Parker, J. D. (2011) Using Google Earth to Teach the Magnitude of Deep Time. Journal of College Science Teaching 40(5): 23-27The paper was featured in a Science 2011 Editor's Choice, "A destination in time." (Science 332: 1360.)
By using Google Earth (or Google Maps), one is able to plot a route between two locations that resonate with students by showing key dates along the way using a comprehensible scale. This allows them to "feel" the magnitude of deep time.
An example route between Big Ben in London and to the entrance of Southampton Bargate reveals how the analogy works:
En route from Big Ben, as this graphic shows:
- Life begins on the M25 at Heathrow
- Multicellular animals do not arise until just south of Winchester.
- The age of the Dinosaurs runs from around the M3/M27 junction down the Inner avenue to Middlestreet
- Humans first appear about 18 and a half feet in front of the Bargate
- British life expectancy (80 years) is the thickness of a eurocent coin from the front of the Bargate.