Putting Time In Perspective

Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them.  It's not our fault—the spans of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it's almost impossible to get a handle on it.  If the Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around since 11:59:59pm—1 second.  And if human history itself spans 24 hours from one midnight to the next, 14 minutes represents the time since Christ.
To try to grasp some perspective, I mapped out the history of time as a series of growing timelines—each timeline contains all the previous timelines (colors will help you see which timelines are which).  All timeline lengths are exactly accurate to the amount of time they're expressing.
A note on dates:  When it comes to the far-back past, most of the dates we know are the subject of ongoing debate.  For these timelines, it's cumbersome to put a ~ sign before every ancient date or an asterisk explaining that the date is still being debated, so I just used the most widely accepted dates and left it at that.
 





 

Posters

Check out this post in poster format here! It comes in both normal poster size and long skinny vertical size. And both an identical version to this post and a prettier, less offensive version.
 

You can also download the much prettier and less offensive version of this graphic here. Thanks to Visual.ly.
And here's a cool interactive take on the post. Thanks to PreziJedi.

If you liked this, probably head here next: The Fermi Paradox

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  1. This. exactly. This is my ONLY nightmare. This is why I can’t sleep at night. This is why trying is futile, why in the end, nothing matters anyway. The only consolation is being able to see at least a sliver of the universe, even though as soon as I die, that wont matter, and nobody and nothing will be changed by that fact.
    Now, back to distracting my mind by attempting to understand a foreign language and failing miserably.

    • Anonymous

      That’s is not true, Bob. Every life matters. The impact you leave on this planet can be lasting beyond your own years. Take a look at scholars, artists and scientists. We still speak of them even though they are no longer living. They have made impacts on our lives today and will for many years to come. The notion that your life does not matter beyond your existence sounds quite selfish because it means you are only living for you right now. And if that is the case, then you are right. I implore you to do something bigger than yourself. Perhaps you will find more joy and value in life knowing that youdid something big in that short slice of time you were here.

    • Anonymous

      The only people that feel that “nothing matters” are the ones who only care about what other people think or remember of them. It’s important to try to better the world, to better humanity (we certainly need it), and if you get remembered for that, good. But if the only reason things matter is through the lens of whether or not you’ll be visible on a timeline, then you really should be rethinking things, because the reason *everything* matters is because everything you do affects at least one person – you. Very likely more. By affecting others, you’re changing them. Everything you do matters.

    • Anonymous

      I couldn’t disagree with the first replier’s notion of Bob’s thoughts being selfish. Quite the opposite, I think this kind of feeling is the height of selflessness. In that same light, projecting that every life matters almost seems a bit selfish to me.. if not perhaps egotistical.

    • Anonymous

      Think about what you just said, and the infograph. Everything we do matters because we’re changing people, and he’s being pessimistic because he doesn’t feel he’ll be remembered? Did you see the part of the infograph where THE UNIVERSE DIES? In the long run, your views on “The Human Condition” are just as arbitrary as his or mine, because eventually life is going to fizzle out. Our actions make no difference whatsoever in the grand scheme because there’ll be no more grand scheme to contemplate.

    • Bob, like you I have had insane days of contemplating this my self. Often followed by thoughts of suicide (sad but true). The fact is: That butterfly who changed the world thousands of years ago didn’t know it, just like you’re going to change the world and don’t know it.

      Being completely transparent: I don’t matter, you don’t matter, no one here matters. Don’t you see the paradigm shift there? We’re all equal, which is the same as saying that everyone matters. So which is it bob? Is the the glass half full or is it half empty?

    • Anonymous

      Bob, Given the enormity of space; the vast number of species on this planet; and the historical conditions and lack of conveniences in the past — the odds of a given spark of life occurring such that it experiences air conditioning; electricity; readily available food; entertainment; freedom to choose one’s own profession and mate; and so on –so astronomically slim — that it is as if we have won a galactic lottery.

      There are no Vikings raping and pillaging in most places. We don’t have to chop wood so our families won’t freeze during the winter. We don’t have 13 children –and only 5 or 6 them live to adulthood. Kings of old wore powdered wigs because they had fleas and lice to the extent that most of their hair fell out. We have Doppler radar (so we know when storms are coming). We understand germ theory.

      WHY ISN’T WINNING THE LOTTERY ENOUGH?

      Why is it difficult to appreciate the amazing gift of life on this planet – for what it is? Why aren’t we all celebrating every moment just for the sheer improbability of being alive in this space and time?

      Why do we feel we need more to be “significant”?

    • Anonymous

      Dude, don’t agonize over the fact that you won’t be Julius Caesar or Buddha. In fact, if given a choice, I would choose a small life because I DON’T want the weight of the world on my shoulders. We should enjoy and appreciate the time we have here because it may be all there is! Turn off your computer, learn guitar, go out with girls, write stories, play softball, go fishing…

    • I went to see a move at the theater last month. I bought my ticket, fully understanding that in 90 minutes, the movie would be over. I went to a party once. I knew the party wouldn’t last forever. I still went. Why’s stuff gotta last forever? Just enjoy the ride. Life won’t give you a meaning. If you want meaning in your life you have to find one and bring it into your life.

    • Here’s another thought. One life – my life, your life, anyone’s life – may be insignificant to the world, to the universe, etcetera. But it can be the most significant thing in the world to another person. We simply can’t be significant to all, it’s too big a thing. But we can make a difference in someone else’s life, and that difference is everything. Gandhi had it right: BE the change you wish to see in the world. You never know who will catch a dream from you.

    • Anonymous

      Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

      Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

      Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

      Reinhold Niebuhr

    • Anonymous

      We also know that we are part of the historical continuum, so we should leave the place at least as good as we found it, and ready for the next person.

      I find a lot of hope, and meaning, in that.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know why that would keep you up at night. The fact is that nothing matters. Absolutely nothing.

      We are specs of nothing on a tiny blue ball, as Sagan put it, in a shaft of light in a wayward arm of a distant galaxy of billions of galaxies in an infinite universe. Our whole of existence has occurred on this nothing of a spec of rock and nothing that ever has or will happen here is of any relevance to the vastness of the universe.

      Even on that little spec, absolutely nothing has long-term meaning.

      In a few decades, we’ll be dead and the only ones who remember us will be those that were alive and lived with us. A few decades after that and nobody will be alive to knew us to remember us. The offspring of those who knew us (grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc) might think of us twice in their life time, referring to some tale their parents once said about these people who are long dead and never met them.

      In a century, almost no musicians, writers, actors, artists, or politicians alive today will be remembered. A few of them and a little bit of their work will be remembered and consumed and discussed by die hard enthusiasts and academics focused on those areas of interest.

      In a couple hundred years, only a single digit percentage of anything from today will be remembered or discussed and most will have fallen into oblivion. Not just not part of common knowledge or interest, but literally wiped from existence. Only the most massive historical events or persons will be remembered.

      In a thousand years, maybe Shakespeare and Hitler will be remembered and commonly known. Beyond that, it’ll all become nothing. Nothing from today will mean anything more to anyone in a thousand years or so than any of us know or care about generally from the eighth or ninth century.

      The worst villains who have evilly murdered millions will be lost to time and so will the greatest and most important and virtuous human beings. Normon Borlaug is known to have saved over a billion and counting with his agricultural advances and almost nobody knows him today. With time, nobody at all will and nothing he ever did will be of any consequence.

      So think of everything you and I do. Or ever have done. Or ever will do. If the greatest events and people in all of existence mean nothing on this little planet, which means nothing in this vast universe, then what does anything we do? Any harm we do to others, crime we commit, life we save, good we do, love we express, years we add to our lives, books we read, great works we create, pain we inflict, pain we suffer, or massive fame we accumulate is absolutely and irrefutably irrelevant.

      And this is powerful. What is the point of regretting for the rest of my life that stupid thing I did when I was a little kid or the bad relationship when I was a teen or the abortion we got when I was seventeen? What is the point of feeling grief that I won’t be able to write the great novel or build a massive successful company or have sex with the most amazing woman ever? I can even go to the dentist and suffer awful dental pain and not give a damn, because it doesn’t matter. It will hurt at the time, linger for a day or two, and be lost to the infinite time on either end of our current timeline.

      • BrendanDuffey

        I am pretty certain The Beatles would be a third candidate of the few names as influential as Shakespeare and Hitler. They were just as influential, if not more so in some ways, than both of them.

    • Anonymous

      Bob, I think I feel close to how you do about this. It’s overwhelming to think that I was taught from the beginning of my life that I matter, that everyone matters, that my actions in life matter — and they do to the extent that I will affect other people and things that I connect with while I’m here — but as this infograph points out, in the end — human kind will cease to exist, Earth will cease to exist, our galaxy, and this entire universe will, eventually, cease to exist.

      It’s so scary and awe-inspiring that we are, for some reason, communicating and living now as humans, but one day it won’t be so.

      Depressing — it’ll be gone one day, so what does it matter? But here you are anyway.

    • It doesn’t matter what happens after we die. What we do matters because it is happening right now. Who cares if what you do doesn’t affect the universe in the long run? You have been given the freedom to do what you love the most! You don’t need to be the savior of humanity or the universe to feel like your life is fulfilling, and you certainly don’t have to be any of that.

    • Anonymous

      Anonymous from September 16, 2013 at 11:10 AM, I have to say that was an excellent read. Really helps to put things in perspective. If the future continues on in the same manner as it has in the past, then I agree completely.

      What happens, however, if sometime in the near future (say a few hundred years or so), technology advances to the point where we can live “forever”? We may or may not get to keep the same physical bodies, but what if our consciousness can survive for millions of years?

      Some imaginative guesses:
      Within 100 years:
      -Start taking monthly pills of nanobots that will rid your body of everything unhealthy and reverse aging effects.
      -Get all our energy needs from solar power.
      -Many products become dirt-cheap due to desktop-sized molecular assemblers (‘nanofactories’).
      -Get a ‘mind-upload’ process done and, if you want/need it, a transfer to a new physical body.
      -Artificial intelligence becomes smarter than man. After that, who knows. Technology advances much too quickly (at its own exponential pace) for humans to keep up. Hope you’re an optimist for that part.
      -Everything is free due to robots doing all the physical work we used to do. Virtual worlds exist that interface directly to your brain (and after you don’t need your physical brain your “mind-file” will do), keeping you entertained in whatever ways you want for as long as you want. Call it “Heaven”?

      Within 500 years:
      -Terraform Mars to support life again. Won’t have to rely solely on Earth to sustain humankind.
      -AI solves most other problems (moving us out of the solar system, etc)
      -A significant amount of matter from the solar system (and eventually the universe if the “faster than the speed-of-light” problem can be overcome) will be converted to computing medium (“computronium”) which supports the ever-advancing knowledge of the AI(s) and of course runs the virtual world(s) most of us spend the majority of our time ‘living’ in.

      For now:
      -Think it’s infeasible within that timeframe? Googling “Ray Kurzweil” will get you started.
      -Hope you live long enough for it to become reality. I’m an optimist and that’s all I need.

    • Anonymous

      Did Dr. Martin Luther King matter? Gandhi? Issac Newton? Edison? Jefferson?

      Of course they did!

      They changed the course of history with their actions.

      We all matter. Every action that any of us makes has an effect on the future.

    • Anonymous

      That’s the point. In the scheme of things your life matters very little, so you know that you are free to do whatever you want.

    • Anonymous

      EVERYTHING we do matters. It matters a lot!

      We live in a universe of physics, chemistry, and equal and opposite reactions.

      Time marches forward, so what we do today has an impact on what can happen tomorrow.

      Just as we are the recipients of the actions of our ancestors, so will future generations either benefit of bear the burdens of ours.

    • Anonymous

      Assuming there is only one “universe”, specifically that which was born from the big bang, is like assuming the earth is flat and the sun moves around us because we haven’t observed anything to the contrary yet.

    • Anonymous

      “Everything Dies” assumes that human don’t find a ‘wormhole’ to another universe or dimension. Our fate may not be tied to this universe!!!! Now it gets interesting, huh?

    • CHEMbustion

      To “Some Guy” …

      The term “paradigm shift” rattles my cage everytime I see / hear it.
      Paradigm is change (according to marketing); shift implies change. Isn’t this kinda like “rise up” ??
      I, on the other hand, believe one of these marketing wizards added an “i” to the 2nd word of this term.

      CHEMbustion

    • wobster109

      Hi Bob Snofferburg, would living a thousand years help? What about a million? :)

      We can do it. Really and truly.

    • A friend you haven't met yet

      quite some time ago, the Dalai Lama was in the mountains somewhere in North America (I forget where) he was sitting in a diner and was asked by the waitress the one question that no-one had yet dared ask, yet the one question that all sentient beings must contemplate: “What is the meaning of life?” He replied almost immediately “the meaning of life is happiness” he made it sound as if it were a simple question, as if she had asked him what day of the week it was. “find what makes you happy and follow that”
      For all of us, there is something which will make us happy. You could interpret that as a hedonistic philosophy of the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure but I believe that long term happiness requires a relatively clear conscience. We all have a built in moral compass which is fundamental to how we act. The satisfaction from knowing that we have made the world a better place, that we have helped to make just one person’s life that bit better is what makes life worth living. There are so many different ways to go about this I can’t tell you what is the right path for you. No-one can but yourself. A good start, however, is to be mindful of others around you, to find what is wrong with the world and how you can help. This can be overwhelming but focus first on the small stuff: the quiet girl who just needs a friend to be there; the homeless guy on the street in need of something so simple as a cup of coffee. World peace can wait; no one can do that on their own but it may be that you can do your bit to help. By doing this, you will have made a difference, you will have mattered, your name may not be remembered for eternity, you may not be thanked directly by those whom you help but every one of us can make a difference, however small. Yes, everyone will still die. Yes, eventually all sentience will still be wiped out. Yes, people will still suffer but while those whom you affect are alive, their lives will be better and that matters. That affect may well last for the rest of human history.

  2. Anonymous

    You got TVs for public consumption wrong. Many people don’t consider the first TV home reception to have occurred until 1928 and even then it would be years after that tV became popular. You may have mistaken it with radio…

    • Anonymous

      Amazing. That was what you took away from all of this. “You got TVs for public consumption wrong”……

      Excuse me, but I seem to be missing my red stapler….I purchased it with my own money….and there seems to be a problem with my paycheck…..

    • Anonymous

      I had the same exact thought, after going through this AMAZING infographic that someone obviously put many hours into. Some people just love to be critical.

    • Anonymous

      To the OP, you are way off. The first television was introduced at the 1945 World’s Expo. I don’t know how you are getting 1928, and the chart says tv becomes popular in the late 1940s (which it does). The majority of US households have a television in the house by 1955.

  3. Love the timeline graphs! I also like an asteroid being described as “dickish”. Although I think calling them an ass might be more appropriate.

    It can be a powerful thing just to have a visual perspective rather than just knowing some numbers.

    I wrote an app can show you graphs of your tasks with a graph similar to the ones above. You can use it for whatever time you want to track by just dragging cards in a program called Trello. You can find my app at reportsfortrello.com.

    Thanks for making these graphs!!!

  4. Anonymous

    This post is really fantastic. Would it be alright if I use some of this for a project?

    Seriously though, I love this infographic. It’s great on so many philosophical levels.

    • Anonymous

      the theory that we decend from apes is still not proven until we find the”missing link”, maybe we are the descendants of aliens and they still”keep an eye” on our developments?

      • Oh Christ, Not This Shit Again

        We didn’t “decend from apes.” We share a common ancestor. And yes, that’s proven.

  5. Anonymous

    There is also another option. The universe will fall back onto itself and a new big bang will happen, just as the previous one could have happened as the end of a previous universe :)

    • Anonymous

      Best current knowledge says that can’t happen – the universe isn’t dense enough. The WMAP measurements indicate that the universe is flat (about 0.4% margin of error), which implies that it’s also infinite in size. Those measurements and observations of the most distant objects we can see seem to indicate that the *rate* of expansion is increasing, which would mean there’s something with negative pressure pushing everything (presumably “dark matter”). If that’s correct, then expansion will continue forever (an undefined scientific term of art :).

    • Anonymous

      Too many people think of OUR universe as being THE universe. That’s not necessarily the case. It’s certainly possible that our universe is merely a one pixel-wide speck on the timeline of the universe, or of whatever “everything, ever” consists (or consisted, or will consist) of. For that matter, it’s no certainty that time as we know it is in any way applicable to the universe in its totality.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, according to our best knowledge, the universe is not flat, but slightly curved. Check out “Universe may be curved, not flat” by Ron Cowen in the journal Nature. The previous conclusion that the universe was flat had some errors, but the newer, more precise Planck probe found that in fact the cosmic microwave background is slightly curved, like a saddle, rather than flat. But even this finding they aren’t 100% sure about and so they need to do more research on it. I’m not a physicist, so I don’t really understand what a flat or curved universe may mean in the big picture, but it still is interesting.

    • Anonymous

      ditto….its an amazing source of wonderment but can also be an unbelievable de-motivator. Eitherway…I think I’ll use aeresol hairspray again….

    • Anonymous

      True! However, at this moment all these atoms have come together and agreed to be me for awhile and allow the pleasures of family, friends, sunsets, etc.
      I have had the good fortune to observe the shadow of the moon sweeping across the earth in the 1979 solar eclipse and live with the awareness of that visual of the speed with which I am spinning.
      Perspective is a good thing.

  6. Wow, the perspective this provides is quite humbling. At the same time I wholeheartedly appreciate the humor you’ve added, particularly the bit about the T-Rex and Justin Bieber. Hehehe.

    Also, you probably already know that the heat death of the universe is only one possibility, and it really all depends on the shape of the universe. I’d like to believe the alternate theory that it will eventually hit an end point of expansion and just collapse in on itself, starting another Big Bang. But my understanding of all that is less than rudimentary, relying on very simple explanations by very smart people :)

  7. Anonymous

    Nice illustration, but you don’t understand evolution when you write that our digestive system evolved before we started breeding wheat – because with this you imply that our evolution stopped at some point. This is not the case. Those humans who could digest all kinds of stuff better than others (whether wheat or dairy) were more likely to survive and procreate than those who didn’t. Easy as that. Evolution doesn’t stop.

    • Anonymous

      I think he means; evolved into the digestive system with which we are familiar today, in modern humans.
      We all know what he meant. Stop being picky.
      My stomach is evolving right now. But that is of no consequence.

    • Anonymous

      Your stomach has a unique set of bacteria in it, that’s created and molded by the things you eat. When you change your diet, that culture of bacteria that more or less exist to help you digest your food changes as well. That’s one of the reasons a vegan if they try to eat a greasy burger after many years often gets stomach pains or wants to throw up. I believe I have also read that mothers often pass this down to their kids.

      So in a way, your stomach is in fact evolving

  8. Rick

    Have you thought about releasing this as a single, high-quality, image? This is beyond incredible and I’d LOVE to print, frame and hang it.

  9. Anonymous

    Maybe the universe will continue to expand into nothingness until all heat and energy die off and it realizes that it is, in fact, a single point singularity and the blown mind that ensues will be the next big bang.

  10. Anonymous

    Humans are not descended from apes but instead from a common ancestor shared with apes. And another thing: the “Heat Death” theory means that there will be no more free energy in the universe! This will be the effect of enthalpy in the extreme long run.

  11. Sarah

    what if we were to discover that there was more then one universe…much like we at some point discovered that there was more than one galaxy. And rather then a heat death, we absorb or get absorbed by another universe…maybe there are lots of them out there. I was just wondering if I’m the only one that thinks about that.

    • no, my first thought (besides the interpretive judgments regarding our “demise,” which seems to confine it all to the physical realm, but in actuality seems to be a lot more mysterious and complicated than can be explained in such simplistic terms with simple, 2-dimensional, or even 3-dimensional, graphs & stuff) – although i can appreciate the humor – because there are still so many unanswered questions… string theory… dark matter… even metaphysical perspectives that are used to try to help explain certain unknowns or “unexplainables,” etc… all (or maybe not all?) rooted in the physical world, and many hinting at possibilities of other inter-connected realms/universes – besides, i don’t believe energy can really be “lost” into a sea of nothingness, i think it is simply transformed, is exchanged somehow, gets transposed elsewhere… whatever: to me it seems that anything that ends in vanishing is illusion (including your own sense of insignificance in the face of the macrocosm… we’re all a part of this incredible creative energy source/s, and it is a part of us, too…) – thanks to all, fun to read this & participate

    • Anonymous

      I don’t see why it matters. I’ll be dead in a few decades and since I won’t exist, nobody that exists today will matter a damn to me. People that may or may not actually be alive in tens of billions or even trillions of years having to face the end of existence certainly don’t even register on my give-a-damn-ometer.

    • Anonymous

      As a physicist whose work (as of late) focuses on M-theory, I am fascinated by the potential scale of how much more there might be beyond our own universe. Realizing the vastness of the universe we inhabit is just the first step. Imagine the possibility of an infinite number of universes, each with its own peculiar characteristics. What if intelligent life is the unusual quirk of this one?

  12. Awesome!
    Could you please kindly add/change 2 things?
    1. Remove the “fucked” word. You poster is absolutely great and I’d love to show it to children, but I obviously can’t due to the above word…
    2. Add the point were the World is believed to be created by God (like 6k years ago, right?) – Would be good to have it in perspective too.
    Thanks!

    • Not everything has to be for children. Besides, you’d be better off teaching your children that there’s no such thing as a bad word, just bad intention. Really, grow up, and help your children evolve instead of being trapped by silly things like “bad words.” If it’s that important to you, don’t ask the artist to change his work. You censor it yourself.

      Also, leave God out of this. This is science, not fantasy.

    • Anonymous

      I think her point is to demonstrate the difference between the scientific age of the universe and when Christianity says God created the universe. If anything, it just helps to demonstrate the stupidity of creationism.

      • Oh Christ, Not This Shit Again

        If anything, acknowledging creationism in a scientific article provides a scientific gloss to creationism — which is precisely what the creationists want.

        It never ceases to astonish me that anyone can believe the two Genesis accounts are literally true when they can’t even be logically resolved to each other.

        Moreover, the Genesis mythology is just some rehashed earlier Sumerian mythology, but the creationists would dismiss THOSE older creation stories as manifest bullshit.

    • Anonymous

      I am glad God is not here. The issue with bringing God will be whose God? Allah, Jesus, Krishna, Shiva, Buddha whom you want? Every religion has it’s own timeline and that would have taken away the neutrality and objectivity here.

      In this timeline, at least people agree on most of the events having taken place – if you grad in God – you would open a Pandora’s box.

      By the way, even God does not want to get dragged into this – which somehow most of we humans fail to understand.

    • Anonymous

      Food for thought –
      Some omnipotent power had to be there during that whole spectrum of what was illustrated above (outside of time) and will always be there. Think about how all this could have come about from “NOTHING” and how we seem to be the luckiest living organism (with all this ‘limited’ intelligence) that got everything ‘perfectly’ and ‘accurately’ aligned (ozone, oxygen, distance from sun, earth rotation, gravity, the complexity of an organism’s biology etc to name a few) to be surviving on this spec of a place called earth. Now put THAT into perspective. You may then draw your own conclusions if ‘something just appears out of nothing’ and the existence of an omnipotent being.

    • More food for the thought — the author points out that he doesn’t understand the big bang, which is a sensibly humble position. The rest of us should try it sometime. To ask the question of whether “something can come from nothing” is rife with implicit, unfounded assumptions about the nature of time and space. And “nothing” is an extremely poorly defined word, that likely only represents a platonic concept in our brains, with little connection to the physical world. Positing the existence of a deity creates more problems than it solves — the “who creates the creator” infinite regress. The only scientifically reasonable answer is “who knows; but I bet we’ll figure out more as we observe more.” Anything else is just hubris.

      I would also suggest that to imagine that “everything had to align perfectly” for intelligent life to come into being, is to misunderstand the very sense of scale that this article conveys. It seems much more plausible to me that life would evolve in almost any medium with a few basic characteristics conducive to the formation of matter, given sufficient time — and 15 or so billion years is a *long* time.

    • That came across a bit more harshly than I intended. More than anything, I just wanted to point out that the question is not as simple as implied, and that sometimes “I don’t have enough information to judge” is the only reasonable answer.

    • Anonymous

      Some estimates say the universe has around 50 sextillion (that’s 5 with 22 zeros after it) “Earth-like” (possibly habitable) planets. This is obviously nothing short of a wild, but semi-educated guess. Those 50 sextillion possibly-habitable planets are but a fraction of all planets. Hell, they think there’s around 100-200 billion planets in the Milky Way alone.

      Is it so hard to believe that there’s a 1/50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance that something went wrong on one planet, and over the course of the past 4,500,000,000 years, that something eventually grew into a bigger mess?

      In 7 days, the leftovers in my fridge barely grow mold.

      In other words, I’m putting the odds of a god coming out of nothing and creating the universe in 7 days and the odds of the conditions being juusssst perfect for life to start accidentally at around 49,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000:1 each.

    • Anonymous

      And we get fucked anyway. How does that fit into your “perfectly aligned so an omnipotent being must have set it up just for us” scenario? We probably won’t last until the fucked part anyway. And what was the omnipotent being doing for the first 9.2 billion years after the big bang but before the solar system formed? Hmm… I’ve drawn my conclusion. No omnipotent beings.

    • Keep in mind that the Big Bang produced mainly hydrogen (H), helium (He), and a little deuterium (D) — hardly any of the heavier elements like carbon (C), nitrogen(N), phosphorus (P), etc. that are essential for life as we know it. The heavier elements had to be cooked up inside stars that processed the primordial H, D, and He. But those stars live for billions of years, and don’t release their products back into the universe until they die. So you know it’s going to take billions of years until you have enough stuff to make life, or for that matter, planets. Apparently it required several generations of stars, with younger stars forming from the debris of the older ones, to get the abundance of C, N, P, etc., that we need, and also the even heavier things like iron that make life more “interesting”. The long time allowed the rate of supernova explosions to dwindle away, too, which is a good thing, since supernovas tend to sterilize their environments out to a large distance. So 9 billion years actually seems to be just about right. So Mr. Omnipotent Being just had to be patient, I guess. Maybe there’s a faster way to do things, but none come to mind right now. :-)

    • Anonymous

      Hey it’s the food for thought guy again ☺ I see you all have some well thought out points. I don’t doubt that some of your theories may have taken years of personal contemplation and deep thought (or did it?) Perhaps its something to consider based on a little more food for thought…

      Just to put it all in perspective, I will humbly explain 2 simple analogies for you all to take home based on your collective thoughts –

      Infinite Regression – Lets assume that there is a sniper who has to take a shot (an action). He confirms to his superior that his target is locked and he is ‘awaiting command’ (a decision). Suppose the sniper’s superior cannot make that decision and he needs to confirm with his superior and this goes on and on and on which would result in ‘no decision’. Will the sniper ever take ‘action’? Someone HAS to make a decision in order for the trigger to be pulled or in other words for the action to occur or it would result in an infinite regress. This is why you cannot use the ‘but then who created the creator?’ argument because it would go on and on and on forever which results in an infinite regress and nothing would exist. Think about this carefully and apply it to everything that exists/ever existed and more importantly the first ‘thing’ that existed.

      What are the Odds? – Lets assume you decided to take a stroll in the vast Sahara desert. We all know how big the Sahara is (I hope ☺). While you walk the abundance of sand dunes, your foot strikes a familiar item. You look down and you’re amused to find a Samsung S4 or iPhone 5s sticking out of the sand. (For fellow cynics in the audience lets also state that nobody walked this path ever before and accidentally dropped it. Even from a plane…). Now would you at any moment think or come to the conclusion that sand and the elements in the Sahara could have caused glass and plastic to form/mold into silicon and complex circuits which resulted in this super smart phone (that makes calls and does wonderful things) even over lets just say… 4.5 billion years without any outside force or intelligence? We all know it takes more than that to build one and that’s just a smart phone. Now imagine our human biology and all other organisms or life forms that are far more complex than a smart phone. Again, think about this carefully and apply this thought process to earth, the colossal nature of its complexities to sustain life in all forms for all of its inhabitants.

      You may draw your own conclusions on if an external force/omnipotent being (call it whatever you want) should exist or not based on the above examples. IF however you do come to the conclusion that you are a tiny part of creation, then ask the simple question, why would you not be given the answers by this external force that caused all this? Also remember that when you are ready, there is clear information out there to address the “I don’t have enough information to judge” conundrum (if only one spent their time humbly and looked for it). The sheer scale of all existence that we experience, which some of you seem to confuse as ‘why such a long wait?” is yet another clue from this external force to display capability, grandeur and magnificence (if only you realized…)

    • Anonymous

      @Zach Waldman – according to the author the timeline is also aimed at parents and educators, so your line about “some things not being for children” is as irrelevant in this case as it is inane. Moreover, your precious admonition to a stranger to “grow up” by adhering to your unsolicited pearls of parenting wisdom is also an indicator that you’d be better off following your own advice.

  13. Anonymous

    I am actually acutely aware of the magnitude of time and to be honest I was surprised that the presence of mammals on Earth is significant in the picture that represents the “Age of the Universe” (13.8 billion years).

    Now if you want to be blown away by how large a number can get, I recommend looking up “Graham’s Number” in Wikipedia.

    • Now what kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t know about Graham’s Number? I think about Graham’s number basically every night in bed and get stressed out about it. And it’s on my list of future nerd posts on Wait But Why. Stay tuned.

    • I read a number of reports saying that the hideous H. Erectus had fire as far as 400,000 years ago. But also a number that said that theory as dubious and that widespread fire usage has no evidence before about 125,000 years ago. When in doubt I played it safe.

  14. Anonymous

    waitbutwhy is ripping off Carl Sagan’s cosmic calender. Very poorly ripping him off I might add. Stick to your day job, waitbutwhy

  15. Anonymous

    Great stuff. I have always thought on these lines but never went to such extent.

    I would have preferred more balance recording of history though – the 5000 year old Indus Valley Civilisation should have been mentioned along with Ancient Egyptian one.

  16. So the good people at Visual.ly (amazing site if you’re not acquainted) and I will be working together to create a newer, shinier version of this.

    We’ll do a version without saying the word “fucked” (even though that’s what we are) too for people that want to use this with schools.

    Check back about this soon!

    • Anonymous

      When is the word “fuck” going to graduate into the big-leagues, where all the “real” words get to play? For a word that is so flexible, so expressive, it sure has to take a lot of abuse. I say we all stop picking on “fuck” and just recognize it for the valuable contributions it has made to human communication. And to those who continue to harass it, to try to hide it, and pretend it doesn’t exist, I say: Joke’em if they can’t take a fuck!

  17. You get confused by time before big band and time in future because you are viewing time as linear. It is quite possible that time is circular. Just a food for thought. I believe in that.

  18. Anonymous

    To quote the one man who had the deepest, broadest, most comprehensive understanding of all this: “All reality is an illusion. But it is a persistent illusion.”

  19. Cheryl

    The whole graph is insignificant when compared to eternal life for all who will believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God the Father of us all, and ask Him into your heart. Hard to believe? Just ask Him to show you if He is real. Then comment.

    • Anonymous

      Cheryl, I did precisely that and Ram said, all religions are same – different people interpret it differently and call it differntly. In the process they also found it convenient to call me by different name.

      I hope you are ok with above.

    • Anonymous

      I beg to differ. Odin is the Allfather; Christian mythology is just ridiculous. If you doubt me, just ask Christ who nailed him to the cross – it was Thor using his mighty hammer, Mjölnir.

    • Anonymous

      Excuse me, but Zeus is the fucking tits. None smite the unworthy as he. If you don’t like it, feel free to ride the Styx down to Hades.

    • Anonymous

      This is the saddest thing. Living life vicariously through an abusive system – why do these folks even both with an item such as this. It’s madness.

    • Thank you for sharing this secret. I just asked Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God the Father of us all into my heart. Now, is that going to interfere with my blood pressure or arteries in any way?

    • Anonymous

      It’s very sad & disconcerting to discover that, although there is plenty of space on this graph to do so – just prior to the Roman empire & after the Pyramids at Giza are mentioned – there is no mention whatsoever of the first greatest monotheistic religion’s birth – JUDAISM – the religion that is still here with us & vibrant today; the religion that the other TWO religions mentioned were DIRECTLY born out of & from. Is this yet another example of religious bigotry & racism being displayed? – by the creator of this timeline?

  20. Anonymous

    To be pedantic, not only is Obama’s presidency out of scale, but the 21st century began not in 2000, but in 2001, so Bush’s presidency should reach almost completely to the left.

  21. You are depressed by living with the past. You are anxious by living with the future. But we need to have both depression and anxiety, but that should not make you to live with fear.
    Maintain the balance and peace in you that means you are living with the present. Humans should understand the science with clarity and art with reality for humanity. Be gentle with nature because that is the temple and you are the shrine. ~ Ramen @ Athma-Pure

  22. P. Cardon

    This actually mean we do matter and a lot … all those things, those million of little twists and turns in history that had to go wrong or right at just the right time, happened with us as a result. With the good and the bad that we know (though I would go for more bad than good as we lose our humanity as time goes by).

    It’s a wonder, a miracle (if I would be a believer of any imaginary fatherfigure watching over us) that we’re here today … sharing thoughts across this planet that is at once so small and so large depending on which way you view it from.

    We should be taking care of the only thing that matters: us … instead of merrily massacring and destroying whatever we put our hands on. Each and every one of us has not only the chance to be here, alive and thinking, but also the chance to be able to grasp the chart above and understand what it means, even if the figures are so astronomical and beyond everyday use.

    Whether we screw it up or not lies entirely in our hands for once (asteroids, aliens and other cataclysms excluded of course) where in those billios of years before us we underwent the change we can now, in part, steer it ourselves. How amazing is that?

    Unfortunately, even more amazing, is that we use to no great purpose at all except for a few people who try to push that little gray mass of cells inside our skull to try and see beyond tomorrow, next year, the next decennia.

    We’re so darn lucky to know and so unlucky to not give a flying hoot!

  23. Anonymous

    Heat death can be explained.

    Every thermodynamic “event” (speaking physics), such as the friction that occurs when two surfaces rub one another (creating a force), the flowing of air (from one pressure level to another), heat exchange (such as a melting ice cube, or cooling the surrounding air)… all causes some “potential energy” to be lost. For example, see this “potential energy” as the work you can do by popping or deflating a balloon: pressurized air inside can be used to make the balloon fly, or create a loud bang. When that event ends, the air that used to be in the balloon is mixed with the outside air and is now all of equal pressure. The energy that used to be in the balloon, has been ‘used up’. This energy cannot be regained, unless you re-inflate the balloon – but this will cost MORE energy than you will get out of it (due to friction and stuff).

    This “potential energy” can be more strictly defined as the amount of “orderliness” versus “chaos” at the molecular level. This is what physicists call “enthropy”. Everything that is orderly will naturally move towards a situation where chaos is maximised.
    If you have an empty space, and you put a large number of molecules inside it, they will spread out until they are evenly spread out in that space (‘equal pressure’). This is maximised “chaos”: if it were your bedroom, your stuff would be chaotically spread out all over. Compare this to a situation in which all of the molecules would be placed in one tiny corner of the space, with vacuum in the rest of the space. This is a very “orderly” situation: all molecules are stacked up in one place, nothing around it. It would be a very neatly organised bedroom indeed. But those molecules will start moving, and they will quickly start spreading out – because they’re stacked in one place, while they tend to move towards maximised chaos (in this instance, equal pressure). Energy is produced through the spreading out across the room – similarly, it would take a lot of energy to force all molecules into the corner to start with.
    All these processes end up with a more “chaotic” nett final state. Some potential energy will have been used up.

    Heat death occurs when THE UNIVERSE as a whole has reached equilibrium, or maximised chaos. The entire universe will be a cloud of molecules, all evenly distributed, same temperature, same pressure. There will be no ‘wind’ because there is no reason for the stuff to move anywhere else. Water on earth flows downwards because that expends its potential energy (which it got through gravity), producing a more chaotic state. But if there’s just a mass of stuff of equal pressure, there’s no potential energy in that stuff for anything to flow anywhere.

    To summarize it in one big analogy: when you pour milk into a cup of coffee and stirr, it will start out looking quite neat and vivid with moving blobs, lines, swirls, etcetera. But it will slowly become more and more mixed, and eventually, all will be completely mixed into one optimally chaotic cup of coffee. It will cool down until it’s the same temperature as the air around it, and then the coffee won’t even move around any more. There will never again form a white milky line in there, if left alone. Nothing will happen.
    That’s our universe when it reaches heat death. The black-white boundaries and swirls that you can see in the coffee, that’s every event that occurs in the universe. When it’s mixed and temperature stops changing, that’s heat death. Nothing else will ever happen in that universe, unless interfeared with from outside of it. No interaction is possible inside it, no life, no explosions, nothing. Just boring equilibrium forever.

    That’s heat death.

    • Thanks for this explanation. And although it makes sense, isn’t it still true to say that gravity, one of the weakest forces also has one of the greatest ranges? If this is so and would were to consider the shape of the expanded heat death universe and a very very large sphere-ish shape* with scattered cold matter throughout it, wouldn’t it still have an average centre of gravity (just like any structure or formation)? And if so, over a very, very, very long time, wouldn’t that tiny force coax matter towards it, ie back towards the average centre?

      I guess the bit I don’t understand about ‘heat death frozen equilibrium state forever’ is how do you dispense with the notion of an average centre of gravity for all mass distributed across the entire universe? Because if you don’t, even the slightest gravitational misalignment is an unbalanced force. An unbalanced force will lead to acceleration.

      *So about the shape of the universe. If it has originated from a single point then rather than a sphere logically it would be more akin to a hollow spherical ‘shell’ with an outer and inner boundary between which all the matter is moving outward. The thickness of this shell I suppose is somewhat defined by the length of time the big bang was emitting matter. Anyway.. ;)

    • Anonymous

      Thermodynamics is the study of statistics. There is a reason that molecules cramped in a corner tend to spread out: they’re moving, en masse, in so many directions we can only look at the big picture and say they’re moving “at random”. Statistically speaking, they will bump into each other more frequently on the “higher pressure” (inside, more densely populated) part of the molecule blob, and less or not at all on the vacuum that surrounds them. Thus a growing number of particles will statistically speaking be moving towards the vacuum, in effect “spreading out”. This will continue until the particles are statistically speaking “evenly spread out”, at which point they will still continuously collide, but there won’t be statistical changes in pressure any more. Each particle collides randomly just as statistically often as the particles around it.

      So when I say “equilibrium”, even in the context of heat death, that does not mean that nothing moves. Lots of stuff moves. Everything moves. All molecules will still be moving, bouncing around, bumping into each other. But on the larger scale, statistically speaking, they will bump into each other equally often on all sides. So there will be no macroscopic “movement” within the “cloud” of molecules (or atoms, or whatever).

      Now of course, all mass causes a gravitational force on all other mass in the universe. And if we’re speaking of one cloud of mass in thermodynamic equilibrium, then that cloud – considered as one whole – will have a center of gravity. Mass will be slowly pulled together into one cloud, the particles in it will bump and bounce around. Gravity will pull the outer particles towards the center, causing a slight (statistical) “inwards pressure” from the outside edge of the cloud. Inside the cloud itself, statistically speaking, there will be a few more collisions (because there’s matter on all sides, as opposed to near the edge of the cloud). That pressure resists the outer particles from actually coming in. All in all, as many particles will get bounced into the center, as there are particles that are bounced out of it. It’s a statistic equilibrium.

      So you’re right about forces causes accelleration, but the thing to understand is that heat death is a *thermodynamical* and *statistical* concept. You fundamentally cannot wholly understand or explain thermodynamical interactions by looking at individual particles, on which forces are excerted, which collide, and accelerate. The thing is that the cloud is very much moving constantly, but the movement is so equalized throughout the cloud that there are no more imbalances of any kind. No density imbalance, no pressure imbalance, no temperature imbalance… It’s all in equilibrium. So statistically speaking, save for the constant movement of all (tiny) individual particles, nothing happens any more. Life is not possible because it requires thermodynamic processes, and nothing occurs at that scale any more in the situation of heat death. There’s just tiny collisions of tiny particles in one big cloud that doesn’t move, there’s no “weather” in it, nothing.

      About the big bang: not everything may have jetted out at the same speed, making your geometry claims not necessarily correct (but either position would be highly speculative), and 85% of the matter in our universe is either missing, invisible or unknown to us (dark matter). I try not to say or claim too much about the big bang or the structure of the universe, because I think we basically don’t really know quite enough to be making such claims. Nice to think that everything came from nothing at a point when time wasn’t even formed yet, but why that would have happened and why that something couldn’t happen again are questions that aren’t answered.

    • Anonymous

      Re: Gravity pulling everything back together: If there is anything left to pull back together that can be, than that isn’t heat death yet. When they bump into each other and stop moving, that’s heat death. If there’s too much of that stuff, it goes into a black hole, which will eventually radiate away as hawking radiation – that radiation can never pull itself back together because under normal circumstances gravity can barely bend the path a bit.

      Plus, there’s not just gravity out there. There’s dark energy – a force that pushes the universe farther and father apart. An isolated photon will never ever find anything else to hit and is effectively time-dead. (Dark energy will create an event horizon that keeps gravity from ever reaching that time-dead particle.)

      And, look up: Big Rip.

    • CHEMbustion

      In “heat death” explained, I never knew physics could be so tedious!
      Would you please explain what “enthropy” means? Is it between “entropy” and “enthalpy”? Hmmm….
      And, while you’re at it, “interfeared with”? I fear I don’t understand!
      CHEMbustion

  24. Anonymous

    You don’t consider the moon landing important enough to mention? The first time *any* life form from Earth walked around on another solar system body? The first step on our way out of sun-expanding doom?

  25. Anonymous

    Fantastic infograph! Unfortunately, the take away from this is a feeling of waste. Why? This graph clearly demonstrates that time is not a renewable resources – it depletes – a fact that reinforces the old wisdom that what we need to make the most of time. Yet the graphs shows that however great our achievements in space of time will vanish with time. So why worry in life? Perhaps we should just have to eat and sleep away and varnish with time someday! No waking to run to the office or working late to meet the target date for that report. yepeee!!!!!

  26. This graphic is bogus after is passed Written History at 3,500 BC. How in the world do they know what happened before then? Sillies. Read your Bible and you will see the true history is in Genesis. Stop believing non-believing atheistic scientists. Instead, believe the Written Word of God and the believing scientists who believe His Word.

  27. Anonymous

    A thought – sure, earth-based life is limited to about another 800 million years or so – but just from this chart – the Universe itself could foster life for about another 100 trillion years or so (presuming 100 trillion years to when Star Formation ends, and that even then you’d have new stars that just formed).

    So if we’re at about 20, 21 billion years from the Big Bang to the end of the earth – that cycle could repeat 50 times in a trillion years, or 5000 times in a hundred trillion years.

    Plenty of time for humanity to colonize other worlds and hop around from star to star.

    Anyway, instead of ended it at the ‘Well, we’re fucked’ point – you could show a range for ‘life is possible in the Universe’, which, granted, would show our current time is a very small slice. But it would also show that there is a ton of time left yet for almost endless solar systems to be created, and for life to evolve.

  28. saz

    hopefully I’mm wrong. But the way we are carrying on. The future for our selves ain’t that long. Gosh we are brilliant and horrendously at the same time.

  29. Anonymous

    Actually really hilarious post as well as fascinating. My two funniest moments both involved Pangaea:

    1) Pangaea described as the continents “cuddling”
    2) Pangaea quoted as saying, “I had a good run”

    Great job!

  30. Dwight

    It took all that time to produce human beings who could know so much about all that had gone before, and then contemplate and reflect on it. If that doesn’t make you feel significant, then you’re looking at it wrong. The universe bent over backward creating you, your brilliance, your flaws, your silliness, your greatness, your odd smell, your orgasms, your pain, your addictions, and your love. It’s not THAT you are that matters–it’s WHO you are.

    • twobitcoder

      I want to agree with you, philosophically, that we are not the rubbish some people portray us as, that intelligence is remarkable and may be “the whole point” of Earth life, to get to this point, for Earth (maybe seen as a Gaia) to expand it’s genetic heritage outward. But, I am not so sure that life is as exceptional as you imply. What if life is a normal process in the universe? We only feel alone because it’s a big universe and we’ve only been technological for one century–a minuscule amount of time. What if there are millions of homeworlds like ours in this galaxy alone? I’ll let Star Trek take it from there…

  31. Stan

    On 9/13, comments were fantastic, written by intelligent, engaged people with a firm grasp of their – our – place in time, whether gloomy because of the farthest future, or happy because of the wonders that exist here and now. I loved the 9/13 comments.

    On 9/14, the Christians discovered this page, and the stupid, closed-minded arguments began.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. I wonder how Christian zealots are able to drag Christianity into everything. I wonder why these misguided and heavily funded people cannot live without converting others!

    • Anonymous

      Hahaha, let’s take a stab at God-fearing Christians and say they are “stupid” and “close-minded”. LOL. So original.

      Those idiots believing in a Creator. What silly people.

      Instead, let’s believe in some sinful humans.

      Oh wait, what is this Scripture… “The fear of the LORD is the BEGINNING of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7).

      There is another Scripture that says fools are those that don’t believe in God.

      Take your pick. Maybe you are the stupid, close-minded one. Could be, kind sir.

      God reigns supreme.

    • Anonymous

      The first two comments September 14, 2013 at 2:30 AM and again a couple of hours later were insulting creationism and Christianity.

      It’s funny how people bow in the awesomeness of a scientific chart that says we knew nothing before 3,500 years ago and then goes on to explain everything that happened before then in great detail.

      But of course, you know, religious people are stupid and unscientific.

    • twobitcoder

      I can imagine a universe with a God. I can imagine one without any deity. Can a Christian? If you cannot, then you are incapable of having an intelligent conversation with someone with a different opinion, and are therefore incapable of communication beyond your intellectual borders. Food for thought. Is it possible to write an argument in favor of your beliefs without quoting from your beliefs? Are you capable of imagining how others feel when you exclude them from your idea of heaven? What is that point of view called, sociologically? To illustrate, how would you feel about a political party that behaved that way. What do you call a party that has no room for any other opinion or view? It’s called Fascism. Even if you’re right, as you believe, you have no right to tell others that they are wrong. To do so is to hate Jesus Christ who commands you to love one another.

    • Anonymous

      I have no problem with disrespecting and being abusive to christians – ask Bruno – ask those they burned ‘alive’ inc Bruno (of course)

  32. Just my little palaeo nerd comment here, but the Australian animals thing is kind of wrong; Australia was still part of Gondwana for a long time, and thus connected to Africa, South America, India and Antarctica right through most of the Mesozoic; our animals didn’t start getting weird until we broke off from Antarctica around 40 million years ago. There are fossil platypuses from South America from the Cretaceous, which is well after the 200 million year figure given.

  33. Stan

    @eFUSION, you write, “How in the world do they know what happened before then?”

    It’s called forensics. It’s how detectives figure out how the crime occurred and who is at fault. You trust *them* to use scientific methods and seek the truth, right? And you trust the result, right? Then trust the scientists, who use similar methods to arrive at their conclusions.

    Lemme tell ya about Lord Rutherford, a physics professor. Now, silver-iodide-brushed plates of glass were used for photos before film. Rutherford had a stack of these, wrapped in black cloth, on his desk waiting to be used. On top of the stack was a piece of pitchblende, a uranium ore.
    When he’d taken a photo and developed the top plate, he saw an image of the bottom of the piece of pitchblende. He soon realized that some kind of powerful light-like energy was coming out of the rock in order to produce its image on the plate, and that the energy was stronger than light. So strong, in fact, that it shot through the lightproof black cloth that had wrapped the plates.

    He called the phenomenon ‘radioactivity.’ He then thought about it and realized that something must be causing the radioactivity: the breakdown of the uranium atoms in the rock, into lead and helium. He realized that a certain percentage of the uranium must have been producing helium for all the years that the rock existed, probably at the same rate.

    So he cracked open the rock, in order to find out how great a percentage of the rock was helium, and deduced its age.

    A few days later, Rutherford walked up to a geology professor and asked him how old the earth is. The geology prof hedged that, while they really couldn’t say for sure, current thought (in the 1890s) was that it was between one and two million years of age.
    Rutherford dropped the pitchblende into the geologist’s hand and assured him, “I *know* that this bit of pitchblende is seven hundred million years old.”

    Now contrast Rutherford’s research with some deep thoughts by Augustine, one of the greatest of the Christian philosophers, on a subject for which he had done absolutely no research: the other side of the Earth.
    “As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man.”

    There was a basic difference between Rutherford and Augustine. Where Rutherford researched in the here and now, Augustine made assumptions based on an ancient book.

    Next time someone quotes Saint Augustine to you, remember that he didn’t think it was possible for Australians to exist!

    • eFUSION

      Yeah Stan, I’m not talking about Augustine. You want to take faith in Mr. fallible-human Rutherford, but I will take faith in the revealed Word of the Almighty Creator God who was there at the beginning. Science and His word do not contradict. But us feeble humans do mess up interpreting the evidence quite often.

    • Anonymous

      Wait… what? You mean we can’t believe a chart that says we knew nothing beyond 5,500 years ago and then explains everything that happened beyond 5,500 years ago?

      You mean this isn’t a good, solid reason to put our faith in science and make fun of the world’s oldest religion with 1 billion followers?

    • Anonymous

      Zoroastrianism…Pre-catholic Romans, Greeks, ancient Egypt, Druids…..and that’s just off the top of my head. And all of them are equally as valid as your Christianity. The fact that you are a christian speaks more to where and when you were born than to the truth of a particular religion.

  34. Interesting comments on this post. Two thoughts:

    1) Thanks for pointing out little errors or things that weren’t clear—will do a fix of those things soon.

    2) As for the “this makes me feel insignificant” concept, I think what reflecting on all this does for me is A) makes me treasure my unlikely little moment of insignificance existence and feel grateful to be alive, and B) makes me not want to sweat the small stuff at ALL. It also makes petty human emotions like hate and greed and envy seem VERY silly.

  35. I’m sure that many like me see in this fine presentation (Thanks!) how it took this “long” for Cosmos to “evolve” a sentient being capable of putting this chart together. As if we, as microcosms, are now given the opportunity to begin to understand the Vastness of That which brought us to this point.
    In these last moments of the 12:59:59 type models, how cool that our self-reflectivity can take another ratchet turn within by gazing upon the fabric of our own consciousness, with the Advent of the entheogenic Sacrament. The birth of Acid should be on the timeline!
    The Christian is right to feel a connection to an awesome divinity. The Science wonk is right to feel amazement and humble awe before the Great Thread of Time and Expression.
    The Skeptic gets left out of the best parts of Cosmos: feeling connected and unafraid to be reabsorbed back into the Ocean.
    Turn on, dive in, and find your true Self in the Great Mind that expresses Itself through you! It’s only a step or two from ape to silly religionists or silly scientists. This rift can be healed. There’s much more for us to discover in Consciousness.
    Do Good, help others, resist crazy greedy mofos, and enjoy the fucking ride!

  36. Anonymous

    Nothing happened before the big bang. The big bang created time and space, and nothing can “happen” before there’s such a thing as time. It’s like asking who was winning the race before the starting gun went off.

    • Nenatalav

      Every cause has an effect, every effect has a cause. If the Big Bang was a cause, then its effect was the creation of the universe…but logically, it also has to have been an effect. It couldn’t just have happened on its own, which therefore means that SOMETHING had to happen, or at the very least exist, before; otherwise how did the Big Bang come to occur?

  37. Sorry folks, but getting of the defeatist materialist, separated view of everything does NOT require religion over science. Time is not what you think.
    Quantum physics (most proven and used theory ever) includes the observer.
    How many of them? Bad question. There is only one. And it is us,
    and, if you don’t mind using the terminology, an infinitesimal but holographic-like portion of that One, G-d. (Source: physicists John Wheeler and Erwin Shrodinger, Jewish Chassidic and Kabbalist the AriZal, Rabbi Isaac Halevi Luria.

    Accept it, friends, we are all the same guy! And our “spirit” has a part outside of time.

  38. Anonymous

    Brilliant. I loved the commentary throughout the graph as well. Made me laugh out loud! I loved reading everyone’s comments afterward as to how studying the graph made them feel. (i.e., significant vs. insignificant). I would like to add my two cents to this by offering a very simple analogy… a grain of sand. Yes, we are but a grain of sand. But put millions and billions of grains of sand together and what do you have? A beautiful beach. Likewise, the energy that one human being has unites with the energies of others in order to CREATE! To LOVE! To propel each other forward along this time continuum which will surely morph into some brave new world, I am certain.

    • Religion is, by definition, faith based.
      Science is, by definition, fact based.

      One has no bearing on the other. Neither can be used to “prove” or “disprove” anything about the other.

      They both exist, and can exist quite well together. However, small minds on both sides will, probably out of insecurity, try to attack, or somehow undermine the “other side”. But to believe that there are “sides” is fundamentally misunderstanding them both.

      This timeline is a wonderful thing. Thank you for creating and posting it.
      Discussions like this are exciting, provocative things that fill my mind with questions and my heart with joy.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, they’re equal and proof is irrelevant. We can get along. Or at least, that’s how we have to act until 9/10 of the population becomes atheist. Then we can start being honest and insisting on therapy and medication for the nutters if they want to keep living in normal free society, like we do now with people who are schizophrenic. I’d give it 200 years.

    • Anonymous

      It doesn’t take insecurity to attack the other side just a loss of patience. I, for one, am tired of religious dogma and the excuses for greed, killing, etc., It’s not good enough – sorry folks – but it isn’t … I wrote a lot more then deleted it as I’m wasting what little time I’ve got left on …. other folks

  39. Anonymous

    It’s hard to believe that we were created by some higher being. It’s also hard to believe that we just evolved from monkeys.

    If I had to choose which is crazier, it would have to be the monkey theory.

    • Anonymous

      My sentiments exactly.

      Based on the commentary, why are people that believe in God or an omnipotent being foolish or stupid or believing in fantasy?

      Doesn’t the chart clearly state that 3,500 BC marks the beginning of us knowing anything about history?

      It then lists everything that happened in pretty good detail for the previous billions of years. Further it lists when man controlled fire, 125,000 years ago. ( I’d like to see the proof of that – go ahead bring the evidence, I’ll put my boots on.) Then of course when we started harvesting wheat (Again I’ll put my boots on for that evidence.) But God is fantasy, religious people are ignorant, and all of this came from a nothing that suddenly exploded for no apparent reason into the entire universe. This is all because of our extremely accurate fossil record, which despite the over 25 million categorized fossils has yet to produce a single missing link besides a weird peach fuzz bird thing. I think with such quality evidence, we should make fun of God and religious people some more. Oh yeah, did I mention the part about the chart mentioning not knowing anything beyond 3500 years ago, and the whole belief that nothing exploding into everything? Sorry, but I’ll stick with the belief in an omnipotent being.

    • twobitcoder

      Adam and Eve must be completely fabricated too, then, because they supposedly lived 4,000 BC. Obviously there are bigger problems here than just logic and reason.

    • Anonymous

      Fire: #1 http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/archaeology/Publications/Hearths/Hominid%20Use%20of%20Fire%20in%20the%20Lower%20and%20Middle%20Pleistocene.pdf #2 http://news.sciencemag.org/2012/04/quest-fire-began-earlier-thought?ref=em (there’s many more, it doesn’t take much to find)

      Wheat: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/288/5471/1602

      You can take your boots off now. Now where is the evidence that your god exists? Why not the Buddhist, Greek, or Egyptian gods? Your belief in your god (and non-belief of all others) says more about the time and place where you were born, than whether any particular religion is valid.

      Also, your “missing link” has been demonstrated over and over, you just keep looking for missing links in between every fossil that is found. You worship the God of the Gaps.

    • Anonymous

      none of this has been proved or demonstrated. Show me one scientific FACT regarding the beginning of the universe or the evolutionary process. There are plenty of theories and conjectures, but no irrefutable or proven facts.

      Where did the initial ‘matter’ come from that formed the foundation of the universe?

      I’ll have FAITH in an Intelligent Creator. You can have FAITH in science.

  40. Anonymous

    To all the people saying that the graphic says “we know nothing about what went on before 3500 bc,” that’s not what it says. It says that 3500 bc marks the beginning of us knowing what went on in history, and it’s clear that it’s implying HUMAN history. Of course we know a lot about what went on in natural history before writing. Geology is an entire field of science and the last 5,000 years is about .0001 percent of what that science covers. Scientists KNOW that the Earth is billions of years old as much as they KNOW why it rains and how a volcano works and what the boiling point of water is.

    It’s perfectly fair to believe in an omnipotent being, but not at the expense of proven facts. Wise religious scholars know that science and religion don’t need to conflict. And wise religious scholars typically accept evolution as fact. That doesn’t make them any less religious—it just means they’re being more sophisticated than believing that the Bible, which was written by men, holds the truth about god. They believe in god as fully as anyone else, but they don’t reject blatant scientific fact in doing so.

    This is a SPECTACULAR infographic and believers, agnostics, and atheists should all be discussing the fascinating walk through history the graphic takes us on. That’s it. If you want to discuss the graphic and everything within, this is a perfect forum to do so. If you want to come to a blog that clearly believes in the science of evolution and spout out comments about how science is bullshit, all you’re doing is provoking and taking the conversation off subject. It’s no better than an atheist finding a forum about the Bible and commenting about how he’s sure it’s written by men—that would be obnoxious, and so is coming here to deny science.

    Now can we please get back to the mind-blowing facts about the vastness of human and natural history presented on this great blog post?

    • Anonymous

      Yeah my thoughts exactly. The existence of god is not the topic and no one should be attacking anyone else on either side about that on this particular forum.

      Instead, can someone please better explain what a singularity is and how time can “start” at the Big Bang and why I’m sorely misunderstanding physics when I continue to think, “but what was happening…..before….the Big Bang?”

    • Anonymous

      Time is change, right? If at the smallest divisible instant directly before planck time (basically a term meaning “impossible for us to measure a smaller instant because of the laws of physics”) there was no movement at all, just one big solid block of energy, then that was by definition the first moment. There was no time before that. In fact, if you were to pretend that there is time before it and could explore it from an omnipresent view, it would still be that same perfectly solid unchanging block of infinitely compressed energy no matter how far “back” you go.

      No change, no time. The start of the universe. No before. Plus, almost no space at all for it to happen in.

    • Anonymous

      We are confounded by time because we were made for eternity, without time. Time per se only exists here on earth, so all that “time” when nothing was happening is but a twinkle of an eye, a thousand years..350million years..doesn’t matter, because it’s all eternal then and now and forever.

    • Anonymous

      This is a very fine answer, although the way to understand “what was happening before the Big Bang” is even simpler than that. We define time by means of the changes and events that take place as time passes, right? A good (kind of simplistic, but good) way to grasp this concept is by imagining a completely void box or room, without a single atom of matter in it. Nothing ever takes place inside that box, so, if you come to think about it, the concept of time has no meaning in there, there’s nothing to define time by. Now, the events that help us define time and its progression occur because of the laws of physics and their effects. The Big Bang theory proposes that the universe originated from a very small area of infinite energy, temperature and pressure. Our laws of physics, the cause of everything we consider an event, have no bearing there;we cannot possibly imagine how things inside this gravitational singularity would work. Therefore: no conceivable events before the Big Bang, as the laws of physics that help us define events are not in effect, so no time. The same applies for the question “What is the universe expanding into”, as our understanding of space follows the same principle. It’s a rather charming explanation really, no need for math or specialised knowledge to grasp the answer :)

  41. I like this a lot and I would love to show something like it to my 6th grade science class but there is a certain amount of not-appropriate-for-middle-school language that would get me in trouble if I used it as-is. Do you have a more kid-friendly version of this presentation?

    • Anonymous

      Copy/paste and edit as ‘the creator’ suggested to another comment – goodness me, there’s another below – can’t folks do anything for themselves – or is there another agenda here – regarding which I speculated on my fb page about an hour ago

    • Thank you WBW person. The future will thank you for sharing your “vision” with them. I don’t know how the future “thanks” someone. A memorial probably somewhere.

  42. Anonymous

    I am not interested in any ones comment that has the need to use inappropriate language. If they are not literate enough to express themselves with good English, they ain’t got nothing to say that I would be interested in.

    • Anonymous

      Good English? “Ain’t and nothing” in the same sentence? Besides, “good English” doesn’t use the word “ain’t.” If you are going to comment, you should at least correct your own grammar first.

    • Nenatalav

      anyone ss all one word…and you missed off the possesive apostrophe. The word you were looking for is “anyone’s”. Also, the syntax of your first sentence leaves a lot to be desired. A better way to put it would have been:
      “I am not interested in any comment that has the need to use inappropriate language”

  43. Anonymous

    With all due respect (and I enjoyed every bit of this) please, before you make this available for teachers…remove the word Fucked so they can share the article with their students. Thanks! It was great to read. :)

  44. Fortunately most people who read this wont really grasp the significance of it, or should i say the insignificance of life. were people to grasp this concept en masse it could spark anarchy as nothing would really matter. However, it is lucky that most people still believe there is a point to life and that it should be nurtured and protected for the short time it exists. We all deserve to have our slice of time on this planet, however short or insignificant it may be.

  45. Anonymous

    Bro, back in my day we wouldn’t let just anyone be a jockey. You had to come from a very wealthy background and your father’s father had to be the best jockey of his time for you to even be considered.

  46. Daniel

    This is a great thing, I hate to be a little selfish about two things though.
    1) You have Jesus and Mohammad, but you missed at least Abraham, and maybe at least the founding of Jerusalem, without Abraham, there would not have been a Jesus or Mohammad.
    2) I’d love to have a Canadian version of this to use here in Canada.

    This was a great read! Nice work!

    • Anonymous

      1)I think that it would be better to leave off any religious time frames as those are not important to civilization. They are just negative human distractions that have lead to violence.

      2)Basketball was invented in Canada but it would be good to throw in some Hockey stuff too.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. I would remove all reference to any religious or quasi-religious event – because of the idiocy this arouses. As a Brit I smiled (!) at the Americanism of it but accepted that the creator is American (lol) and if I wanted anything different I should make one of my own – which, I note, answers a few such comments here.

      And I feel fairly sure the Canadian person was alluding to the same of thing, hence the irony of 2). Also I was almost moved to check such stuff as tv invention (which is NOT what is put on the graph) but what for – it’s not the point of the thing to nit-pick nationalism, religion its to do with Time Perspective – the clue’s in the title.

  47. Anonymous

    I suppose all of the rainbow colours during the confusing era before the big bang has something to do with gay gases?
    …and where does “god” fit into all of this exactly. Was god the rainbow?

  48. Anonymous

    The meaning of life part 1:

    1st of all, if Gold and Lead were formed in the middle of stars, and the Sun, its life is estimated to be about 10 billion (1010) years, and stars about 0.25 times the mass of the Sun to last for about one trillion (1012) years according to stellar evolution calculations, while the least-massive hydrogen-fusing stars (0.08 solar masses) will last for about 12 trillion years, Then the Universe is likely over a Trillion years old. Must be something missing in their equation.

    What if Creation?
    Pre-Big Bang: Imagine all the people, sorry. Imagine all of the energy in the universe inhabited by souls. They could imagine anything and everything, yet nothing was real and they already knew everything. As a collective, they came together for one moment and create all of the matter in the universe from energy.

    Ever since the big bang, they have inhabited all live across the Universe and all energy. Imagine what it would feel like to be part of a star? To experience every life form in the Universe, plants and animals of every kind, to be able to learn and live without knowing everything (real life). Imagine that these soles have an infinite memory bank and record all life memories across space and throughout time. Imagine if souls/life forces, were not bound by time, on the outside looking in, and could be anywhere throughout the Universe at the same time (time travel outside of the body).

    Human Life: Everyone must find a reason for living before they can actively start living. A foundation for them to build their life around (religion, science, etc.). Imagine if a souls/energy took ownership of a body(s) and guided them through life, living, making mistakes, and learning. Imagine if souls had all of the knowledge in the Universe and that love is the greatest knowledge. Imagine if one lost control of a body and it did terrible things.

    After life: looking back on one’s life with the ultimate knowledge of the universe. Are you proud of what you learned, of the difficulties you overcame, of the things you created, and the good you did? Are you ashamed or horrified by the things you did, did you hurt the ones you love? What are you going to do about it, in your next life?

    As energy/mass cannot be destroyed, one the process of the Universe has completed, it will likely start over again.

    • Anonymous

      “1st of all, if Gold and Lead were formed in the middle of stars, and the Sun, its life is estimated to be about 10 billion (1010) years, and stars about 0.25 times the mass of the Sun to last for about one trillion (1012) years according to stellar evolution calculations, while the least-massive hydrogen-fusing stars (0.08 solar masses) will last for about 12 trillion years, Then the Universe is likely over a Trillion years old. Must be something missing in their equation.”

      What’s missing from your equation is the possibility of stars MORE massive than the sun.

  49. This series of timelines was just great! Your explanations quite witty and wonderful.
    Minor quibble: Television wasn’t really commercialized until around 1947-48, although it may have been technically possible as you show it in the 1920s. Anyway, the commercialization of TV in the late 1940s was instrumental in shaping the modern era… insofar as that matters!

  50. Anonymous

    You forgot to include the 17 major event-times when aliens arrived and interacted with the planet and the life forms on it.
    Heh.

  51. Anonymous

    I watched an episode of “The Universe” called ‘Cosmic Apocalypse’ (S2 E18), and it described stars burning out for good and the universe being nothing but black holes. It was actually quite depressing.

  52. As a geologist, I am as well aware as I can be of the long passage of time from the Big Bang to the present. I see signs of “old age” – things that have been around for a long time – on the beach (horseshoe crabs) and in the yard (dawn redwood). It’s good to be reminded of these things.

  53. This is a great piece. I was boon in 1961 and by my late 20s was realsing just how close to WWII I was born even though my perception was being part of the space age and colour TV, not Spitfires and Pathé newsreels!

    Could you do something similar for distances? Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to many people really understanding science (and clinging onto contradictory religious texts) is their inability to comprehend beyond “human scale”. Just like time distance is similarly difficult. What is the difference between the size of virus or bacteria cell and a molecule or a neutrino? How far away is Voyager compared with the centre of our galaxy and the centre of the universe? It would be great to see it treated similarly.

  54. A small correction to consider (apologies if this has already been pointed out, too many comments to read but searching didn’t find it!): the lifespan so far of the world’s oldest living person should be slightly less than half (115 of 237) of the time since 1776.

    Marvelous post, btw.

  55. Anonymous

    This timeline is riddled with errors due to its euro-centric, imperialistic conception of time and the universe as lineal and bound. This is erroneous because time is cyclic and the “universe” is in fact composed of unbound multiverses. This anomie is tied to the development of agriculture and rise of social stratification and patriarchy as well as the alienation of de-melanated humans from their hue-man ancestors. It produces much fear and negativity because it reflects a cultural worldview rooted in a fixation with domination of the superior self over the inferior other. Lineal time of the individual lifespan is imposed over the devalued cyclic time of nature and the collective. Nature is held to be inferior and humans are set not just outside the framework of nature but against nature itself, which must be dominated, and this arises in part due to the alienation of humans in the Northern Cradle from the Southern Cradle of humanity during the Ice Age, which begot trans-generational and inter-ethnic ritual violence linked to a shift in consciousness from spiritual knowing to materialistic fear of the unknown due to changes in levels of the hormones affecting consciousness and corporal hue, which are linked through the pineal gland.

    • Anonymous

      The colonizers were alienated from their ancestral knowledge, so now they must violently strip away that knowledge from all the world’s indigenous peoples who know their cosmology. Of course the colonizers would have it that the future be abysmal. What is the point of resisting their domination if all is doomed anyways?

  56. Tom Carey

    Just a few notes on what I’ve been reading here.

    Add David Bohm to the list of physicists who have recognized something beyond the confines of current science.

    Memorize Ernest Shrodinger’s observation (in 1944):
    “Consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown.”

    Remember that “science” is a work in progress. Science a thousand years from now (is we survive) is likely to be as unrecognizable to us as our current science would be to Aristotle (though I think Pythagoras could probably get his mind around it.)

  57. For everyone who is understandably depressed by the cold hard facts presented here (wonderful infographic by the way), here is a flash of hope and optimism:

    Our own facts and body of knowledge are based upon our own limited tools and methods of observation at our *present* disposal. What we can see of the universe based on these observations is not necessarily the true or even complete picture, by far! Rejoice in that!

    Other kinds of matter in the universe may yet come to be discovered, other patterns and energies and forces at play! What looks like a cold end and an inexplicable beginning are just the edges of our own present deductive ability, our scientific lens, and our data arsenal.

    In many ways, we are just sentient infants. And infants cry a lot. ;-)

    And so, have hope and do not despair just yet, because we are not DONE learning and discovering. As we expand our ever-growing Big Picture, we just might discover that things are far less bleak than they seem now. :-)

    Let that be our purpose and our meaning!

    Signed,

    A Rational Optimist

  58. Forgot to mention, small nit — the infografic has a couple of typos. The word “envelope” is a noun, and since you use it as verb (as in, engulf or envelop something), it should be “envelop” without the “e.”

    Carry on. :-)

  59. Thanks to those who have pointed out any errors or things that weren’t clear. Should all be fixed now.

    The word fucked has also been removed, so all teachers and parents who are down with the words shitty and dickish are good to go!

    Also, a high-quality single image version will be coming in the next week or two.

  60. Anonymous

    HI GUYS I HAVE COME TO EAT YOUR SOULS!
    If you’re wondering why I say this, click the Like Button and I promise that you’ll be allergy free, even of things you had no idea you were allergic to, by TOMORROW MORNING!!!

    So please, like me!!!!!!

  61. Anonymous

    while we live, while we do, while our civilization endures, then everything matters. When it’s all over, then it doesn’t matter. We are concerned about ‘eternity’ because we are now alive and though we consider ends, we do not REALLY grasp ending. As long as one is in life, life is all one knows, really.
    AND that is ok. Live while you live. When you end, you may have a perspective that you cannot have now. It’s ok not to be eternal. When a play ends and you go home, you remember the action, you remember that you laughed or cried but on the whole you are ok that the play ended.
    This from someone who does deal with human mortality, with endings. In moments of ‘foggishness’ I am scared and depressed, at other times, not so much. Be well and love.

    • LOLOL!! I used to call Angle Food Cake, Ferry Food Cake when I was a young child of maybe 4-5.
      And I just made mention of that fact the other day. The only other time I’ve heard of that personal fact was like 16 years ago when my Mom reminded me of it…

      ..and a glimpse upon you calling it the same now. :]

      (PSST: do you know the way out?!) lol

  62. Anonymous

    I loved your graphs and the blurbs are great. I personally embrace the insignificance of humanity. Religion and spirituality only serve to inflate the ego and teach you the concept of eternity which is not constructive at all. If we all just accept the ephemerality of all things, it teaches you to appreciate your life even more. Have fun, bring enjoyment to others, and don’t be afraid to take risks. There’s no reason to be afraid of anything because you’re just a tiny flash in the pan and death is coming soon, so what the hell?

  63. So basically we’re the most exciting thing to happen since forever, and unless someone even more exciting happens to respond to one of our ‘Hello World’ shouts to the stars, we’re going to continue to be the most exciting thing in the local volume for quite some time.

    Excellent.

  64. Anonymous

    This is fantastic and mind-blowing. I love the humor added to it. I wouldn’t change a thing…but three other things are surprising in that they seem ancient but are really recent in the sense that I actually know living people whose lives they effected: It wasn’t that long ago that Slaves were freed in the United States and the Civil Rights Movement happened in my lifetime. Women were given the right to vote in the United States only recently (in my Aunt’s lifetime). Not long ago blacks and females had been considered uneducable. I had a student who told me she had applied to MIT in her youth (in the 1920′s), went to her first day there, and was told ‘oh, you’re a female, you can’t be admitted here.’ You listed the “enlightenment” and that implied the birth of “Science”. Science is fairly new (even in the first half of the 20th century Doctors were often just guessing at cures).

  65. pascalle van straten

    i just cannot understand why at the ‘depressing’ end it’s not as simple as: all matter gets sucked into one ginormeous big black hole, the universe around it is empty and still and non moving, (ergo, does it even exist?), but relativity sort of dictates that matter will never dissapear, as it exists ( following the logical that 1 cannot become zero and energy does not just dissapear, it is still in that tiny dot) , so will that one single point where all matter/energy has collided into not spark a new big bang? that maybe only on that one millinanosecond when all comes together a critical mass is created to spark a ‘bang’? because around it there is noting and in it everything which cannot be stable anymore? why the freaking feck not??? boggles me as it seems so logical.

  66. AndreasP

    The last diagram is somewhat useless. You write that you don’t really get what was going on before the Big Bang. The question is not useful, since there is no “Time” that is separated from “Space”. Hence the whole timeline thing is something that is not useful for anything before the Big Bang (or after the “end” of the universe).

  67. Anonymous

    These sorts of graphs and charts illustrate exactly why I think global warming/climate change is such a scam. I don’t deny that it’s happening, but the notion that we humans can affect such a change after only 100 years is ludicrous. The earth is cyclical. It has warmed and cooled before even without us “evil humans” and it’ll happen again despite whatever nonsense we come up with.

  68. Anonymous

    I am pretty sure that the very concept of “putting time in perspective” on graphs like these is eventually based on an incoherent human concept of time. Time might turn out to be something quite different.

  69. Anonymous

    Not only is your chin and your computer and whatnot made up of stuff from that cloud from which our Sun and Earth and all that formed, it’s even better than that: the fact that we have complicated atoms here on Earth and in our solar system (that is, more complicated than the simple stuff like O and He) means that before our system formed, somewhere in this general area of our galaxy a supernova went BANG in our neighborhood and injected “our” cloud with those atoms, and possibly accelerated the star formation in that accretion disc that led to our Sun and planets. (We see similar processes in other star forming regions with very young suns, such as the Orion nebula.) It takes the force of a supernova to create such atoms. That’s right, another sun died so that you and I exist. And yeah, this means we are truly made of stardust.

  70. Anonymous

    To everyone who thinks the eventual heat death of the universe is depressing, consider this: even with our limited modern knowledge of physics, we have already begun to understand spacetime as a single continuum, as opposed to 3 dimensions of space + 1 dimension of time. Time can even “pass” at different “rates”, depending on how fast one is moving. Perhaps an important philosophical implication of this understanding is that we ought not place so much emphasis on what the “eventual” fate of the universe will be. If time is no different than any of the other dimensions of space, then why should what happens at one arbitrary interval in time, such as the distant future, be any more or less important than what happens at another, such as the present day or even the first few picoseconds of the universe’s existence? Food for thought.

  71. Anonymous

    keep looking into history as well as cosmology and eschatology. remember there are and have been many points of view. you’ve got a lot of ‘facts’ that i wouldn’t be so sure about, be careful that you’re not grounding a life philosophy in potentially false conclusions (which are based on others still). for starters, 160 years is in no way ‘ancient’… good luck!

  72. Anonymous

    If for a moment we imagined that to say 1) we are totally insignificant or 2) we are totally significant are two statements which are simultaneously both true and false, we might see that the moment we are occupying is exactly the SAME moment that proceeds and follows it, and that “experience” as we know it, might actually be less of a biological manifestation of the individual and more of a guiding principle that is constantly re-creating the universe. There is a SPECTACULAR amount of connections, not just from the past collapsing into the result of YOU but in all directions, and they are interdependent! How miraculous?! If we were to really grasp the deepest sense of who we truly ARE, as individuals, we would see that we are in fact a function of the entire universe, which is constantly looking at itself through our eyes, probing, creating, traveling, loving, destroying, forgetting, distracting, transforming, always. Breathe in deeply, look around you, every ordinary thing is imbued with ecstatic beauty! You are awake in the middle of a brilliant dream where you can create ANYTHING! You become stronger when you recognize the deepest senses of yourself, THE OTHER! I see myself in you and vice versa and together we can make the beautiful place right here and right now! Dream your world alive! The key to immortality lies in otherness. There are no enemies! To say I am better than you so I will destroy you is like the stomach trying to kill the liver! We only succeed in destroying ourselves. So have a glass of wine with your neighbor, be good to one another! Its a beautiful life.

    • Anonymous

      Craig, glad you enjoyed! I derive most of the inspiration here (and in general) from Alan Watts, Thich Nhat Hanh, Amit Goswami, and Joseph Campbell. Thich Nhat Hanh once said: “We should live each day like two astronauts rescued from the moon.” If you can imagine for a moment, you crashed on the moon, and you had mere hours to survive. Looking at earth, all you would want to do is walk outside and feel the breeze. Now imagine again, magically you were rescued. When you returned to earth, every single thing you see would be a pure miracle. An utter heart-breaking joy.

      We must learn to live like astronauts who have been rescued from the moon, and are living in the miracle of life here on earth.

  73. Anonymous

    There are two main paths scientists I have talked to about the very far flung future. The first is everything dies (what you have presented) and the second is that everything collapses back to the pinpoint of light only to explode once again in a never ending cycle of birth-life-death. We know so little that either is possible.

    What went on before the big bang? See the above’s second way of looking at things.

    • Anonymous

      That should be “Scientists I have talked to say there are two main paths about the far flung future.”

      (Man did I whack that sentence.)

  74. Joseph Campbell, that great student of the human condition and its history, said that “Most people are not looking for the meaning of life so much as they are looking to FEEL ALIVE.”
    I’m with the Dalai Lama and crew: Be kind. That is what matters.

    Awesome graphs and perspective!

  75. as the old (well relatively) song says:
    The best things in life
    to you were just loaned
    So how can you lose
    What you never owned?
    Life is just a bowl of cherries.
    So live, love, and laugh at it all.

    • But in truth. And to the contrary. We were One Mind and like the thing we as human beings call and/or consider God.
      And soon we will know that amazing seemingly limitless awareness finally once again. ;]

  76. Great graphic, could I suggest 2 minor corrections?

    During the AD era (actually since around 500 BC) humans knew the world was round, the error was placing that round earth at the centre of the universe. I’d rewrite “…thinking the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around it…” as simply “…thinking the sun revolved around the earth…”

    We know a little bit about history prior to the development of writing in 3500 BC, since we have evidence from archaeology – statues, agricultural tools, remains of buildings etc. That’s how we know that wheat cultivation started around 9000 BC. I’d rewrite “…the beginning of us knowing anything about what went on in history” as “…the beginning of us knowing much about what went on in history”

  77. Matt A.

    I think there are a lot of people commenting on this about errors, debating theology, geology, zoology, biology, and so many other things forgetting that this was made by a person. No one is perfect, I think everyone can agree. In my opinion, everyone should use this as just a general reference, or a helpful tool, or maybe even just something to get your mind thinking about more than just yourself.

    Perhaps there are factual errors. So what.

    For me, I’m thankful to have seen these bc of the thought processes that come from it. There IS much more than just a single human life, but then again, a single human life can affect so many others, who affect others, and so on and so on. (butterfly effect)

    All in all, obviously there was considerable effort in making these timelines. It’s sad to see there are so many only criticizing and complaining about them. For me, I just say thank you for making them.

  78. Anonymous

    Bob’s original post is the right one for this thread, I think. As Lucy once said in a Peanuts strip, “Now that I know that, what do I do?” What stuns me about contemplating this perspective is how we ended up being a species that cares about meaning — one way or the other. I believe evolutionary theory, but I can’t comprehend how it’s evolutionarily necessary for us to be that way. You look at this timeline and also consider that we’re “the first” on this timeline to SEE this timeline, so far as we’re able to understand. The question of meaning and purpose and whether and how we matter is the whole enchilada. Religious or spiritual narrowism may be wholly insufficient, but I can’t rule out the spiritual impulse as a reasonable reaction to seeing and trying to comprehend all this.

  79. Anonymous

    It’s cool (but depressing ? …) to see that life on earth is just the same as the “life of the universe” : you don’t know what happened before your birth, you evolve nicely to some point, and years after years, you get older, decaying, and finally there’s no more energy in your body to let you be alive.

  80. Anonymous

    All of you have it wrong. Our “universe” has the higher probability of being a computer simulation.

    But guess what? It still doesn’t matter. I’m still conscious and am able to grapple with the idea of my own existence and that is significant. What I do affects other conscious beings and that is greatly significant. We are all made of the same stuff and connected at a quantum level (simulation or not) and that is of the utmost significance.

    Truly awesome graphic. Thank you.

  81. Anonymous

    If you want to read something really mind-boggling on the subject of the big bang and the future of the universe, I recommend Roger Penrose’s “Cycles of Time.” I don’t fully understand it but he argues that when you take the future of the universe to infinity it resembles the start of the big bang and that, therefore, you can have one universe (or epoch) after another and they’re all infinite. It’s so well-written that you’ll think you’re understanding it for a brief moment and that brief moment is a lot of fun.

  82. Randy

    I take exception to these things in your timeline:

    (1) “Human Evolution From Apes”. No. We are literally (in the old sense) still apes. You left out the word “Other” as in “Human Evolution From Other Apes”.

    (2) “things needed to happen exactly as they happened”. (I assume you’re talking about the existence of language-using beings with consciousness, rather than the trivial transfer and modification of DNA down through the ages.) No. We know that things happened this way on this planet. It’s a chaotic process, and we cannot know which changes would have had large effects, and which wouldn’t. Similar results likely have happened on other planets that we’ll never know about due to our inability to go there, or communicate with them, in any useful way.

    (3) “the facts of reality are just too intense”. No. Nothing beyond the next 120 years really matters to anyone seeing this message. Unless there’s some medical (and economic) breakthrough, we’ll all be dead and gone.

  83. In your “Animals” graph, you speculated that had the asteroid not hit, it would be dinosaurs taking their kids to violin lessons. Years ago, I read a scientific paper which said that very same thing. So perhaps the writers of “V” had it right…

  84. So the time before the Big Bang was confusing and resembled a gay pride flag?

    That doesn’t really matter. What does is what happened before the Big Bang, and what will happen sometime in the era of the Big Chill, trillions of years in the future.

    String theory lends itself to membrane theory and multiple, parallel universes, none interacting with the other, but all somehow able to share the same space-time, but in different dimensions with different laws of physics. Other theories state that these multiple universes occupy a bubble very, very far apart, so they can expand and we can never reach across the void to another universe. But it is possible for two universes to touch, causing strange events, including matter exchange. The membrane theory takes the parallel universes and flattens out their space-time for illustration purposes. Each universe does its own thing, and the membranes maintain relative separation. Even if a universe completely dies, the matter and energy are there somewhere. A theory states that sometimes two membranes get too close, causing a dead universe to regenerate matter in a new big bang of sorts.

    The trick is living that far as a species, or as evolved. There is no way to ever travel the vast distances, or is there? In the traditional sense, in order to travel it, you need to go faster than light. Mass expands too much and energy requirements are massive, plus time dilation happens, so even if you traveled close to light speed, a 20-year round trip to many stars would take hundreds or thousands of years on Earth and poses an interesting paradox. Faster than light would seem to allow you to go back in time, and an apparent violation. But warp bubbles solves all those problems. Your ship doesn’t really travel in space-time, but your area of space moves with you, and can do it incredibly fast. Since you don’t move in space-time, you can travel the same 20 years in 20 years with no time dilation. Problems solved. And newer theories state that you can even make the trip FASTER than light, so we could explore the entire galaxy in a matter of decades, given enough ships. We could make the trip to other galaxies in a lifetime if we wanted.

    And if technology expands our lifespans as some promise, we could be the first generation not to die of natural causes, so we could make these incredible trips ourselves.

  85. One thing that seems never to be mentioned when people talk about finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is the incredibly brief time that we’ve had it on earth compared to both the life span of planets and the time (for particles at least) to travel across it. We may find evidence that some form of life existed on Mars – only we missed it by huge multiples of our own existence.

  86. One thing that seems never to be mentioned when people talk about finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is the incredibly brief time that we’ve had it on earth compared to both the life span of planets and the time (for particles at least) to travel across it. We may find evidence that some form of life existed on Mars – only we missed it by huge multiples of our own existence.

  87. Anonymous

    To address the unknown and confusing parts of time, life and death there is a book that offers a new and different explanation of the truth that makes sense, search for “Truth Contest” in Google and click the 1st result, then click on “The Present” and read what it says. This is truth you can check.

  88. Anonymous

    This is all well and good, very forward thinking, looking out 10^10^^120 years or so. However, it begs the question, “What happens after that?” More importantly, when are they going to make a movie about it?

  89. Beez

    The internet was a Big Bang.
    And look at how much we create out of nothing every day. Something is in our brain and then somehow we make it physical and real.
    This stuff is so much bigger than we will ever understand. When I look at the acceleration of technology and knowledge that graph, I think, it will only be a relatively short amount of time before we leave this planet. Then I think, how can anyone see these charts and think that we are the only intelligent life form to ever exist???
    We may not matter in the long run. Or we might in the sense of good v. evil; light v. darkness; But what does matter for sure is how you feel. Because happiness, sadness, and pain are very real. Control your own life and make it a happy one.

  90. Anonymous

    Sweet, sweet stuff. Can’t say I’m thankful for the reminder though. Thoughts on matters such as this always bring on more or less intense episodes of panic.

  91. Anonymous

    This is pretty cool, and I’m going to confess I didn’t read every comment nor did I notice every detail, but why use the phrase “the time since Christ” as a historical milestone? No matter how scientific, inspiring, or profound something may be, using a religious period to describe a point in time is absurd when you’re sending out a message to the entire world.

  92. I consider myself aptly humbled by gazing at the night sky and understanding that I am seeing much more than pretty twinkling motes of light in a dark sky, and that in the reverse direction, I am not even conceived of. When I hiked the Appalachian trail, I was well aware that my utter amazement at what I saw from each hard earned mountaintop will have gone totally unnoticed or cared about by anyone or anything other than myself. But that hardly mattered. And I know that from my socio-economic perspective, there is nothing “good” I could accomplish that would ever (short of maybe having a EUREKA moment and perhaps, say, coming up with the formula for faster-than-light propulsion) match the utter evil perpetrated (and thus remembered) by the likes of Hitler or Khan, which, yet again, hardly matters. I am who I am. I will have come, I will have gone, and beyond the next generation (if I’m lucky), no one will remember I was ever here. And when the universe collapses upon itself and explodes forth once again, my having been here or not will not have mattered one bit. I can handle that. No one needs to try and convince me otherwise, but if it makes YOUR existence mean something more for having tried, then knock yourselves out. Whatever makes you happy…………

    But Monty Python, on the other hand……..NOW THEY mattered! :)

  93. Thanks for the tour. I remember Carl Sagan standing on a calendar of a year, marking time since the Big Bang, and showing our own history takes up something like ten seconds of the last day of the year. But hey, that’s when everyone gets to kiss, right?

    But really, I was surprised at how long one could see the 90 year-old’s life. That recorded time would be covered by 55 people living to be a 100. Makes me feel young or something. :-)

    As for Confusing/Depressing, I remember a professor giving a quote that went something like, “Life is a brief vale of tears set between two eternities of oblivion.”

    But in some way it does matter. Pick up a scared puppy and care for it and it doesn’t matter that there’s no Puppy Space Explorer Empire or any other vanity of man. There’s just compassion and getting through this together.

  94. Hello,

    Thanks for this incredible graphic presentation. I think that a number of my friends, whom are biology teachers, would like to use it (in France).
    So I’d like to know if there is a way that I can have the “source files” to translate them myself, or even if I can help you with the translation in French.

    Thanks again and have a nice day. Or year. Or billion years.

  95. Anonymous

    Food for thought –
    Some omnipotent power had to be there during that whole spectrum of what was illustrated above (outside of time) and will always be there. Think about how all things could have come about from “NOTHING” and how we seem to be the luckiest living organism (with all this ‘limited’ intelligence) that got everything ‘perfectly’ and ‘accurately’ aligned (ozone, oxygen, distance from sun, earth rotation, gravity, the complexity of an organism’s biology etc to name a few) to be surviving on this spec of a place called earth. Now put that into perspective. You may then draw your own conclusions if ‘something just appears out of nothing’ and the existence or non existence of an omnipotent being.

    • Anonymous

      Hey it’s the food for thought guy again ☺ For all you cynics out there I will humbly explain 2 simple analogies for you all to take home based on following key points –

      Infinite Regression – Lets assume that there is a sniper who has to take a shot (an action). He confirms to his superior that his target is locked and he is ‘awaiting command’ (a decision). Suppose the sniper’s superior cannot make that decision and he needs to confirm with his superior and this goes on and on and on which would result in ‘no decision’. Will the sniper ever take ‘action’? Someone HAS to make a decision in order for the trigger to be pulled or in other words for the action to occur or it would result in an infinite regress. This is why you cannot use the ‘but then who created the creator?’ argument because it would go on and on and on forever which results in an infinite regress and nothing would exist. Think about this carefully and apply it to everything that exists/ever existed and more importantly the first ‘thing’ that existed.

      What are the Odds? – Lets assume you decided to take a stroll in the vast Sahara desert. We all know how big the Sahara is (I hope ☺). While you walk the abundance of sand dunes, your foot strikes a familiar item. You look down and you’re amused to find a Samsung S4 or iPhone 5s sticking out of the sand. (For fellow cynics in the audience lets also state that nobody walked this path ever before and accidentally dropped it. Even from a plane…). Now would you at any moment think or come to the conclusion that sand and the elements in the Sahara could have caused glass and plastic to form/mold into silicon and complex circuits which resulted in this super smart phone (that makes calls and does wonderful things) even over lets just say… 4.5 billion years without any outside force or intelligence? We all know it takes more than that to build one and that’s just a smart phone. Now imagine our human biology and all other organisms or life forms that are far more complex than a smart phone. Again, think about this carefully and apply this thought process to earth, the colossal nature of its complexities to sustain life in all forms for all of its inhabitants.

      You may draw your own conclusions on if an external force/omnipotent being (call it whatever you want) should exist or not based on the above examples. IF however you do come to the conclusion that you are a tiny part of creation, then ask the simple question, why would you not be given the evidence/answers by this external force that caused all this? Also remember that when you are ready, there is clear evidence/information out there to address the “I don’t have enough information to judge” conundrum (if only one spent their time humbly and looked for it). The sheer scale of all existence that we experience, which some of you seem to confuse as ‘why such a long wait?” is yet another clue from this external force to display capability, grandeur and magnificence (if only you realized…)

  96. Anonymous

    “This is the last time chimps and humans had a common ancestor.” I don’t know what you are trying to say there but one can’t “stop having” an ancestor (including one in common with someone else).

  97. Anonymous

    As a teacher, for the nearer history, I find this helpful. I get a bit frustrated with the over-emphasis on American History in this country. Helps to show how short a time Europe-colonized America has been around. We Americans make so many mistakes in diplomacy because we don’t understand world history and global culture. However, I tend to agree with another poster about our inability to understand time on the wider scale. Because we human creatures are limited to time, and to our particular time, it is incredibly difficult for us to understand time. I’m not sure that we can say that we know that time marches along in a particular way, with particular results if we were not there to see them. How do we know everything is so linear? What if processes at some times speed up beyond what we currently know, or slow down? I think it’s always important to recognize that as much as we think we know, there is so much we don’t know. We look back at earlier times and laugh at how primitive people were as though we are so enlightened and all-knowing now? How much do we not know?

  98. Anonymous

    I enjoyed this a lot… except of course the Paleo plug for ‘wheat’ entering the diet 9,000 years ago. Why put such a blatantly false and poorly researched piece of propagandized nonsense into the middle of an otherwise really neat piece of work? Cereal grains have sustained healthy human populations all over the world for over 100,000 years. Wheat, rice, (bread), potatoes, corn, squash, beans… none of these cause ‘diseases of affluence’, now called ‘Non-communicable diseases’. Some basic food for thought: http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/nutrans/whatis

  99. I think this is really beautiful. And I also think that our universe is one of many, perhaps infinite numbers of universes. String Theory is a popular “theory of everything” that involves the existence of extra dimensions, some curled up inside the five we can experience. If so, our universe is inextricably tied to other ones, even though we cannot see or understand them. To me, this is so extraordinary and meaningful. I am Buddhist, and believe existence is eternal, and although our short lives may not seem to have any impact on anything big or important that we can see, we are connected to all things in the same small ways that led the apes to become creatures who created music and art and tacos and have the ability to love and sacrifice. The universe is full of SOUL, that is its purpose and its meaning, to be soulful and beautiful just as it is and to be enjoyed.

  100. Wonderful depiction in chronological order of the universe in retrospect of time.
    In our lives, we normally are least bothered about what happened in past and only struggle for better present and future.
    This presentation clearly shows that human life is really a very smal fraction of universe life.
    It is really too small to discover universe facts and mysteries. Thats why we require to cascade research and learnings generations over generations, no matter related to science or society to elevate human race.
    Fortunately, we have words of divine to structure lives and civilzation as an alien aid to accelerate facts findings and uncovering mysteries.
    What has been done by modern man history has to be dupplemented by contemporary scholars and scientists to have better tomorrow as an outcome of this learning curve.
    Shared just my thoughts……

  101. Anonymous

    I don’t really get why people despair when they read things like this. Yeah, ultimately everything is going to die and the universe will collapse, but we knew that already. We all die one way or another. And yeah we’re insignificant in the scale of things, and given the size of the universe, it would be incredibly shocking if other, better, less stupid civilisations didn’t exist and make us look bad.

    But we’ve got a life on this planet. If nothing ultimately matters, that’s not a reason to get depressed. It just takes the pressure off. Who cares if you earn loads of money? Who cares about status symbols and accepted beauty and social pressure? That’s the stuff that doesn’t matter.

    What this should make you realise is that none of it matters, so have fun with the time you’ve got. Go do whatever you feel like, so long as you’re nice to other people. Because that’s the only important thing we really have is other people. Our lifespan is too short to do much to the universe, so we may as well do as much as we can here. Forget all the pressure, don’t get depressed about how tiny we are; go and make the world a better place.

  102. original extension of cosmos ideas, love them. well in 1954 was invited to take an interspatial jaunt, could not compare to anything until i read this, consider reality changes does not end.

  103. Anonymous

    I was just thinking something along these lines-

    The opportunity to live as a sentient being is shared by such an infinitesimally small portion of the matter in this universe, that to spend even a second of it in any state except pure joy, is not only a crime against humanity, it is a crime against all existence.

  104. CHEMbustion

    Do we die? This seems final….
    Or, can we / do we return to the state we were in BEFORE we were born? Certainly, there was an entire Universe to be born into … nobody seems to have any trouble with such a “state”. This “individuality” thing has gotten slightly out-of-hand.

    We are all cast from the same mold. DNA studies confirm this. Man is slowly changing; so much remains constant ( did the cave man squint at the morning sunrise? You better believe it!).

  105. Alex

    It would be better: 3500 marks…. us knowing SOMETHING… because we know very little of the period between 3500-2500 BC. We just know that people left a very few tablets of writing. And to make things worse, people at that time did not registered things for posterity – they preferred oral tradition. What we can found is some useless accounting and tax declaration documents that at random were burned and turned in ceramic. The Sumerians used clay to record stuff, but they did not burn the clay, in fact they even recycled the tablets. They could be writing much time before that mark…

  106. “The most important skill of a species intelligent enough to understand both their insignificance and their mortality is the capability for distraction.”

    This will stick with me well past three minutes. Great blog.

  107. Muumin

    Actually, anatomically modern humans did have speech and language – why wouldn’t they have? They had the exact same structure of the laryngx needed for producing speech as we do.

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  126. Jo (Dealing with my mortality at 2:23am)

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  127. Heili

    I believe you slipped up on that gastronomical figure 10^10^120, which should have been 10^120 years from now if it were the correctly written time of “heat death”.

    I also believe the heat death ends way before 10^10^120, when everything gets so bored that they behave in reverse, and 10^10^720 is actually the year that celebrates reincarnated Newton discovers apple when gravity collides with his cranium.

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  141. Peter Walker

    Your statement about millennia and centuries starting on the one, rather than the zero, is quite incorrect.

    To understand why, we have to look at what, exactly, the AD calendar purports to date from.

    The AD calendar was invented as a calculation method for the date for Easter (a major controversy in the early church) by Dionysius Exiguus in the early 6th century.

    Easter dates needed to be set based on a 33 year cycle from the date of the Incarnation (when Mary putatively got knocked up by the Lord). After a review of history as he understood it, Dionysius Exiguus assigned a date for the Incarnation at 754 AUC (ab urbe conditia, the Roman calendar). He then assigned 1 AD to be the *next* year, 755 AUC, ie. the first anniversary of the Incarnation, 2 AD the year after that, and so on.

    Let me say that again. 1 AD is the *second* year in the AD calendar. 0 AD is implicit in the system; the Easter date would be determined by modulo 33 of the year in AD.

    Now whether Jesus’ birthdate was calculated correctly, or if he even existed, is irrelevant to this point. What’s relevant was that 2000 years from the start of the calendar is 2000 AD, not 2001.

    The misunderstanding comes from a mistake in the formation of the BC calendar, which occurred at the hands of a French astronomer in the 17th century, well after mathematical zero had entered the European canon. Though prior references to pre-Christian dates using the Christian calendar, such as those of Bede, had accepted the implicit zero in the AD system, when the BC system was formalized, 1 BC was tacked on where 0 AD should have been.

    Fast forward to the 1899 time period, when people who were generally educated, but understandably ignorant of the arcane details of the calendar of Dionysius Exiguus, made the leap “there was no zero back then”, to “the AD calendar starts on 1″, to “the new century starts in 1901!” – a conclusion based on false premises. This then grew into a snobby distinction between “educated people”, who incorrectly “knew” the century started in 1901, and “the rabble”, who correctly celebrated it in 1900, and was perpetuated a century later with elite – but misinformed – opinion around the millennium.

    So while it is true that “there was no zero in European math when the AD calendar was devised”, this does not mean that that the the calendar starts at 1 AD. The first year of the first century was 754 AUC, a year before 1 AD.

    And the millennium really was, as the rabble celebrated, on midnight 1/1/2000.

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