Middle Earth Time: Comparing the Age of the Earth to the Lord of the Rings Movies

What if we were to compare Earth’s historical time to Middle Earth’s movie runtime? If we were to compare these two and put them side by side, at what point in the movie would you be during the KPG extinction (the event that killed off most of the dinosaurs)? Think of this like Carl Sagan’s cosmic calendar. Except instead of a calendar, it is all the Lord of the Rings movies, and instead of the history of the whole universe, it is just the history of the Earth.

So to start out, we need to know how long both are in order to create a conversion rate. The Earth has been around for 4.6 billion years (4,600,000,000 years). If we were to put all the movies together and cut out all the end credits, the movies run for 10 hours, 26 minutes, and 59 seconds. In seconds, it runs for 37,619 seconds.

(Note: I am using the theatrical version for Fellowship, but extended versions for Two Towers and Return of the King because it is all I could find)

With these numbers, for every second that passes in the movies, 122,278.6355 years pass in Earth time. For every year that passes on Earth time, 8.178043×10-6 seconds pass in the movies. Another way to write this is 0.000008178043 seconds pass.

(The links will take you to Youtube clips of the specific scene I am talking about)

As the Earth has finished forming, our movie begins. The screen is black and about to show the New Line Cinema logo. For several hundred million years the Earth is being bombarded by a shower of meteors. In movie time, the meteor bombardment lasts for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

As the bombardment stops, Elrond is in a private meeting at his home with Gandalf, and says “men? Men are weak.” Time continues on Earth until we get to the formation of the oldest sedimentary rocks we have ever found (3.9 billion years old). At this time in the movie, Bilbo is grabbing Frodo’s hand as he is saddened that the Ring has tempted him again (1 hour and 35 minutes into Fellowship of the Ring). This is right after Bilbo makes the scary face at Frodo.

Fast forward in Earth time to the first eukaryotic cells, and in the movies we are already at the Battle of Helm’s Deep in the Two Towers. The orcs are firing a ballista at the wall (this is shortly after Gimli asks Aragorn to toss him during the battle).

Fast forward even more to the first mammals and dinosaurs on earth, and we are already well over 3 and a half hours of Return of the King! Frodo and Sam are already inside of Mount Doom, and Golem is attacking Frodo as he is invisible and is about to bite his finger off.

By the time of the KPG extinction (when most of the dinosaurs go extinct), the Ring is already destroyed, the hobbits have already gone home, and Frodo is finishing Bilbo’s book with the words “Bilbo’s story is now over. There would be no more journeys for him.”

The first hominids (our earliest ancestors) come in on the scene of Earth time, but Sam is just closing his gate with his family behind him. There is only seconds left in the film. As “The End” enters the screen in movie time, homo sapiens make their first appearance, the earliest know cave art is found, Julius Caesar was killed, China built the Great Wall, World War 2 was fought, and everyone you and I have ever know were born. The screen fades to complete black, and we are now back at current Earth Time.

Here is a graph of all the time stamps and a direct comparison between Earth time and the movie times:

lotr-time-graph

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Earth: A New Hope (Geologic Time to Star Wars)

Geologic time is vast, and the Earth is incredibly old. So old that understanding its scale can be hard to fathom. In order to understand its longevity, we will be looking back a long time ago in a galaxy far far away to Star Wars: A New Hope.

The origin of our Earth is 4.6 billion years ago in which a black screen envelops our movie screen to be shifted to a 20th Century Fox logo blaring loud trumpets. For 600 million years our world was bombarded by space junk, dust, and meteorites. By the time this bombardment is over in the context of A New Hope, Storm Troopers are combing the deserts of Tatooine and one brazenly yells “look sir droids!” Fast forward to a scene in the Millennium Falcon, and Han Solo is scolding Luke Skywalker with his famous line “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match to a good blaster at your side, kid.” About a minute before this line is said, our Earth is undergoing its first tectonic activity.

Finally, we reach some of our first life on earth, which are eukaryotic cells about 2 billion years ago, and we are already over half way through the movie when imperial troops are boarding the Millennium Falcon on board the Death Star. By the time the first amphibians and insects show up on the stage of earth, the Rebel alliance is already halfway through their attack of the Death Star and Darth Vader is arriving in his specialized Tie Advanced with two Tie Fighters on both his sides. As the battle continues, dinosaurs and mammals make their entrance onto Earth, but the first flowers make their appearance right as Luke’s X-Wing missiles enter the Death Star’s exhaust port. The extinction of the dinosaurs happens right as the last scene of the movie, the award ceremony, begins.

The direct ancestors of humans arrive, but the movie is minutes to being over, as Chewbacca makes his first roar of the awards ceremony. Humans arrive at his second roar about 10 seconds later (millions of years in Earth time). As the final circular fade out of the movie happens, the earliest cave art known is found, the Neanderthals go extinct, Mount Vesuvius buries Pompeii, and everyone you have every known was born.

The credits roll.

To put this into quick perspective, the dinosaurs go extinct right as the Youtube video below begins. Everything you ever learned in history class happens right after Chewbaca’s second roar, seconds before the movie ends.

Below are the exact times things happen:

Geologic Time Real Event Movie Time
4.6 Ga Origin of Earth and the Solar System 0:00:00
4.0 Ga End of heavy meteorite bombardment; oldest surviving rocks 0:15:38
3.9 Ga Oldest sedimentary rocks; first possible geochemical evidence of life 0:18:17
3.5 Ga First likely microbial structures 0:28:45
2.7 Ga Biomarkers of blue green “algae” (cyanobacteria) & of eukaryotes 0:49:40
2.3-2.2 Ga First global tectonic activity 1:00:07- 1:02:44
2.0 Ga First eukaryotic cells, first oxidized soils; significant oxygen in atmosphere 1:07:57
750-600 Ma Widespread glaciation, oxygen rises to 100% of present level 1:40:38-1:44:33
600 Ma First fossil metazoans (multicellular animals) 1:44:33
543 Ma First multicellular animals with skeletons & modern metazoan phyla 1:46:02
500 Ma First vertebrates 1:47:10
440 Ma First multicellular land plants 1:48:44
370 Ma First amphibians & insects 1:50:34
345 Ma First amniotes (vertebrates with water tight eggs) 1:51:13
250 Ma Permo Triassic Mass extinction (over 90% of species lost) 1:53:42
220 Ma First mammals & dinosaurs 1:54:29
120 Ma First flowering plants (angiosperms) 1:57:06
66 Ma Cretaceous -Tertiary mass extinction followed by rapid diversification of mammals 1:58:31
4-7 Ma First hominids 2:00:03
100 Ka Homo sapiens first appears in rock record 2:00:13.84
50 Ka earliest cave art 2:00:13.92
45-30 Ka Extinction of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) 2:00:13.93-2:00:13.95
12 Ka Mass extinction of large terrestrial mammals, possibly caused by humans 2:00:13.98
79 CE Mount Vesuvius erupts burying Pompeii 2:00:13.9999
1816 CE “The Year without a Summer” (part of the Little Ice Age) 2:00:13.999999
1995 CE My birthyear 2:00:13.9999999999999

 

Movie Time Movie Event
0:00:00 Black screen fades to 20th Century Fox Logo
0:15:38 Storm Troopers are looking for the missing escape pod in the desert and a Storm Trooper says “Look sir! Droids!”
0:18:17 Uncle Owen just bought C-3PO from the Jawas and says “take these two to the garage”
0:28:45 R-2 has just alerted Luke and C-3PO of the Sand People in the area and they are looking at their Banthas
0:49:40 Storm Troopers walked into the cantina at Mos Eisley, and come check out Han and Chewie’s table
1:00:07- 1:02:44 R-2 kills one of Chewbaca’s pieces in the Dejarik game; “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match to a good blaster at your side, kid”; Obi Wan gives Luke a helmate with a blast shield
1:07:57 Two imperial workers board the Millenium Falcon with a crate
1:40:38-1:44:33 A rebel engineer is describing how a precise hit to an exhaust port will destroy the Death Star; “I use to bullseye wamprats!”; Rebel pilots take off for mission against the Death Star
1:44:33 Luke’s X-wing is taking off for mission against Death Star
1:46:02 “Cut the Chatter Red 2” X-wings in attack formation approaching Death Star
1:47:10 X-wings are being scattered by turret fighter; “Watch yourselves!”
1:48:44 Tie fighter outflanks Luke’s X-wing and gets right behind him
1:50:34 Darth Vader arrives with two other Tie fighters to the Death Star Trench
1:51:13 Imperial officer asks Grand Moff Tarkin if he would like to evacuate the Death Star
1:53:42 “Luke at that speed will you be able to pull out in time!?”
1:54:29 Darth Vader is .3 units away from Rebel pilots; “Fighter coming in .3!”
1:57:06 Luke’s missiles enter the exhaust port on the Death Star
1:58:31 Wide shot of the forest on Yavin IV and trumpets playing in the background
2:00:03 Chewbaca roars for the first time at the award ceremony
2:00:13.84 Chewbaca roars at the award ceremony for the second and last time
2:00:13.92 The circular fade out appears at the edges of the screen
2:00:13.93-2:00:13.95 Fade out reaches half-way through the screen
2:00:13.98 Fade out encompasses the screen and George Lucas’ end credit fades in slowly
2:00:13.9999 Screen is full of stars and George Lucas’ name is fully on the screen
2:00:13.999999 Screen is still full of stars and George Luca’s name is fully on the screen
2:00:13.9999999999999 Absolutely no changes