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The Small Scale

January 4, 2013

…it’s what we live in. Small, minute, infinitesimal. And most people don’t notice, because mmm… cookies.

Look how far we’ve come.

This time in particular is pretty historic; early years of the third millennium, relatively peaceable (in most of the world, anyway), and technology – gosh, the technology. The technological advances in the last hundred years far outpace those of the last several thousand. I blame widespread electricity. Moving on.

I first encountered this idea in a child’s encyclopedia a long time ago. Imagine, for a moment, that the history of the Earth right up to this point in time, had taken place in 24 hours. One day. Because my natural history sucks, here’s the quick-n-easy graphic reproduction, with full thanks and credits to this webpage.


The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old – that’s 4,540,000,000. To put that in context: a blink takes 100 – 400 miliseconds (let’s average that out to, oh, 250ms, or a quarter of a second. In the 24 hour Earth, a (Gaea)blink would be equivalent to just under 36 years¹ of human time: one generation passes in the blink of an eye.We live our lives in fleeting moments².  Blink twice, and we are mostly dead.

When people think of evolution, we think Darwin (who lived and died five Earth-blinks ago) and monkeys turning into men (one minute and 17 Earth-seconds ago).

One ‘argument’ against evolution questions why evolution has not been demonstrated by scientists. Thing is, evolution actually has been shown fairly conclusively in laboratory settings, but perhaps not as visibly as some would prefer (ie: three headed fruitflies).

But one must keep in mind that it took hundreds of millions of years for single celled organisms to become multi-cellular. Remember how many years pass in a blink?

Now, I know I should spin this next bit off into a completely different post, but it’s somewhat on topic [our tiny understanding of the scale of events], plus I’m lazy. So pull yourself out of macro-time and let’s look at the last 150 years or so of our history in one very specific theme.

Snapshot 1863: The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln.

Snapshot 1963: I Have A Dream, MLK Jr.

Snapshot 2008: first elected African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Look how far we’ve come.




Postscripts kind of spoil the drama of the closing, but for clarity…

1: 250ms = 0.25 seconds ~ 6.944E^-5 hours ~ 7.927448E^-9 years. Multiplied by the age of the Earth (4.54bn) that gives us 35.99 years (assuming 365 days a year. With the inclusion of leap years,  actual numbers would be slightly less.)

2: About 67 years on average. Two blinks are an overestimate, unless you live in a first world country or certain remote Himalayan villages.

PPS: Actually, I wanted to expand on the final few paragraphs, but this one was written! last! year! So happy new miniscule-irrelevant year and good fortune traversing your next Earth-blink.


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