A Really Brief History of Time

7.5 billion years ago: Things are pretty quiet as far as we can see. Earth does not yet exist, which accounts for the lack of extra noise. Out in the universe, stars burn away for millions of years, and that’s about it for action, really. Occasionally they explode, which livens things up for a while. As it happens, right at the moment that we are looking back at, one such star, GRB 080319B (although, at this point in time, it went by the name of unnamed) explodes, and the light from this explosion begins to travel through space.

Star exploding

 7.5 billion years ago

6.5 billion years ago: ….oh, sorry, I’d fallen asleep. It felt like a billion years just went by. Anyway, not much has been happening, things are pretty much the same as they have been for the last billion years. Even a maths lesson on a hot stuffy afternoon would seem action packed in comparison to this. Light from the explosion of GRB 080319B  still hurtles rapidly through space, allegedly travelling at the speed of…well….light. (Eye witnesses are hard to locate.)

4.5 billion years ago: Major thrills!  Over in a galaxy  – which will later be named “The Milky Way,” after a delicious chocolate bar that does not spoil the appetite – a new planet forms. This will be designated as “Earth” by the inhabitants, but that naming ceremony is still billions of years away.

3.5 billion years ago: More excitement! Who said nothing happens around here? The first life forms appear on Earth. Later named “bacteria,” these primitive life-forms prove to be the most resilient anywhere in the universe.* Meanwhile, light from the explosion of GRB 080319B continues to zoom through space.

650 million years ago: animals with nerves and muscles, but no brains, begin to appear on Earth. They are called Jellyfish. (Some of these creatures evolve to become Rugby League players.)

250 million years ago:  dinosaurs roam Earth. Light from the explosion of GRB 080319B is still ploughing steadily on through space at a consistent speed. (if ploughs could be said to go at the speed of light.)

100 thousand years ago: Homo Sapiens first appear on Earth. Apparently one of the main things that distinguish Homo Sapiens from Neanderthals is their production of artistic objects. Thus the beginnings of the human race is marked by its need to make art, which is handy for a thematic link to my previous post.

1 thousand years ago: the real Macbeth reigns in Scotland, but not in entirely the same way as the famous fictional character did – eg, there are less witches boiling up trouble, and not so many ghosts popping up through the fruit platter at banquets. A mysterious voice proclaiming “Macbeth has murdered sleep” in the middle of the night might really have been heard, depending on just how loudly he partied at night.

500 years ago: Shakespeare writes Macbeth, basing it on the king who lived 500 years earlier. (To Shakespeare and his cronies, Macbeth’s time seems like ancient history, but they didn’t have the benefit of being able to read this handy post to put things into perspective.)

Meanwhile, throughout all of this planetary, and now human activity, light from GRB 080319B continues to whizz steadily through the universe. Remember people, it was going at the speed of light, not at the speed of a segway. Reports from this time are still sketchy, but it appeared to be heading in the direction of The Milky Way.

60 years ago: Beckett writes Waiting for Godot and makes obvious reference to Macbeth.**

13 years ago: Stephen Hawking publishes A Brief History of Time, which explains a lot of stuff about the workings of the universe but overlooked the connection between  Macbeth, Waiting for Godot, black holes, stars exploding and the endlessness of the universe. Hawking’s so-called “brief” history also takes a lot longer to read than this post, even though I’ve managed to add in the parts about Macbeth and Waiting for Godot that Hawking left out of his.

3 years ago:  the light from GRB 080319B, that has been travelling for all that time, reaches Earth’s atmosphere. The light from the explosion that happened 7.5 billion years earlier and has travelled across the universe for all that time is seen briefly by Homo sapiens, on Earth.

3 days ago: I write a post that manages to tie the explosion of a star 7.5 billion years ago to Macbeth and Waiting for Godot, and which, no doubt, astronomers, physicists, literary academics and my local postman will be quoting in the years to come.

Just now: In what is already rapidly becoming the short-term past, I hit the “publish” button on this post, written to give an overview of the history of the universe so that it was clear where Macbeth and Waiting for Godot fitted in to the grand scheme of things.

Meanwhile, out in deep space, things are going along pretty much the same as they were, billions of years ago.


In other relevant news, apparently Milky Way now comes in a spread.


Milky Way spread

Milky Way spread. Neanderthals didnt think of that one.

*With the possible exception of Daleks

* *Beckett’s reference to Macbeth seems obvious to me, but is just my opinion, and I am not an academic. Any literary scholars who would like to disagree this may send in a 500 word essay on the topic, which will be published here in serial format.

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1 Comment

  1. Love the Milky Way spread BTW 🙂
    I have been researching Holograms of late. What started it was Nasa stating that the Christmas Lightshow would take place on Christmas Night and anyone and everyone could see it…anywhere in the world???




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