Reality Blind - Vol. 1

Deep Time

Summary: When we think about the founding of the USA, it seems like a long time ago. Although not as long ago as the Middle Ages, which in turn seems new compared to ancient Egypt. Looking further back, there is the dawn of agriculture 12,000 years ago. Still further is the time in which our species was nearly wiped out by the Toba volcano event 75,000 years ago. And that humans have been in our modern anatomical form for 300,000 years seems so distant in the past as to be fantasy. Yet even this amount of time is puny in relation to our split from the other apes 5-6 million years ago. Which, in its turn, is a thin sliver of the time mammals have walked the Earth. Humans have difficulty grasping large numbers —we evolved when “one, two, or many” were th e relevant quantities. To speak in terms of trillions of dollars or billions of years doesn’t mean anything to us emotionally. Yet deep time is as real as yesterday and tomorrow. The picture above is from a piece of Burmese amber — that is, petrified tree sap from 92 million years ago. The wasp trapped within it, which seems like it could have hatched yesterday, was alive 24 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex even evolved . Seeing, feeling and thinking about such vast amounts of time gives us insight both into the past, and into the future. Life has been on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, insects for 600 million years, mammals roughly 100 million (depending on where you want to draw the line between mammals and mammal-like reptiles). The largest mammals to make it through the KT extinction event 65 million years ago were akin to squirrels or tiny shrews, and these developed into the mammals which exist today, some of which


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