WHAT’S coming in 2018? After 2017’s experience – history in the blender, jammed at 11 – it may be best to stick to what’s officially in the calendar. Yet even on the big safe dates, this age of extremes doesn’t stop.

For example, take the two major global sports events scheduled – the Fifa World Cup and the Winter Olympics. They’re often a proxy for politics, but never more so than this year, with Russia hosting the former (June 14 to July 15), and South Korea the latter (February 9 to 25).

For the South Koreans, one can only hope the ancient tradition of the “Olympic Truce” holds, despite the frustrations of neighbouring dictators. The Russian World Cup will be held in the aftermath of the country’s general election (March 18). Wags might comment on one empty spectacle following another, though at least the contestation on the field will give a better impression of not being entirely fixed. And with some luck, we might be able to savour some booing at Putin.

The machinery of national elections does grind away with some certainty – and this year, there are some significant shifts of gear. The US midterm elections take place on November 6, where all 435 seats in Congress and 33 (out of 100) seats in the Senate are being contested. Polling tells us that Trump’s voter base is still loyal. However, it’ll be interesting to see whether his recent tax reforms for the rich will soften the ground for Democratic candidates, particularly on the Sanders wing of the party.

Other general elections to watch out for this year are in Italy (March 4), where Berlusconi threatens a comeback but the digital radicals in the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement also look like possible coalition partners. On October 7, the first round of the Brazilian elections take place, in a Latin America generally heaving with the possibility of regime change – Costa Rica in February, El Salvador in March, Colombia in May, Mexico in July. Iraq’s general election on May 12, and Pakistan’s on July 15, will also be significant bellwethers for each region’s balance of forces.

And will we have to endure another UK General Election in 2018? The pundits are split on the likelihood. But the sputtering Brexit process has a clear diplomatic deadline in the calendar – the EU Summit on October 18-19, whose topic the official webpage cites mildly as “foreign affairs and international relations”. You bet it is.

Scots should know by then whether Brexit is going to be a “hard” or “soft” option – and in lieu of any official electoral contests in the Scottish schedule for 2018, expect the indyref2 talk to mount as the year proceeds. The indy-minded can keep their international comparisons afresh by celebrating 100 years of statehood with Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. (Though not too vigorously – minimum pricing of alcohol will come into effect in Scotland next year).

Science and technology are pretty good at allowing you to identify major trends, from which discoveries or devices will spring up in the next 12 months. An enormously significant event will be the first act of planetary geoengineering, carried out by a team at Harvard sometime next year. Can we stop the planet warming by pumping reflective particles into the atmosphere (though maybe at the cost of our blue skies)?

Many scientists warn that if this limited test proves to work, it will provide excuses not to reduce our carbon output. Worryingly, this experiment has been permitted by environmental deregulations made by the Trump administration.

As we become engineers and plumbers of our own planet, we also seem to have recovered our appetite for space. Eight moon trips are planned in 2018, a mixture of state and private endeavours – with Elon Musk’s project, taking paying customers on a full orbit of the moon, the most ambitious. And from July 31 to August 19, Nasa will send a craft closer to the Sun than ever before. Nice to see we can meet massive challenges in outer space; maybe we could turn some of that ambition earthwards, too.

One way to do that is to proclaim your mission loudly. The Scottish Government has decided that 2018 will be the Year of Young People – with events like the first TEDxYouth@Glasgow in May, and Shetland’s Big Takeover arts festival in September. (One wonders if they’ll take any inspiration from French president Emmanuel Macron’s intention to ban smartphones from primary schools in September ... they’ll probably get enough grief trying to pass the named person scheme in 2018.)

Others have ambitions to reinvent the entire Scottish lifestyle. VisitScotland are trying to trigger a Scottish version of Denmark’s “hygge” – meaning a spirit of wellbeing, comfort and conviviality – in the coming year. The Gaelic equivalent is, apparently, “còsagach”.

If you like your culture a bit less brand-conscious, there are some treasurable dates already announced, particularly on the Scottish scene.

The V&A Museum of Design Dundee will open sometime in the second half of 2018, trailing warm words about “design in a Scottish and global context”. The building already stands, dark and striking, at Dundee harbour’s edges.

V&A Dundee will also stage the Oak Room, a design from Rennie Mackintosh that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth. Can we get much more mileage out of Mackintosh? Let’s see what the programmers can do.

Another cultural anniversary will be ripening a reputation to perfection – the 100th anniversary of Muriel Spark’s birth. Any events that help us engage with Spark’s powerful corpus of writing (and especially those neglected, weird masterpieces like The Driver’s Seat and the Abbess of Crewe) are extremely welcome.

I don’t know what that Grand Dame would have made of Irvine Welsh (a fastidious embrace, I’d imagine). The radge-meister is back on March 29 with another run-out of the Trainspotting crew, titled Dead Men’s Trousers. One of them is marked for death, apparently – and organ-harvesting has already been flagged up as a major plot theme.

And just as Wings Over Scotland’s Panelbase poll has announced Braveheart as Scots’ favoured Scottish movie, along come two big-screen slabs of dramatic Scottish history to feed their appetites.

Chris Pine – Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movie franchise – plays Robert the Bruce in Netflix’s The Outlaw King, majoring on his guerilla warfare skills.

And Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan stars in Mary Queen of Scots (out November 2), alongside David Tennant and Martin Compston.

Prime local acting talent will also doubtless shine in the National Theatre of Scotland’s new production of Edwin Morgan’s Scots-language version of Cyrano de Bergerac (August).

And as for culture and media, let us not forget that BBC Scotland is supposed to be launching an entirely new nightly television channel in the autumn of 2018 – with a “combined” news programme at 9pm. Yesser analysts will be at the ready (though hopefully, in the development stages, the corporation has been listening beyond its own walls).

So there’s a tiny sample – admittedly idiosyncratic – of what we know is going to happen in 2018. I am personally knitting my own beard for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx on May 5. But if someone wants to send me to New Orleans to enjoy its tricentennial, I will not restrain you. (And whatever you do, ignore the relentlessly mating royals.)

A productive, loving, creative and independent-minded New Year to one and all.