Friday, June 10, 2011

The scale of time from Arundhati Roy

Astronomers, geologists, and biologists always struggle to convey the immensity of time and space to general audience. We are simply not used to thinking in terms of millions or billions of years. In fact, this is one of the big obstacles to understanding the long and slow process of evolution. Carl Sagan used his brilliant Cosmic Calendar (click for the YouTube clip) to bring home the immensity of time.

And here is a take from the literature side in Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things (tip Maheen Iqbal). I had read it a while back, but a student of mine just reminded me of the quote, and I thought I'll post it here:
"Then to give the kids a historical perspective, Chacko told them about the earth woman. He made them imagine that the earth - 4600 million years old - was a 46 year old woman- as old as Aleyamma teaacher, who gave them Malayalam lessons. It had taken the whole of earth woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. For the oceans to part. For the mountains to rise. The earth woman was 11 yrs old when the first single celled organisms appeared. The first animals, creatures like worms and jellyfish, appeared only when she was forty. She was over forty five - just 8 months ago - when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The whole of human civilization as we know it, began only 2 hrs ago in the earth woman’s life…" 

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