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Here is today (hereistoday.com)
899 points by spindritf on April 28, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments

Like others, I liked the loop-back to today. I think it would be nice to include decade before century. Also, more or less at/after "period" I started to get a little bored (see the discussion in these comments about losing perspective) UNTIL you added the second dimension about life itself and then it got interesting again because we think of dinosaurs and such to be so, so, so long ago and yet this animation shows that in the grand scheme of things, it's as if it had been last week.

Including those additional segments helped maintain perspective for me -- seeing each one shrink incrementally gave a better sense than one animation from Holocene to all of Earth's history.

I've always wanted to do something like that! It's brilliant. You should add "here is your grand-grand mother, what's her name?" and "here will be your potential grand grand son, do you think they'll remember your name?"

Out of interest, what country are you from? I'm curious at the fact you called it 'grand-grand'. Here in Australia we use 'great grand(mother etc.)'. Must be a cultural thing.

I just guessed, I'm french :)

Ah makes sense! Well I knew what you meant, I was just wondering whether other countries had this 'great-grand' thing or just Australia.

Same here. These sort of time scales should really make us humble and question the meaning of "making a dent in the universe" or taking our legacies too seriously.

"Dent" is not something large, and doesn't have to be a conscious memory. A tree you plant won't remember you.

Plant ten and you have a forest.

Chop them down and you have a cabin!

Burn it down and you have fertile ground!

Plant a tree in that fertile ground, and ... oh.

All of you go back to reddit, asap

Sit in it and write a manuscript on saving trees!

This is the first time I've seen something online that really made me go "Wow! I want to make something like this too!"

And since I felt so strongly about this reaction, I messaged the guy behind the site (Luke Twyman) saying "Thanks for the inspiration!"

It's quite a feeling being (a) inspired by something that you just bump into one day, and (b) being able to shoot the guy/gal behind it telling him/her how much you enjoyed their stuff. It's always a great feeling getting positive feedback for some of my blog articles, and I'm strangely feeling perhaps just as positive and cheery for giving such a thumbs up to someone!


THE Haruki? If so, I read your book on running yesterday! What a wonderful coincidence. I was also very inspired (inspirational ripple going on here..) and decided to run every day instead of just every other day. Great read!

Edit: went to your website and found out, no, you're not Haruki Murakami. Sorry for confusing you with him!

no worries I get that all the time. apparently my Japanese writing has a strong resemblance to his style though.

Obligatory XKCD reference:


This reminded me of something I saw at the Science Museum in London a few years ago.

A round clock face is used to represent the history of the earth and a narrator tells us the geological events that happen as the clock hands travels around the clock face. At a few seconds to midnight, we're told this is when humans appear.

I thought it was a clever way of illustrating how human history occupies such a tiny segment in the overall scale of the earth's history. (I don't know if the exhibit is still there)

This reminded me of http://www.chronozoomproject.org/

There's a growing academic discipline called "Big History"[1] that attempts to examine all of history from the big bang to the present. Bill Gates sponsors a project to teach a free public course to high school students[2].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_History

[2] http://www.bighistoryproject.com/Home

One of the first couple of episodes of Cosmos (maybe the first?) has a similar thing to convey the scale of time in our existence in the universe. Pretty cool.

It's also well explained in the book 'Dragons of Eden' also by Sagan.

Rather than place the present day at midnight on the clock, how about placing the present day on the current value given by the Doomsday Clock [1]. Then, with a little arithmetic, you can label midnight with the projected date of Doomsday :)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_Clock

At that scale, I don't think there'd be an appreciable difference between the two.

3000 years over 360 degrees.

Time is relative to the observer...

Suggestion: change the URL so one is able to bookmark a particular perspective.

Nice, although not very informative, since you somewhat loose perspective with each step.

Isn't that (loosing yourself in the grand scheme of things) the whole point of the animation ? A bit like Power of Ten [1] and Scale of the Universe [2] but with time instead of space.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0 [2] http://www.htwins.net/scale2/

The problem with this one is that you actually don't lose yourself. Today remains highlighted and continues to occupy a pixel or two. Even the millennium vanishes next to epochs to preserve our bookmark on today. It's jarring, and completely ruined the effect for me.

I don't know what tzaman was saying exactly, but what I noticed was that "today" got down to one or two pixels pretty fast, while the larger and larger time periods were restricted to only another ~1000 pixels or so, so at some point you have to shift back to imagining the relative lengths of time in your head again, instead of seeing e.g. "today" as 1/30 of the month.

I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but for me the most striking point was when it circled back to today. It was a reminder that in that grand scheme of things, there's some stuff you do control. Now, time to get that stuff I was planning to do done.

Fortunately, someone put on a turtleneck and got this covered. On PBS, in 1980.


I always wonder how scientists do know that something was 25, 540 million or 2.560 billion years ago.

Single crystal uranium-lead dating is one of the best all-around methods and gets used a lot for vanilla geological applications of Earth rocks; any rock that contains trace amounts of the mineral "zircon" can be dated with this technique. Zircon is special because it tends to incorporate a lot of uranium when it crystallizes while excluding lead. As time passes after the zircon crystal cools, uranium decays into radiogenic lead, and by measuring the relative abundance of these two things in the crystal we can estimate the time since that zircon crystallized (with no lead inside) and get an "age" that tells us how long it has been since that zircon crystal was formed. Zircon is common in many types of igneous rocks, which are rocks that began in a molten state. The zircon crystals in an igneous rock are resistant to weathering (compared to feldspars, another common igneous constituent), so sometimes they end up as grains in sedimentary rocks and we can use a variation on the technique called "detrital zircon geochronology" to estimate the age of sedimentary deposits.

Other systems (like samarium-neodymium) are most often used when trying to date things older than the Earth, e.g. meteorites.


Carbon Dating

Carbon dating is actually only effective up to about 50,000 years, so its really only ideal for tracking human history after we started migrating out of Africa. This is because the unstable carbon-14 isotope only has a half-life of about 5700 years.

There are many other forms of radiometric dating, though. Uranium-lead dating has proven relatively accurate for periods of time between 1 million to 4.5 billion years ago.

Note: I'm not a geologist. I remembered that carbon was only effective for a few thousand years from a geology course I had in college, but all of this information is actually taken from articles on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiometric_dating

I'm curious how it could prove accurate for that time frame? How could something like that be verified or proven?

Due to the way radiometric dating works, you don't need to actually verify in the way that you are using the word. However, there are at least two ways to verify the date:

1) Verify the half-life value. Radiometric dating works on the same principle: look at the ratio of pre-substance to fissioned substance. If you have a good half-life value, you can determine the age of the specimen using those values.

2) Use two different methods for getting the same age. If you use multiple, independent methods of determining the age of something, and they all come out the same, you have greatly lessened the probability that you're wrong or missed something.

Of course there are ways that these can be strengthened even more using practices like double blinding the measurements.

The best way I know to "check" radiometric ages is to date a rock using more than one isotopic system (e.g. K-Ar and U-Pb) and compare the ages that you get. If you get the same age from isotope systems with different decay rates and systematics, that is strong evidence that your technique is working.

People have done this many times, and most of the error comes from different levels of uncertainty in the decay constants from one system to another. Many of the decay constants have not been updated for decades (e.g. Steiger and Jager 1977) and are suspected to be a few percent off, but the people who are qualified to make such measurements (physicists + chemists) aren't the people who want to use them in applications (geochronologists and geochemists). So the incentives aren't aligned and I doubt anyone will ever fix them.

Note: Was a geology/geophysics PhD student until recently.

It's all theoretical, in the same way that our understanding of gravity or radiation itself is theoretical.

It's more like a , you might get killed by a car if you step into the street kind of theoretical. Or the drip of a water clock will fill the container in 8 hours kind of theoretical. Or a don't plant too early or your people will starve kind of theoretical.

A theory in science is a model backed by the huge majority of observational evidence and the collective experience of the model's community. There are no other equivalent human institutions for reliability. None.

So saying "it's just a theory" in the case of uranium-dating is a fairly unreasoned attitude.

I'm not saying it dismissively. "It's a theory" is not a negative thing to say. It does not mean that I doubt it in any way.

By that metric, our understanding of anything is theoretical.


Wrong, carbon dating has a limit of 62 millenia. Maybe you meant radiometric dating?

Of course I did.

With out knowing, I some how got involved with carbon dating. I must have, I married a diamond.....

Two reactions to that, either: ahhhhh sweeeeeeet, or I feel sick, pass me a bucket. So, up vote for sweet, or down vote for bucket. :)

(Normally I like a Sunday rant. I feel different today)

Is this joke yours? It's great!

How do you learn to make these things?

This actually isn't made with D3. If you look at http://hereistoday.com/today.js, it is all done in Canvas. Their code is fairly well commented, so start by reading through that. At the same time, Google around how to use Canvas for animation.

How it works: they bind the getPosition function the mousedown event, which in turn starts the appropriate draw function. They have 19 frames, each of which has its own draw function that draws rectangles. Every 1000/FPS seconds, the the update and beginDraw functions are called, which are responsible for tween effect.

You go here: http://d3js.org/, you begin.

That's the short answer.

That was exactly my first reaction. How in the world are so many people doing so many awesome things! Where do I start?

Amazed how old Earth actually is compared to the estimated age of the universe. Also, about how old is primitive cellular life.

What I find funny, is how the visualization of scale on a pixel based screen is inherently limiting.

At a certain point, you want to represent today as a scale of everything else...but at certain point, the line for today would definitely be smaller than a single pixel.

Just a thought, obviously this is not practical by any measure.

very nice, however "today" always remains one pixel in width, which kinda breaks the comparison on larger time frames. I would also maybe add another step, like this decade. still really nice!

Was he supposed to use half a pixel?

The appropriate trick here would be to change the point of reference each time you zoom out. At the millennium scale, the point of reference might become this year. At the epoch scale, the point of reference might become the millennium.

This is great. My only suggestion is to increase the font size on the timeline labels. They were too small for me to read, even with my eyes right up to the monitor.

Is it odd that I don't see the point of this? Don't get me wrong, this is skillfully crafted, and kudos to the developer, but I'm missing the 'why?'.

It does not work on Safari Version 6.0.4 (8536.29.13)

Works for me. Same browser.

This reminds me of a song by Xavier Rudd (great aussie artist).


"Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came. So which way is the wind blowin', and what does your heart say? So follow, follow the sun, and which way the wind blows when this day is done."

Beautiful and simple visualization. The meteors/comets shooting by were a great touch. Did you make this spindritf?

> Did you make this spindritf?

No. Picked it up from r/dataisbeautiful[1].

[1] http://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/1d9c1y/here...

Yeah, I like this, but it becomes less effective as the scale increases. At "Here is the Earth", the line for Today should be invisible (certainly not the same width as in "Here is this century"). It demonstrates the limits of this kind of explicitly visual approach.

By contrast, language, which leverages the imagination, can be even more effective at revealing how insignificant we are:

"...stretch your arms to their fullest extent and imagine that width as the entire [4.5 Billion year] history of the Earth. On this scale...the distance from the fingertips of one hand to the wrist of the other is Precambrian. All of complex life is in one hand, 'and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history.' " (from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything)

Another example of language illustrating an abstract concept better than visual/graphic design: If you filmed or animated the following thought-experiment, would it render it any more effective?

"Imagine people's height being proportional to their income, so that someone with an average income is of average height. Now imagine that the entire adult population of America is walking past you in a single hour, in ascending order of income.

The first passers-by, the owners of loss-making businesses, are invisible: their heads are below ground. Then come the jobless and the working poor, who are midgets. After half an hour the strollers are still only waist-high, since America's median income is only half the mean. It takes nearly 45 minutes before normal-sized people appear. But then, in the final minutes, giants thunder by. With six minutes to go they are 12 feet tall. When the 400 highest earners walk by, right at the end, each is more than two miles tall."

What I find most interesting is that the dawn of anatomically modern humans is actually visible on the 4.54 billion year timeline of the Earth. 200,000 years out of 4.54 billion might only be about 1/23000 of our planet's history, but that's also a whole 1/23000!

If the period of time that humans have been around was drawn to scale, it wouldn't really be visible.

If we assume that the width of the bar for the life of the earth is 1500 pixels (the width changes depending on the window size), then the period we have been around will be around 0.06 pixels wide (1500/23000 = 0.065). Much closer to zero pixels than one pixel.

Good point.

...and 'hereis':

Service Temporarily Unavailable

The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later. Apache Server at hereistoday.com Port 80

I hope you resolve this downtime as comments are favorable, and it appears interesting.

Why would you disable zoom? How am I supposed to enjoy your site while pooping?

Take your laptop in with you? Come on, I bet you have...

I love these reminders that we are so very small and fairly new to this place!

And yet we seem to have accomplished so much, both in advancing humanity as well as in doing damage to nature.

We're just damaging the earth. Which is nothing.

We have a vision of the past, of the future, of a huge portion of the universe. And that's not nothing.

Beautiful to see how earth has evolved. Wonder what the next few million years has to bring.. Will we be looked upon as primitive Neanderthals?

I expected to see some kind of reminder to put your life (or our society) into perspective, based on the vast cosmological timeframes).

I think it's nice that it leaves you to draw your own conclusion, and doesn't preach or talk down to you, one way or the other.

Thanks! I like these scales, how small the Earth is, how young humanity is.

But once someone starts preaching about how this means we are insignificant I lose interest quickly.

If we are the only sentient life in the universe, then we are extremely significant in the grand scheme of things. If there was/is a god or another alien civilization from another universe, they would certainly conclude that the evolution of sentient life is one of the top ten wonders of this universe.

I get tired of all this "insignificant" talk, its simply not true. Our minds are perhaps behind the wonder of life in the first place, but not that far behind, and life is one of the greatest things about our universe. How inanimate material started to think and move and do things. I think that is in no way insignificant, even if life only exists for a fraction of the time the universe will exist.

You should stop and count the assumptions in your statement there.

Haha I count at least 7!

I guess what I wrote is entirely subjective, I wonder how many people would agree or disagree with my statement, or at least my feeling towards how others would view our sentience and life in general?

I really don't think humanity and life is insignificant even when we are small in comparison to giant stars and distances and short-lived in comparison to the age of the universe.

I think the main assumption you're making is that we represent the pinnacle of anything. Whether or not it's true, I think the exercise of seeing how small today is vis-a-vis how large it feels contains an analogous insight: the vastness of what was and what will be is so incomprehensible that it would be shortsighted to ascribe any kind of superlative significance to what's here now.

People who say humanity is the summit of some mountain might as well be saying "we are living in the newest day to ever have happened." Technically true, but far from certain that it means anything. Personally, I think it behooves the character of humanity to sit quietly in humility.

An eon from now, when the technological lifeforms which have succeeded recall instantly this thread from their archive, and witness how you once crowed about the grandness of humanity, they may experience an emotion which you might call humor -- only with a dimension and richness that your mind cannot possibly fathom. Or they may experience disdain, contempt, and ridicule at the thought that you had anything to do with them or their existence. Do you credit the millionth timid mammal, your potential forebear, for surviving the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction? Of course not -- not unduly at least -- it was only doing what was assigned to it, a biological directive.

And you consider the mind so great, which we scarcely understand -- to direct your own mind toward the contemplation of its grandness seems, at least, arrogant. If you should live so long, in your own lifetime it will not only decay, but before that it will trick you, deceive you and trap you. And soon, it will also be made obsolete. What did it do in between that was so great? Gamify some social metrics to increase ROI and user engagement? Contemplate and slightly reduce the runtime complexity of an algorithm whose need will be eliminated within a decade? Eat, sleep, shit and fuck?

So I'm not sure what exactly you mean by calling us significant, you don't know that at all. The statement means less than calling today the youngest day to ever have happened, because at least that is true.

In sum: all that you consider to be esteemable and worthy of elevation will be reduced with time. Whatever significance you imagine it holds is a function of another observer who -- if it exists -- is driven by motives and a character you don't understand.

Or in other words, just live today; it won't matter in the grand scheme of things. And likely, neither will humanity.

And the share/like buttons kind of break a simple design.

Found it difficult to follow once "today" got down to 1px in size. Shows us just how insignificant we are compared to time itself.

Love the loop back to here is today. Powerful.

I'd love to have the day/month and day/month/year views as a calendar. Some kind of Geek Tool thing, perhaps?

Nice visualization. Gives me the impression (a good impression) that so much can be done.

What was before the universe?

What's to the north of the North Pole?

Well, if time is part of the universe, does it make sense to ask if something was before it?

No, because the very concept of "before" requires time to exist for it to make sense.

1. The bigger universe that spawned us 2. The multiverse that generated us 2. The same energy that generated this universe 3. Everything 4. Nothing

Pick... some?

We don't know. But from what I've read it's nonsense to think about before and after.


One unicorn is enough.

The Big Bang

today is always "1px wide" so it doesnt give a good sense of proportions ...


Life on earth started 3.6 billions (3500M) years ago.

I love it, puts things in great perspective.

.. and here is us, destroying millions of years life, in what is a split of a second in comparison. We are undertaking the greatest mass extinction of all times.

99.99%+ of all life form that have ever existed on Earth are extinct. And it isn't because of Humans.

Think about that for a second: The universe is--gasp--actively trying to 'kill' life.

For us to undertake the greatest mass extinction of all times (that is to say, rival or exceed mass extinction caused by natural causes itself on Earth), we'd have to destroy at least--at least--another 10,000 Earth-like planets, each one replete with life as Earth is currently.

I would love to see Humans possess such amazing technological prowess one day[0], but alas, that will not be today, tomorrow, nor even this century.

[0] Wanting to see possession of technological capabilities does not imply I want to see future Humans use it to destroy extra-terrestrial planetary life.

They are indeed extinct, but spread over that time span. The "mass" in "mass extinction" come from the fact that a much greater # than usual are going extinct at the same time. Which is the case today. You may eat one burger a day for a long time. Which adds to a lot of burgers. In fact, 99.99% of all burgers you ate. But if you ate 100 burgers in one single day, I'd say something is wrong with you. Similarly, in a mass extinction, we are killing a great number of species, in a short amount of time, by completely altering the habitat/ecology of entire regions of Earth. Darwinian extinction on the other hand is driven by being out-competed by other species exploring the problem space, and long-term geological change.

That’s kind of melodramatic. The universe will be just fine without humans, or even our tiny planet Earth.

That was just what I needed to hear.

Simply brilliant. Very innovative.

What, no Unix Epoch?

Very impressive.

very nice work bro... thumbs up

It is cool made

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