Imagine that the age of the universe, 13.82 billion years, is compressed into only one year. Carl Sagan explains this idea (using 15 billion years as his example) in a clip from his 1980 television series, Cosmos: A Personal Journey.
On this Cosmic Calendar, the Big Bang happens on January 1st at midnight, and we are at the end of the year, midnight on December 31st. Now look backwards:
Down here, the first humans made their debut around 10:30 p.m. on December 31st. And with the passing of every cosmic minute — each minute 30,000 years long — we began the arduous journey towards understanding where we live and who we are.
11:46 - only 14 minutes ago, humans have tamed fire.
11:59:20 - the evening of the last day of the cosmic year — the 11th hour, the 59th minute, the 20th second — the domestication of plants and animals began, an application of the human talent for making tools.
11:59:35 - settled agricultural communities evolved into the first cities.
We humans appear on the cosmic calendar so recently that our recorded history occupies only the last few seconds of the last minute of December 31st. In the vast ocean of time which this calendar represents, all our memories are confined to this small square.
Every person we’ve ever heard of lived somewhere in there. All those kings and battles, migrations and inventions, wars and loves. Everything in the history books happens here, in the last 10 seconds of the cosmic calendar.
More Carl Sagan in the archives, along with The Big Bang and, looking forward, Al Jarnow’s Cosmic Clock.
Amazing Cicada Life Cycle, presented (and bewitched) by the amazing Sir David Attenborough in this clip from the BBC’s Life in the Undergrowth.
“Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground 8” down is a steady 64°F,” reports Radiolab in this excellent Cicada Tracker DIY project page. And why 17 years underground? From Scientific American:
The curious phenomenon of the cicada’s periodical life cycle is the subject of much debate among scientists, who are limited to no small extent by the infrequency of the insect’s visits to the surface. Most agree, however, that climate shifts — notably the rapid warming following the end of the last ice age — have played a role.
There are seven species of periodical cicadas in North America, four bound to a 13-year cycle, three in a 17-year cycle. All are characterized by black and orange bodies, and males woo their mates with species-specific choruses that can be deafening in large numbers.
The genetic similarity of these seven species suggests a common ancestor in the last 8,000 years. And because emergence seems closely linked to soil temperature and moisture, it is likely that climate has played a role in both regulating their life cycles and cueing their appearance.
Cicadas don’t sting or bite. After a few weeks making noise up in the trees (measured at 94 decibles), eggs will be laid and will hatch. After feeding on sap, these hatchlings will drop down to burrow and live underground, next seen in the year 2030.
A pretty eye-opening look at just how much “stuff” your body makes in a year, from BuzzFeedVideo.
Snot a bad video. Urine for a real educational experience. Hair’s a great video to not watch before lunch.
More videos about the human body and growing await in the archives.
In this Science on the SPOT: Preserving the Forest of the Sea, watch Kathy Ann Miller, PhD, curator of the University Herbarium at the University of California - Berkeley, as she shares the wide variety of seaweeds in the collection.
We love when someone gives a personalized video tour of their work, especially when it mixes nature, science and beautiful, art-like specimens all together. Kathy and her team are digitizing samples of 80,000 kinds of seaweed collected from the North American west coast, so that they can be shared online with researchers from around the globe. You can read more about the project here.
PS. Need a DNA primer? Watch this vid.
When you drill 364 meters (1194 feet) down into Antarctic ice, taking out a cylindrical section called an ice core, you can find out about the Earth’s temperature and carbon dioxide levels from over 20,000 years ago. Information is held within the oxygen atoms in the ice and the air bubbles that formed within it.
Measuring ice cores is an effective form of time travel for scientists like the British Antarctic Survey team, who are studying how the Earth’s climate is changing. And Antarctica is full of untapped information:
Antarctica is thought to have been covered by ice for over 30 million years. So far, scientists have drilled ice cores stretching back 800,000 years, and they are now working to extend their records back to 1.4 million years ago.
In this video, Ice Core Scientist Nerilie Abram explains the process. You can also read more about the team’s work here.