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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Artistic geologic time scale spans Earth’s massive life

Artistic geologic time scale spans Earth’s massive life

By Gary Collins/ne news editor

p3-aSince the beginning of time, humans have gazed up at the stars and wondered … when did the earth begin? How old is it?

Now students can scan the first floor ceiling of the NE Campus Science East Building and get an idea of the massive time span of the earth’s geologic history: from the Hadean, when the earth was a molten mass of goo and lava, to the Quaternary, when the modern humans are said to have made their first appearance.

The 104-foot plywood structure was the brainchild of NE geology professor Clair Ossian and his wife Eleanor.

“ My wife and I were talking about it together … so it’s a joint effort,” he said. “It was about a year ago when we first thought of [the time scale].”

Then the Ossians asked Dr. Larry Darlage, NE Campus president, and Gary Smith, acting dean of the science and technology division, if they could do it.

“ They both said yes, and we got really enthusiastic about it,” Clair Ossian, said.

The Process

The Ossians wasted no time starting the time line. With the artistic skills of Eleanor Ossian, they began work in the spring semester and worked on and off throughout the summer until it was finished.

“ For Eleanor, it was entirely a labor of love. She’s getting no money for it, and she’s just doing it because she wanted to,” Clair Ossian, said. “It was a challenge for her; it’s the biggest thing she has ever done.”

But Eleanor Ossian did not mind spending hours painting because she said painting is her hobby and her profession.

“ I very much like doing things with a purpose,” she said.

The construction and painting of the time scale took close to 150 hours to complete including touch up spots. Eleanor Ossian spent much of her time on a ladder painting the ceiling.

“ It’s like she was Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and I’m Pope Gregory saying, ‘Hurry up! Aren’t you finished yet?’” Clair Ossian said.

The time line consists of 13 individual plywood sections, hand-painted by Eleanor Ossian and then hung from the ceiling. Because the ceiling tiles could not hold the plywood, a supporting structure was built above and below the ceiling, and the plywood was nailed into that.

Time Scale Representation

The Earth is estimated to be between 4.6 and 4.8 billion years old. Because geologic time deals with billions of years, people often cannot comprehend such large periods of time.

“ So what we did was make it so you can actually conceive the real span of time,” Clair Ossian, said. “So many millimeters will be so many years, so what we did was spread it out in proportions.”

Clair Ossian said 80 percent of all geologic time was before animals evolved and modern humans are only in the last 2-4 million years.

The Ossians donated the completed structure to TCC

The time scale is built to the following proportions:
130 inches = 500,000,000 years
26 inches = 100,000,000 years
13 inches = 50,000,000 years
2.6 inches = 10,000,000 years
0.26 inches = 1,000,000 years

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