As humans, we often think of time in terms of days, weeks, and years, but the universe has been around for nearly 14 billion years – a timeline that’s almost impossible to imagine. And some of us do their best to explain the idea of time! For instance, Stephen Hawking wrote his beautiful book, A Brief History of Time.
Luckily, filmmakers Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet have created a short film that helps us visualize the magnitude of cosmic creation beyond our limited understanding of time. In this blog post, I’ll explore “To Scale: TIME,” which takes viewers on a journey through time and space, putting our place in the universe into perspective.
The filmmakers installed a series of small lights along a 4.3-mile stretch of the arid Mojave Desert to create a timeline of human civilization and the broader universe. They then used augmented visuals of galaxies and historical events to create an awe-inspiring stop-motion video that encapsulates 13.8 billion years of cosmic existence. The video begins with a quote from renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan: “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”
To explain his project, Alex Gorosh says, “The best way to understand the history of the cosmos is to see a timeline that shows you the history of the cosmos. To understand the universe’s age, you must see a scale model of time. You can take the years of the universe’s history and translate it into distance. We’re going to build a model of the history of human civilization. And then, we’ll build another model that shows the universe’s history. And by doing that, you can see how small we are in the universe’s history. We have to lay out 800 lights, each ten meters apart.”
The video is available on YouTube, where you can also find a behind-the-scenes “making of” video that shows just how much work went into creating this ambitious project. From figuring out the best way to install the small lights to syncing the visuals with the timeline of human civilization, Gorosh and Overstreet put in four years of hard work to make “To Scale: TIME” a reality. Before this, he made another fascinating project, To Scale: The Solar System!
As you watch the video, you’ll see how the filmmakers depict the timeline of the universe and the significant events that have occurred throughout its history.
From the Big Bang to the formation of our planet to the emergence of life, you’ll get a glimpse of just how much has happened in the time that has passed. The visualization of historical events, including the creation of the pyramids and the Renaissance, reinforces the timescale of the universe and how minutes, hours, and days are insignificant measures.
One million years ago, our ancestors controlled fire. Around its warmth and safety, they become social. They cooperate to survive. They begin to cook and gain more energy from food. Over thousands of generations, their brains grow. They become we. We make tools and rituals. As the earth warms, we migrate. We make art, music, and culture. We domesticate animals. Then plants. We create cities, kingdoms, empires, the wheel, writing, math, monuments, religion, conquest, nations, revolution, democracy, modern science, medicine, economy, trade, industry, transport, electricity, communication, technology, and today.
The video not only puts the vastness of the universe into perspective but also humbles the viewer, reminding them of how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. By the end of the video, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the universe and be reminded of how important it is to cherish every moment of our brief existence.
“To Scale: TIME” is a remarkable short film that puts into perspective the immensity of the universe and the brevity of our existence. Through the four years of hard work that went into creating this video, Gorosh and Overstreet have captured the essence of time and space in a humbling and awe-inspiring way. By the end of the video, viewers are reminded of our place in the world and the importance of making the most of every moment we have. I highly recommend giving “To Scale: TIME” a watch and taking a moment to appreciate the wonders of the universe.