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Humans are good at a lot of things, but put­ting time in per­spec­tive is not one of them. It’s not our fault—the spans of time in human histo­ry, and even more so in natu­ral histo­ry, are so vast com­pa­red to the span of our life and recent histo­ry that it’s almost impos­si­ble to get a hand­le on it. If the Earth for­med at mid­ni­ght and the pre­sent moment is the next mid­ni­ght, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around sin­ce 11:59:59pm—1 second. And if human histo­ry its­elf spans 24 hours from one mid­ni­ght to the next, 14 minu­tes rep­res­ents the time sin­ce Christ.

To try to grasp some per­spec­tive, I map­ped out the histo­ry of time as a series of gro­wing timelines—each time­li­ne con­ta­ins all the pre­vious time­li­nes (colors will help you see which time­li­nes are which). All time­li­ne widths are exact­ly accu­ra­te to the amount of time they’re expres­sing.

An Hin­weis zu den Zeit­an­ga­ben: Wenn es um die­se weit zurück­lie­gen­de Ver­gan­gen­heit geht, sind die meis­ten der Zeit­an­ga­ben stän­di­ges Strei­the­ma. For the­se time­li­nes, it’s cum­ber­so­me to put a »~« (unge­fähr) vor jedes Zeit­an­ga­be des Alter­tums oder ein »*« (Stern­chen) um dar­auf hin­zu­wei­sen, dass die­se Zeit­an­ga­be noch dis­ku­tiert wird. Daher habe ich die von den meis­ten akzep­tie­ren Anga­ben über­nom­men und so gelas­sen.


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