The Entire Universe, One Picture, and One Year

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. -Carl Sagan

If the story of our entire Universe’s history, from the last stages of inflation and the Big Bang up to the present day, were to be compressed into one calendar year, what would it look like?

As 2011 comes to an end, here’s my final present of the year to you.

(As always, click for a more readable, higher-resolution version.)

Happy new year to all; may you all enjoy our shared story and journey while you celebrate. See you in 2012!

Comments

  1. #1 Heather Archuletta
    December 30, 2011

    So. So. SO. EXCELLENT. Did you make this graphic yourself? It’s awesome, I’m going to link to this from my next blog post :)

  2. #2 Luisa
    December 31, 2011

    Yes — so awesome!! Thank you for this and for your most excellent blog, and have a great 2012!

  3. #3 Ivan
    December 31, 2011

    Can you expand on “universe declares independence from multiverse” around 7 billion years? I had thought that losing contact with other potential universes was something that happened during the inflation era (in eternal-inflation-type scenarios) — did I misunderstand what was meant by ‘independence’ or did I spectacularly misunderstand the physics?

  4. #4 Santa
    December 31, 2011

    Re: Dec 25th: Yeah, that was me, Santa, even back then. My sleigh was pulled by hmmm… what was it, bevore raindeer or even T-Rex existed? I guess I was using giant dragonflies :-). I also remember having a nice and warm sandy beach on the North pole

  5. #5 Ethan Siegel
    December 31, 2011

    Heather @1, yes, I made this myself; it took way longer than I expected, and of course I scavenged many of the small images from elsewhere, but this is my original work.

    Luisa @2, thank you as well, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Ivan @3, the “Universe declares independence” is just a tongue-in-cheek joke about July 4th, which is the day the United States declared independence from Great Britain. Much like the Santa Claus reference or the new SWAB profile photo, it’s simply a cultural reference to our actual calendar.

    Santa @4, the date I gave you on our calendar corresponds to the start of the Triassic period, about 250 million years ago. Where on Pangaea did you live back then?

  6. #6 Neil Bates
    December 31, 2011

    Thanks, Ethan, this is great. It reminds me of the analogous “Earth history” calendars I saw as a boy, and marveled out how thin our slice of “modern history” was compared to 4.5B of the Earth. (Here, 1/3 of that distance from Dec 31.) I’m glad the “independence from multiverse” was a joke, because there is no evidence or solid theory of such things. Yet it would be interesting to see someone try to seriously make a connection if there is a multiverse, altho the “independence day” would be presumably on the order of Planck times or other tiny interval.

  7. #7 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    December 31, 2011

    Every good! As I’m into astrobiology, I’m especially glad for an actual factual evolutionary image of human ancestry, not the usual folk biology “ladder of descent” (chimps (!)-to-man).

    Btw, new dating makes the Earth-Moon impactor perhaps ~ 200 Ma younger than the calendar date mentioned here.

  8. #8 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    December 31, 2011

    @ Neil Bates:

    The solid theory of multiverses is the natural simplest model of standard inflationary cosmology as presented here. The evidence is all the anthropic predictions (6 of them according to Bousso et al) and perhaps other observation as well.

    And there are plenty more multiverse theories like that. It is a restrictive TOE singleverse theory that looks both unnatural and iffy at the moment, IMHO. To borrow, “there is no evidence or solid theory of such things”.

  9. #9 Daniel J. Andrews
    December 31, 2011

    Very nice. For the dinosaur-meteor impact I always liked the cartoon and caption of a T-rex standing protectively over a small mammal saying “Save yourself mammals. We will fend off the asteroids”. The picture you chose carries some of that attitude.

    Not too keen on the march of progress icon (human evolution) as it is misunderstood by nearly everyone and provides a handy strawman for ideologues to attack. But it certainly encapsulates things and it would be difficult to find anything better (especially considering how small a fraction of time primates have been here).

    I wish I could have this made into wallpaper….hmmm, I bet it would be a great border running along the top of a wall if it was in horizontal format….

  10. #10 Chris Murray
    December 31, 2011

    Awesome Ethan! I’m going to print this on my color plotter at work to hang on my son’s wall (and probably a second copy for my office)! Have a happy and healthy 2012!

    Cheers!

  11. #11 Ciaran
    December 31, 2011

    Very cool. I’ll have to look at it on a bigger screen to fully appreciate it properly.

  12. #12 Santa
    January 1, 2012

    @5: Ethan, in those days beaches and sand resorts of Pangea didn’t need any names since Google Maps wasn’t invented yet. I made an appropriate feature request to my present making dwarves, but they advised me to keep a low profile for another 250 MY and enjoy the holiday season in peace.
    Hope you had a nice New Years Eve and I’ll hear from you again soon!
    Santa

  13. #13 Adrianus V
    January 1, 2012

    Ethan, what a great infographic! Is it OK I use it for my Dutch Astroblog (www.astroblogs.nl)? Of course with all the credits.

  14. #14 Ethan Siegel
    January 1, 2012

    Adrianus V @13, sure thing! What’s the point of making something wonderful if you can’t share it with the world?

  15. #16 g bruno
    January 1, 2012

    yout “first life” picture looks like mitochondria. Found in Eukaryotes, not in the first cells?

  16. #17 Douglas Kennedy
    January 2, 2012

    This is a most amazing timeline; thank you for the hard work.
    What a wondrous thing it is, this universe!

  17. #20 greame
    January 3, 2012

    Is it just coincidence that this awesome picture coincides with CallumCGLP’s new episode, Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar?

  18. #21 grant
    January 4, 2012

    That’s it! There is nothing more to be said about the indefinite pronoun EVERYTHING.

    grant

  19. #22 Dave
    January 6, 2012

    Great work. What about year two? Reading Peter Ward (2009) left me with the impression that Earth is not likely to support multicellular life beyond about 13 January of this year on your scale. And my guess is that our species didn’t make it very far into the first hour of the new year. Our Sun is expected to enter the red giant phase of its development late in year two or early in year three. Looks like we need an exit strategy.

  20. #23 Regina Loftus
    April 9, 2012

    You should really have your name tucked into the graphic so it doesn’t get lost if someone saves a copy.

  21. #24 Ted Hart
    central N.C.
    June 6, 2014

    IF … there were not-yet eyes ( by which images are seen ), was there “light” as depicted by the early parts of the time line ?