There's going to be a total solar eclipse visible later this week, and people in India are working themselves into an absolute lather over it. Rumors abound that eclipses cause birth defects, world wars, assassinations of political leaders, and possibly the very end of the Earth itself. Even better, Hindu legend says that eclipses are caused by the demons Rahu and Ketu as they "swallow the sun during eclipses, snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable."
Silly me. And I thought eclipses had something to do with the moon getting between the Earth and the sun.
This raises an important question: Since any given solar eclipse is only visible from a very limited area of the Earth, is the death and mayhem and Armageddon stuff confined only to the areas that can actually witness the eclipse? Or does the whole world end? And if so, is that fair to the people who didn't get a chance to witness the eclipse? And if the world's going to end anyway, why not go ahead and stare directly at it? Hell, enjoy the last few minutes of your existence.
More importantly, scientists are fairly certain that this isn't the first solar eclipse to occur in the history of the world. If true, why are we still here? How come the world doesn't end every few years when there's an eclipse somewhere?