One summer day, when I was minding my 12 year old nephew, he asked me:
“Hey, Uncle Dave, how old is the universe and how did it all start?”
“What’s with you, Tom, you’re on summer holiday and you still want to learn?”
“Yes Uncle Dave, it would be fun and I know you’ve done some study on the subject.”
I knew the kid was curious but not this curious to want to learn on holiday!
“Well, Tom, if you want to learn lets do it. I’ll tell you what I know.”
Tom sat looking at me wide-eyed.
“In the beginning there was a “dot” of compressed infinite energy. This “dot” was very heavy, dense and hot and when the pressure built up from the energy inside it, it burst!
That explosion was the “Big Bang”, which happened 13.7 billion years ago. Bits of matter spread over billions of miles which is probably still expanding.”
“Wow! Uncle Dave! But how did scientists know it happened 13.7 billion years ago? We weren’t around then!”
“Of course we weren’t. With our modern telescopes scientists can calculate the speed at which galaxies are spreading outward. From this data they project backwards and work out when these objects were all in one place.”
“Oh boy, Uncle Dave! What happened next?”
This kid was going to wear me out!
“From the blast of energy a force of gravity was created, a kind of glue that makes matter want to stick together. Gravity made the hot fiery stars group together into clusters called galaxies. Our galaxy is the “Milky Way”. Gas and dust clouds formed our “Sun” from burnt out stars, 4.6 billion years ago.”
“What about the first life?” Tom was getting demanding now!
I went and got myself a glass of water, my mouth was dry from talking.
After a long gulp, I continued:
“Well Tom, the first life were single celled creatures, these merged to form more complex forms of life which multiplied in the sea. Sea creatures came on land and started reproducing enormous lizards called dinosaurs and they ruled the land until a meteor wiped them out!”
“This is exciting, Uncle Dave, what happened next?”
“Well, the meteor hit about 65 million years ago and many life forms became extinct. The ones that survived evolved into different types of mammals, bears, monkeys, apes, etc. In the sea there were whales, walruses and seals. It was the period called Eocene, meaning the “new dawn”. This period was from 56 to 34 million years ago.”
“What about us, Uncle Dave, when did we start?”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, the apes came down from the trees and learned to walk on two feet. We are supposed to be closely related to the chimpanzee. The earliest ape to walk on two feet was probably about 3 million years ago.”
“Oh, Uncle Dave, the planet of the apes!”
This kid was a million laughs!
“Homo Erectus had great advantages over the animals in the wild, their hands, brains and the control of fire made them the boss.
Fire scared away the large animals plus, about 70,000 years ago, the cave men figured out that food heated over a fire released more energy and tasted better than raw meat. They made fire by hitting stones together to get a spark.”
“Did they talk, Uncle Dave?”
“The first communication was sign language and grunts.”
“When did they come over by us?”
“Well, they started moving from Africa about 50,000 years ago to Europe and beyond. They were the “Homo Sapiens”, the hunter gatherers.”
A knock on the door revealed Tom’s parents.
“Oh, Uncle Dave, this is so interesting I don’t want to stop!”
“Come on, Tom, your uncle is tired,” said the mother.
“When I see you again, Uncle Dave, I want to talk about human civilizations.”
“So long Tom,” I said, exhausted.
My Thought For The Day:
The advantage of studying history is that it keeps you from feeling too important!
Also published on Medium.
I have always been fascinated by origins. The origin of the universe. The origin of humans. The origin of Superman.
Yes, all these things I want to learn. You, Dave, have become my teacher. I will sit at your feet and learn all that is available to learn. I will remain your grasshopper as long as I can.
Take care and may the force be with you.
When did you acquire such a great sense of humour? I don’t remember you
having one as a kid!
I enjoyed this piece Dave, keep them coming Carlene
Great story, teaching kids about history interesting subject.