Cosmically Speaking

Cosmically Speaking

I’ll tell you why you’re insignificant.

Time is old. Time is really, really old. Time, to be specific, has been alive and ticking for 13.8 billion years.

It’s tough to get an accurate perception of something like the age of the universe. Humans are bad with big numbers. I don’t mean in a mathematical sense — we’re pretty good at that — but rather, we’re poor at judging scale and perspective. Have you considered, for example, that there’s a 31 year difference between a million and a billion seconds? By the power of factors, a million seconds, being less than a fortnight, may as well be discarded.

In his book, The Dragons of Eden, and his TV series, Cosmos, Carl Sagan popularised a method to visualise the chronology of the universe. It’s simple. Take its current age, 13.8 billion years, and scale it down to a single year — the Cosmic Calendar — where midnight on 1 January marks the start of time (the Big Bang) and the end of 31 December is right now, this very moment.

The cosmic year is one to remember. Here are a few highlights…

1 January, 14 seconds past midnight: hydrogen starts to form — it’s cool enough now for electrons to combine with protons (previously, the universe had been a hot plasma of photons, electrons, and baryons)

10 January: the first stars ignite — for over 300 million years the universe had been dark

13 January: small galaxies

15 March: our galaxy, the Milky Way

End of August, start of September: our sun, the Earth, and the rest of our solar system

21 September: first life, single-cell organisms

5 December: multi-cell organisms — almost 3 billion years after single-cell organisms

14 December: small animals

20 December: land plants

25 December: dinosaurs — Merry Christmas

26 December: mammals

27 December: birds

28 December: flowers

30 December: dinosaurs die

8 minutes ago: humans

14 seconds ago: modern civilian — every person you’ve ever heard of from here on out

5 seconds ago: Jesus

4 seconds ago: Mohammed

In the last second: modern science and technology, American revolution, French revolution, World War I, World War II, Apollo Moon landing, and Donald Trump

Your life, if you are lucky enough to live to a 109, is a blink of an eye, a quarter of a second. You are insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos. But don’t let that get you down. You’re also extremely fortunate to have this fleeting moment in the sun. The average ejaculate has 250 million sperm cells, and you made it buddy. Best make the most of your day.


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