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Putting Time In Perspective
This activity is designed to help students gain a feel for time spans. It was inspired by Chapter 1 in Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden (1977). Sagan also depicted the Cosmic Calendar at the end of episode 1 of the Cosmos TV series in 1980. Here is a link to the Cosmic Calendar clip from the 2014 Cosmos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShTxGumvbno The activity is a natural for any class where you want students to understand the relationship of events or lives in time. It would also be useful for math teachers looking for "word problems" with which to practice arithmetic or simple algebra skills; or as a project for students learning to build spreadsheets.
- One Million
by Hendrik Hertzberg
Times Books (1993)
- Imagining the Universe: A Visual Journey
by Edward Packard
Perigee Books (1994)
- History of the Earth: a 366-day perpetual calendar
by Richard Gibson
a daily calendar of geological facts, starting with the origin of the earth on January 1, and ending with the appearance of modern man on December 31
- A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every
Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently
by Robert V. Levine
Basic Books (1997)
Click here for access to a RealAudio recording of Robert Levine discussing and fielding questions about his book on NPR's Talk of the Nation (May 20, 1997).
- Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year
by David Ewing Duncan
Click here for excerpts from the book.
- Rock of Ages, Sands of Time
Paintings by Barbara Page, Text by Warren Allmon
Hardcover - 376 pages (June 2001)
University of Chicago Press (Trd)
Dimensions (in inches): 1.37 x 7.31 x 11.18
For this book, Barbara Page painted 544 contiguous panels to depict more than 500 million years of the earth's history.
Click here to read an interview with Barbara Page.
Click here to see images from the book.
- Web sites
- Everything Calendar
- The radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge broadcast a segment on March 28, 1999 discussing time and calendar issues as we approach the new millennium. Click here to see a description of its contents and to find the 800 number to call if you want to purchase a cassette copy.
- YouTube has put up video of the Cosmic Calendar segment from the 1980 PBS series COSMOS. And, if you want to watch online at no cost, all 13 hours of COSMOS are available for viewing at Hulu.
- Several people have put up web pages depicting Sagan's Cosmic Calendar from The Dragons of Eden. Here are links to some that I especially like:
Encyclopćdia Britannica online presents a beautiful overview of humanity's efforts to measure time. Click here for their text only version.
This online museum exhibit uses art from many cultures and time periods to illustrate the various ways humanity has come to see time.
- a section of the American Association of the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston in February 2002 discussed some of the issues to ponder as humans begin to think about intergalactic travel. It received a good deal of press coverage. Related to this activity, Natalie Angier writing in the New York Times (access to this article requires a free registration) quoted one of the participants as he tried to put the magnitude of an intergalactic rocket flight into perspective, "If a caveman had launched one of those during the last ice age, 11,000 years ago," Dr. Landis said, "it would now be only a fifth of the way toward the nearest star." In addition to the New York Times article, the section was reported in The Christian Science Monitor and Nature.
- related activities at Classroomtools.com
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original web posting: Wednesday, September 9, 1998
last modified: Sunday, February 22, 2015