Restart the clock at 1950? The Drescher Drop - Issue #36
Our current system for dating timelines is broken, so here’s a new one.
Dr. Michael Brown and his team of student archeologists were on a dig in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, close to the Iranian border, when they stumbled upon some spectacular ancient ruins. It was a fortress, buried only a few centimetres under the yellow gravel-like sand of the area. They knew they had discovered something big: the centre of the mythical Parthian Empire.
Rabana-Merquly turned out to be much more than an ancient fort. It was a massive fortified city where the Parthian kings held court, where commerce bustled with caravans coming and going from five big gates in the city walls, and where thousands of people lived their lives.
The Parthians were a mixed people made up of mostly Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Kurds, and some nomadic tribes called the Parni. This latter group conquered all the individual city states of the region and became the Parthian Empire. This happened sometime in the third or fourth centuries, BC.
Or is it BCE? Perhaps it was the 9th Century BH, in the Islamic calendar? After all, Islam begins counting from the Hijri, when Mohammed and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. That happened in 623 AD in the Christian calendar, but is year zero for Muslims.
The archeologists couldn’t agree either. Some of them were Muslim. The local community was Muslim. But the University of Heidelberg, funding the expedition, was based in Germany and used the modified BCE and CE dating system based on the Christian BC/AD calendar.
The incredible find in the rocky desert of Iraqi Kurdistan was broiled in an argument about time, and further research into one of antiquity’s lost Empires came to halt while Muslim, Christian, and secular scholars fought it out. Only after Heidelberg University agreed to split the date, and the funding, with a Turkish Muslim expedition did research renew.
The centre of the Parthian Empire was a surprising find, but the inability to properly date it due to cultural arguments made a mess of things. But what if there was one global, universally-recognized system of dating? What if today wasn’t actually 2022, but year 72?
Reset the clock at 1950
I propose we reset the human timeline beginning at the year 1950 CE (aka AD). That’s year Zero. It’s been 72 years since then, so this would be year 72.
We can call it the Modern Era (ME), but I much prefer Present Era (PE), because it is based on raw science. We’ll look at that in a moment.
Anything before 1950 can be called BP, or Before Present. We can count the number of years before this date rather simply. For example, the year the Second World War ended (1945) would simply become 5 BP.
The lead up to 1950
The two world wars were the biggest events in human history since people stopped hunting and started farming. They were actually one large world war with a 20 year half-time show in between, but that’s a different story. The point is, when 1945 rolled around and the dust had settled, the world was completely changed.
The Second World War introduced the world to jet airplanes, space-going missiles, radar, computers, television, and, above all else, nuclear energy. The last monarchies left over from the pre-First World War era were finally gone (except for a few like in England, Thailand, and Denmark). Societies around the world lacked that child-like enthusiasm they had in 1899. They were more mature, took things more seriously.
Communism and the Great Depression of the Dirty Thirties had a deep impact on the world, and governments brought in a myriad of social systems, such as unemployment insurance, welfare, medicare, public education, and other programs. The Cold War created a military-industrial complex backed by enormous government bureaucracies in nearly every developed country in the world. The developing nations became pawns for the big powers, even as imperialism collapsed.
All of that brings us to the year 1950, when the entire world physically changed.
Physical changes to the earth
Forget climate change. The late 40s and early 50s were the absolute gods of destruction when it comes to the earth. Four countries were testing atomic weapons at an alarming rate.
The USA, USSR, UK, and France let off just over 2,000 nuclear blasts in a twenty year span of time. The first three atomic bombs were the Trinity test in New Mexico, and then the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. These three American nuclear explosions spewed billions of carbon-14 isotopes into the atmosphere.
Carbon-14 is the radioactive isotope from nuclear fallout. It starkly contrasts carbon-12, which is the natural carbon that makes up 99% of our atmosphere.
Our atmosphere has a naturally balanced ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12. The atmosphere absorbs the radioactive bombardment from the sun and carbon-14 isotopes, which make up 0.03% of the atmosphere, helps with the process.
But nuclear bombs changed the isotopic makeup of our atmosphere. It injected billions of carbon-14 isotopes into the atmosphere, which then changed everything.
Carbon-14 is heavy and it falls back to earth. It also decays by half every 5,730 years. Climate change, ozone depletion, mass cancers, and species die-offs all began around this time. They were relatively constant before then. The atomic age altered the physical makeup of the world.
The year 1950, then marks a great beginning to our modern era, and thus it makes sense to delineate the year as the beginning of a new age.
Carbon dating in archeology
Using BP as a timeline is not a novel idea. Archeologists have been using it for carbon dating for a long time, although mostly when dealing with pre-historic events. We’re talking different epochs.
At the same time as nuclear tests were going off around the world, the process of radiocarbon dating was developed. It was 1950.
The method was developed at the University of Chicago in the late 40’s and its first use was in early 1950. The machine measures the amount of carbon-14 in the sample. It looks at the half-life of carbon-14 (5,730 years) and can tell how old something is by how much remaining carbon-14 is present.
To make things easier, scientists marked 1950 as the beginning of the Present Era when it came to radiocarbon dating. Anything before 1950 was BP, Before Present.
A unified dating system isn't that wild
Changing the way we date human history isn’t that crazy of an idea. We’ve changed plenty of things, including our timelines, several times in the past.
For example, the metric system is used nearly across the globe except in a couple of weird anachronistic holdouts (looking at you, US and UK). Metric is logical, scientific, and easy to use. The world has a standardized measurement system. It was global by the 1970s.
Our own calendars have experienced seismic shifts, although none in our lifetime. The original Roman Julian calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar by the Roman Catholic Church in 1582. We still use it today.
Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church kept the old Julian calendar and thus people in Eastern Europe and the Middle East use two different calendars simultaneously: the Julian calendar for religious events and holidays, and the Julian calendar for everything else.
There’s no reason a new timeline couldn’t be introduced. People will buck the trend, for sure, but over time, as new generations are taught the PE system in schools, attitudes will change, much like with the metric system.
Until then, expect many more fights over archeological digs.
Thanks for reading!