I Just Realized: My Age x 100,000,000 = the Age of the Earth, Which is Ridiculous

What got me thinking about all this is the recent discovery in Egypt of the oldest known depiction of a pharaoh, dating to about 3000 BC. Which is quite old, I assure you. 5000 years ago is a long time–3000 years before Christ.

I will be 52 in January, and, even given my limited math skills, I realized that my age sort of divides evenly into 5000. So, about 100 of my lifespans will get us back to a pharaoh who is largely forgotten and whose name no one knows.

But we should all be so lucky to be remembered at all 5000 years after exit the earth.

The earth. That got me thinking even more.

The earth is 4.6 billion years old.

I broke out my calculator, and figured that my age is .0000000113 of the earth’s age.

I wish I were 46, not only because I’d have both my knees back, but because that divides so much more easily into 4.6 billion. Then I’d be .00000001 of the earth’s age–or 1/100,000,000 of the earth’s age.  Much neater, so let’s just say I’m 46.

But .00000001 still means nothing to me.

So, after several hours and a few “how ratios work” Google searches, I converted all this into a more human scale–which only succeeded in making the incomprehensibly large incomprehensibly small. Still, here is what I came up with.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to one mile, my life span is .00005 feet, or .0006 inches. That’s 6/10,000 of an inch. You can’t see that with the naked eye.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to the distance from home to first base (90 feet), my life is about 1/100,000 of an inch, which is more impossible to see with the naked eye, so let’s broaden this out a bit.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to the length of a football field, my life is a little less than 4/100,000 of an inch.

If it helps, a sheet of paper is about 4/1000 of an inch thick. So, my life is 100 times thinner than a sheet of paper on a football field scale.

Are you getting tired of this? Too bad. I took the time to figure this out and you’re going to pay attention.

Three time analogies.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to one hour, my life so far has taken up less than 4/100,000 of a second. Jesus lived a little more than 1/1000 of  a second ago–which, if I recall, is the length of time that costs Olympic sprinters and swimmers gold medals.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to one day, my life has taken up a little less than 2/1000 of a second. Jesus lived just under 8/100 seconds ago.

If 4.6 billion years is scaled to one year, my life has taken up the last 3/10 of a second. Jesus lived a whopping 12.6 seconds ago.

One more. I’m on a roll (and I am adapting this one from a similar figure I first saw several years ago in Darrel Falk’s book, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology, p. 133)

If you were to make a time line where every inch corresponds to 1000 years, your time line would be 73 miles long. My lifespan would be the thickness of a piece of paper (4/1000 of an inch) at the end of that time line.

My main take away from all this calculating and ratioing (after the initial %#&@*#@!) was, “well, I guess it’s not all about me then, after all, is it?”

I’ve blogged about this before using the vast distances in the universe as a scale. I wish I had some grand lesson to draw from this, something super spiritual. I take some comfort, though, that at least one biblical writer–the always cheerful and never somber “Qohelet,” author of the book of Ecclesiastesseems to have a problem with the great expanse of time humans have to think about.

Qohelet says that God “has put a sense of past and future into their (humanity’s) minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And by the way, he is not giving God a compliment here. He follows up this verse by resigning himself that there is “nothing better” for humans than try to enjoy themselves and not think about it too much.

Qohelet is not talking about geological time, of course, but the seemingly endless line of generation after generation of people who have gone before, and who will presumably come after. To paraphrase v. 11: “Thinking about all this makes me want to throw up, because it makes no sense to me what kind of a world God has made.”

So, along with the author of Ecclesiastes, I have no super spiritual takeaway from this–although I will state the obvious: some issues confronting us today were inconceivable in Qohelet’s day, some 20 seconds ago (on a 4.6 billion = one year scale).


  • http://www.thinkhardthinkwell.com Benj

    What is man that you care for him, or the son of man that you are mindful of him?

  • Daniel

    There’s a really nice YouTube video that compresses the history of earth into a single (claymation) day: http://youtu.be/H2_6cqa2cP4
    Good stuff.

  • Andrew Potter

    For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: … Rom 1:20

    I’be always considered the seemingly infinite expanse of the universe to be explained in the above verse. It communicates to us something of God’s infinite nature.

    Although I’m still not ready to leave my comfortable young earth paradigm, your observations do provide a good reason for doing so. Perhaps the incomprehensibly large expanses of time are also there for a reason. Namely, to communicate God’s infinity to us just like the physical size of the universe does.

  • http://hamilton1983.wordpress.com Matthew Hamilton

    I’m not quite 30 yet, so if I take my 29 years x 1,000,000, does that make me a “young earther?”

  • Otrame

    Andrew Potter,

    I honestly don’t mean to be offensive, but I have to say this. In order to believe in young earth creationism you have to believe one of 2 things. Either every scientist who has ever studied anything related, however peripherally, to the age of the earth and states that the earth is more than 6-10 thousand years old is mistaken or a liar–every. single. one. of them, tens of of thousands of very smart people who spend their lives studying such things (note any one of them might be mistaken in the details, but ALL of them?);

    Or God is the liar, having set up the universe to look much older than it is.

    Can you honestly say you believe either of those things? You do not have to give up God to accept reality. In fact, I think it is an insult to God to to refuse to see reality. You believe he created that reality, don’t you?

  • Craig

    Perpetual reincarnation would suck. How do we get off this train? Hoping the sun will swallow it all up soon.

  • Beau Quilter

    Whenever my workplace experienced a crisis, my old cowboy of a boss used to say, “In twenty years, it won’t make a damn bit of difference!”

    At geologic time-scales, “damn bit of difference” is an understatement.

  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    Ah, I see that more is indeed less.

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    When I was a little girl I heard a priest say that when we died, we would have eternal life with God in heaven. I knew this was supposed to be a good thing but as I sat there and thought about it, I got freaked out. How was it possible that we would go on and on forever with nothing ending? The idea of infinity scared me as did the idea of non-infinity. I was a kid raised with a routine. I was fed dinner at the same time, bathed at the same time and put to bed at the same time. The day had a beginning and an end. What would it be like to have no ending, no closure? So that I didn’t develop an anxiety disorder at the age of five, I stopped letting myself think on this. Until I saw your blog post and started thinking about constructs of time again….

    I don’t wear a watch (although I still go to bed at the same time each night). I’d rather think about God, the universe and eternity outside the realms of time (although for historical and scientific purposes I know we must). Ultimately, I am just one fleck of sand in a vast stretch of shoreline, but as long as God is shining down from above and I feel in communion with him and the other universal specks, this is heaven and I’m okay with eternity.

  • John Evans

    As a non-theist, I get a strong emotional response that I suppose I could call spiritual, when I contemplate the scale of the universe – both up and down. While our years of life are insignificant to the age of the universe, we still live untold eons compared to the briefest of events. We are insignificant when looking up, but are vast titans to the smallest living things, and sheer galaxies compared to the smallest of objects. We are born from the death of the mightiest stars, and there is beauty there.

  • Barb

    4.6 billion years for the age of the earth comes from historical science which is based on a best guess scenario as no one was there to observe & measure what happened. Therefore all of your calculations are useless and a waste of time. But that’s what happens when you take man’s word over God’s word.

  • Matt Thornton

    Maybe the vastness and deep complexity of the universe can help to teach us humility, help us to be still and know.

    The world around us is effectively infinite in all directions – bigger to the stars, smaller to the particles, sideways through variation. It may not be strictly infinite, of course, but given our limited scale, time and perception, it might as well be.

    Dave Carter has a great line in a song that I love – “the book is empty from the sparrow’s point of view”. One spiritual “take-away” might be about letting go of the possibility of being master of all you survey, and being ok with the messy, incarnational reality of it all.

  • http://www.yuriyandinna.com/ Yuriy Stasyuk

    This was the funniest comment I’ve read in a while.

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