Grasping Deep Time with Scaled Space in Personal Environs

  • Bo Holm JacobsenEmail author
Part of the Innovations in Science Education and Technology book series (ISET, volume 21)


Deep time comprises the deep past before written history all the way back to the Big Bang as well as the deep future from the time of our grandchildren and beyond the lifetime of our Sun. Numerous installations called time walks or geology paths have previously been designed to communicate the history of geology and evolution. The present project differs from these examples in that the scaling of time is fixed, and the scale is defined so that 1 mm represents the life expectancy of a young person, i.e. 100 years. At this scale, written history fits on a credit card, 1 m measures the time of modern man, the age of dinosaurs ended at 650 m and the Big Bang is 137 km away. This choice obviously makes mental calculations easy, and all of time fits inside a geographical area of moderate size and so helps the citizen gain ownership to this learning tool and hence to time. The idea was tested around Copenhagen. The installation integrated a manned NowGate where present climate issues could be discussed in the light of known events of the recent 100,000 years and the likely/potential events of the coming 100,000 years. The deeper past was installed as a marked walking path back to 390 million years (3.9 km); the full path of time from the Big Bang to the death of the Sun was installed as a downloadable kmz file for Google Earth, linking to 25 video narratives recorded on location along the path.


Solar System Outer Solar System Deep Time Late Heavy Bombardment Video Narrative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Several colleagues at Aarhus and Copenhagen universities as well as the Geological Museum of Copenhagen, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland and Danish Meteorological Institute contributed with ideas for milestones in time as well as information on past and future climate. Two internal reviewers and three external reviewers helped clarify the text. However, they are not responsible for possible remaining flaws. Google Earth and Wikipedia were used intensely for the virtual part of the installations. The ideas developed under the Long Now umbrella, aiming for human existence the next 10 ky (Brand 1999), inspired Sects. 1.9 and 2.1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeoscienceAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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