Article 50 (last of the series): As far as we know, it is for the first time in the 13,8 billion years of the history of our universe, that through a Life’s form the Universe is becoming aware of itself and we are that Life’s form.
Article 49: It may take a couple of ‘years’, but the Sun’s luminosity will burn down the Earth, the present Stelliferous Era will end and all stars in the universe will have exhausted their fuel.
Article 48: It may take a couple of ‘months’, but Africa’s collision with Eurasia will close the Mediterranean Basin and create a mountain range, similar to the Himalayas, and all the continents on Earth will fuse into a new supercontinent.
Article 47: It may take a couple of ‘weeks’, but there will be a new glacial period, Betelgeuse will explode in a supernova, the coral reef ecosystems will recover and the widening East African Rift valley will be flooded by the Red Sea.
Article 46: “Lester Brown tells us how to build a more just world and save the planet from climate change in a practical, straightforward way. We should all heed his advice,” says former US president Bill Clinton.
Article 45: Last call of our astronomer – and of the international scientific consensus as well – this time about the shocking effects of (over-)population and (over-)consumption on the planet and the people.
Article 44: Your human population has been growing continuously since the end of the Black Death, around the year 1350, although the most significant increase has been in the last 70 years.
Article 43: Declare the Earth ‘Common Heritage of Mankind, walk your own talk and above all, remember your humanity!
Article 42: This is the time either to destroy your whole Earth or to destroy all these arbitrary conceptions of nation, race and religion, to rebuild humankind and to make the whole Earth one humanity.
Article 41: As societies evolved from family-groups and tribes to chiefdoms and states, the power elite created the gods to glue the people together as “brothers and sisters”, in order to let them work and fight for them.
Article 40: We have seen by now how the universe created man. No, nothing mentioned in the earlier contributions can be left out! Everything is needed for that one little girl, for that one boy, for every one of us.
Article 39: The most striking observation is that in the mid-20th century, humanity’s effect on the Earth crossed a tipping point. This happened when post-World War II production and consumption slipped into the overdrive.
Article 38: What if Earth, as a system, is operating now in a quantifiably new state, because of the profound changes humans are making to Earth’s natural systems?
Article 37: The Holocene is the name given to the last 12.000 years of Earth’s history. The Holocene is witnessing all of humanity’s recorded history and the rise and fall of all its civilizations.
Article 36: The genus ‘Homo’ is the youngest twig from a 2.5 million year old branch from a 4.6 billion year old tree, a seedling in a 13.8 billion year old universe. You and I are a recent leaf, or maybe a flower, on that twig!
Article 35: During the present Ice Age, temperate zones are alternately covered by glaciers, during glacial periods, and uncovered during interglacial periods, when the glaciers retreat, like the period we are living in right now.
Article 34: The Pleistocene is characterized by the presence of large land mammals, like mammoths and mastodons. This period also sees the evolution and expansion of our own species, Homo sapiens.
Article 33: During the Pliocene, large polar ice caps start to develop. Some apes come down from the trees and start to exist on the plains in Africa. Australopithecus afarensis, like Lucy, lives in East-Africa.
Article 32: The overall pattern of biological change is one of expanding open vegetation systems, at the expense of diminishing closed vegetation. The apes arise and diversify, becoming widespread in the Old World.
Article 31: On land, mammals begin to dominate in this period, except in Australia. They continue to grow larger and larger, in good harmony with the expansion of grasslands and prairies.
Article 30: In the Early Eocene, the Earth is a greenhouse world. Life is small and living in cramped jungles. There is nothing over the weight of 10 kilograms. At the top of the food chains are huge birds.
Article 29: The Early Paleocene sees the recovery of the Earth, after the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. During this period mammals grow bigger and occupy a wider variety of ecological niches.
Article 28: A most important event in the Cretaceous, at least for terrestrial life, is the first appearance of flowering plants. At the end of the period, volcanic eruptions are poisoning the atmosphere and an asteroid hits the Earth.
Article 27: During the Jurassic Period, the supercontinent Pangea splits apart. The period is a golden age for the large herbivorous dinosaurs. The Jurassic also sees the first birds, including Archaeopteryx.
Article 26: During the Triassic, the survivors of the Permian extinction spread and recolonize. Coelophysis is an early dinosaur. Near the end of the period, the first mammals evolve.
Article 25: By the beginning of the Permian, many of the continents of today meet in supercontinent Pangea. The end of the Permian is the largest mass extinction recorded in the history of life on Earth.
Article 24: The Carboniferous Period answers the question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” definitely. This period is famous for its vast swamp forests, the primary source of the carbon for the coal beds we are burning
Article 23: The Devonian is notable for the rapid diversification in fish. Near the end of this period, a mass extinction event occurs, considered to be the second of the ‘big five’ mass extinction events of Earth’s history.
Article 22: The Silurian sees the healing of the Earth. The warm, stable climate provides for one of the most significant developments: the arrival of the first plants to colonize the land.
Article 21: Perhaps the most groundbreaking occurrence of the Ordovician is the colonization of the land. The end of the Ordovician is a ‘Snowball Earth’ period, the first mass extinction in the history of our planet.
Article 20: The Cambrian is the springtime for life on our planet. It is the time when most of the major groups of animals first appear in the fossil record.
Article 19: Many of the most exciting events during the history of the Earth and of life occur during the Proterozoic. Stable continents first appear as well as the first living organisms.
Article 18: If you were able to travel back, in order to visit the Earth during the Archean, you would likely not recognize it as the same planet we inhabit today.
Article 17: The name ‘Hadean’ comes from Hades, the underworld of the Greek mythology. It refers to the hellish conditions of the Earth during the earliest part of its history.
Article 16: In volume 17, page 350 – at about 2/3 of the distance between the Big Bang and Now – we come across the birth of our Sun, of our Solar System and of our planet Earth.
Part 14: The Cosmic Calendar is a method to visualize the vast history of the universe, in which its 13,8 billion year lifetime is condensed down into a single year.
Part 13: The Solar System’s location in the Milky Way is a factor of great importance in the evolutionary history of life on Earth. It has given the Earth long periods of stability for life to evolve.
Part 12: The vast majority of our Solar System’s mass, 99,9 %, is in the Sun, with most of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. For the four terrestrial planets together, including our Earth, less than 0,002% is left.
Part 11: Just like you and me, our Sun and all the other stars have a life cycle of conception, embryo, birth, childhood, adulthood, old age and death. Crucial is how massive they are.
Part 10: And the gold and the silver in the ring around your finger or in your neckless, have also been ‘cooked’ in a supernova explosion.
Part 9: Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus: they are all ‘cooked’ in the stars!
Part 8: “The Sun and the Earth formed about four and a half billion years ago, when I was 37 ‘Milky Way years’ old. A solar system forms relatively quickly and ours probably took only about 100 million years.
Part 7: The universe is not only ‘big in space’, it’s ‘big in time’ as well. Consequently, studying the universe makes us travel both space and time.
Part 6: From a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang onwards, the chronology of the development of the universe is being studied, understood and mapped by modern physics.
Part 5: According to the dissident Cyclic Universe theory, the Big Bang was not the beginning of time, but the bridge to a past, filled with endlessly repeating cycles of evolution.
Part 4: The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model of the birth and the expansion of the universe. However, it still is a challenge to modern cosmology to understand that very first ‘lilliputian moment’ of birth.
Part 3: Homo sapiens has produced a great diversity of wonderful guesswork about the birth of the universe. Or has the universe no distinct starting point? Has each beginning another beginning?
Part 2. Photographed from a far away vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. That pale blue dot, that’s here, that’s us, that’s home.