Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Breaking down the important dates on our cosmic calendar. We really did just get here, and if we can evolve a bit more and a bit faster-- Dawkins' memes may help, Blackmore's temes I'm not so sure of yet [TED]-- we have a decent chance of being here (and out there) a very long time to come.

Big BangJanuary 1
Origin of Milky Way GalaxyMay 1
Origin of the solar systemSeptember 9
Formation of the EarthSeptember 14
Origin of life on Earth~ September 25
Formation of the oldest rocks known on EarthOctober 2
Date of oldest fossils (bacteria and blue-green algae)October 9
Invention of sex (by microorganisms)~ November 1
Oldest fossil photosynthetic plantsNovember 12
Eukaryotes (first cells with nuclei) flourishNovember 15

Now flip forward to December 31, in cosmic year #1:

First humans~ 10:30 p.m.
Widespread use of stone tools11:00 p.m.
Domestication of fire by Peking man11:46 p.m.
Beginning of most recent glacial period11:56 p.m.
Seafarers settle Australia11:58 p.m.
Extensive cave painting in Europe11:59 p.m.

And now it's time to drop the ball: Happy New Year!

Renaissance in Europe; voyages of discovery from Europe and from Ming Dynasty China; emergence of the experimental method in science11:59:59 p.m.
Widespread development of science and technology; emergence of global culture; acquisition of the means of self-destruction of the human species; first steps in spacecraft planetary exploration and the search of extraterrestrial intelligenceNow: The first second of New Year's Day

Future Quiz #2-

1. The approximate age of the universe is _____ years.

2. The representation of time via a cosmic calendar was introduced in The Dragons of Eden and on the Cosmos television program by _____________.

3. (T/F) Sagan thought it reasonable to expect extraterrestrial help to come and save us from ourselves, at some indeterminate point in the future (as in his "Contact" story), and to think we might migrate to other worlds in the near term if we make Earth uninhabitable.

4. Chabon's "Omega Glory" was inspired by Star Trek, and by _____________.

5.(T/F) Chabon agrees with the letter of the Sex Pistols anthem: there is no future, it does not exist.

6. (T/F) Chabon laments the loss of our ability (or will) to envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too distant date. (Do you?)

7. What did Chabon's little boy think about the prospects of our long-term future? What do you think about  them? How deep is your conception of meaningful time? How much of the future is real to you?

8. How old is our sun? (young, middle aged, senescent...?)

9. Rees calls himself what kind of optimist and pessimist? How about you?

10. What's the best question about the human conception of time and the future I haven't asked you?

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