The Universe at a Glance

Slideshow »

This artwork was created by Tom Rockwell under a commission of the Metanexus Institute. The goal was to represent the universe at all scales throughout time. In this presentation, we have separated out the layers of the original Photoshop document to present a more-or-less sequential chronology of the history of the universe. All rights reserved.

In the beginning
In the beginning there was no "Big Bang," but rather a quantum fluctuation on the Plank Scale. In this Singularity, all of the matter-energy that has ever existed came into being out of nothingness. Space-time also come into existence. In the beginning, the universe was very small, very dense, and very hot. In some strange sense, it seems that some of the laws of physics may have existed "before" the Singularity.
The early universe
The universe expands and cools. Minor fluctuations in the background radiation cause clouds of hydrogen, helium, and dark matter to coalesce into galaxies and stars. Pictured here are the background radiation from the early universe plus galaxies, stars, and pulsars.
The Milky Way Galaxy
One of a hundred billion galaxies, the Milky Way pictured here is our home. It includes a hundred billion stars.
Stellar fusion gives rise to complex chemistry
Gravitational collapse inside of stars ignite stellar fusion. Hydrogen and helium atoms are combined to make heavier elements. When massive stars burn up their fuel, they sometimes explode in supernovae, the remains of which form second or third generation stars and planetary systems with rich chemical possibilities.
Our Sun
Our solar system formed some 4.5 billion years ago out of the remains of a supernova. Not too big and not too small, our sun has enough fuel to burn for another 4 billion years.
Not too big and not too small, not too hot and not too cold, Earth is a very special planet blessed with liquid water and a rich menu of chemical possibilities.
A dynamic planet
Earth is a dynamic planet. A thin, evolving atmosphere protects and enhances the surface. Volcanoes, earthquakes, continental drift, precipitation, erosion, and changing climates keeps mixing things up, creating new possibilities.
Crystals are an example of the self-organizing properties of matter and may have played a role in the origins of life.
Polymers lead to DNA
Polymers are long molecular chains, the stuff of proteins and DNA.
Living Cells
Life arises some 3.5 billion years ago on Earth with its ability to metabolize energy from outside its protective membranes and replicate itself. Life evolves and in so doing also changes the planet.
The human lineage goes back some 6 million years. Modern humans are the first large mammal to inhabit every bioregion on the planet. With the domestication of planets and animals, humans begin to dramatically change the Earth.
Humans use language, tools, culture, and collective learning to rapidly evolve.
Humans develop science and technology, harnessing more energy, and concentrating into larger and larger communities. Humans are now the dominant species on the planet, numbering 7 billion.
The Internet
Here a 3-d model of the Internet appears, itself the latest innovation in a communications network that spans the globe.
Into Space
A GPS satellite appears. One of over a thousand satellites orbiting the Earth, connecting humans in myriads of ways, even as we take our first steps beyond our planet.

Join Metanexus Today

Metanexus fosters a growing international network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature and culture. Membership is open to all. Join Now!