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Dr. David Christian, professor of history at San Diego State University, surveys the past at all possible scales, from conventional history, to the much larger scales of biology and geology, to the universal scales of cosmology.


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Dr. David Christian, professor of history at San Diego State University, surveys the past at all possible scales, from conventional history, to the much larger scales of biology and geology, to the universal scales of cosmology.

30 review for Big History: The Big Bang, Life On Earth, And The Rise Of Humanity

  1. 5 out of 5

    TS Chan

    I knew about Prof. David Christian and his Big History course through an article on recommended books by Bill Gates, and it turned out to be a fascinating journey on a much larger magnitude than usual history courses. From physics to chemistry to geology, biology and human history (within which there are also paleontology, archaeology, anthropology) - all these disciplines have one thing in common. They are all based on evidence and proof, which make them all scientific disciplines. Big history I knew about Prof. David Christian and his Big History course through an article on recommended books by Bill Gates, and it turned out to be a fascinating journey on a much larger magnitude than usual history courses. From physics to chemistry to geology, biology and human history (within which there are also paleontology, archaeology, anthropology) - all these disciplines have one thing in common. They are all based on evidence and proof, which make them all scientific disciplines. Big history is structured into 8 thresholds as follows. Threshold 1: The Universe - Cosmology Threshold 2: The First Stars - Astronomy Threshold 3: The Chemical Elements - Chemistry Threshold 4: The Earth and the Solar System - Geology Threshold 5: Life - Biology Threshold 6: The Paleolithic Era - Human History Threshold 7: The Agrarian Era - Human History Threshold 8: The Modern Era - Human History What the above shows is the sheer scale, particularly on a temporal basis, on what big history aims to cover. It is a remarkable effort in pulling together all these various specialised disciplines into a single narrative, a unifying theme on the idea of increasing complexity. This Great Course on Big History was published 10yrs ago, but I do not think that it matters given the time scale we are dealing with. A more recent book was published titled Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, which will most likely take less time to read (this Great Course is over 24hrs to listen to, with each lecture clocking in around 30min). From David Christian's Big History to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens, there is one common theme that resonated like a clarion throughout the long history of humankind. And that is the devastating impact of human beings on the environment and the biosphere. I can spend hours talking about this, but instead I will just recommend that you read at least one of the books I've mentioned above.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    This was an strange and interesting lecture series. The professor stated up front that he would only deal with the more basic aspects of the evolution of the cosmos, and was true to his word because this series requires no prerequisite knowledge; and yet, he highlighted Eric Chaisson's work, which is not at all basic. That made me laugh a bit. He certainly packaged Chaisson's arguments into very simple digestible terms (it took me a while to get through Chaisson's books and articles), it was jus This was an strange and interesting lecture series. The professor stated up front that he would only deal with the more basic aspects of the evolution of the cosmos, and was true to his word because this series requires no prerequisite knowledge; and yet, he highlighted Eric Chaisson's work, which is not at all basic. That made me laugh a bit. He certainly packaged Chaisson's arguments into very simple digestible terms (it took me a while to get through Chaisson's books and articles), it was just curious that he used Chaisson's work at all. Some highlights: - The formation of stars and their galaxies will surely impart the lesson of "structure is function". Stars are huge and can therefore produce a lot of heat, because they have gravity to help pull elements in and smash those elements together, creating heat. The earth is not as big as the sun and so therefore could never have nuclear fusion occurring in its core because as hot as our core is, it can never be as hot as the core of the massive sun. Jupiter on the other hand is much larger and could have a much hotter core. I cannot remember if he talked about Brown Dwarfs at that point. If not, you should look that up because they are my favorite. They are too little to be a a star and too big to be a planet. - Solar system formation depended on the original nebula that made our sun. He detailed the standard theory of how the sun blew our the elements that made all the planets. If you want a better explanation of this, I suggest reading Exoplanets by Michael Summers and James Trefil who provide the most up to date evidence for solar system and planetary formation. - Really beautiful explanation of not only the origins of life but how single cells cooperate but are not multi celled organisms (some sponges look like multi celled organisms but they are actually a bunch of single celled organisms who group together) as well as the evolution of eukaryotic cells and more complex life. He is very passionate about all of this and makes the lectures that much more enjoyable. - Even better was his discussion of energy capture- how organisms capture energy from the sun. I was a little put off by some points made in the energy discussion. He fell prey to the "humans are special" argument that I think many people take too far, but it was not really a strong argument, so it was tolerable. - Energy capture naturally led to a discussion of agriculture and takes you on a really nice journey of the very first societies and follows societies of humans as they became more and more complex. I listened to this section more than once and learned a lot. He thoughtfully tried to understand how gender disparities arose in these societies. But even more enjoyable was his discussion of how humans were forced into small areas because of how wet or dry the soil around them might have been and if the local village or town had set up a water irrigation system (this was a fantastic discussion, probably my favorite in the series because I had the least amount of knowledge in this area) - He included a really nice and basic primer on Adam Smith and specialization and the spread of competitive markets. I recommend this even for people who already know all of this. It was a great experience to think about the development of 13.8 billion years as a fluid motion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    This is the perfect reference guide for the transcendental non-material Artificial Intelligent machines of the future who want an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". All the steps necessary for making an apple pie are included in this lecture. This lecture is a really profitable way of looking at history. He uses certain themes to tie all of history together. Most of our way of thinking about our place in the univ This is the perfect reference guide for the transcendental non-material Artificial Intelligent machines of the future who want an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". All the steps necessary for making an apple pie are included in this lecture. This lecture is a really profitable way of looking at history. He uses certain themes to tie all of history together. Most of our way of thinking about our place in the universe has started with thinking that the way things are today is the way things have always been. Even Einstein accepted the static universe at one time. the originator of the continental drift was laughed at up till the 1960s, evolution today is denied by a large significant number of people, and so on. All of history can be tied together by many themes, there's a Recursive nature to processes, once an algorithm has been developed it can act on itself and give complexity and create things such as stars, solar systems and mufti-cellular life. From complexity we can get Emergent properties, characteristics that are part of the whole but could not be predicted from the parts. Think of the neurons in our brain. They give us consciousness. So, one can say the sum of the parts is greater than the whole since consciousness transcends individual neurons. The other theme is Entropy, useful energy only arises when there are differences within a system. When everything is the same, no exploitation is possible. This is true in the universe as the whole and true in the development of civilization or in capitalism. The Networking of complex systems make for better galaxies and better civilization. Our true strength as the most complex entities in the universe is our ability to Network and our advancements are based on developing ever better ways of communicating from the invention of symbolic communication (talking), through farming, living in cities and the development of the internet for sharing pictures of our cats. The lecture does a marvelous job at tying all the pieces of making an apple pie (or more properly, developing a great service like Audible) into a coherent whole. The lecture listens more like a book than a series of independent lectures since the lecturer never forgets his central narratives. Most of the audible books and Great Courses I listen to have covered the same topics as this lecture but did so in much more depth. So, therefore, most of this lecture seemed to be a review for me. I didn't mind that, because I need to hear the same thing presented in three different ways before I can fully understand it, and with that warning that this course could be mostly review for most people I can still highly recommend this course since he has such a good way of tying all the pieces together.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    "To understand ourselves," says Professor Christian, "we need to know the very large story, the largest story of all." 48 lectures | 30 minutes each 1 What Is Big History? 2 Moving across Multiple Scales 3 Simplicity and Complexity 4 Evidence and the Nature of Science 5 Threshold 1—Origins of Big Bang Cosmology 6 How Did Everything Begin? 7 Threshold 2—The First Stars and Galaxies 8 Threshold 3—Making Chemical Elements 9 Threshold 4—The Earth and the Solar System 10 The Early Earth—A Short History 11 Plate "To understand ourselves," says Professor Christian, "we need to know the very large story, the largest story of all." 48 lectures | 30 minutes each 1 What Is Big History? 2 Moving across Multiple Scales 3 Simplicity and Complexity 4 Evidence and the Nature of Science 5 Threshold 1—Origins of Big Bang Cosmology 6 How Did Everything Begin? 7 Threshold 2—The First Stars and Galaxies 8 Threshold 3—Making Chemical Elements 9 Threshold 4—The Earth and the Solar System 10 The Early Earth—A Short History 11 Plate Tectonics and the Earth's Geography 12 Threshold 5—Life 13 Darwin and Natural Selection 14 The Evidence for Natural Selection 15 The Origins of Life 16 Life on Earth—Single-celled Organisms 17 Life on Earth—Multi-celled Organisms 18 Hominines 19 Evidence on Hominine Evolution 20 Threshold 6—What Makes Humans Different? 21 Homo sapiens—The First Humans 22 Paleolithic Lifeways 23 Change in the Paleolithic Era 24 Threshold 7—Agriculture 25 The Origins of Agriculture 26 The First Agrarian Societies 27 Power and Its Origins 28 Early Power Structures 29 From Villages to Cities 30 Sumer—The First Agrarian Civilization 31 Agrarian Civilizations in Other Regions 32 The World That Agrarian Civilizations Made 33 Long Trends—Expansion and State Power 34 Long Trends—Rates of Innovation 35 Long Trends—Disease and Malthusian Cycles 36 Comparing the World Zones 37 The Americas in the Later Agrarian Era 38 Threshold 8—The Modern Revolution 39 The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500–1350 40 The Early Modern Cycle, 1350–1700 41 Breakthrough—The Industrial Revolution 42 Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900 43 The 20th Century 44 The World That the Modern Revolution Made 45 Human History and the Biosphere 46 The Next 100 Years 47 The Next Millennium and the Remote Future 48 Big History—Humans in the Cosmos This was such an all compassing history of the world combining history, science, physics, biology and statistics into a huge epic of how we got to where we are now and where are we going from here. Professor Christian taught at San Diego State University and now in Sydney, Australia. He is clear and concise on his explanations and there is so much to cover in this course that I know I will have to listen to it repeatedly. I thoroughly enjoyed the big picture of the science of the creation of the universe and the beginnings of man in such a short time. There were many questions that were answered and many questions that we need to study more. We have so much more to learn about where we came from and where we are going. I highly recommend this lecture series, I certainly learned from it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    Highly recommended! Big History is a photographic mosaic of everything. We typically study physics, geology, anthropology, history, and economics separately; however, Dr. David Christian takes a giant step back so we can see the larger details. Dr. Christian is a charming lecturer, and it is a pleasure to follow him on the fascinating, inspiring, and often horrifying journey that is Big History. Leading up to my graduation as a history student, I felt disappointed. I felt the need for something t Highly recommended! Big History is a photographic mosaic of everything. We typically study physics, geology, anthropology, history, and economics separately; however, Dr. David Christian takes a giant step back so we can see the larger details. Dr. Christian is a charming lecturer, and it is a pleasure to follow him on the fascinating, inspiring, and often horrifying journey that is Big History. Leading up to my graduation as a history student, I felt disappointed. I felt the need for something to tie history together, some sort of message or understanding or anything to connect the many histories together. Dr. Christian's Big History fulfilled my desire and opened a new door to historical and scientific understanding. From the beginning to the present, isn't that what history really is? The typical American historical education teaches a tribal like history and the false notion that over time, everything improves. People war, people suffer, innovation happens, things get better, war again, and so forth. Meanwhile, Big History highlights huge facts our institutions missed: the 2 billion years it took for single cells to transition to multi-celled organisms, the high standard of living in pre-agrarian societies, the peasant lifestyle that 90% of humans endured for thousands of years until the modern revolution, the monopolization of violence by States, and plenty more. Often times dense, I found myself reviewing lectures frequently. It is also disappointing at first when some topics are skipped (dinosaurs, global wars, et cetera). This is however, justified; there's just so much to cover, especially in the beginning. There is a huge sense of reward in the newly granted perspective you will find in the Big Bang, life on Earth, and so forth. I could go on forever about the merits of Dr. Christian's Big History. Do yourself a favor and get started!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Meaney

    Everyone should listen to this course. There's a reason Bill Gates raves about it and is trying to get it taught in schools everywhere. It's that good. Trust me. Everyone should listen to this course. There's a reason Bill Gates raves about it and is trying to get it taught in schools everywhere. It's that good. Trust me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Readmont-Walker

    Strongly recommended. Outstanding overview of...everything.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Big History, Christian says, starts with the beginning of cosmic time. Christian breaks this history into eight thresholds (from the creation of the universe, to the formation of complex objects such as stars and planets, to the creation of life and our species, to the advent of agriculture and the modern era). Big History ties these threshold periods together. Each lays the foundation for the next. At its core, the cosmos is driven by differentials of energy. Our Big Bang cosmic origin (high en Big History, Christian says, starts with the beginning of cosmic time. Christian breaks this history into eight thresholds (from the creation of the universe, to the formation of complex objects such as stars and planets, to the creation of life and our species, to the advent of agriculture and the modern era). Big History ties these threshold periods together. Each lays the foundation for the next. At its core, the cosmos is driven by differentials of energy. Our Big Bang cosmic origin (high energy state) still dissipates energy today as the cosmos continues to expand. Yet pockets of complexity exist within dissipated space, forming galaxies, stars and planetary bodies through gravitational collections of matter. Galaxies and stars form and collapse, seeding the universe with chemicals that form the stuff of life. Live evolves on earth. Hominids and then humans appear. Because of their brains, humans are able to corral cosmic energy and use it for their purposes. In this way, humans emerge as exceptions to the more universal tendency to move from a high energy state to lower energy states. Human history is a progressive concentration of energy as humans move from hunter-gathers to agriculture and from agriculture to the modern era. In the modern era (post 1700), what Christian calls the four world zones (Africa-Eurasia, Australasia, Pacific Islands and the Americas) that were isolated from each other for most of our history become part of a global-wide network. It is here that what Christian calls "collective learning" takes off. The modern era is a sea change in terms of scale and speed of technological development and transformation of our environment. In these lengthy lectures, Christian mentions a few points that warrant highlighting. We shy away from Big History because we have evolved for biological scales. We are not designed for the large scales of cosmic space and time. Christian perhaps does not stress enough the role of emergent properties in Big History where features are not present in the components, but appear only when assembled in specific ways (e.g., hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water). He says that energy and matter are different forms of the same "underlying stuff." This, interestingly, suggests that something underlies energy and matter. While it might be tempting to see a pre-ordained trend to this history, that is not part of Christian's thesis. The earth's orbit is just the right distance from our sun to support the development of an atmosphere and life. Had the asteroid that eliminated the dinosaurs 65-70 million years ago passed the earth a few minutes earlier, mammals may have remained stuck in their burrows or on tree limbs and, with that, human evolution may not have occurred. Chance events made us who we are today and human history makes sense only when set within the larger context of Big History. Seen from the human perspective, our evolution has followed a path toward greater complexity (the concentration and control over the earth's energy). This is Christan's focus as he traces the evolution of "collective learning" that places humans in their special place in this corner of the universe. As he traces this development, his lectures become increasingly a conventional history, particularly regarding the advent of the modern era (post 1700), except that he does discuss our history within the broader ecological context (population cycles and ecological overreach). While Christian discusses how humans have transformed themselves and their environment, he does not indicate those features that have remained constant throughout the development of life. Collective learning serves the species and life urge to survive and the use of power (control over energy) to achieve those objectives. Collective learning is not random or arbitrary, but rests on this biological core. While Christian seems hopeful, whether our minds have the power to check these fundamental biological urges for the good of humankind is a question. In any event, we know that our exception to the general cosmic tendency toward the dissipation of energy comes to an end, individually, through death, and collectively (as with all life) when the sun, our star, dies. A more interesting question that Christian does not address is whether there is a tie between energy differentials seen in the cosmos and the power differentials seen in human relationships and, thus, our essential continuity (rather than our exception) with all of Big History. These lectures are rated highly because of the concept of Big History, and how it forces us to look at human history from a much broader context that has direct relevance to who we are. Christian is also author of "Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh

    I wish we give this subject "big history" a different moniker and make it compulsory for any undergrads of any discipline. Dr Christian's approach to understanding where, how and why we are today is comprehensive, thorough and unique. Most studies on various aspects of our astronomical, physical, chemical, biological, archeological, sociological, geographic or political/economic life tend to miss the big philosophical and historical perspective by being too narrow in their subject focus. The auth I wish we give this subject "big history" a different moniker and make it compulsory for any undergrads of any discipline. Dr Christian's approach to understanding where, how and why we are today is comprehensive, thorough and unique. Most studies on various aspects of our astronomical, physical, chemical, biological, archeological, sociological, geographic or political/economic life tend to miss the big philosophical and historical perspective by being too narrow in their subject focus. The author traverses 13.7bn years of the universal existence until today from the humanity's viewpoint. It is a journey through all the above subject matters in a continuous fashion without ever losing the big existential thread. Effectively, the author builds the causal/historic chain of things/principles/historic developments that otherwise we would learn in different fields without a holistic connection or relevance to where we are now. What is ventured is highly ambitious and the execution is simply superb. Over the next few decades, this subject will likely evolve rapidly. As Dr Christian himself points out, what will be told in Big History will change not only with new facts and studies but also due to the differing interpretations of its exponents. For example, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem offers a course on Coursera on the same subject without calling it Big History. His history of mankind is far lighter on the Big Bang up to the solar system evolution and focuses more on the last 250million years. His reading of the big trends are vastly different from the ones in this book. However, each such course or book - when presented well and with good insights - should prove as one of the best learning experiences for any reader. The only real surprise is why the Big History lectures are far bigger success than they are. The lectures are amazingly lucid and told in a highly engaging manner. The style is like that of a popular non-fiction book than academic. The tales are relevant and interesting. And there is enough humour. The author never drags. Perhaps the packaging is too non-commercial and this is an injustice to anyone who misses out on such an important book as a result.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ljjr

    This is a wonderful book. Really, if I could put 6 stars I definitely would. The only criticism I would make is that it came out around 2007, so some of the most recent science discoveries are not included, but that's a really minor thing that doesn't impact the vast majority of the book. I'd recommend this book to anyone, really. Now I need to find a similar one, updated with recent discoveries. I can definitely see myself reading a book on Big History every year. This is a wonderful book. Really, if I could put 6 stars I definitely would. The only criticism I would make is that it came out around 2007, so some of the most recent science discoveries are not included, but that's a really minor thing that doesn't impact the vast majority of the book. I'd recommend this book to anyone, really. Now I need to find a similar one, updated with recent discoveries. I can definitely see myself reading a book on Big History every year.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Evgeniy Vasilev

    Gives interesting perspective on history.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Sebesta

    Big History is awesome. David Christian takes you from the Big Bang, to the formation of stars, to the development of new chemical elements, to the construction of our planet, to the beginnings and evolution of life, to the emergence of human beings, to the revolution of agriculture, and, finally, the modern revolution. All of this he does with wit, humor, and a clear passion for his subject that shows through in his erudite knowledge. Along the way, he discusses complexity, dealing with differe Big History is awesome. David Christian takes you from the Big Bang, to the formation of stars, to the development of new chemical elements, to the construction of our planet, to the beginnings and evolution of life, to the emergence of human beings, to the revolution of agriculture, and, finally, the modern revolution. All of this he does with wit, humor, and a clear passion for his subject that shows through in his erudite knowledge. Along the way, he discusses complexity, dealing with different time scales, and the perennial problem of the law of entropy: how does complex life (or complex anything) emerge in a universe governed by the second law of thermodynamics? As a religious person, this is a question that has intensely interested me. And I must say that the answers he provides were stellar. I've become a big fan of Big History through this course, and am glad that David Christian's work is making it into more schools and classrooms the world over. For my own reference and that of others, here's the outline of each 30-minute lecture. (Taken from The Great Courses website about Big History.) 1 What Is Big History? 2 Moving across Multiple Scales 3 Simplicity and Complexity 4 Evidence and the Nature of Science 5 Threshold 1—Origins of Big Bang Cosmology 6 How Did Everything Begin? 7 Threshold 2—The First Stars and Galaxies 8 Threshold 3—Making Chemical Elements 9 Threshold 4—The Earth and the Solar System 10 The Early Earth—A Short History 11 Plate Tectonics and the Earth's Geography 12 Threshold 5—Life 13 Darwin and Natural Selection 14 The Evidence for Natural Selection 15 The Origins of Life 16 Life on Earth—Single-celled Organisms 17 Life on Earth—Multi-celled Organisms 18 Hominines 19 Evidence on Hominine Evolution 20 Threshold 6—What Makes Humans Different? 21 Homo sapiens—The First Humans 22 Paleolithic Lifeways 23 Change in the Paleolithic Era 24 Threshold 7—Agriculture 25 The Origins of Agriculture 26 The First Agrarian Societies 27 Power and Its Origins 28 Early Power Structures 29 From Villages to Cities 30 Sumer—The First Agrarian Civilization 31 Agrarian Civilizations in Other Regions 32 The World That Agrarian Civilizations Made 33 Long Trends—Expansion and State Power 34 Long Trends—Rates of Innovation 35 Long Trends—Disease and Malthusian Cycles 36 Comparing the World Zones 37 The Americas in the Later Agrarian Era 38 Threshold 8—The Modern Revolution 39 The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500–1350 40 The Early Modern Cycle, 1350–1700 41 Breakthrough—The Industrial Revolution 42 Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900 43 The 20th Century 44 The World That the Modern Revolution Made 45 Human History and the Biosphere 46 The Next 100 Years 47 The Next Millennium and the Remote Future 48 Big History—Humans in the Cosmos

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    David Christian did his PhD on the diet of 19th century Russian peasants. What qualifies him to explain the entire universe from its birth until now? He's pretty funny. He has a lush speaking voice. And turns out that an obsession with food creation and consumption gives you a pretty sharp lens on history. Christian has neat insights on stories I thought I'd heard a gazillion times before: 1. Humans have only limited time and resources to check out facts, so we either base belief on evidence or au David Christian did his PhD on the diet of 19th century Russian peasants. What qualifies him to explain the entire universe from its birth until now? He's pretty funny. He has a lush speaking voice. And turns out that an obsession with food creation and consumption gives you a pretty sharp lens on history. Christian has neat insights on stories I thought I'd heard a gazillion times before: 1. Humans have only limited time and resources to check out facts, so we either base belief on evidence or authority. Science is based on evidence. As you might expect. But it's also based on authority too, because we trust the scientific process. 2. The Big Bang only created very light elements. The heavy elements got forged in stars much later. 3. Power from above differs from power from below. Power from below is what happened in egalitarian hunter-gatherer bands. Power-from-above is extractive and abusive. But even the worst, most tyrannical power-from-above states had to get some power from below, and they usually did this by accumulating extra stuff and giving it to their minions. Thanks, agriculture. :( 3. For tribute-taking states, taking resources was much cheaper than creating them through trade or innovation. Thus, kings and such didn't care about innovation. They despised merchants. That's why the agrarian era went on for so long, despite isolated changes. Back then, military power created wealth, instead of today, when wealth creates military power. Generally speaking. 4. Accountants invented writing! Yup, look up ancient Sumer. The scribes needed to keep track of all the barley and lentils. So let's thank ancient CPA's for everything from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Darmok & Jalad at Tanagra. 5. Rye grain enabled the Russian nation to exist in the first place. It's the only grain that could have grown on the cold steppes. I don't have to trust David Christian's authority on this. The evidence is proved by the ridiculous extent to which my Russian husband bakes delicious rye bread. 6. Vodka licenses made up 40% of the 19th Century Russian Empire's revenues. Some critiques: 1. Christian spends some time talking about the "Columbian Exchange" (trade between the Old World and New during the early modern age). But he doesn't mention that PEOPLE were the main part of this exchange. I.E. slavery. 2. In his last 6 episodes, Christian jumps wayyy too hard on the "Capitalism and Globalism will solve all our problems" wagon. I'm a neoliberal shill, and I still think he needs to slow down here. 3. David Christian has teamed up with Bill Gates to get this curriculum to replace World History throughout high schools. Now, I enjoyed David Christian's class almost as much as Bill Gates did. But do I think it should replace World History? Probably not. David Christian can teach Big History amazingly well. It's what makes him tick. But it won't work for a lot of teachers -- because stuffing an extra 13 billion years into the curriculum means teachers won't have space to delve into what they love the most. The person who makes the most sense on teaching history is Dan Carlin. Dan Carlin is a grumpy podcaster who loves war history, the gorier the better. He argues that history isn't a story of dates and facts, no matter how big. History is a way to see how one thing develops from another, how you can apply critical thinking to change. And sometimes you need to focus very narrowly on one person or place or subject to see how the world evolves. Carlin argues we should let students study what they love the most, whether it's the history of baseball or fashion or motorcycles. And in that vein, history teachers need flexibility to share what they love the most. My 7th grade history teacher couldn't stop talking about Ibn Battuta. We considered my teacher officially obsessed. But learning about this one 14th century Moroccan traveler was such a wonderful way to learn geography, trace trade routes across Asia and Africa, and really set the stage for the global collision that was about to follow in the 15th century. So let's give educators (and kids) space for their obsessions. Just think... if David Christian hadn't been so gosh-darn preoccupied with peasant bread and vodka in the first place, his brain wouldn't have gotten so big, and we'd never have gotten his course.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wade

    While I really appreciated the idea of this lecture series and most of the content, I found sections of it murderously boring; I think if he cut out about 5 of the 24 hours and left out some of the repetition, it would have held my attention much better. When he has already, clearly, made a point and keeps circling back to it, I tend to zone out. That being said, the attempt to view all of the sciences as one unified story, I think, will be of great importance moving forward. Christian does a go While I really appreciated the idea of this lecture series and most of the content, I found sections of it murderously boring; I think if he cut out about 5 of the 24 hours and left out some of the repetition, it would have held my attention much better. When he has already, clearly, made a point and keeps circling back to it, I tend to zone out. That being said, the attempt to view all of the sciences as one unified story, I think, will be of great importance moving forward. Christian does a good job of surveying all the different disciplines, picking certain aspects that unify, and telling it all as one story; again, the idea is fascinating, if, amazingly daunting. I have seen this trend other places and am hopeful that this sort of teaching and thinking will encourage broader perspectives.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Keehr

    I'm used to history courses that covered fairly limited periods, a hundred years, usually less. This course covers more than 13 billion years. It's an interesting perspective. I found a number of facts startling. 1) If an asteroid hadn't taken out the dinosaurs we would probably not be here because we mostly hid from those behemoths; 2) We are quite possibly one of the most complex things in the universe; 3) Darwin was a rich kid who got to spend all of his time doing science; 4) The sun will ev I'm used to history courses that covered fairly limited periods, a hundred years, usually less. This course covers more than 13 billion years. It's an interesting perspective. I found a number of facts startling. 1) If an asteroid hadn't taken out the dinosaurs we would probably not be here because we mostly hid from those behemoths; 2) We are quite possibly one of the most complex things in the universe; 3) Darwin was a rich kid who got to spend all of his time doing science; 4) The sun will eventually burn itself out and turn into a black dwarf. It's nice to contemplate the early days of homo sapiens, but as always history is basically a nightmare.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Royal

    Great perspective shift from typical History, paying attention to energy gradients, complexity, and thinking in terms of large scale trends. He has some provocative comments about capitalism requiring a wide wealth gradient, which relates beautifully to his theme, but which is completely unsupported by evidence or references. My biggest take away is that Information Science could unify the sciences with the soft social sciences if it can adequately improve its definition of complexity so that ne Great perspective shift from typical History, paying attention to energy gradients, complexity, and thinking in terms of large scale trends. He has some provocative comments about capitalism requiring a wide wealth gradient, which relates beautifully to his theme, but which is completely unsupported by evidence or references. My biggest take away is that Information Science could unify the sciences with the soft social sciences if it can adequately improve its definition of complexity so that networks of ideas or matter or people can be classified and developed in the abstract.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anton Nikolov

    I enjoyed the journey that this book/course took me on. From the supposed beginning of the universe to some speculations where we are going. In the middle, the content takes you through major stages of how the solar system evolved, earth and how we think life came to be. How humans evolved and what made us so successful at surviving and manipulating our environment. The course will give you good food for thought!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This is probably my favourite audiobook to date, and I've listened to a lot of them, particularly on this topic! Professor Christian is a fabulous narrator, and the course itself is incredibly interesting. It's got enough facts and stats to keep the number geeks happy :) but it's also definitely appropriate for someone new to the concept of Big History. If you enjoy books like Guns, Germs and Steel and Sapiens, I think you'll really enjoy this one. This is probably my favourite audiobook to date, and I've listened to a lot of them, particularly on this topic! Professor Christian is a fabulous narrator, and the course itself is incredibly interesting. It's got enough facts and stats to keep the number geeks happy :) but it's also definitely appropriate for someone new to the concept of Big History. If you enjoy books like Guns, Germs and Steel and Sapiens, I think you'll really enjoy this one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    G.

    For it's time (meaning that by 2018, when i finally got access to the lectures, there have been plenty of updates to the modern creation story), this might be the best Big Picture book/series/lectures/ontology that i've come across thus far. Truly, one of, if not THE, most important lines of thought that we can pursue. Recommended to anyone sentient enough to ask questions about why there is something rather than nothing. For it's time (meaning that by 2018, when i finally got access to the lectures, there have been plenty of updates to the modern creation story), this might be the best Big Picture book/series/lectures/ontology that i've come across thus far. Truly, one of, if not THE, most important lines of thought that we can pursue. Recommended to anyone sentient enough to ask questions about why there is something rather than nothing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Brown

    Aside from Professor Christian's obvious Atheist bias (regurgitating sound bites from Sagan's Cosmos and unscientific opinions of Richard Dawkins and denying the existence of God whenever possible), a overally emphasized British accent and an blatant disgust of actual British academia, this 48 lector course is a well developed adventure through the current known history of everything. Aside from Professor Christian's obvious Atheist bias (regurgitating sound bites from Sagan's Cosmos and unscientific opinions of Richard Dawkins and denying the existence of God whenever possible), a overally emphasized British accent and an blatant disgust of actual British academia, this 48 lector course is a well developed adventure through the current known history of everything.

  21. 4 out of 5

    K. Ira

    This book from boring, almost couldn't finish the first section, to really interesting and back a few times. A very difficult topic to try and bring everything together like this and while a few sections didn't pass my own "so what" factor, several did. He definitely tried to show how whatever aspect he was discussing, had a significant impact on the following historical events. This book from boring, almost couldn't finish the first section, to really interesting and back a few times. A very difficult topic to try and bring everything together like this and while a few sections didn't pass my own "so what" factor, several did. He definitely tried to show how whatever aspect he was discussing, had a significant impact on the following historical events.

  22. 4 out of 5

    J.

    I liked everything about this lecture series. The story and the crafting, the organizing, of that story I found compelling although certainly not all new. And the narration and the narrator's accent I enjoyed throughly. I liked everything about this lecture series. The story and the crafting, the organizing, of that story I found compelling although certainly not all new. And the narration and the narrator's accent I enjoyed throughly.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mathijs Aasman

    Great course, long view of humanity.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    A fantastic series of lectures beginning at the Big Bang and flowing through into the foreseeable future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jos

    Damn... Beautifully strung together.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Long

    Excellent

  27. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine

    I really enjoyed this course. David Christian left the question of God quite open. His conjectures were within my belief system.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Lectures were informative and direct. Once I got into the lecture part of it, it was terrific.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Allard

    I'd compare the taking of this course to injecting an insultingly large amount of DMT before being spahgettified at the event boundary of a super massive black hole. Let's unpack that a bit. The first lecture starts off innocently enough with some artificial trumpet fan-fair and a humble lecturer giving you a brief overview of the topics to be covered. You are then jarringly, and in an arguably abusive manner, catapulted out of your current mental framework and forced into a god-like, über-macro I'd compare the taking of this course to injecting an insultingly large amount of DMT before being spahgettified at the event boundary of a super massive black hole. Let's unpack that a bit. The first lecture starts off innocently enough with some artificial trumpet fan-fair and a humble lecturer giving you a brief overview of the topics to be covered. You are then jarringly, and in an arguably abusive manner, catapulted out of your current mental framework and forced into a god-like, über-macro perspective over the birth and subsequent development of complexity in our Universe. I listened to these lectures during my commute to and from work and I often arrived at my destination in a state which could best be described as a "slack-jawed yokel" where I was entirely unable to devote even the slightest modicum of attention to whatever tasks required my focus. How does one smoothly transition from being lectured about supernovae and the very birth of complex chemical elements to filling out credit card payment forms and trying to remember if your dental appointment was tomorrow or next week? This is not a joke - be prepared for this course to shake your day-to-day motivational framework to its very core. David Christian is the Father of the field of Big History and, let me say, it does not get any bigger or more grandeur than this. With 13.7 billion years of history covered in a bit under 30 hours of lectures, this isn't your High School AP History class, this is Usain-Bolt-strapped-to-a-rocket-ship-on-meth History. You read that right, not even just Usain Bolt on meth, the *Rocket Ship* is on meth. Strap in. Christian will, at a high level, cover these topics - the expansion of the universe and the creation of time itself - the formation and death of stars - the creation of the chemical elements - the formation and life cycle of planets - the formation and maturation of our own planet - the origin of life on Earth - the evolution of ever more complex forms of life - the many important epochs of human development - an overview of where we are today and where it can all possibly go from here This course really does cover the entire history of the Universe from the largest perspective possible. The most interesting part of this course is, in my humble opinion, the framework, pioneered and introduced by Christian, for extracting and analyzing the pattern of ever increasing complexity and emergent properties in our universe. This is where the true value of the course resides, in providing a framework for "seeing the forest for the trees". This framework given to us by Christian allows us to see parallels between events that appear to be completely unrelated; the formation of stars and the birth of the agricultural revolution, the orbital radius of the earth around the sun and the required wealth inequality in capitalistic systems, the transition from eukaryotic to prokaryotic life and the formation of the global internet, the last gasps of dying stars and the tragic wars between nation states. The true value of information lays not just in raw facts but in the ability to see trends and draw patterns out of these facts, and in this regard this course absolutely excels. I'll likely go back and retake this course a few more times, whenever I feel that I'm being "too" down to earth and need to feel like the late, great, Carl Sagan has snuck into my bedroom and slapped me across the face. Cannot. Recommend. Enough.

  30. 5 out of 5

    DavidO

    I didn't learn much, however looking at the history of everything has given me a slightly different perspective. highly recommended series, although I suggest getting it from a library. I didn't learn much, however looking at the history of everything has given me a slightly different perspective. highly recommended series, although I suggest getting it from a library.

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