It is sometimes said that if the history of the earth were condensed to one year, it’d be one hour til Auld Lang Syne before Neanderthals show up. At 23:58 and 43 seconds, the birth and death of Christ. Creationists used to date the earth and therefore the universe at about 6,000 to 10,000 years. In 1779, Comte du Buffon estimated it was in fact 75,000 years old. In 1862, Lord Kelvin assumed the earth began as a completely molten object and estimated its age at between 20 to 400 million years.
Scientists now understand the Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old and the universe a whopping 14 billion. If these figures cannot be taken as estimates of widespread perceptions at any one time, they nevertheless help articulate some change in perspective over the past few hundred years. Contemporary science points to a universe over 13,000,000,000 years older than European people believed 400 years ago – nanoseconds before midnight. For auld lang syne, my jo,/ for auld lang syne,/ we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,/ for auld lang syne.