Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Earth in a Day


       If you imagine 4.5 billion years of Earth's history compressed into a normal day on earth, then life begins at around 4am, with the rise of simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours.  Not until almost 8.30pm, with the day five-sixths over, has the earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna (first seen by Reginald Sprigg down under). At 9.04pm trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the infamous Burgess Shale. Just before 10pm plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after that, with less than 2 hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow.
   Thanks to ten minutes of balmy weather, by 10.24pm the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. The enigmatic dinosaurs trundle onto the scene just before 11pm and stick around for about three-quarters of an hour. At 21 minutes to midnight, just before lock-in, they disappear and make way for the age of the mammals. This is when we shine and take all the glory. Well, we actually don't make an appearance until about 1 minute and seven seconds before midnight. The entirety of our recorded history, would equate to no more than just a few seconds, like the countdown on new years eve.
      Throughout the day (try and see it as one of those fast forward video shots) continents and land masses slide around and bump into each other breakneck speeds like headbangers in the mosh pit at an Iron Maiden concert. Mountain ranges pop up and vanish altogether, water basins come and go and ice masses advance and withdraw. And while all this is going on, about 3 times a minute, somewhere on the planet there is a flashbulb pop of light signifying the impact of a substantial sized meteor or larger. It's a wonder that anything can survive such a punchbag style pummelling and unsettled environment. Evidence shows not many things do!

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