Without any commentary from me (you know I’m thinking it), here’s a few fun (read: frightening and awe-inspiring) facts about the world we live in to put things in perspective.  Is that broken nail really worth crying about?

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LIFE

There are an estimated 8.7 million species on earth, 6.5 million on land and 2.2 million in the seas.

About 99.9% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct.

The earliest cells are dated to around 3.6 billion years ago while the earliest members of the genus “homo” appeared only 2.5 million years ago and the first modern humans appeared only 200 000 years ago. The earliest recorded history began around 5000 years ago.

Our genome is largely identical to that of many other living things. We are about 96% identical to chimpanzees, 90% identical to cats, 60% identical to fruit flies, and 50% identical to bananas.

All of the heavy elements in our body were created in the supernova explosions of dying stars.  Humans are literally made of stardust.

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THE EARTH

Only 13.3% of the earth’s surface is arable and only 4.71% can sustain permanent crops.

About 50% of the earth’s forests have been destroyed, mostly in the last 50 years.

Astronomers estimate that the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest neighbour, will collide with our own galaxy in about 4 billion years.

No worries though because it’s thought that in 1.4 billion years the increasing luminosity of the sun will make the earth too hot for liquid water killing all life.

About 500 meteorites impact the earth’s surface each year.

In 1907 a meteor exploded over siberia felling 80 million trees in an area larger than 2000 square kilometers.

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THE UNIVERSE

The Universe is thought to have begun 13.7 billion years ago.

There are likely more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe ranging from dwarfs with around 10 million stars to giants with 100 trillion stars.

An estimated 50% of the stars in the universe have planets and a study looking at 1200 planets showed that there were 54 the size of earth and in the habitable zone of their solar systems.  This suggests that there are billions or  even trillions of planets supporting evolved life.

But we may never talk to them.  The first ever radio signals produced in 1886 traveling at the speed of light have travelled only 126 light-years since they were first broadcast.  By contrast, our own galaxy is 100 000-120 000 light years across.  Signals sent today will not reach even the nearest star for 4.24 years.

Because the expansion rate of the universe is increasing and the speed of light remains the same, there will come a time when we cannot see any galaxies outside our own, therefore future life-forms may have to rely on our research to know that there is a universe at all.

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