Back to


World Facts

(About The Universe & the History Human Activity on Earth)

James Neill
Last updated:
02 Dec 2005

World Facts

Cosmologists think that...

  • the universe began 13.7 billion years ago (i.e., 1,370 million years ago)
  • the contents of the universe include
    • 4% atoms (ordinary matter)
    • 23% of an unknown type of dark matter, and
    • 73% of a mysterious dark energy
  • our solar system was formed about 5 billion years ago
  • the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago

Paleontologists think that...

  • invertebrate life began on earth about 600 million years ago
  • fish evolved about 300 million years ago
  • amphibians evolved about 150 million years ago
  • reptiles evolved about 120 million years ago
  • dinosaurs evolved about 80 million years ago
  • bipedal hominids began appearing about 6 million years ago
  • australopithicus afarensis appeared about 3.5 million years ago
  • australopithicus africanis appeared about 2.5 million years ago
  • australopithicus robustus appeared about 1.5 million years ago
  • neanderthals appeared about 300k years ago
  • homo habilis appeared about 200k years ago
  • tools began to be used about 180k years ago
  • fire began to be used about 150k years ago
  • homo erectus appeared about 130k years ago
  • homo sapiens (humans) emerged as the only hominid survivors through a series of glacial epochs (ice ages) during the last 70k years
  • humans began to use clothing about 70k years ago
  • the first words were spoken by humans about 40k years ago
  • cave paintings have been identified from about 30k years ago
  • civilizations began to be formed about 11k years ago, after the last glacial epoch (ice age)
  • agriculture began about 11k years ago when most of the large game had been killed
  • between approximately 3.5k and 5k years ago humans clearly deviated from ways of life based on a sustainable partnership with nature
  • writing was invented about 5k years ago
  • pyramids were build about 4.5k years ago
  • the Greek civilization lasted about 2k years, from about 4k years ago to 2k years ago
  • the Roman empire lasted about 500 years ago, from 0 to 500 AD

From modern history we know that...

  • the Renaissance and rise of Western European civilization began about 500 years ago
  • the printing press was invented by Gutenberg in 1455
  • Columbus sailed to the North American continent in 1492
  • Australia was discovered by the Dutch in 1606
  • due to human activity, there has been an increase in the numbers of animal species becoming extinct:
    • 1601-1700 AD: 7 species became extinct
    • 1701-1800 AD: 11 species became extinct
    • 1801-1900 AD: 27 species became extinct
    • 1901-1966 AD: 67 species became extinct
  • the industrial revolution occurred during the 19th century, leading to industrialized and non-industrialized human civilizations in different countries
  • in 1896, the telephone was invented
  • in 1964, International Business Machines (IBM) coined the term "word processor">
  • in 1969, computers were first used to communicate synchronously
  • since the mid-1970's, 7 million humans have died of AIDS
  • since 1970 humans have created and stored more information than in the previous 5,000 years

Currently on earth...

  • lightening strikes the earth 100 times a second
  • 3 lb (1.5 kg) of glucose is produced each day by a large rain forest tree
  • lichens grow .0001 inches a day - that's one inch in 100 years
  • enough oil is produced each day by a copaiba tree in the Amazon to fill the gas tanks of 120 cars
  • there are 6.2 billion humans
    • 3 billion humans eat rice as the main ingredient for their meals
    • 1.2 billion humans lack safe drinking water
    • 1.2 billion letters are written each day
    • 150 million searches are conducted on Google each day
    • 40 million humans are HIV positive; 5 million of them are in Africa
    • 30 million humans are blind
    • 15 million Indians see a movie each day
    • 8 million Americans have cancer; 500,000 of them die each year
    • 7 million new documents are added to the web each day
    • 3 million humans cross international borders each day
    • 3 million humans camp each under canvas in France each day
    • 1.3 million humans work each day in the armed forces of the Russian Federation
    • 1 million phone calls are made each day by humans working in the Pentagon, Washington DC, USA
    • 450k humans play golf each day (k = 1000)
    • 250k humans are currently in an airplane
    • 220k humans are born each day; 150,000 die each day
      • 47,000 humans are born in India each day;
      • 32,000 humans are born in China each day;
      • 7,000 humans are born in the USA each day.
    • 170k humans visit national parks in America each day
    • 170k humans enter France each day (#1 international destination)
    • 140k new cars are made every day
      • If all the cars and commercial vehicles were lined up, they would reach to the moon and back 3 times.
    • 100k washing machines are made each day
    • 60k humans work as taxi drivers in Mexico City each day
    • 42k humans visit Disneyland in Japan each day
    • 11k bunches of flowers are purchased each day in the United Kingdom
    • 2k humans visit Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, each day.
    • 1k books are published per day
    • 100 Americans commit suicide each day
    • 40 computer viruses are written and distributed each day

A list of what has changed in the last 150 years...

  • Information/Knowledge
    • information overload
    • knowledge about other countries
    • level of literacy and numeracy
    • widespread access to information
  • Medical/Health
    • availability of abortion
    • contraception
    • disease
    • genetic engineering
    • invitro fertilisation
    • medical technology
    • prolonged life expectancies
    • public health
  • Lifestyle
    • disposable products
    • flushing toilets
    • mass media
    • sedentary lifestyles
    • running water
    • telephone / fax
    • television
    • movies
    • processed foods
    • sport
  • Power/Money
    • divide between developed and developing countries
    • corporate power
    • economic rationalism
    • rise of democratic, capitalist societies
    • international organisations, e.g., United Nations
    • marketing
  • Social/Psychological
    • divorce
    • environmental awareness
    • fear of the future
    • feminism
    • pornography
    • unemployment
  • Spirituality/Religion
    • new age spirituality
    • lessened role of religion
    • faith in religion usurped by belief in science
  • Technology
    • computers
    • nuclear bomb
    • digital technology
    • electricity
    • internet
    • mechanised farming
    • mining
    • petrol/oil
    • photography
    • plastic
    • realisation of earth's finite resources
    • satellite technology
    • space flight
    • warfare technology
  • Transport/Travel
    • motor vehicles
    • possibility of living on other planets
    • powered flight
    • age of sail gave way to age of steam

In the United States of America 100 Years Ago (1900 AD)...

  • the average life expectancy was 47 years
  • water usage per person was one sixth of current usage
    • 14% of the homes had a bathtub
    • most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo
  • 8% of homes had a telephone
  • there were 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved road
  • the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • 95% of births took place at home.
  • 30 people lived in Las Vegas
  • 6 percent of Americans had graduated from high school

Social Indicators

War & conflict

  • The Lancet estimates 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since March 2003 (out of  24-25 million Iraqis).
  • (Roberts, et al, 2004)

  • UNICEF estimates there were 500,000 excess child Iraqi deaths since the Gulf War due to the food-for-oil sanctions.

    (Kelly, 2004)

  • This is an excess mortality rate of at least 2.5% (1 in 40) in Iraq over the last decade and would correspond to about 6 million excess Americans deaths in the same period out of ~300 million Americans).
  • over 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 3 months in 1994 in the largest act of genocide since World War II
  • (Kelly, 2004, UNICEF)

  • ~100,000 Iraqis have been killed since March 2003(out of  24-25 million).
  • (Roberts, et al, 2004, Lancet)