If Earth was a forty year old woman, how long would humans have lived on her? That’s one of the questions asked in the Science Corner of our website.
Well, if Earth turned 40 years old today at noon, multicellular life would have appeared on her when she was fifteen, the Dinosaurs would have shown up 2.5 years ago, and Homo sapiens would have arrived only yesterday, around half past six in the evening. So from the planet’s perspective, as Science Corner points out, we humans are like a “24 hour Flu” infection. And interestingly, the symptoms of this Flu probably only became noticeable in the last minute or so.
|years ago||what||date and time, if
Earth was 40yrs old
|200,000||Homo sapiens||4/10/2012||6:28 PM|
|60,000||Exodus from Africa||5/10/2012||6:44 AM|
|12,000||Invention of Farming||5/10/2012||10:57 AM|
|250||Industrial Revolution||5/10/2012||11:59 AM|
|Today, noon||5/10/2012||12:00 PM|
I was reminded of this table, which I had created some time ago, when I recently discovered the Chronozoom website. In this visualisation of the timeline of everything, when the lifespan of the universe (13.5 billion years, give or take a couple of decades) fills the width of the screen, we have to imagine humanity’s presence somewhere on the right edge, too narrow to show up. Zoom in on the age of the Earth, and what the site calls ‘human prehistory’ (the last 8.5 million years) grows to one pixel. And when we zoom in to this prehistory, ‘humanity’ (the last 3000 years) is still too small to show up even as one pixel.
This really puts our significance for the planet in perspective. Earth was doing just fine without us for 99.995% of its existence. And while we are certainly affecting the conditions on Earth now, to the planet that will not be the end of the world. The things living on it – we humans especially – do have a lot to worry about, but Mother Earth will shake this off like any other Flu.