Deep time is, like, really, really deep, man

From Ann Reid, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. She explains why people are really not very good at understanding vast stretches of time.

Deep time is, like, really, really deep, man

The article includes some really nice animations.

I like compressing the history of the universe into a day. I think humans got here 6 seconds ago.

Edited: Or into a year. I think we get here 36 minutes ago.

I remember reading a book called “How much is a Million?”

I read it in my high school science classes. Students have no idea how long it would take to count to a million, billion or trillion. We can’t really relate to these numbers.

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You could read the article and see that it’s actually one second in a 12-hour span.

I will but I think I can do simple math myself. If If I scale 13.7 billion years to 1 day and assume humans been around a million years it’s 1 million over 13.7billion x 86,400 seconds in a day.

So the issue is when do humans arrive. 1 second vs 6.

2 seconds in a 24-hour day.

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It’s looks like they are using age of earth and not universe. Either one yields incredibly humbling numbers. It’s a good technique.

A Reading Rainbow classic. :smiley: I made my kids read it too.

There’s nothing like reading the article under discussion.

For a 13.8 GA day, humans have been around for something between 1.7 and 2.5 seconds. 1 million years is about 6.25 seconds.

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People are also bad at comprehending distance scales. Most of you are probably familiar with this video, but if not:

I used to love showing this to high school science classes, not just to educate them, but to (invariably) fill them with awe about the world. (This is why I find it so strange that people think science is about robbing the world of magic and mystery and driving them away from religion.)

(The kitsch appeal always got a laugh, too.)


As for humans their days are like the grass, they flourish like the flower of the field. The wind passes over it and it is gone and it’s place knows it no more

~ Psalm 103

Thanks for sharing this article, @beaglelady.


Some additional components of a 1-day universe history:

Long human lifespans are about 0.6 ms. That is about how long it takes for a car on the highway to travel 2 cm, sound to travel 25 cm in STP air, or light to travel 200 km.

The K-Pg boundary was about 6 min 53.43 sec ±0.07 sec ago.

The P-T boundary was about 26 min 18 sec ±2.5 sec ago.

The Phanerozoic began about 56 min 26.7 sec ±2 sec ago.

Earth formed 7 hr 55 min ± 5 min ago.

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I remember this. I also have the book about “Powers of Ten.” Thanks for sharing.

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HTwins Scale of the universe is a really good slider.

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