LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
NEWSCAST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

Watch Earth's History Play Out On A Football Field

Grant Ernhart works with the U.S. Biathlon Team, so he spends a lot of time among snow-capped mountains. From the Canadian Rockies, he lobbed a question to Skunk Bear, NPR's science Youtube channel.

"I'm standing next to some mountains that are millions of years old," Ernhart said, "and the Earth is itself 4.5 billion years old. How do I even wrap my mind around that length of time?"

It's a tough question. A human life is so short compared to the life of the planet. But we decided the perfect place to tackle this problem of perspective was out on a football field.

Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., let us take over their stadium one fall afternoon before practice, and we used the gridiron as a giant timeline. The distance between the end zones – 100 yards – would represent Earth's 4.5 billion year history. Every inch was 1.3 million years. As we slowly marched down the field, traveling through time, we marked out the places that corresponded to the era when different sorts of creatures arrived on the scene — first simple cells, then fungus, fish, dinosaurs, mammals and, eventually, Homo sapiens.

We got the idea for this football field metaphor from Oregon State University professor Eric Kirby. You can listen to him describe the long history of the Rockies while taking a beautiful 360-degree tour of its peaks.

Just how close to the end zone do humans appear? Follow the 100-yard journey in our video at the top of this post to find out.

Got your own science-y question for us? Use this form to send it our way. We'll be answering questions from NPR's Skunk Bear community every other Tuesday.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)
contact@kansaspublicradio.org