what they had written, which of course is no use to them anyway.

So, ultimately, as far as the outside world is concerned, the number of new PhDs being produced will drop to zero. This pattern will recur all around the planet. Australia and other hot countries will succumb first. Countries with colder climes will last longer, but they will fall too, eventually. So historical research will one day grind to a halt. This is the tragedy of global warming!

See, told you I can't think in this heat. I'm off to the library.

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6 thoughts on “The future of historical research

  1. Alun

    ...but hang on. Wouldn't this be an intelligent singularity? A concentrated point of infinite wisdom? Wouldn't it be able to work out a way of communicating beyond the event horizon?

    Better still, can we not test it by cramming a very large number of professors into an unhealthily small space? Purely in the interests of science and nothing to do with me needing a job soon. :)

  2. Mike from Ottawa

    If it helps, it is a cool, refreshing -15 (-25 with the wind chill) here in Ottawa, Canada today, so, on average, we're comfortable outside.

  3. Post author


    Hmm, you may have a point, though I'm not sure it would work with humanities postgrads. Science postgrads, sure, but their departments have lots of money (relatively speaking) and they can afford to spread the postgrads around in spacious climate-controlled offices, thus avoiding a singularity.

    I agree it's important to perform the experiment you suggest, though.


    We could move to the midpoint between Melbourne and Ottawa, stands to reason that should be nice and pleasant!


    You're a different breed out there. I just looked up the BoM stats and Perth's annual average temp is nearly 5 degrees higher than Melbourne's! Well, that saves me from ever even considering applying for a job at UWA ...

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