As we’ve mentioned a few times before, the fact that we are alive here is astonishing. In order to demonstrate exactly how amazing it is, we’ve rounded up a collection of videos that show our remarkable journey from the Big Bang, to the creation of the solar system, to the formation of the Earth, and finally the rise of humanity.
10. The History of the Universe
According to estimates from astrophysicists, the universe is 13.7 billion years old and started with the Big Bang. In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe was almost impossibly tiny. In a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, there was a period known as inflation and the universe grew to the size of an orange. Then three to 20 seconds after the Big Bang, the universe started to cool and expand, and hydrogen and helium, the simplest chemical elements, were born.
380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe became transparent. After 400 million years of darkness, the first stars started lighting up. Then 300 million years later, when the solar system was only 700 million years old, galaxies began to form. Our solar system didn’t form until 9 billion years after the Big Bang. That means that our solar system is actually quite young in the universe, and just for some perspective of how young, please check out the simulation of the creation of the universe posted above.
9. The Known Universe
The video for this entry, from the American Natural History Museum, was created using their Digital Universe Atlas. The atlas is an ongoing project where researchers are mapping out the observable universe, and all the planets and stars are correct to scale. The simulation starts off in the Himalayan mountains and after a short time, Earth disappears into the distance as the simulation pushes us out billions of light years away from Earth.
What is perhaps more amazing than the size of the known universe is that by estimates, we only see four percent of the universe. The rest of the universe is full of mysterious substances called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Yet, that four percent we do see is unfathomably big, even when we see a simulation of it.
8. The Size of Earth Compared to Other Stars and Suns
For millennia, the Earth was too big to consider traversing even small parts of it. Even with modern air travel, it still takes two days and 19 hours to circumvent it in a plane. But in cosmic terms, the Earth is actually rather small and there are four other planets in our solar system that are much bigger. As seen in the video above from BuzzFeed Blue, five Earths could fit into the ring of Saturn and compared to Jupiter, Earth looks like a marble because Jupiter is 11.2 times the size of Earth. When compared to the sun, the Earth is a barely visible dot because the sun is 109 times larger. But our sun is an insignificant speck compared to an Alpha Scorpii A. star, which is 700 times the diameter of the sun, and that isn’t even the biggest known star. That title belongs to the VY Canis Majoris, which is 1,540 times the size of the sun. If VY Canis Majoris was in the place of our sun, it would extend out past the orbit of Saturn.
What’s even more mind blowing is that stars are tiny compared to galaxies. For example, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years in diameter, meaning it is about 678 trillion times the size of the sun. And again, that is small in comparison; the IC 1011 galaxy is 6 million light years wide, or 60 times the size of the Milky Way.
7. The Solar System and the Formation of the Earth
Our solar system has at least eight planets and five recognized dwarf planets that orbit a yellow dwarf star. Before our solar system existed, there was a cloud of helium, hydrogen, dust, and then over 4.5 billion years ago, a nearby star exploded in what is called a supernova, which caused the cloud to collapse. Over the course of 100,000 years, the cloud was flattened into a disc.
In the center of the disc, where the molecules are packed tightest, a proto-star developed and it got so hot that it underwent fusion, giving birth to our sun. The heat from the sun turned the dust into rocks and a number of these rocks clumped together, starting the formation of Earth.
6. How Deep is the Ocean
Around 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth first formed under heat and pressure and was bombarded with asteroids, meteors, and comets. It had an atmosphere that was poisonous and too hot for water to remain on the surface. A second atmosphere was made because of constant volcanic eruptions, and gases like methane and carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere.
Then about 4.1 billion years ago, the Earth’s surface started to cool and the surface became rocky, which allowed rainwater to fill the oceans. The oceans are an amazing part of Earth and it is a requirement for life. Have you ever thought about how deep the ocean actually is? The video from BuzzFeed Blue gives an interesting cartoon to give some perspective on just how far down it goes.
5. How Tall is Mount Everest
On the other end of the spectrum from the deepest part of the ocean is the highest land point, which is the peak of Mount Everest, located in the Himalayas. Its creation started over 250 million years ago when the Earth had one continent called Pangaea. At the time, what is now India was in the Southern Hemisphere, attached to what are today Australia, South America, and Africa. After the super continent broke up, India spent millions of years moving towards its present day home in EuroAsia. When India hit the continent, it acted like a bulldozer and it pushed up the mountain range about 60 million years ago.
Mount Everest is 29,035 feet tall, more than 10 times higher than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. To get an even better idea as to how tall it is, check out the video above. Also, in case you’re wondering what the distance from the lowest depth to the highest mountain peak, it is 65,236 feet, or 12.35 miles.
4. The Migration of Humans
Homo sapiens first appeared about 200,000 years ago and they most likely came from a single point in Africa. Around 130,000 years later, the weather changed because the Earth was in an ice age, and it is believed that the number of humans dwindled to just under 10,000. Luckily for us, the weather got better and human numbers went up.
60,000 years ago, the first group of humans left Africa. They migrated along the North Indian Ocean, through what is now the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Southeast Asia. 10,000 years after leaving, they reached Australia. A second group left Africa around 50,000 years ago, crossed the Red Sea and then over the next 15,000 years became the populations of the Middle East and Central Asia.
About 40,000 years later, humans migrated to Europe from the Southeast. Then about 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum, a group of Asian hunters were able to cross a land bridge connecting Asia with North America because ice sheets in the North and South Poles had sucked up water, decreasing sea levels by more than 300 feet. 15,000 years ago, the Asian hunters reached the land surface of North America, and then within 1,000 years they made it all the way to the southern part of South America.
When agriculture was discovered 10,000 years ago, it became a cornerstone of human civilization and the first civilization is believed to have started about 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, which is modern day Iraq.
3. Time Lapse From the International Space Station
The discovery of agriculture was a pivotal moment in human history because one farmer could grow food for a group of people, so not everyone was needed for food collection like it was during hunter and gatherer days. This led to a division of labor, which, in turn, led to people being able to do different jobs. Having different jobs led to commerce and since people have never had a history of being fair with each other, this led to the court system and government, which in turn led to religion, and writing. All of this lay the foundation for societies that we live in today.
While humans were an endangered species 130,000 years ago, humans have recovered remarkably. By 1804, there were 1 billion people living on Earth. That population doubled 123 years later in 1927. In 1960, the population reached 3 billion and just 14 years later there were 4 billion people residing on Earth. Then, Earth reached the 5 billion mark in 1987, and surpassed 6 billion in 1999.
When the video above was posted in 2011, the population of the world reached 7 billion people. The video is a time lapse video from the International Space Station that shows both the beauty of the natural Earth, like the Aurora Borealis, and how much of an impact seven billion humans have on the planet.
2. Modern Human Life
One of the amazing things about human life is that we are all individuals with our own thoughts and feelings, yet we all came from the same place. We, and all our ancestors that came before us, were created through the fertilization of an egg from one of billions of sperm. We survived nine months in the womb and were born. We survived infancy and have survived every day until we have gotten to this very point in time.
For a lot of us, and this is especially true the older you get, sometimes it seems that time just flies by. Nothing perhaps represents that more than this video by Frans Hofmeester, who recorded his daughter, Lotte, for 15 seconds every day and then created this video in 2015, when Lotte was 16. It is a perfect metaphor for how quickly our life goes by, even if our lives are short in the cosmic sense.
1. The Future of Humanity
The universe has come a long way in 13.8 billion years. It started off as a tiny speck, then grew to the size of an orange and then expanded to encompass everything we know as existence. It is full of billions of galaxies, and one of those galaxies had a planet with rocky mountains and deep oceans, that was the perfect distance away from a perfect sized star and life developed on it. From that single cell of life, life forms evolved over millions of years, eventually becoming apes, who became homo sapiens and they migrated all over the world. About 10,000 years ago, we started the transition from hunters and gatherers to civilizations and our population has grown steadily since. There are currently 7.4 billion free thinking, emotional beings living on Earth and we all started from the same place. We’ve come so far and yet, there are so many places we have yet to go.
This video features famed silent film star Charlie Chaplin from his first film with sound, The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin explains the stark beauty of humanity and what we can do when we work together. Because while we’re all individuals, we all come from the same place and all that can be traced back to the microscopic speck at the start of the Big Bang.