The History and Future of the Universe in Four Minutes

Originally posted on TED Blog:

Physicist Brian Green promises he will tell the audience at TED 2014 the whole history of the universe in four minutes. “Forgive me,” he says, “if I leave out a detail here or there.”

He does it with two metaphors. One from the beginning till now, and another from now till the end.

TED2014_DD_DSC_2082 Brian Greene. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The universe today is 13.8 billion years old, and it can be very hard to get our minds around that number. So Greene uses a metaphor pioneered by Carl Sagan. Imagine that we’re part of a single calendar year. All of cosmic history compressed into a single calendar year. On this calendar:

  • May 12, the Milky Way is formed.
  • Sept 2nd, the Earth is formed.
  • 11:40pm New Year’s Eve, Humans evolve.
  • 11:44pm, we domesticate fire.
  • 11:58pm the first cave paintings are made.
  • 11:59:49pm writing is developed, so all of recorded history takes place…

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