DECONSTRUCTING THE WORLD
DECONSTRUCTING THE SELF
The Human Mind
The Human Being
SYMPTOMS OF THE UNIVERSE
Our world is so obvious that it goes unnoticed. It is the day and the night. It is the Sun and the Moon. It is the myriad stars in the night sky. It is the black void. It is also the ground we stand on when we are gazing upwards, and gaze upwards we do.
We have been watching the heavens for some time. There are patterns in the sky which are predictable, such as the Sun rising in the east and setting in the west, the waxing and waning of the Moon, as well as the movement of the constellations. These patterns have been woven into all human cultures, as the sunrise gives us days, the Moonís cycle gives us months, and the Sunís cycle gives us years, even the constellations have become part of our myths. It is because of our knowledge of celestial mechanics that we have been able to hunt, herd, plant and harvest at the optimum time for better survival.
Although we have been observing the firmament for millennia, what we were observing has always been a mystery. Around 1600, Copernicus and Galileo showed us that the stars were actually other suns, like our own; and in 1925 Edwin Hubble showed us that our galaxy was one of hundreds of billions of other galaxies, like our own. First, the world became the universe, and then the universe got much bigger.
The universe we see is vast. There are over 130 billion galaxies spread-out evenly across the universe in every direction. Galaxies are disk-shaped and house hundreds of billions of stars (some house hundreds of trillions of stars). They congregate in clusters, and even crash into one another. They can be seen by anyone with a powerful enough telescope.
Hubble was the first to see them, and he could tell by the red shift in their light that all of the galaxies are moving away from one another. In other words, the universe is expanding away from itself. The logical conclusion to this expansion was that everything must have been closer together in the past. Given enough time, it must have come from the same spot. Given the magnitude, it must have been a big bang.
The Big Bang can still be heard. We hear it coming from space. It is known as the Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), and it permeates the entire cosmos. The Big Bang can also be seen, not as light but as microwaves. NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotrophy Probe of the CBR took a snapshot of the Big Bang by looking at every point in our celestial sphere so we can see what happened.
The Wilkinson Probe shows that more than just matter was created in the Big Bang.†Instead of matter exploding into an already existent infinite void, both matter and void were created together. We know a lot about matter, but we know nothing about the nothing (that would change in 2000).
Two groups working separately (the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team) were measuring the red shift in the light coming from supernova explosions in distant galaxies. Since Hubble and Albert Einstein, it has been assumed that the force of gravity would eventually slow the expansion of the universe, and even reverse it. So by measuring the standard brightness of faraway supernova blasts, both teams were trying to predict the Big Squeeze. Instead, they both discovered that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down; it is accelerating.
The acceleration caught scientists by surprise, and it led them back to Einsteinís cosmological constant (or Λ), which states that there is an anti-gravity force acting against the force of gravity. Einstein calculated it, but later retracted it because there was no force yet known which it could be. According to Einstein, the anti-gravity force needs to be uniform and spread throughout the universe. Acceleration and the Wilkinson Probe show the anti-gravity force to be the void itself (which is uniform and spread throughout the universe). The void is energy (dark energy), and it makes up around 74% of the energy of the cosmos.
The anti-gravity void is an invisible non-physical force at work in our world, but it is not the only such force. Gravity is another. Gravity has been eluding discovery for over 500 years. From Galileo and Isaac Newton to Einstein and Stephen Hawkins, we know a lot about how gravity works, but we still do not know why gravity works. Gravity and anti-gravity are all around us. They interact with matter, but they are not material. They are non-physical, non-three-dimensional energies.
To understand what other dimensions look like, we only have to paraphrase Carl Sagan.† The first dimension is an infinite straight line. If you go at a right angle to that line, then you are in the second dimension of the flat plane. If you go at a right angle to that plane, then you are in the familiar three dimensional world of the cube. If you go at a right angle to the cube (in and out simultaneously), then you are in the incomprehensible fourth dimension, and so on.
One-dimensional energy is observable in the electro-magnetic force, which we experience as photons. The most common photons are the waves of varying frequencies (gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, micro-waves and radio waves) which radiate from the electrons of atoms in stars, and zoom straight through the void at the speed of light. Other photons are held around the electrons of certain atoms and compounds becoming electricity and magnetism (which gives the energy its name).
Two-dimensional energy is observable in the force of gravity, which forms disk shapes throughout the universe (from our solar system to our galaxy, and many others just like them). According to Einstein, gravity is a bend in space. The bend forms a two-dimensional plane (or a gravity well), which rotates around the center where the gravity is the strongest (creating two poles and the disk shape). The disk shape also appears in the event horizon of a black hole (as well as the double plume of black hole consumption observed in some galaxies).
Three-dimensional energy is observable in the three-dimensional matter which makes up the physical universe. Matter is made of atoms, and atoms seem solid, but Einstein proved there is a mass-energy equivalence (E=mc2), which means that matter is energy. There are no real particles, there is only energy, and three-dimensional energy comes in the form of quarks (which are just tiny points of energy). There are six quarks in the nucleus of a hydrogen atom (three in the proton and three in the neutron). The quarks are arranged as opposites with a + - + charge in the proton versus a - + - charge in the neutron. The opposites create the strong force which binds the nucleus together. The quarks make up most of the mass of an atom (thus the most of the mass of the universe).
Four-dimensional energy is observable in the inverted emptiness of the void. Space may seem like nothing, but the nothing is something. The vacuum of space is void energy, which seems to be made of Aldo Pianaís sub-quanta inverting fourth-dimensionally, thus creating the void (all 26 billion light years of it). It is the void which lets the photons fly free. It interacts with concentrations of matter to create gravity, and makes the quantum physics of the atom possible.
We experience the void as merely empty space, but we can actually see the fourth-dimension in the shape of the universe, because three-dimensional matter does not form a three-dimensional universe. If space was three-dimensional, then the universe would appear like a three-dimensional cloud expanding outwards from universe-central. Instead, the galaxies are evenly spread throughout, and the universe has no center and no end.
Five-dimensional energy is observable in time, which travels away from us at the speed of light. The farther we look in space, the further we look back in time; and no matter which direction we look, it is the same (we can see back around 13 billion years and then it goes dark). Time is collapsing fifth-dimensionally into itself, which is why we appear to be at the center of the universe (because we are at now now), and why the CBR is coming at us from every direction (because it was at the beginning). The view would be the same from any other place in the universe.
Photons are also riding the waves of time. They are rays of one-dimensional energy but they are neither infinite nor straight because they are being restricted by the force of time. The wave of time ahead of the ray keeps it from being straight by slowing it down to the speed of light, thus bending the ray into a three-dimensional photon (which is how a photon can be both physical and non-physical). The wave of time behind the ray keeps it from being infinite by nipping it off, thus the waves of time are as long as a photon, and the speed of light is actually the speed of time.
The three-dimensional universe is part of a multi-dimensional cosmos which came into existence around 14 billion years ago. The energy seems to have been collapsing through the dimensions (from zero to infinity) when the three-dimensional energy of matter and the four-dimensional energy of the void began to repel one another, as Einsteinís cosmological constant states that the universe is a struggle between the forces of gravity and anti-gravity. In other words, the repulsion of the dimensions made everything possible.
Out of nowhere (zero dimensions), the cosmos was created. The energy should have just collapsed into infinity, but instead it got stuck between the third and fourth dimensions. It bottlenecked, which caused the energy to grow (otherwise known as the inflation). When it was over (around 300,000 years later), all of the energy of the cosmos was in place.
Around 13.7 billion years ago, the inflation ended with the Big Bang. A blast so massive it left the CBR as its wake. The blast continued its expansion, with most of the energy becoming either three-dimensional plasma or four-dimensional void energy. The plasma cooled in the absolute zero temperature of the void becoming hydrogen atoms (the building blocks of the universe).
Hydrogen is made of a single proton, neutron and electron. The proton and neutron are made up of three-dimensional-energy quarks. The quarks hold a charge which binds them together with strong force to form the nucleus. The nucleus then repels the four-dimensional-energy void. The repulsion is the weak force which pushes the void energy out to form the electron shell around the nucleus, thus creating an immortal atom.
The dimensional anomaly is weak force because it shows traits of both matter and void. Atoms seem three-dimensional because matter is three-dimensional, but when electrons are observed, they can appear in several places at once. Electrons are leptons, like neutrinos, which seem to be void energy acting like matter. The sub-quanta form into three-dimensional shells (similar to rays acting like gravity in magnetism and quarks becoming cosmic rays), but the electrons are not exactly three-dimensional, thus giving our universe the fractal dimension of π.
The weak force repulsion between the nucleus of the atom and the electron shells creates a true vacuum inside the atom. Since the void energy is being pushed out, there is no void energy. In the absence of anti-gravity lies the beginning of gravity. Therefore, every atom is a gravity bubble. Each atom is not powerful alone, but in massive quantities (such as a planet or star) they turn the anti-gravity void effervescent, and going at a right angle down, it creates a two-dimensional gravity well, a bend in space just as Einstein described.
As the expansion of the universe continued, the initial plasma cloud broke up into larger clouds, which became quasars (or short-lived galactic-sized fireballs), and smaller clouds, which became the more stable galaxies. The continuing expansion is not only fueled by the initial blast, but also by the repulsion between the two forces (and the acceleration means that the dark side is winning).
Only an increase in the force of anti-gravity could cause the acceleration in the expansion of the universe, so it seems that Einsteinís cosmological constant is not a constant. The forces of gravity and anti-gravity may have been evenly split at first to cause the inflation, but it has since changed (the current ratio shows gravity at 26% and anti-gravity at 74%). Something is eating away the gravity.
The only way to destroy immortal matter is to annihilate it. The three-dimensional energy must be smashed and pulverized to be extinguished, which allows the energy to bridge the gap of the repulsion and continue with the collapse into infinity. Annihilation can be produced in a man-made atom-smasher, where an atom is struck with another atom at great speeds so they both disintegrate (but not immediately). Scientists observe the results as the energy fades into the void (where it becomes part of the anti-gravity force).
Annihilation occurs naturally inside black holes, where matter is smashed inside the crazy gravity of a singularity. A black hole is a giant star which has collapsed in on itself to a point in space, fully converting all the energy into gravity. Matter and energy are sucked inside their intense gravity wells towards the event horizon where it is annihilated. It is an atom-smasher on a grand scale. Amazingly, energy is being released from the black hole as it feeds. Sometimes the plumes can be magnificent, as observed in certain galaxies where a super-massive black hole spews energy far into space.
If gravity and anti-gravity started out relatively equal, then it has taken only 13.7 billion years to annihilate almost half of the force of gravity. Most of it must have happened at the beginning of the expansion (especially considering the appetite of the super-massive black holes inside of the quasars). The expansion has since stabilized, but currently the visible universe only makes up about 4% of the total energy of the cosmos.
The collapse of the dimensional energy was not halted by the repulsion of gravity and anti-gravity. It was only prolonged; giving us time. The collapse has slowed down into the cause and effect which has occurred in the history of the cosmos up to this point (and will occur in the future). Causation is happening at the speed of time. As time goes by, the annihilation of matter will continue until all of the energy in the universe has passed into the higher dimensions, but that will not be completed for tens of billions of years.
The Milky Way
The universe is comprised of over 130,000,000,000 galaxies. Each galaxy consists of hundreds of billions of stars. They travel in clusters and super-clusters. Most have the classic disk shape with a bright bulge in the middle, but many have also collided with one another, with disastrous consequences.
The light from some of the farthest galaxies we can see is around thirteen billion years old. It shows galaxies already formed but with more energy, as these are the sources of gamma ray bursts from stars far larger than anything we have today. The galaxies seem to have evolved from bright white star galaxies with gamma-ray super-stars in the bulge to the familiar and more stable orange star galaxies with bright white stars in the bulge (like ours).
Our galaxy was once part of the initial blast cloud, but it has since separated, cooled-off and matured into an average galaxy. It is around 100,000 light years across, and contains around 100 billion stars. There is a bulge in the middle around 30,000 light years wide, but it is around 3,000 light years wide out by us. At its core, it has a super-massive black hole (just like every other galaxy). We know it must be in the classic disk-shape found in most other galaxies because we can see the flat disk of our galaxy in the concentration of stars going across the night sky we call the Milky Way.
The System of Sol
Our solar system (as with the whole rest of the universe) formed from the energy which was released in the Big Bang. All matter started out as the base element, hydrogen, which soon began to gravitate in heavy concentrations. The gravity caused the hydrogen to fuse into helium, releasing immense amounts of energy (thus creating the first stars). All of the other elements of the Periodic Table were created later when the stars began to explode as their fuel supply ran out. Novae and supernovas created the matter we are made of. We are stardust (as Carl Sagan liked to remind us).
The amount of hydrogen fuel in the Sun suggests that our solar system is around five billion years old. The Sunís fuel is a limited supply which must obey the laws of physics. We can calculate how much fuel it is using now to tell us how long it has been burning, as well as how long it will continue to burn. Our Sun is currently at its midpoint with five billion years gone and five billion years to go.
If our solar system is five billion years old and the universe is 13.7 billion years old, then our solar system formed over eight billion years after the Big Bang. The material had to come from somewhere. When old stars die, the debris becomes a giant gas cloud (or nebula) which reforms into a new star. Our solar system is one of those rebirth systems due to its age and the amount of heavy elements. The planets, moons, asteroids and comets of our solar system were created from material which had to have come from a supernova explosion of a previous star system (Nemesis) billions of years ago. We have many neighboring systems which formed around the same time.
The Sol system formed into a single star system (half of the known solar systems have two stars and their systems can look very different from ours). Sol has ten satellites. First, there are the four small earthen planets (Mercury, Venus, Terra and Mars), and then come the four gas giants (massive Jupiter, ringed Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). There is also an asteroid belt in the middle caused by the gravity of Jupiter pulling against the Sunís gravity making it impossible for a fifth earthen planet to form. Finally, there is an ice belt which stretches from around Neptune to the end of the Sunís gravity well 1.5 light years out. The ice belt is home to many dwarf planets as well as the comets. Nemesis may still be lurking around as well (an invisible super-dense neutron star haunting the darkness).
Our planet is old. Radioactive isotopes of uranium break down very slowly as they decay, and they do so at a measurable rate. We can tell how long ago a rock formed by measuring the decay. Rocks from the Moon and from meteors date as far back as 4.5 billion years ago. There are some ancient terrestrial rocks which date back to around 4.2 billion years, but they are rare due to plate tectonics (as the earth is in a constant state of death and rebirth), so finding those primordial rocks is difficult (but it also means that we are able to date the rock strata as they were created, so we have a pretty good idea of our planetís geological evolution).
Our planet formed within the Proto-Sol nebula. The first four planets are made of earth. They formed from colliding asteroids, which must have filled the inner orbit around the proto-star, until only four planets remained. You can still see the last reminisce of the nebula cloud every night when meteors streak across the sky.
Of the first four planets, only Terra has a real moon. Mars has caught two asteroids, but Terraís is different. Terraís moon, Luna, was once a part of the original proto-planet. Luna was formed when Proto-Terra, was struck by another proto-planet, Theia, with enough force to cause the instant liquification of both. It also caused a blob of molten rock to become separated and projected into orbit, forming the Moon. Over time, it gathered the rest of the debris as well (creating the craters we see on the surface).
The severity of the blast was enough to cause the minerals to separate. The separation turned the core into a molten ball of solid iron and nickel floating in a molten pool of liquid iron and nickel. This huge concentration of iron has caused the entire planet to become a gigantic magnet, which creates a force-field around the planet known as the magnetosphere. It protects the planet from the constant bombardment of particles from the Sun, which can be seen in the spectacular aura borealis light show at the poles.
On the surface, thousands of black islands floated on the molten mantle. Solar winds blew away the planetís initial hydrogen and helium atmosphere, but it was soon replaced by carbon dioxide escaping from the vulcan earth, along with massive amounts of water.
One of the proto-planets (or both) contained enormous amounts of water which instantly turned into steam in the blast. The steam escaped into the atmosphere to form a great cloud over the landscape, until around 4.2 billion years ago when the surface had cooled off enough for the steam to fall down as rain. It rained for millions of years. When it was over, the oceans covered most of the surface area. The mantle was cooled by the enormous volume of water (around 1.35 sextillion liters) to form a crust of tectonic plates floating on the red hot mantle.
The floating islands of rock began to mix with the water and the first continents were formed. They collided with one another, and the collisions of the continents created the first mountain ranges, as well as the first earthquakes. The islands and continents continued to collide together until around 1.1 billion years ago when they formed into the first super-continent (Rodinia), which broke up around 750 million years ago only to reform as Pannotia around 600 million years ago (which broke up around 540 million years ago only to reform as Pangaea around 300 million years ago [which broke up around 175 million years ago to get the continents where they are now]). They will eventually come together again in about 250 million years.
The idea of moving continents is very recent. It was Alfred Wegener in 1912 who first noticed that all of the continents fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle into a massive super-continent, but it took over fifty years for oceanographers to be able to map the ocean floor, and confirm continental drift.
Our planetís crust is broken up into humungous plates of rock which float on top of the mantle. They vary in size. Some hold continents, some have islands, and some hold only water.†All of the plates are visible on a map of the ocean floor, and they come alive when volcanic and seismic activity are added. The map also shows evidence that the plates have been moving, colliding and separating over huge chunks of time, which has created high mountain ranges and deep ocean trenches.
Recently, continental drift has also been confirmed by global positioning satellites, which have already detected movement in the relatively short time they have been in operation. The GPS system has also confirmed the speed and direction of the land-mass migration. But, the story of continental drift and plate tectonics is best told by comparing and contrasting the evidence left behind by life.
The surface of our planet is alive. Life is everywhere. Bacteria can be found from where the earth meets the mantle to the top of the stratosphere and everywhere in between. Flora and fauna inhabit the surface, land and sea. The biomass is hundreds of billions of tons of matter.† Life creates the atmosphere as well as regulates the salt content of the oceans. It wears the surface of our planet like a body, and it is noticeable from outer space.
Although we are a part of that life, it has always been a mystery to us. Most cultural creation stories tell us that we were created by divine beings, as we are now. It was Charles Darwin in 1859 who first understood our true story. And just as Copernicus before him, Darwin was quite content never to divulge what he had discovered. Until a colleague of his, Alfred Wallace, independently came to the same conclusion from his studies in Indonesia, and coincidentally contacted Darwin to confirm his theory. Darwin was then compelled to publish his work or be scooped.
Twenty years earlier, Darwin had taken part in a naturalist expedition sailing around the world. On the Galapagos Islands, he noticed flora and fauna which were similar to species he had observed on the mainland except they had changed in various ways. It seemed to him that every so often a species from the mainland would somehow find its way to a very remote place (like the Galapagos Islands), and once there, change into new species.
The original species may remain the same and continue doing what they do, but new ones appeared which could exploit niches in the isolated island environment which were not being exploited. It is isolation which creates the most unique life-forms, such as the kiwi bird of New Zealand, the Komodo dragon, the Australian kangaroo, the penguins of Antarctica, as well as the lemurs of Madagascar and the dodo bird of Mauritius, but for Darwin the best examples come from the Galapagos Islands with its marine iguanas, giant tortoises and 15 unique species of finches.
Darwin called his theory natural selection but it is better known as the theory of evolution. He observed that nature selects certain creatures to evolve into something different. The process is seen in domesticated animals and plants which humans have changed through selective breeding. All you need to add is separation and geological time. Eventually, a separated group will become so genetically different that they are unable to reproduce with the original species, thus becoming a different species.
Evolution is not a ladder where once the change occurs the first type disappears. It is more like a tree where it branches and both types can live together, such as the Galapagos finches. It is called adaptive radiation, and it was first noticed by Carl Linnaeus.
In 1758, Linnaeus systemized the classification of life-forms by using the familiar binomial Latinized names (such as Homo sapiens). A system was needed because there were so many common names that it was confusing. Linnaeusí system classifies every type of creature as a species, and then groups similar species together in a genus. The first Latin name is the genus and the second is the species. All life-forms are grouped by physical similarities, such as cats (Felis catus) are different from lions (Pantherea leo).
Genura come together to form families (such as felines, canines and ursus), and families come together to form orders (such as carnivore, herbivore and insectivore), and orders come together to form classes (such as mammal, bird and reptile), and classes come together to form phyla (such as vertebrate, mollusk and insect), and then finally to the five kingdoms (bacteria, protist, animal, plant and fungus). This system allows us to trace all creatures back through the branches of the tree of life. Thus your house cat is an animalia vertebrate mammalia carnivore felidae felis catus.
Darwin and Wallace were both aware of Linnaeusí system of classification. They both understood that when they had discovered that species can mutate, it meant that Linnaeusí system was actually the family tree of the evolution of life on this planet. It meant that all the varieties of species were once closer related back through time. It also meant that humans had evolved from our closest relatives, the apes (which was not received well). All that was needed was confirmation, and that came buried in the earth.
Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to collect fossils of creatures which no longer existed. We have been finding them for centuries. They are the remains of creatures frozen in geological time as a fossil. Fossils do not form often due to the efficiency of lifeís recycling process. They seem to form best during catastrophes where a creature is buried quickly. In most cases, the skeleton has turned into stone which can be separated from the rock around it to reveal its identity.
The fossil record is uniform around the planet, and it shows a logical progression from one type of creature to another type, similar but different, with no anomalies. The progression can be traced through time by understanding that the deeper the fossil, the older it is. The fossil record is by no means complete, but most types of creatures can easily be followed through the layers of geological time.
The fossil record has confirmed Linnaeusí family tree, as well as confirming Darwin and Wallaceís natural selection, which is the mechanism for the progression from one species to the next. The more fossils we find, the better our understanding of the past gets, such as the recent discoveries of raptors with feather (which links dinosaurs and birds), as well as all of the recent discoveries of intermediary stages of whales from long extinct, land-based hooved carnivores.
Evolution is being confirmed once again as we uncover the secrets of genetics. Every creature is created from its genes, or DNA. They are found in every cell of the creature. They are a blue-print of how to make that particular cell and that individual creature. Genes show their heritage, since they have been passed down from generation to generation over huge chunks of geological time. Their evolution is written into their double helix.
Finally, Linnaeus, Darwin and Wallace, the fossil record, and our genes are confirmed simply by our appearance. We look like a human hominid, ape primate, arboreal mammal, tetrapod vertebrate, animal life-form. Our blood is animal. Our bones are shared by all vertebrates. We have four limbs just like all tetrapods. Our hairy skin is definitely mammal. The arboreal primates share our stereoscopic vision, as well as our grasping hands. Our lack of a tail is an ape characteristic. Being bipedal is a hominid trait.
Our reflection shows us what we are. Our genes tell us what we are. The fossil record tells us what we were. Darwin and Wallace recognized the process, and Linnaeus traced the family tree. Evolution is a fact of life. We can follow the trail of the evolution of life by examining the evidence left behind. The most well-known are fossils, but there are other types of evidence of lifeís past existence.† Coal and oil are biological in origin, as is limestone. Even the great iron ranges of the world are biological in origin, as is the atmosphere. Life has left behind evidence of its existence since our planet formed. Its story is in the earth, layer on top of layer, age after age, for all to see.
The Hadean Eon
In the beginning, our planet was nothing like it is today. The surface was filled with giant black islands floating on an ocean of bright red, liquid hot magma. The Moon was much closer. The Sun was younger, larger and brighter. The original atmosphere was blown away by strong solar winds, but it was soon replaced by the carbon dioxide escaping from the earth, and kept in place by the newly formed magnetosphere. There was also the constant bombardment of asteroids and meteors impacting on the surface, creating a hellacious landscape called the Hadean eon. Eventually, the oceans cooled the surface and the fiery Hadean eon gave way to the more stable Archean eon.
The Archean Eon
Archean Terra saw barren continents surrounded by iron-rich yellow-green oceans, and a cloudy carbon dioxide atmosphere. Amazingly, life started to leave evidence of its existence very soon after the planet cooled. The earliest evidence comes from around 3.9 billion years ago. There are many theories about the origin of life, ranging from divinities magically creating it, abiogenesis, panspermia transplants from the Nemesis system, and even star seeding by visiting extra-terrestrials.
There is no evidence which would point to the divine except the fact that we do not really know how life began, so it seems miraculous. Star seeding also seems unlikely because the planet was left alone for billions of years, far out-living any civilization which could exploit it. The most-probable answer is that life developed from non-living material (or abiogenesis), but it had to have happened on another planet in the distant past due to its early appearance on Terra, Mars and in meteors (life would be exclusively terrestrial if it had begun here), which means that panspermia is also most-probable (even though it seems most-improbable due to the forces the bacteria would have had to endure, such as the supernova of Nemesis, billions of years in the cold of space, and then the fiery conditions of our planetís formation).
Abiogenesis must have begun underground due to the harsh surface conditions of most planets. All of the conditions needed must have been present such as heat, water, minerals and protection from the harsh environment. Most important was an organic sludge. Replicating proteins must have been involved since all life-forms reproduce in one form or another; it is a universal characteristic of life. The primordial replicating proteins may have started out as a one kind, but their complex organic construction can be changed, and mutations occurred. Mutations are another universal characteristic of life, as all life is evolving.
With reproduction and mutability both part of the original construct, many various kinds of proteins must have appeared. As they mixed together, some became parasitic and some became symbiotic. The parasitic ones became mad cow proteins and viruses. The symbiotic became interdependent on each other and evolved into bacteria (the base life-form). A single bacterium has around 5,000 proteins of many different kinds in a biological sphere called a cell. To get to that state of complexity (as well as the highly-complex genes which run it all), they would have had to mutate and develop over many years.
The sludge became slime as the symbiotic proteins formed the first cells. A cell is a fully enclosed sphere, and although it may be made of many different parts, it acts as though it is one.† The acting is also known as sentience, as the cell behaves like it is separate from the world. It is animated and aware of itself and its surroundings. It has a will of its own. Sentience is the third universal characteristic of life, as even creatures without a brain react to changing conditions in their environment.
The energy which animates the cell is non-material; otherwise creatures would be able to detect it (either at night or in the deep sea). Since it is beyond our senses to perceive, it must be other dimensional energy. Hendrick Kasimir and Dirk Poder discovered that void energy can be harnessed by mirrors in close proximity (very close proximity). The combination of liquid water, certain minerals and the complex organic construction of the cell must attract the void energy in a similar manner (and hold it like a battery). The cellís three-dimensional construction changes the fractal dimension of the four-dimensional void energy into something new (or life-force, which then animates the cell creating a rudimentary sentience). The life-force changes the cell into a living organism.
The first animated cells held the energy, but if one of their parts burned out, they lost it and died. In order to maintain the energy, the cells needed to replace the burned out parts with new ones, or autopoiesis (self-creation), which is the fourth universal characteristic of life. The cells are constantly replacing the parts which make up the whole, and they do so by consuming. Ribonucleic acid (or RNA) breakdowns the bits consumed from the outside world, and uses them to replicate parts which are needed as replacements, thus the whole is maintained. It is more commonly known as metabolism. There are very primitive viruses which only have RNA, but soon the RNA strung together to create the genes of DNA.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA) acts as a blue-print for any organism. It looks like a coiled ladder (or James Watson and Francis Crickís double helix). DNA creates the life-form, maintains it through metabolism, and even controls its actions, all through a complex system of RNA combinations which produce the necessary proteins. It is a very complex system which carries out a very complex task. It is life, and it has been very successful.
Viruses seem to be a bridge between replicating proteins and bacteria. They are also a bridge between life and non-life. Bacteria were the first true independent life-form. They are not only all the same kingdom (monera), but they are also all the same species, so they can spread their genetic material with just a touch, which means they can easily change and mutate to take advantage of the resources available, and pass it on as they reproduce. Bacteria reproduce by common division (which means they split in two).
The extra-terrestrial bacteria must have come from the Nemesis system and lay dormant throughout the whole solar system. They found a home on Terra and Mars, and could be alive from Europa and Io to Titan and Enceladus (if the conditions are right). The right conditions are liquid water and mild temperatures (from around 10įC to 40įC), which are extremely rare. Terra has both, but without the magnetosphere life would have remained subterranean and single-cell (like the rest of the solar system). With the magnetosphere, life can live on the surface and grow into multi-cellular varieties.
After their arrival in meteors, the extra-terrestrial bacteria quickly spread throughout the underground. The first terrestrial life-forms were extremophile bacteria (or archaeanbacteria). They are called extremophiles because they live in the most extreme environments. They still live today in volcanic plumes deep under the sea, boiling hot springs, as well as the whole deep-earth biosphere. They are able to harness all kinds of food sources which surface life cannot, such as sulfur, methane, salt and rock.
Extremophile bacteria thrived underground protected from the Sun, but soon pushed up to the surface. Once on the surface, they changed to adapt to the new environment. They evolved into the anaerobic bacteria, which could breathe in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia, as well as take advantage of the organic compounds strewn about the surface. Anaerobic bacteria eat organic material by fermentation, and so successful were they that they ate themselves out of their resources. Life needed an alternative.
Cyanobacteria developed the chlorophyll molecule, which uses sunlight to convert water into hydrogen for energy (or photosynthesis). Unfortunately for the anaerobic bacteria, photosynthesis produces oxygen as a by-product, and anaerobic bacteria cannot survive in an oxygen rich environment. The very first chlorophyll-using bacteria were probably anaerobic and poisoned themselves, but cyanobacteria are fully aerobic, so they can survive in oxygen.
Our oxygen atmosphere does not occur naturally, it was produced by creatures able to use chlorophyll for photosynthesis. We know exactly when they appeared because the appearance of oxygen in the environment caused the iron in the oceans to fall to the sea floor. The Archean oceans had a large iron content, which it got from seeping through the earth to the surface, but the iron has since vanished and the oceans cleared because of the oceanís oxygen content. The newly created oxygen combined with the iron to form rust (like it does on your car), which then fell from the water to the ocean floor creating massive bands of iron in the sediment.
Chlorophyll-using bacteria appeared as early as 3.7 billion years ago (the first iron bands) probably for ozone production, but the anaerobic bacteria were still robust. When the anaerobic bacteria had exhausted their resources around 2.5 billion years ago, the aerobic bacteria took over the biosphere, and the carbon dioxide Archean eon gave way to the oxygenated Proterozoic eon.
The Proterozoic Eon
At first, the cyanobacteria formed into small green mounds at the oceanís edge (which would eventually become fossilized for us to find later) taking in water and pushing out massive amounts of oxygen (O2), thus polluting the water. Starting around 2.5 billion years ago, iron began to rain out of the oceans, creating the great iron ranges of today (90% of the worldís mineable iron all at one time), beginning the Proterozoic eon. The oceans were cleared by 1.9 billion years ago.
By 2.2 billion years ago, solitary cyanobacteria (tiny floating aerobic chlorophyll-using bacterium) had invaded the seas turning them green. Once the oceans were fully oxygenated, they began to pollute the atmosphere. They were depleting the atmosphere of its carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane, and replacing it with nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2), which was finished by 1.8 billion years ago.
The mixing of the Archean and Proterozoic atmospheres created huge amounts of ozone, which formed into a layer in the upper atmosphere. The ozone layer protects life-forms from dangerous ultraviolet light which can damage proteins. In the water, cells are protected from ultraviolet light, but on the surface they were vulnerable. The ozone layer allowed the aerobic bacteria to come to the surface (thus closer to the sunlight). The anaerobic bacteria had found their niche, as they are still necessary for ozone, methane and ammonia production.
With the ozone layer in place, the cyanobacteria thrived. Soon, other bacteria started to become symbiotic with them. Photosynthesis creates enough energy for several cells to benefit. Just as the replicating proteins united to become a cell, so too did the cells unite into a super-cell. Eventually, they had completely changed into another kingdom, protoctista (or protists).
Protists may have begun as symbiotic cells, but they became much more. By 1.5 billion years ago, fossil evidence shows the existence of different types of multi-cellular protists, which means that they were creatures formed from many cells, but they all shared the same DNA. The cells perform different tasks, but the whole creature acts as one. The most common protist is algae, which has dominated the oceans for the last 1.5 billion years.
The construction of multi-cellular organisms needs a new kind of DNA, as the details of their genes had become far too complex for simple replication by dividing. Eukaryotes reproduce by sex. Two sides to a DNA strand, so two sexes. The DNA strand splits between parents and unites into a new and unique creature. Not only did they invent gender and sexual reproduction, but eukaryote protists also invented speciation (as only similar creatures can reproduce), thus beginning the adaptive radiation of terrestrial evolution (the tree of life). Eukaryote DNA was also the beginning of programmed death, as those creatures which had the gene for programmed death survived better than those which did not, because their species could adapt to geological change better.
The cyanobacteria and algae were so successful that they had stripped the atmosphere of carbon dioxide by 700 million years ago. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which keeps the surface warm and the water in a liquid state (which the photosynthesizers need to survive). When the CO2 got too low, it got cold and the ice caps grew until our planet was completely covered in ice. With glaciers reaching the equator, the Vendian ice age was the worst ice age this planet has witnessed. Life was in danger of total extinction.
Fortunately, the weight of all that ice caused a terribly violent vulcan age to begin, which let the planet warm-up just long enough to let life come up with a solution. The photosynthesizers needed some way to produce carbon dioxide. Anaerobic bacteria give off methane and ammonia, so they were of no use. Something else was needed, a life-form which could breathe oxygen and give off CO2.
The solution to their problem came in the form of a new kingdom. In an attempt to keep the environment conducive to themselves, the peaceful chlorophyll-users made a deal with a devil. Animals met the criteria needed as they breathe oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, which the photosynthesizers need for themselves (as well as needed for the continuing regulation of the surface temperature), but animals do not create their own food, so they must survive by eating the photosynthesizers. In return, animals give them back nutrients as waste products forming a symbiotic relationship.
At first, the animals devoured only the photosynthesizers, but soon animals began to eat other animals as well, thus beginning an arms race which has continued ever since. The herbivores eat the photosynthesizers, the carnivores eat the herbivores, bigger carnivores eat smaller ones, and so on (otherwise known as the food chain). The mortal combat of the animal arms race has included the development of better perception, camouflage, armored plating and behavior modifications, as well as different types of locomotion, size and weaponry, all in order to survive in a world of extreme violence.
The Phanerozoic Eon
The geological record is much clearer about the history of the planet during this most recent eon. The appearance of animals in the geological record has helped piece together a good picture of the different worlds which have existed over the last 600 million years. Their fossils can link layers of sedimentation around the globe, so we get a detailed look at life in the past.
Geologists have been using fossils to find valuable resources for over 100 years, so the Phanerozoic has been well documented. It has been broken-up into three eras: Paleozoic (ancient life), Mesozoic (middle life) and Cenozoic (new life). Each era is again broken-up into periods (eleven in total). Each period lasted for millions of years, and they are usually punctuated by mass extinctions. They are all right below our feet as the layered sedimentation we see in the cross-sectioning of the earth (such as on display in the Grand Canyon). The periods of the Phanerozoic tell the tale of animal life.
The Paleozoic era began as the Vendian ice age was receding around 600 million years ago. The first period is known as the Pre-Cambrian, and it was the beginning of the age of animals. They are eukaryotes like protists, but animals introduced eggs, sperm, embryos and a blastula stage. During the Pre-Cambrian, the animals went through the same stages of evolution as the protists, only much more rapidly. They began as single-celled organisms (blastulas) but soon became symbiotic. The first multi-cellular animals were sponges, which are colonies of similar animals filtering the ocean water for sustenance, and then came the more complex symbiotic animals such as corals, jelly-fish and the long extinct fan-like vendobionts.
The Cambrian period began with an explosion of fossils around 542 million years ago. Before the Cambrian, there is little of a fossil record, but after it starts, there are plenty. The Cambrian Explosion began when animals became multi-cellular organisms (or creatures made-up of different organs but act like a singularity). Many phyla appeared, but only a few survived (starfish, worms, flatworms, mollusks, brachiopods, arthropods and chordates).
The Cambrian Explosion was a product of requisite variety, which occurs in a system when a new form is discovered. It seems that many kinds are tried and the ones chosen by natural selection go on. It also means that if the system was to be started over, under the exact same conditions, it would most-likely have a different outcome.
Arthropods were the first multi-cellular organisms to really mass produce, and they dominated the Cambrian oceans, as the plentiful trilobites were hunted by the dreaded anomalocaris (a two meter long swimming arthropod which was the top predator of the Cambrian). For the vertebrates, it is a wonder they survived at all, since the first chordates were merely boneless tiny scavengers.
The Ordovician period saw the dominance of the arthropods give way to the dominance of the mollusks. Nautiloids, or armored squid-like creatures, roamed the Ordovician oceans (with some of the straight-shelled ones getting up to six meters long), and as usual, the trilobites were the favorite food. For the vertebrates, the first jawless fish must have appeared, but they are difficult to find since they are made of cartilage (thus no skeleton to fossilize).
The Silurian period saw the end of the nautiloid dominance as the oceans were now dominated by two meter long sea scorpions. For the vertebrates, the seas were filled with many various types of armored fish with heavily armored heads and fleshy tails. At first, they had no jaws, but the jaw would appear by the end of the period.
During the Silurian, the colonization of the surface had begun. First came the algae, but by the end of the Silurian, the plant and fungus kingdoms (which only live on the land surface) began to thrive all over the earth. Plants and fungus share some common genetic material with protists and animals. True plants differ from cyanobacteria and algae in the fact that they have fibrous organs which are able to grow tall to get the sunlight. Without fungi, the plants would not be able to survive, as the fungi break down the nutrients in the environments so they are useful for the fibrous organs. Plants have dominated the land surface ever since.
The Devonian period was dominated by jawed-fish. Many different variations of fish show-up in the fossil record, and soon the jawless armored fish were replaced by the first sharks and the first true fish (monstrous armored fish with axes for teeth). The Devonian was also the beginning of the end for the trilobites.
Life was thriving where the water met the land, as plants had grown into the first great forests. Following them to the surface were many types of arthropods (which would become the scorpions, spiders and insects we have in abundance today). They were the first animals to walk the earth, and the first animals to breathe air. Plants and insects have been together on the surface for the last 400 million years, and they have achieved a robust symbiosis of their own.
The armored fish had entered the rivers after the arthropods (which thrive in the fresh water), but fresh water does not hold as much calcium as ocean water, and the armored fish could no longer maintain their armor, so they got rid of it. The skull is all that remains of the armor plating, the rest became flesh and bone. Plus, once fish had achieved dominance, speed became more important than protection.
There are two major types of fish. The ray-fins have fins with a fan of delicate bones, while the lobed-fins have fins made from stronger digits. Both still thrive in rivers today. The ray-finned fish exploded back into the ocean where they and the sharks would dominate for the next 150 million years. The lobed-finned fish grew to great sizes, and then exploded on to the earth, as they were the first vertebrates to develop air-breathing lungs (lung-fish). Although they are not as prevalent today, lobed-finned fish are related to all land vertebrates.
By the end of the Devonian, the first amphibians appear in the fossil record. Amphibians, like frogs and salamanders, start out fish-like (breathing water right out of the egg), but they soon develop lungs and four limbs for land living. Although they are able to breathe air and walk on land, they can never be too far from water. The development of one individual amphibian shows the story of our early evolution, as you can see it go from a fish to a lung fish to a tetrapod (or land-dwelling vertebrate with four limbs). All future land vertebrates would inherit the four limbs with five digits each, as well as air-breathing lungs, from the amphibians.
The Carboniferous period was long and lush. It is also well-documented, since this is the period where the great coal beds (which have been instrumental to human industrialization) were formed. They were created by plants growing in such abundance that they grew over each other in an explosion of life on land. Plants were just learning how to survive on land, and oxygen levels were high (so the danger from fire was enormous). The continents were coming together again, and they were mostly in the tropics, so life was extremely robust.
The arthropods dominated the landscape during the Early Carboniferous. They were both predator and prey with giant-sized scorpions, spiders, centipedes and cockroaches. About halfway through the period, giant dragonflies took to air and also challenged for top predator. By the end of the Carboniferous, true insects began to fly as well. The dominance of the arthropods was challenged by the amphibians, and the insects may have won except that their exoskeleton limits their size. They can only grow so large before their shell collapses. The amphibians were not so limited, so all they had to do was simply outgrow the insects. The Late Carboniferous was dominated by crocodile-sized amphibians.
The Permian period started out with life in abundance, but that would change, as it slowly declined and then almost vanished some 50 million years later. Giant amphibians still hunted the water, but the Permian was dominated by reptiles, which had evolved from amphibians in the Late Carboniferous. Reptiles were the first true land vertebrate.
The pelycosaurs were the first dominant reptiles. They were also the first of the mammal-like reptiles, as they were reptiles, but they were mammal-like in their specialized teeth and the single temple (all other reptiles have two temples). The four meter long, sailed-back dimetrodon was the top predator of the Early Permian, but the pelycosaurs were replaced by the more mammal-like therapsids about halfway through the period. The therapsids had larger bodies supported by four strong limbs. There were herds of herbivores, as well as large carnivores. †Some had hair. They were even good parents. Unfortunately, they peaked at the wrong time.
The Paleozoic era ended around 250 million years ago with a great catastrophe known as the Permian Extinction. Many types of animals and plants became extinct, as Siberia collided with Laurasia. It caused a massive vulcan age to begin, which warmed the planet to an almost unlivable degree, and then that warmth released the methane stored in the sea floor. Methane, being a greenhouse gas, warmed the planet even more. The heat and poisonous air lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, and when it was over 95% of all species were gone.
The Mesozoic era began with the Triassic period. Pangaea came together to form one giant land mass which stretched from pole to pole. The conditions started out as hot, arid and dry, but that would change to lush vegetation as the hardy conifer trees and ferns began to flourish. Not all life was wiped-out by the Permian Extinction, so the survivors had to start over again. The Triassic began much the same as the Permian began, with a competition amongst reptiles for dominance, as most of the once dominant mammal-like reptiles were gone (and only the burrowing proto-mammals would survive past the Triassic).
The Triassic rivers were once again dominated by giant amphibians, but they would be replaced by crocodiles by the end of the period. Relatives of the crocodiles would branch out into every environment, as some took to the sea, some took to the air, and some became the infamous dinosaurs. The top predator of the Triassic was the thecodont, a dinosaur-like land-crocodile six meters long, but they were gone by the end of the period.
In the oceans, ichthyosaurs were air-breathing marine reptiles which somewhat resemble dolphins. They have even left fossil records of live births. The plesiosaurs were a long-necked, seal-like reptile, which split into the long-necked, small-headed fish-eaters (plesiosaurs) and the short-necked, large-headed carnivores (pliosaurs). The Triassic also saw the first vertebrates to take to the air. Pterosaurs may have started out as small winged insectivores, but they would also succeed as giant aerial fishers. All of the above creatures are mistakenly called dinosaurs, but they are really only distant cousins.
The true dinosaurs have the bodies of crocodiles but move like birds. They were mostly warm-blooded, so they could grow enormous and maintain a certain temperature. Dinosaurs are split into three different types. The first distinction is between the ones with a bird hip bone and the ones with a lizard hip bone. The bird hip dinosaurs would become the duck-billed, shielded and armored herbivores, but in the Triassic they were small, like the bipedal fabrosaurs. The lizard hip dinosaurs split into two very different types: the theropods were the bipedal carnosaurs, and the sauropods were the giant brontosaurs. During the Triassic, the carnosaurs were small (like the two meter long coelophysis), but the sauropods had grown quite large by the end of the period, like the six meter long bipedal plateosaurus. The dinosaurs would dominate the land for the next 160 million years.
The Jurassic period began after another great extinction, which left the dinosaurs in command. The catastrophe was caused by a small asteroid breaking-up and smashing into Terra. The Pangaea supercontinent was also breaking up, creating new inland seas. The Jurassic was the most prolific period in our planetís history, with fantastic redwood forests and sweeping fern plains, as well as herds of giant brontosaurs, brachiosaurs and plated stegosaurs being stalked by allosaurs (12 meter long carnosaurs with teeth like daggers).
The tropical Jurassic oceans teamed with life, as they were full of sea monsters like pliosaurs, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and sea crocodiles, as well as many types of fish and sharks. The top marine predator was liopleurodon, a pliosaur which grew up to 14 meters long and terrorized the Tethys Sea.
Many types of flying pterosaurs filled the Jurassic air, from small insectivore rhamphorhynchus living on the backs of brontosaurs to the tailless predatory pterodactyls. The Jurassic was also where proto-birds, like archaeopteryx, began to split from small feathered dinosaurs. The proto-mammals survived by being nocturnal burrowers.
The Cretaceous period carried on the same themes as the Jurassic, with the breaking-up of the Pangaea super-continent, and the dominance of the dinosaurs. The brontosaurs were still around, but their habitat was dwindling as conifers and ferns were being replaced by deciduous plants with fruit and flowers. Herds of bird-hipped dinosaurs roamed the Cretaceous, like the duck-billed iguanodons, shielded triceratops and armored anklyosaurus. They were preyed upon by the great Tyrannosaurus rex and by packs of vicious velociraptors.
In the Cretaceous oceans, the plesiosaurs still dominated along with the ichthyosaurs. In the skies, the pterosaurs grew into the largest flying creatures ever (like pteranodon and quetzalcoatlus), but they were completely replaced by birds by the end of the period. True mammals first appeared, as well as many common types of hive insects (such as ants, termites and bees).
The Mesozoic era ended when an asteroid hit the planet around 65 million years ago. In geology, it is known as the K-T Event, and it blasted all of the dinosaurs and dinosaur-like creatures into extinction. The asteroid was the size of a mountain (10 km in diameter). The 180 km wide impact crater can still be seen in the Yucatan Peninsula and in the Gulf of Mexico. The force of the impact caused a super-volcano to erupt on the opposite side of the globe (the Shiva Crater in India), as well as a global fire-storm and a super-tsunami. The impact also left a thin layer of iridium around the globe (iridium is rare here, but common in meteorites). The Cretaceous Extinction was not as bad as the Permian Extinction, but still around 65% of all species went extinct.
The Cenozoic era is the most recent era as we are still in it. It is the top most layer, and the one we know the most about. Although it has been broken-up into many different configurations, there has been no real change since the Cretaceous Extinction, so the era and the period have been the same for last 65 million years. For lack of a better name, geologists call it the Tertiary period.
The Cenozoic began the same as the Mesozoic, with the planet trying to recover from a major catastrophe. The dinosaurs were gone, and the conifers and ferns had been replaced by flowering deciduous plants. The Tertiary period, like the Triassic, began with a competition for dominance, not amongst reptiles, but between birds and mammals.
Birds were all that remained of the dinosaurs. They had split from feathered raptor-like dinosaurs around the middle of the Jurassic. By the end of the Cretaceous, birds had completely replaced the pterosaurs in the skies. Like mammals, birds are very different from their reptilian ancestors, and they most-likely survived the catastrophe by eating insects and fruit (dinosaurs did not). Although birds kept dominance of the skies, mammals were more adept to the land.
During the reign of the dinosaurs, the role of mammals was insignificant, but they were all that remained of the mammal-like reptiles which dominated the Permian. A great catastrophe had dragged them down, now another catastrophe found them ready to compete. They no longer resembled reptiles. They were warm-blooded, covered in fur, intelligent and they no longer had to lay eggs in nests. The mothers also had milk glands to nourish the babies without putting them in danger.
There are three types of mammals which have survived to this day. Monotremes are egg-laying mammals, like the platypus. Marsupials give birth to a premature fetus which must move to the belly-pouch to suckle until it has matured, like the American opossum and the Australian kangaroo. True mammals, like humans, give birth to fully developed young.
The Early Tertiary began with mammals and birds competing for dominance with mammals winning-out. Strange and bizarre mammals dominated the Early Tertiary, as giant titanotheres and brontotheres were preyed upon by ferocious creodonts and the carnivorous hooved miacids, but they were all replaced by the more familiar mammals we know today after a time of extinctions around 34 million years ago.
The Late Tertiary began with primitive forms of elephants, rhinoceros, horses, camels, deer, whales, rodents, shrews, bats, primates and our familiar carnivores. Rhinos and camels were quite successful at first, branching out into many various niches, but they were replaced by horses, elephants, pigs, deer, antelope and cattle. On the land, grass thrived for the first time since appearing in the Late Cretaceous; while in the seas, whales grew into the largest animals to ever live (and they were hunted by the largest sharks to ever live).
For the last 6.5 million years, the Tertiary has seen periodic ice ages followed by warmings. This glacial time is sometimes called the Quaternary period (or the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs), but apart from the cooling, nothing has changed for 34 million years. The ice ages have produced many megabeasts like mastodons and mammoths, giant ground sloths, and monsters like cave bears and the saber-tooth cats. The ice ages have also been getting more frequent, as well as more intense.
The last million years has seen the rise of a single species of hominids to complete dominance of the planet. The hominids began in East Africa around eight million years ago. By 2.75 million years ago, they were crafting stone tools. By one million years ago, Homo erectus had become the only hominid species, and had spread throughout Africa. By 500,000 years ago, they had spread throughout the eastern hemisphere.
Homo sapiens, an ancestor of erectus, appeared around 275,000 years ago. By 35,000 years ago, they were the only hominid species. By 15,000 years ago, they had spread throughout the world. By 10,000 years ago, they had mastered agriculture and animal domestication. By 5,000 years ago, humans had built the first civilizations (and the rest is history).
The Tertiary period seems to be coming to an end, as there has been a rash of extinctions hitting the planet recently. The first was the megabeast extinction around 12,000 years ago. Then there are the recent extinctions caused by human over-population. The Human Extinctions will only get worse, and then the Tertiary period will come to an end. What comes after depends on what survives. The next period of the Cenozoic era could see packs of carnivorous rats hunting herds of elephant-sized rabbits. Whatever is to come, there will be many more periods and eras as life continues to evolve on this planet. Life should be able to thrive on Terra for another billion years or so (unless an unforeseen catastrophe happens first).
Around one billion years from now, the Sun will start to swell as it runs out of fuel. The energy will be too much for the magnetosphere to hold-back and the planet will be cooked alive.† The Sun will eventually swell up large enough to swallow Mercury and Venus, but it will most-likely miss Terra (which will have become a burnt cinder). The Sun will then shrink as it cools, until it finally goes cold and dark, and dies about five billion years from now. Around the same time, the Andromeda galaxy is expected to collide with the Milky Way, and the corpse of our solar system will most-likely be flung into deep space.
The galaxies will continue to cool, as our white-bulge orange-rimmed galaxies become orange-bulge brown-rimmed galaxies, which will be replaced by brown-bulge dark-rimmed galaxies, until they all go dark. The universe will continue to accelerate as the anti-gravity force continues to grow. The super-massive black holes will continue to annihilate matter until there is no matter left. When there is no more matter, the collapse of time (which began with the repulsion of gravity and anti-gravity, inflation and the Big Bang) will be completed, and the cosmos will cease to exist. Then there will truly be nothing, again.