The Cosmic Calendar is a method to visualize the chronology of the universe, scaling its current age of 13.8 billion years to a single year in order to help intuit it for pedagogical purposes in science education or popular science.
In this visualization, the Big Bang took place at the beginning of January 1 at midnight, and the current moment maps onto the end of December 31 just before midnight. At this scale, there are 437.5 years per second, 1.575 million years per hour, and 37.8 million years per day.
The concept was popularized by Carl Sagan in his book The Dragons of Eden (1977) and on his television series Cosmos. Sagan goes on to extend the comparison in terms of surface area, explaining that if the Cosmic Calendar is scaled to the size of a football field, then "all of human history would occupy an area the size of [his] hand".
The Cosmic Year
The Cosmic Calendar shows the time-scale relationship of the universe and all events on Earth as plotted along a single 12-month, 365-day, year:
Carl Sagan Collection
Since its creation in 1976, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly known as CSICOP - the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) has been honored by its association with founding member Carl Sagan, David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and the Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Peabody-winning television producer, and recipient of the National Academy of Science’s highest honor, the Public Welfare Medal.
Many of us first came to science and skepticism by way of Sagan’s PBS series, COSMOS, but his dedication to skeptical inquiry began long before we saw him on television. Early efforts to inform the public about science, pseudoscience, and the difference between them began in the late 1960s, and from them Sagan created one of the key principles of the skeptical movement: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. From his later work came the other pillar of skeptical inquiry: The Baloney Detection Kit. With these principles, his TV appearances, and his popular and prolific science writing, it’s no exaggeration to say that Sagan inspired an entire generation of scientists and skeptics, the very people who now carry the movement in his absence.
As this collection of articles, both by Sagan and about him, shows, Sagan was that rarest of individuals. He was a true scientist and researcher who was also adept at communicating scientific ideas to the general public, a person equally comfortable with solving strings of equations and creating strings of words, a skeptic who routinely disproved the unfounded and often dangerous beliefs of his fellow humans without ever losing his belief in humankind. We hope you enjoy this look back at Sagan’s work and are as inspired as we are to continue bringing his unique blend of skepticism and wonder into the future.