Logarithmic timeline of the universe
May 19, 2007 2:43 PM   Subscribe

From the Big Bang to Iraq: Jorn Barger's logarithmic timeline of the universe [Previous RobotWisdomFilter: 1, 2, 3, 4].
posted by hoverboards don't work on water (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Cool... I just started watching this documentary on CERN
posted by acro at 3:03 PM on May 19, 2007

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. -- DNA
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:07 PM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well that's just silly. Every one knows it goes like this:

3.78 = 4000 BC: God creates world.
3.77 = God fakes dinosaurs.
3.30 = 1 AD: Jesus
Stuff happens
1.0 = today. George Bush
.01 = Rapture.

I mean don't you people read any of the spam I send you?
posted by quin at 3:14 PM on May 19, 2007

That was pretty damn fantastic. Thanks for posting this, hoverboards.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2007

I'm assuming the logarithmic aspect is the numbering, but I really know nothing about that sort of thing (not my flavor of geek). Can anyone explain?

Beyond that, it's a nice, detailed timeline!
posted by brundlefly at 5:28 PM on May 19, 2007


Wow, my great aunt Lucy was even older than I thought.

7.45: Japan splits from mainland

I was wondering why there aren't many Chinese here in my neighborhood.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:52 PM on May 19, 2007

Warning: RobotWisdom may appear more intelligent than it actually is.
posted by bhouston at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2007

Jorn is a weirdo and a crazed anti-semite but also a visionary and a genius. I was sort of glad when Robot Wisdom went silent but the poetry he posts to RWA is never less than mind expanding.

That logarithmic timeline is terrific. Now I want to see it conceptualised as a kind of massive Bayeux Tapestry.
posted by unSane at 7:06 PM on May 19, 2007

His site is filled with interesting little tidbits that you kind of have to dig around to find. By the way, he coined the term "weblog" and long before MeFi existed he had the coolest weblog on the internets. [yeah, I know all about the negative stuff, but I still drop by frequently, just not every day anymore]
posted by caddis at 7:41 PM on May 19, 2007

Well, if you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the condensed version:

10.14: God says "Let there be light".
10.00: God experiments a bit, makes some stars. Most of them just explode.
9.68: God moves on to planets.
9.55: God creates the stromatolites.
8.85: Bored with stromatolites, god creates a bunch of plants and animals.
8.45: Giant cockroaches.
8.39: Dinosaurs.
7.94: Lemurs.
7.84: More dinosaurs.
7.82: God kills all the dinosaurs.
7.56: Squirrels.
7.01: Gorillas.
6.76: Humans.
5.69: Peking man has fire but no hand-axes.
5.14: Dogs.
4.41: Tailored clothes.
4.17: Agriculture.
4.00: Domesticated goats.
3.78: People ride horses.
3.66: Bronze.
3.67: Some guys in Africa build big pyramids.
3.45: Greeks write some books.
3.33: Romans take over.
3.29: Christians start to get some respect.
3.10: Arabs get all civilized.
2.97: Troubadors and tax collectors roam England.
2.96: Europeans decide they don't care for Arabs.
2.74: Gutenberg's printing press.
2.71: Columbus invents America.
2.53: Europe is really into this science thing.
2.45: Then they discover how to make money the modern way.
2.29: Napoleon.
2.20: Victorians.
2.09: Electric lights.
1.97: Cars.
1.82: Communism doesn't work out so well.
1.75: Nuclear weapons.
1.51: Monty Python.
0.77: Computers learn to play chess.
0.44: Everquest.
posted by sfenders at 7:53 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is interesting, but there is also a disturbing trend of bigotry peppered throughout.

Take this sentence from the entry on proto-indoeuropean languages at 4:09

"Everywhere resources are being privatised by a self-perpetuating elite dominated by an uneasy alliance of Jews and Britons using corporations as a legal blind, while the vast majority of the world's population has been reduced to dire poverty as their homeland environments are raped by predatory capitalism."
posted by puddnhead at 8:04 PM on May 19, 2007

Excellent post! I just spent about 3 hours exploring the 5 links. It was a bargain.
posted by sluglicker at 8:50 PM on May 19, 2007

Thank goodness the the known universe and the human species got all that stuff at the beginning out of the way so everything could just happen in America from that point on.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:17 PM on May 19, 2007

I'm assuming the logarithmic aspect is the numbering, but I really know nothing about that sort of thing (not my flavor of geek). Can anyone explain?

Well, do you want the intuitive explanation or the mathematical one? Mathematically it's simple: instead of plotting the x axis as simply "time in years", you plot the log10(year). It's also normalized to 31Dec 2000, meaning that is "year zero", and the direction inverted, so that +1 year would be 31Dec1999. But ignoring that for now, the logarithmic scale just means that you plot year 1 as x=0, year 10 as x=1, year 100 as x=2, year 1000 as x=3, and so on.

What this means in the intuitive sense is that moving a certain direction on the x-axis is done by multiplication instead of addition. Suppose you have a linear scale, where one inch equal ten of whatever you're plotting, just as an arbitrary example. Thus moving to the right one inch on that axis means adding ten, and moving to the left means subtracting ten.

With a log scale of the same data however, moving to the right by one inch would mean multiplying by 10, and moving to the left means dividing by ten. Suppose you put your ruler down on the axis and looked at the markings every inch. If you lined up the first mark at 1, one inch to the right would be 10 (and 100 to the right of that) and one inch to the left would be 0.1. But this also works for any number. So say you lined up the markings on your inch ruler so that the first mark was at 5.5. If you move one inch to the right on the scale, you'll be at 55, and 550 at two inches to the right, and so on. This is the key fact to remember, that it turns movement along the axis to multiplication instead of addition.

Incidently, this is the principle on which the slide rule is based. In order to do multiplication and division, you first just convert your quantities to a log scale and then multiplying them is done by shifting the physical rule left or right.

Back to log scales, if you consider a 2-D graph, you can perform this transformation on one or both of the x/y axes. So a graph where both axes are logarithmic is called a log-log graph, and one where one axis is logarithmic and the other is linear is called semilog. These kinds of graphs are extremely useful in engineering because there are a lot of times where additions are multiplicative. For example, you might have heard that the Decibel (or Richter) scale works on powers of ten: if you add one to the quantity the thing it represents is actually ten time higher.

These scales can be used in cases where it is convenient because it fits some physical model, such as human sensitivity to sound. But log scales are also very useful in general engineering where you have multiplicative gains. Suppose you have a whizmo that takes a signal in and multiplies it by two, producing an output. You'd call this a gain of 2. Suppose you have another similar whizmo with a gain of 3. Now what happens when you connect these two whizmos in series? Your original input gets multiplied by 2 and then again by 3, so it comes out of the second whizmo being 6 times as large as its input.

But what if we represented those gains as logarithms? A gain of 2 is equivalent to 3.010...dB or very close to just exactly 3dB. Remember here that "dB" is a unitless amount that relates the ratio of two quantities. It is commonly used to describe sound levels, but implicit in that statement is an assumed base sound pressure level to which everything is relative. A gain of 3 is equivalent to 4.77 dB. So now lets re-express that situation where we have to whizmos in series. Now we can add their gains! 3 dB + 4.77 dB = 7.77 dB gain. And that is equivalent to saying 2 * 3 = 6, because a gain of 6 is 7.78 dB. (there's a little roundoff error with only three sig figs.) Again the main point here is that it can be useful to use logarithms because it turns multiplicative shifts into additive shifts.

The point of using log scales in this timeline is slightly different. Here it is used to describe a phenominon that has many different time scales. If you wanted to describe a timeline from 10,000,000,000 BC to present, you'd either have to have a gazillion points, one at every 50 years for example, or you'd have to have huge increases, say 50 million years each. But 50 million years might have been a small increase when the universe was still forming, it's a huge increase in terms of human development. So by using a log scale, you can express the change in time from 10 million BC to 1 million BC in the same amount of ink as the change in time from 10 thousand BC to 1 thousand BC, and so on.

wikipedia: log scale, slide rule
posted by Rhomboid at 7:15 AM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention about log scales: they can't represent zero! If you are at say 10 on a log axis, and you keep moving to the left, you'll get 1, then 0.1, then 0.01, then 0.001, and so on, but you can move left forever and you'll never get to 0. This means that often times you'll have to just pick some point to stop the plot, since it could go on forever; or "after this point it's so (small|large) that I don't care any more".
posted by Rhomboid at 7:17 AM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Many thanks, Rhomboid! Well explained!
posted by brundlefly at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2007

Weirdo or not, robotwisdom always had great links on a wide variety of interesting topics. I was quite upset to see he stopped updating it, and instead moved to the barely-coherent auxiliary blog page.
posted by nightchrome at 6:56 PM on May 20, 2007

"Choanoflagellates" look like sperm. COINCIDENCE?
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:57 PM on May 20, 2007

Five and a half years ago, more early Jornfilter.

A good counter to people who say that Mefi's gotten more vicious over the years, perhaps.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:03 PM on May 20, 2007

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