Human History Ends At Midnight

Not really. But if Earth's history was placed on a calendar with each day representing about 10 million years, human history so far would begin at 11:59PM and end at midnight tonight. From January to March not much happens, because our clump of space dirt was hot and dry. But as it cools and collects water from comet impacts it doesn't take long for life to get a metaphorical toe hold.

The first single cell microbes appear in early April, with small multicellular clumps forming later in the month. Such bacterial mats are still found on Earth (and probably will be found on other planets too, as we may soon find out). Here's an image taken by Johnathan Stott of a bacterial mat found in boiling water at the Old Faithful Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.

In May—on our year-long Earth history calendar—vertebrates emerge as fish. Slowly life on land evolves into plants and begin to cover the globe in July.

In mid-September fish crawl up on land and early reptiles preview the dawn of the dinosaur era, which continues through late November.

Birds and small shrew-like mammals first appear in early November, but are overshadowed by reptilian species until early December, when the dinosaurs disappear abruptly, in a few hours on this scale.

By late December, the recognizable ancestors of modern mammals make their debut.

Today, New Years Eve, things start to get busy, but it's not until noon that our first distant ancestors appear. Then tonight, between 9:30 and 10:00 pm, Homo Sapiens migrate out of Africa to populate Eurasia and the Americas.

At 11:59 pm, one minute before midnight, human history and civilization as we know it begins, and virtually all recorded history occurs in the last 10 seconds. As you watch the Time Square ball go down use the following timeline:

Dec 31 11:59:00PM - Cave paintings in Europe
Dec 31 11:59:20PM - Invention of agriculture
Dec 31 11:59:35PM - First towns
Dec 31 11:59:50PM - First dynasties in Egypt
Dec 31 11:59:51PM - Invention of alphabet
Dec 31 11:59:52PM - Bronze metallurgy, invention of compass
Dec 31 11:59:53PM - Iron metallurgy, founding of Carthage by Phoenicians
Dec 31 11:59:54PM - Ch'n Dynsasty China, birth of Buddha
Dec 31 11:59:55PM - Euclidean geometry, Roman Empire, birth of Christ
Dec 31 11:59:56PM - Zero and decimals invented, birth of Mohammed
Dec 31 11:59:57PM - Mayan civilization, Byzantine empire, Crusades
Dec 31 11:59:58PM - Renaissance in Europe, voyages of discovery, science
Dec 31 11:59:59PM - Technology, planetary exploration

As for the future, well:

Taking a positive view:
Jan 01 00:00:01AM - Life found on planets, genetic engineering, robots
Jan 01 00:00:02AM - Extraterrestrial intelligence, interstellar exploration
Jan 01 00:00:03AM - Artificial intelligence, cyborgs, space colonization

Taking a negative view:
Jan 01 00:00:01AM - Religious wars
Jan 01 00:00:02AM - Cave paintings
Jan 01 00:00:03AM - First towns


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