Remember how illuminating Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar is? By mapping the history of our Universe onto the Calendar year, with the Big Bang on January 1, and today at midnight the night of December 31st, it’s a lot easier to see how tiny our own part of history is. The highlight of the year comes in the last minutes before midnight on New Years Eve, when ancient history flies by with blinding speed! Now, with this tool, it’s even simpler for anyone to experience this, with no preparation needed.
Wait, what is Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar?
First, we need to know how the Cosmic Calendar practice works. As mentioned above, Carl Sagan’s Comic Calendar is made by mapping our local history from the Big Bang to today on to a calendar year. Dr. Sagan described this in his legendary Cosmos series, in Episode 2: One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue. That section can be seen in the video a half page below. Also, many very good videos of our entire history are available by searching “our story in ….”. Here is one which shows our story in just 1 minute (by melodysheep), which is so stunning and inspiring that it literally brings tears to my eyes.
A New Year’s Eve Sacred Practice
Now that we have the Cosmic Calendar idea in place, how do we make it part of our Naturalistic Pagan spiritual paths? Because the events really speed up as we approach our present time, it fits especially well with New Year’s Eve. It’s a good practice to check the Cosmic Calendar as we go through the year, with the stellar nucleosynthesis starting in January, our Milky Way galaxy forming in May, our Sun in September, etc. – reaching a culmination as the minutes tick away on New Year’s Eve. Just how deep our deep time history is becomes clear (see the summary picture at the top of this post). Heck, a human lifespan works out to just 160 milliseconds! In my family, we’ve been doing this New Year’s Eve practice for around two decades, and it’s been here on Naturalistic Paganism for about a decade.
The Next Generation Leads us into the Future
Last year, on New Years Eve, as usual, I wrote out a short list of events (and their times) on a scrap of paper to call out just before midnight. It was a fun night, with a cacophony of sounds, hurried actions just before midnight, and cheers as the New Year arrived. The next day, I thought how Neanderthal my scribbled list of events and times was. Wouldn’t this be so much better as a pre-programmed video, instead of rapidly calling out events while both reading from a piece of paper and looking at the countdown clock on the TV? What if I made a video of the last minute, to be started right at 11:59:00? Wouldn’t that be so much easier?
So I kept my scrap of paper with the events & times to be called out, as a reminder. As this year went by, I planned on making a youtube video, with instructions for everyone to start the video at **exactly** 11:50:00, or 11:55, or whatever. At one point, I mentioned this idea to my sons when they weren’t working on school homework. They looked at me as if I had suggested making a bronze chariot to drive to work.
The response was:
“Ah, well, dad….. How about we just make a webpage which automatically pulls the correct time, and then uses that to use the correct uploaded image, on its own, so no one has to fumble around trying to sync up some video? Or worry if they synced it up right? Or wait for it to load? They could just go to the webpage anytime in the year, and it displays the correct Cosmic Calendar event? Oh, and put a scaled counter on it showing the Cosmic Calendar years before today?”
I replied: “Ummmm…… Yeah. Of course that’s a lot better. But I have absolutely no idea how to even start on that. Do we start by dialing up the modem?”
“Really? Come on, dad. It’s trivial. You just embed the timestamp in the feed to the URL and base the protocol download on that result so as to reference the previously uploaded image for the specific time in Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar. (shrug) It should work fine.”
“OK. Uh… So… I need to… learn to write some FORTRAN at the L. P. record floppy disk address? Or something? Or the I. T. gettysburg address? Or is it that snake language you use? Anyconda?”
“nevermind. (eye roll) I’ll write it in python and upload it.”
Here it is! Just go to this webpage anytime, and it displays the correct Cosmic Calendar event (click the X in the top right of the small window to remove the overall description when you have read it)! It’s especially useful to have the web page up on New Years Eve, as we see the events speed up and fly past us, to the new Big Bang for 2022! I’ll have it up on the big screen in the living room as we count down the seconds – it’s much more awesome and meaningful than a ball drop.
Today it only has a new image every day or so, but the last hour speeds up to a new image every few minutes, going to a new image & event every half second by the end! Even just the last minute contains dozens of events, so don’t blink! What kids can you share Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar with this New Years Eve?
Here is an image of what it looks like now, December 13th (showing when sponges evolved), well before New Year’s Eve. See the image at the top of this post to get an overview of some events which have already gone by, and some yet to come, and by checking every few days, you’ll see the events leading up to today begin to unfold. Plus, here is the original description of this idea, from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos:
This is not yet a Scientific Age
But hold on, I thought, after that discussion above (and before we made the page). This must be silly. The whole idea of making a time synchronized website to show the Cosmic Calendar would make following the Cosmic Calendar year so much easier. Has this not been done before? Heck, Dr. Sagan described the Cosmic Calendar in 1980, over four decades ago – when this gray haired guy was in elementary school. We’ve had websites for over 30 years. How is this not already a standard display on every classroom in Elementary, Middle and High Schools across the country and, indeed, the world? Or on the evening news, at bus stations, playing in office buildings and living rooms every day? And on a phone app background image on most people’s phones, laptops and desk computers? There must already be dozens of versions out there that people have made.
How is it that my kids and I are making a very crude version, compared to the multi-million dollar incredible version befitting the focus of a forward thinking, Earth Centered, reality based society which has a worldwide GDP of literally dozens of thousands of billions (with a B!) of dollars ever single year? Humans have built incredible monuments to what they held as important throughout our history, from the Mayan pyramids, European Cathedrals, the Taj Mahal, and so many more. Even devoting only a few percent would give many hundreds of millions of dollars of funding. By contrast, what % of total societal output was needed to build Stonehenge in Neolithic times? Maybe 20%? That would be about $20,000 Billion dollars every year (that’s $20,000,000.000,000), today! Yet, …. nothing. I looked and could not find a countdown page for Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar. Of course we are not a forward thinking, Earth Centered, reality based society. Hopefully there are already some versions out there somewhere, as I’m not a horribly good web searcher – but I couldn’t find anything, not at museums, schools, universities, etc. Here is a powerful (and similarly linear) scaling to 10 minutes (not to a year) from melodysheep (and finding this after ours was made, it’s interesting that the layout is so similar).
Decades ago, Dr. Richard Feynman said:
Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
And this still seems true today (though with many exciting improvements, such as science promoters like Dr. Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, Bill Nye, the Symphony of Science/melodysheep, and more). How could it be that Dr. Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar is little known and hardly celebrated, when its wonder and joy far surpasses a football game, pop song or celebrity dress? This incredible rush I feel from our unbelievable, Sacred Universe can’t be something I alone feel! I’m heartened to see people, especially so many young people, beginning to share it. While this is not yet a scientific age, nor yet an Earth Centered society, I have hope for our future.
The Author: Jon Cleland Host
Starstuff, Contemplating: We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.