Understanding Time


You are about to travel through time.

But, before you do, you need to somehow understand time.

Sure. A week, a day, a month – these are times you can understand.  But, when we talk of traveling back one million years, this is a time no one can fully understand.

 Maybe a good starting place is to realize that 10,000 years ago mammoths became extinct.  They had been seen by a man who knew how to talk, who knew how to make spears, who knew how to make fire, who could live in all kinds of weather, but who could not write.

There are only written records for a little more than 5,000 years!

 Let’s try giving you a visual aide to help you understand time.

 Get a string or rope 10 feet long (we’ll assume it’s a rope).

Put a mark at one end.  This will be our point 0 – the beginning of time.

Now put a mark or piece of tape around the rope at the following distances from the point 0 end (distances are all measured from the “0” end):            

            1 foot 9 inches

            5 feet

            8 feet 3 inches

            9 feet 1 inch

            9 feet 6 inches

            9 feet 10 inches

            one last piece ALMOST at the other end – about the thickness of a string away

Remembering that the rope represents time from the beginning of the solar system to the present, try to guess which marks represent the following: 

            the first dinosaur

            the first known big ice age

            the first signs of life on Earth

            dinosaurs go extinct

            the first man 

Remember the tape stretches over 4.6 billion years. 

Now let’s see how you did. 

These are the points you marked along the rope:


            Point 0 – 4.6 BYA (Billion Years Ago) - the solar system is born

            Point 1 – 3.8 BYA – the first evidence of life

            Point 2 – 2.6 BYA – the first known big ice age

            Point 3 – 800 MYA (Million Years Ago) – the first complex life

            Point 4 – 440 MYA – the first land animals

            Point 5 – 220 MYA – the first dinosaurs

            Point 6 – 65 MYA – all the dinosaurs die

            Point 7 – 3.5 MYA – the first man

 We, and that means me included, cannot fully understand what a million years is let alone a billion years! … But let’s try.

 If you drop one cent each second until you drop 4.6 billion cents, you would need to drop cents for almost 146 years!  [The actual time is 145 years, 279 days, 17 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds – just in case you were curious.]

Now click on the era tabs above to begin your travel through time ...