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Home » Dave’s DiegesesMay 2006 » Dave’s Diegesis: Age Against the Machine

Dave’s Diegesis: Age Against the Machine

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
Albert Einstein

Since I’ve retired from baseball (and I haven’t heard from NESN in eons), and had time to reflect on life, the universe, and everything, I am often struck catatonic with deep thought. I find my mind often dwells on the constructs that humans make to divide time in digestible bites--seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. Our paltry lifespan is dwarfed by geologic time, however. Most people know about the Jurassic period thanks to the movie, but do they know that the Jurassic was just an eye blink of time in our earth’s history, a mere 55 million years (give or take five to ten million years) of time in the 4.5 billion years earth has been extant.

In fact, the Jurassic is just one of three periods in the Mesozoic Era, which began 251 million years ago and ended 65 million years ago. The Mesozoic is an era within the Phanerozoic Eon, which spanned 545 million years. Since we cannot conceive of time on such a scale, I will equate different periods of time with Julio Franco’s life span, which, while vast, is hopefully not beyond the grasp of the average human.


Since time is on my side, I’d like to take the readers on a whirlwind tour of geologic time. This week, we’ll commence with the eons; each week, we’ll explore the highlights of each period of time.

The first eon is the Hadean, named appropriately enough after the Greek underworld. But in actuality, this is not a recognized geological time frame because there were no rocks except meteorites. This eon also has no official name; previously, it was also known as the Azoic (“without life”). The Solar System was in its infancy, with no planets to speak of, just debris which began to coalesce due to gravity into ever-larger bodies that would become planets. The creation of the earth’s crust started with the cooling of the earth in this eon. Around about this time, Julio Franco’s parents met.

In the following eon, the Archean, earth had an atmosphere of primarily of methane and ammonia. Under a sun that was a third dimmer than today’s sun, creative forces were astir. Seventy per cent of the continents’ mass formed within this eon, built upon the stable masses of the earth’s crust, which are called cratons. Life first appeared on the planet in the form of stromatolites, which are colonies of photosynthetic, prokaryotic cyanobacteria. Those weren’t the only things that had their first stirrings; Franco’s parents had their first kiss, which lasted a million years. It could have been longer, but Franco’s mom was worried about being caught.

The Proterozoic eon found life in greater abundance. The earth had enough oxygen to sustain aerobic, simple, multi-cellular life, known as eukaryotes. Eukaryotes differed from prokaryotes because they had discrete membranes for their nuclei and organelles and reproduced sexually. There is evidence that eukaryotes did not spontaneously generate their organelles but rather they were incorporated through endosymbiosis. Prokaryotes became the building blocks for eukaryotic cell organs by being subsumed and integrated into the eukaryote’s cell systems. Rife with similar promise for the future, Franco’s parents got married.

Much like Julio Franco, the Phanerozoic is still happening. This eon has its etymological origins from the Greek word for visible (φανερος), since life was no longer merely microscopic. At the beginning of the eon, Franco’s parents had a bouncing bundle of joy the christened Julio. Likewise, the earth gave birth to complex animals and plants.

Next week, we’ll into the details by exploring the eras of geologic time.

Every Friday, Dave McCarty will join us to discuss a topic of interest to him and probably no one else but the author of this site.


"Eukaryotes differed from prokaryotes because they had discrete membranes for their nuclei and organelles and reproduced sexually."

Is it gettin' hot in here? Because if it is, I might humbly suggest the eukaryotes take off all their clothes. I hear they are in to that, and they will take their clothes off.

When eukaryotes hook up, the exchange cell phone numbers.

How do you identify a sex chromosome?

Pull its genes down.

Ah, that reminds me of the humor of Gary Larson. I miss "The Far Side."

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