13.7 Billion Years Divided By 365: 40 Million Years Is A Day; A Day, 40 Million Years

In the debut episode of the new Cosmos series, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Hand Stuever of The Washington Post describes the football field sized cosmological calendar that Tyson uses to put our 13.7 billion-year-old big bang universe into time perspective:

Tyson walks us through a cosmological calendar that puts the vastness of time into an understandable perspective: If each month represents a billion years or so, then each day is 40 million years. If the Big Bang occurs on Jan. 1, it would be summer on the calendar before our solar system forms; by fall, there’s [a] hint of life on [the] young Earth. The narrative of human history doesn’t begin until very late on Dec. 31; with five seconds to go, Jesus is born, followed two seconds later by Muhammad.

That would put the extinction of the dinosaurs just a day-and-a-half ago and the Anglo-French Enlightenment less than a second ago. It would also put:

  • Tiktaalic, the recently discovered fish with arms, less than 10 days ago–December 21 (around 380 MYA);
  • the beginning of the Jurassic 5 days ago–December 26 (around 200 MYA); and
  • our earliest anthropoid relatives, such as Eosimias, a little over a day ago–December 30 (around 45 MYA).

And that also makes a minute, in a roughly 40 million year “day,” 30,000 years, which means that:

  • the first human art was made about 2.5 minutes ago (75,000 years ago);
  • Rancho La Brea in Los Angeles, CA. was catching saber tooth tigers in its tar 40 seconds ago (about 20,000 years ago);
  • Homo floresiensis, a dwarf human relative, was hunting pygmy elephants on the island of Flores in Indonesia about 30 seconds ago (15-18,000 years ago).

Wouldn’t you like to live to see just one more day (the next 40 million years), and the wonders that will be?

Here’s Carl Sagan presenting the cosmological calendar:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to 13.7 Billion Years Divided By 365: 40 Million Years Is A Day; A Day, 40 Million Years

  1. Gede Prama says:

    I really like and very inspired… 🙂

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