Each New Year I have chosen a Probaway Person of the Year. The guiding principle is to choose someone who will probably still be remembered in 500 years, for something they did in the previous year. The previous choices were:

Yearly choices for Probaway Person of the Year.

  • 2012 – Zebrafish research-technique advances made it possible to observe drug interactions within living animals.
  • 2011 – Craig Venter laid the groundwork for creating entirely new forms of life (greater than species) out of computer-generated DNA sequences.
  • 2010 – Nadya Suleman (Octomom) and the society that created this travesty of good sense will be remembered into the distant future by many hungry people.
  • 2009 – Jimmy Wales for Wikipedia, which will be still be used after our current computer operating systems are surpassed and forgotten.
  • 2008 – Cesar Millan (the dog whisperer) because he shows people how to relate to dogs and people much better than anyone else. His videos and techniques will be remembered and used as long as there are people and dogs.

The previous choices for specific persons are still valid, and I think the zebrafish choice was a good too because it will advance human and animal health tremendously. It is much more than a new drug because the new glowing molecule transparent zebrafish is like a telescope in that it gives a tool for exploration into the unknown operations of living processes. We may not hear much of this in the news media for a while, but the effect will be tremendous and long remembered.

At the moment, and there is still a month to go before the choice is made, perhaps the most amazing thing is the continuing explosion of transistor technology and the products that continuing development makes possible. What is happening is a synergistic coupling of many different processes bringing us new opportunities in every field of human activity. The product in hand may look like a tablet computer, but it is what that device brings to everyone which is fabulous, and that is everything which humans, all humanity, can think of. The problem for that to be a Probaway Person of the Year choice is that it isn’t a single person that is creating this wonderful breakthrough, it is all humanity. The technology is wonderful, but it is the ability of everyone to participate which is the most wonderful thing, and that isn’t a single person. The zebrafish had this same problem, and most big things take lots of unnamed backup people.

The next month may bring two earthshaking events which will rocket them into lasting fame. There is the ongoing possibility that Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, may okay Israel’s strike upon Iran’s A-bomb making factories. If that is done it will probably require the use of atomic weapons, because that seems to be the only way to destroy those deeply buried refinement centers. Time is running out! If that attack takes place it will be remembered in 500 years as the beginning of the Atomic Wars, probably more so than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings because of those weapons’ 62 years of non-use. It seems unlikely that another six decades of non-use would follow such an attack, but rather it would be the beginning of a new era of warfare. The war may already have begun with last week’s call up of the reserves. The current Gaza affair may only be a pretense for putting Israel onto a full war-alert status.

The other big event of December may be the announcement of discovering evidence of life on Mars. There are already clear rumblings about that announcement, but they are running further tests to verify what they may already be suspecting to be the facts. What they are saying is: the Mars Curiosity rover has made an earthshaking discovery “for the history books” according to NASA scientists. The tools they are using are designed specifically for searching for signs of life, and so that is virtually certain to be what they will announce they have found. It is unlikely they would say their discovery was earthshaking if it was only, “on our first shovel full of Martian dirt we haven’t found any signs of life.” What is striking about discovering life on Mars is that the planet isn’t really in what has been called the Goldilocks zone, and that would mean that life is very robust. With the vast number of planets now known to exist in the Universe it would be impossible that none of them were similar enough to Earth for them not to have developed life. However, for Mars to have developed life greatly expands the Goldilocks Zone and makes life in the Universe to be a much more common process. Hurray for life.

So, the Probaway Person of the Year might be a spectacular two-way event for life, both the discovery of life beyond the Earth and the beginning of massive destruction of life here on Earth. The Classic Mayans had it righter than they ever could have known, naming December solstice of this year as a dramatic end point of life on Earth and the beginning of new life. Our technology is making what they thought available only to their gods a reality.