18 November 2011

"Geologic time" is hard to grasp

I read an article at ABC Science this morning with this title:

Great Dying happened in hell of a short time

It discussed the mass extinction at the end of the Permian.  I was eager to see what type of cataclysmic event might have been responsible...
Scientists working in South China have pinpointed the timing of the Earth's most dramatic extinction, an event that killed 96 per cent of all marine species, and 70 per cent of those on land.

Their findings show that the so-called end-Permian mass extinction, sometimes referred to as the 'Great Dying', peaked just before 252 million years ago, and took place very quickly, over a period of less than 200,000 years...
Very quickly... 200,000 years.  Stuff like that is so hard for my human mind to grasp (just like cosmic distances and numbers of galaxies).


  1. I find that my mind has adjusted to geologic time after reading many online articles. I automatically shift my time gears when reading about evolution and geology. When I read your post my jaw dropped when you reported that the Permian Great Dying took only 200,000 years.That's extremely fast!
    I do have little or no conception of astronomical numbers yet though.

  2. With regard to astronomical numbers, a comment by Arthur C. Clarke in his book "SUNSTORM" really helped me place things in perspective. He said that stars are really like grains of sand placed kilometers apart. Space is very empty.


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