Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity

Course No. 8050
Professor David Christian, D.Phil.
Macquarie University
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Course No. 8050
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Course Overview

About 100,000 to 60,000 years ago, a species of hominines—bipedal ape-like creatures—began to move out of its home territory in Africa and into the Asian continent. Today, homo sapiens, the descendants of those first hominines—live in nearly every ecological niche. We fly through the air in planes, communicate instantaneously over immense distances, and develop theories about the creation of the Universe. In Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, you’ll hear this ever-evolving story—the history of everything—in its monumental entirety from the moment the Universe grew from the size of an atom to the size of a galaxy in a fraction of a second.

Taught by historian David Christian, Big History offers a unique opportunity to view human history in the context of the many histories that surround it. Over the course of 48 thought-provoking lectures, he'll serve as your guide as you traverse the sweeping expanse of cosmic history—13.7 billion years of it—starting with the big bang and traveling through time and space to the present moment.

A Grand Synthesis of Knowledge

Have you ever wondered: How do various scholarly discourses—cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, history—fit together?

Big History answers that question by weaving a single story from a variety of scholarly disciplines. Like traditional creation stories told by the world's great religions and mythologies, Big History provides a map of our place in space and time. But it does so using the insights and knowledge of modern science, as synthesized by a renowned historian.

This is a story scholars have been able to tell only since the middle of the last century, thanks to the development of new dating techniques in the mid-1900s. As Professor Christian explains, this story will continue to grow and change as scientists and historians accumulate new knowledge about our shared past.

Eight "Thresholds"

To tell this epic, Professor Christian organizes the history of creation into eight "thresholds." Each threshold marks a point in history when something truly new appeared and forms never before seen began to arise.

Starting with the first threshold, the creation of the Universe, Professor Christian traces the developments of new, more complex entities, including:

  • The creation of the first stars (threshold 2)
  • The origin of life (threshold 5)
  • The development of the human species (threshold 6)
  • The moment of modernity (threshold 8).

In the final lectures, you'll even gain a glimpse into the future as you review speculations offered by scientists about where our species, our world, and our Universe may be heading.

Getting the "Big" Picture

While you may have heard parts of this story before in courses on geology, history, anthropology, biology, cosmology, and other scholarly disciplines, Big History provides more than just a recap. This course will expand the scope of your perspective on the past and alter the way you think about history and the world around you.

""Because of the scale on which we look at the past, you should not expect to find in it many of the familiar details, names, and personalities that you'll find in other types of historical teaching and writing,"" explains Professor Christian. ""For example, the French Revolution and the Renaissance will barely get a mention. They'll zoom past in a blur. You'll barely see them. Instead, what we're going to see are some less familiar aspects of the past. ... We'll be looking, above all, for the very large patterns, the shape of the past.""

Thanks to this grand perspective, you'll uncover the remarkable parallels and connections among disciplines that remain to be explored when you view history on a large scale. How is the creation of stars like the building of cities? How is the big bang like the invention of agriculture? These are the kinds of connections you'll find yourself pondering as you undergo the grand shift in perspective afforded by Big History.

Fascinating Facts

Along the way, you'll encounter intriguing tidbits that put the grand scale of this story in perspective, such as:

  • The entire expanse of human civilization—5,000 years—makes up a mere 2 percent of the human experience.
  • Approximately 98 percent of human history occurred before the invention of agriculture.
  • All the matter we know of in the Universe is likely to be no more than 1 billionth of the actual matter that was originally created.
  • The Earth's Moon was probably created by a collision between the young Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet.
  • At present, we cannot drill deeper than about 7 miles into the Earth, which is just 0.2% of the distance to the center (4,000 miles away).
  • Between 1000 C.E. and 2000 C.E., human populations rose by a factor of 24.
  • Traveling in a jet plane, it would take 5 million years to get from our solar system to the next nearest star.

The Story We Tell about Ourselves

"To understand ourselves," says Professor Christian, "we need to know the very large story, the largest story of all." And that, perhaps, is one of the greatest benefits of Big History: It provides a thought-provoking way to help us understand our own place within the Universe.

From humankind's place within the context of evolutionary history to our impact on the larger biosphere—both now and in our species' past—this course offers a broad yet nuanced examination of our place in creation. It also poses a profound question: Is it possible that our species is the only entity created by the Universe with the capacity to ponder its mysteries?

There is, perhaps, no more profound question to ask, and no better guide on this quest for understanding than Professor Christian. A pioneer in this approach to understanding history, Professor Christian has made big history his personal project for more than two decades. Working with experts in a variety of fields, he designed and taught some of the first big history courses, and has published widely on the topic.

Accept his invitation to get the big picture on Big History, and prepare for a journey through time and across space, from the first moments of existence to the distant reaches of the far future.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    What Is Big History?
    Is it possible to tell a story of everything, from the big bang up to the present day? This lecture introduces the background and unique aspects of this broad, multidisciplinary perspective on history. x
  • 2
    Moving across Multiple Scales
    Most history courses cover time spans of a few decades or a few centuries, but big history requires us to survey the past over scales that span billions of years. This lecture explores ways to become more familiar with the immense scales needed to cover the modern creation story. x
  • 3
    Simplicity and Complexity
    In this lecture, we introduce one of the unifying themes of the course: the development of increasing complexity since the creation of the Universe. Here, we'll examine the definition of complexity and ask how our Universe builds more complex entities. x
  • 4
    Evidence and the Nature of Science
    Why should we trust the claims of modern science about events in the distant past? This lecture lays some ground rules about evidence for proving scientific claims and describes how new dating techniques have allowed scientists to peer further back into the past than previously thought possible. x
  • 5
    Threshold 1—Origins of Big Bang Cosmology
    We encounter the first threshold of complexity—the creation of the Universe at the moment of the big bang—and explore the scientific evidence that allows us to piece together this ever-evolving story of creation. x
  • 6
    How Did Everything Begin?
    This lecture surveys the history of different ideas about the creation of the Universe, from Ptolemaic theories of an Earth-centered cosmos to the modern notion of a constantly expanding Universe. x
  • 7
    Threshold 2—The First Stars and Galaxies
    How did the Universe change from a cloud of dust to a constellation of stellar bodies? This lecture describes how gravity was fundamental in crossing the second threshold of the course: the creation of stars and galaxies from huge clouds of hydrogen and helium atoms. x
  • 8
    Threshold 3—Making Chemical Elements
    Stars created the preconditions for crossing a third threshold of complexity: the formation of chemical elements. As stars collapse and die, they fuse to create new atoms that are the building blocks of all the complex chemicals that make up our Earth. x
  • 9
    Threshold 4—The Earth and the Solar System
    With this lecture, we shift from the scale of the Universe to that of our solar system. Here we examine the processes by which planets and solar systems are created and the evidence that helps us piece together this part of the story. x
  • 10
    The Early Earth—A Short History
    The tumultuous early history of the Earth is presented in this lecture, including the development of our planet's internal layers, the generation of its magnetic field, the creation of the first seas, and the appearance of its early atmosphere. x
  • 11
    Plate Tectonics and the Earth's Geography
    In this lecture, we examine the history of the Earth's surface and learn how the notion of our planet as fixed and unchanging was eventually overturned by a new vision of the Earth's crust as broken into plates that are constantly on the move. x
  • 12
    Threshold 5—Life
    With the consideration of the next threshold of complexity, life, we develop a definition of life itself, and begin to consider how life-forms adapt and change over time. x
  • 13
    Darwin and Natural Selection
    In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin revealed a new story: an account of how all living species change and adapt. This lecture recounts how Darwin arrived at his revolutionary theory, and how he shared his ideas with contemporaries who were making similar breakthroughs. x
  • 14
    The Evidence for Natural Selection
    In this lecture, we examine the various kinds of evidence Darwin used to establish his theory of natural selection, including the fossil record, similarities among species, and the geographic distribution of species. We also review modern evidence of natural selection. x
  • 15
    The Origins of Life
    How was life first created from non-life? Modern biologists tell a complex story of the creation of life which involves the development of organic matter from simpler molecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and proteins. x
  • 16
    Life on Earth—Single-celled Organisms
    How was life first created from non-life? Modern biologists tell a complex story of the creation of life which involves the development of organic matter from simpler molecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and proteins. x
  • 17
    Life on Earth—Multi-celled Organisms
    The fusion of single-celled organisms into larger, multi-celled organisms c. 600 million years ago marked a turning point in the development of life forms on this planet. In this lecture, we focus on the evolution of multi-cellular organisms, tracing four evolutionary steps leading to our own species, Homo sapiens. x
  • 18
    Hominines
    How did modern humans evolve from ape-like ancestors? This lecture surveys the evolution of primates and great apes, and then traces the adaptive development of hominines, a group of bipedal primates that appeared in Africa 7 million years ago. x
  • 19
    Evidence on Hominine Evolution
    To construct the story of hominine evolution, scientists rely on three kinds of evidence: archaeological evidence, evidence based on the study of modern primates, and evidence based on genetic comparisons between modern species of primates, including ourselves. x
  • 20
    Threshold 6—What Makes Humans Different?
    Human beings represent a new threshold of complexity in the story of life on Earth. In this lecture, we examine two things that make us unique: use of symbolic language and collective learning. x
  • 21
    Homo sapiens—The First Humans
    Does the archaeological record reveal when the first members of our species appeared? In this lecture, we examine evidence from the Stone Age and consider several theories of the early history of the first humans. x
  • 22
    Paleolithic Lifeways
    Using remains left behind by our ancestors and studies of modern societies that still use stone technologies, modern researchers have constructed a portrait of the Paleolithic way of life. In this lecture, we enter into this world and learn what life was like for our distant ancestors. x
  • 23
    Change in the Paleolithic Era
    Change was gradual over the course of the long Paleolithic era, but there were some significant shifts that altered lifeways for human beings. These include climate changes during two ice ages, the rise of various technological innovations, and adaptive migration to nearly all parts of the globe. x
  • 24
    Threshold 7—Agriculture
    The appearance of agriculture set human history off in entirely new directions by increasing human control of food, energy, and other resources. The development of agriculture brings about changes in the environment and lays the foundation for the development of more complex human societies. x
  • 25
    The Origins of Agriculture
    Why, after 200,000 years of foraging, should human communities in quite different parts of the world take up agriculture almost simultaneously? In this lecture, we explore the different factors leading to this innovation. x
  • 26
    The First Agrarian Societies
    Although early agrarian societies left behind no written record, there is evidence of many important new developments during this period. Here, we explore the lifeways of these societies, and question whether agriculture meant the early farmers lived better than their forager ancestors. x
  • 27
    Power and Its Origins
    Approximately 5,000 years ago, the human species saw the rise of a new form of social organization: the first "tribute-taking" states. We begin our consideration of these states by asking how power is defined and what forms it takes. x
  • 28
    Early Power Structures
    How did humankind move from kinship clans and small agricultural villages to enormous centralized societies? This lecture surveys the archaeological and anthropological evidence used to reconstruct the evolution of power structures and theorizes how these larger societies took shape. x
  • 29
    From Villages to Cities
    This lecture introduces the 5,000 years of human history that were dominated by the huge and powerful societies: agrarian civilizations. With the development of writing, we get the first era of recorded history. x
  • 30
    Sumer—The First Agrarian Civilization
    How did the buildup of human and material resources during the early Agrarian era lead to the development of the first tribute-taking states and the first real cities? Here, we'll examine one of the earliest agrarian civilizations, Sumer in southern Mesopotamia, to learn how these new developments arose. x
  • 31
    Agrarian Civilizations in Other Regions
    How typical was Sumer of agrarian civilizations in general? This lecture briefly surveys six different areas where agrarian civilizations appeared early, including northeastern Africa, northern India, China, and the Americas. x
  • 32
    The World That Agrarian Civilizations Made
    Despite the limited contact among them, early agrarian civilizations the world over shared many features. In this lecture, we'll examine these features and speculate why agrarian societies seem to develop along similar lines despite regional differences. x
  • 33
    Long Trends—Expansion and State Power
    In this lecture, we begin to take the long view of agrarian civilizations, marking two trends that occurred during the course of 4,000 years: the expansion of civilizations to cover larger regions and incorporate more people, and the increasing power and reach of their rulers. x
  • 34
    Long Trends—Rates of Innovation
    Agrarian civilizations were able to expand because they developed new ways to extract resources and manage populations. This lecture examines how features such as population growth, commerce, and tribute-taking states helped encourage innovation. x
  • 35
    Long Trends—Disease and Malthusian Cycles
    Throughout human history, we see periods of innovation, population growth, increasing trade and urbanization, political expansion, and cultural efflorescence. Then, sometimes quite suddenly, there is a crash. In this lecture, we examine the factors that contribute to this cycle of boom and crash, referred to as the Malthusian cycle. x
  • 36
    Comparing the World Zones
    The previous two lectures describe factors that both stimulated and limited growth in the era of agrarian civilizations in Afro-Eurasia, the largest of the four world zones of human history. Here, we begin to question whether these same features and processes appear in American, Australasian, and Pacific zones. x
  • 37
    The Americas in the Later Agrarian Era
    In this lecture, we see that American agrarian civilizations experienced many of the same developments as those in Afro-Eurasia, but these developments appeared much later and never spread as far as in other world region. x
  • 38
    Threshold 8—The Modern Revolution
    In the last millennium, the pace of change accelerated sharply and decisively. Since then, humankind has experienced a number of astonishing changes, including accelerating innovation, the formation of larger and more complex societies, the integration of the four world zones, and the growing human impact on the biosphere. x
  • 39
    The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500–1350
    This lecture describes the medieval Malthusian cycle, which lasted from the decline of the Roman and Han Empires to the time of the Black Death. We will focus on Afro-Eurasia, the largest and most significant of the four world zones, and the region that drove change in the early stages of the Modern Revolution. x
  • 40
    The Early Modern Cycle, 1350–1700
    During the Early Modern cycle, for the first time in human history, the four world zones became linked through global exchange networks which stimulated both commerce and capitalism. Yet for other world zones, these changes were catastrophic, bringing disease and population collapse. x
  • 41
    Breakthrough—The Industrial Revolution
    By 1700, many elements of modernity seemed to be in place, yet global rates of innovation remained slow. This lecture describes the breakthrough to modernity after 1700, focusing on one country, Britain, where the transformation has been studied most intensively. x
  • 42
    Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900
    Within just two centuries, industrialization had transformed the entire world. No earlier transformation in human history had been so rapid or so far-reaching. This lecture describes the impact of industrialization before 1900. x
  • 43
    The 20th Century
    In this lecture, we examine the hallmark events of the 20th century, including major worldwide wars, two waves of innovation, huge population growth, and an enormous surge in energy use. x
  • 44
    The World That the Modern Revolution Made
    In this lecture, we attempt to describe, as we did for Paleolithic and agrarian societies, the lifeways of the Modern era. What emerges is a portrait of a single, world-spanning community of more than 6 billion people supported by ever-increasing technological innovation. x
  • 45
    Human History and the Biosphere
    How has our increasing power over the natural world affected our relationship to planet Earth? Are we becoming a malignant presence within the biosphere, driving other species to extinction and impacting global climactic systems in unpredictable ways? x
  • 46
    The Next 100 Years
    After surveying 13 billion years, can we resist peering into the future? We take a tantalizing glimpse into speculations about which historic trends may continue into the next century. x
  • 47
    The Next Millennium and the Remote Future
    Our speculations into future developments continue with an examination of several theories about what life will be like 1,000 years in the future. Then we'll jump even further ahead, with scientific theorization about the ultimate fate of the Universe. x
  • 48
    Big History—Humans in the Cosmos
    In the final lecture of this course, we pause to ask some fundamental questions about meaning: What is the place of human beings in the Universe? Are we, perhaps, the only creations of the Universe that have consciousness? x

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Your professor

David Christian

About Your Professor

David Christian, D.Phil.
Macquarie University
Dr. David Christian is Professor of History at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He earned a B.A. in History from Oxford University, an M.A. in Russian History from The University of Western Ontario, and a D.Phil. in 19th-Century Russian History from Oxford University. He previously taught at San Diego State University. Professor Christian's course on big history stems from an experimental history course he developed...
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Reviews

Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 207.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Big History - Could do better Firstly, I totally agree with Prof. Christian that this is a very important area of study. However in places this course is muddled and unhelpful. Therefore, I hope the prof. can revisit the course material and make some corrections. I am neither an astrophysicist, nor a geologist, nor a paleontologist not a historian, and I haven't time to research and correct all the weaknesses myself. Some reviewers are critical of the failure to cover things like the Higgs Boson or String Theory - but those are irrelevant. The mechanism of gravity does not need to be known, only the effect. As for String Theory, it is just that at the moment, a theory, it is far from established, and it hardly reveals any historical perspectives. Other reviewers complain about the 3-way repetition of preface-say it- summary, but I didn't find that as annoying as the desire to constantly make generalisations in a vain attempt to add value to a material that clearly isn't his. Although I was suprised by some of the repetition. At one point he says: "Let me give you an example. Here's an example, for example ...". I dreaded him talking about population 'millions', sounding like Fagin in Oliver Twist, but thankfully he got out of that habit after a while. I also dreaded hearing him mention "energy flows". Its at times like that that prof. Christian's lack of a hard scientific background shows. After all, what does that mean, exactly? Can you write an equation for it? Its just a nice wooly concept. It may be a helpful idea, but its not something to obsess over as if you've established some new scientific theorem. (It fails the two criteria of disprovability and abiltiy to predict). I felt the same about the "collective learning" concept. The prof. wants to say that the internet and its connectivity introduces a step change in the complexity - but then why not distinguish the creation of writing, then the printing press then the telephone as well? It is hard to see how the professor's "collective learning" is any different from "language" and that is a word that everyone can immediately understand. Its as if he's inventing new terms in a desperate attempt to give his study credence. And the thing is, everyone from Noam Chomsky to your local retailer can agree that the introduction of human language is a key milestone in this universe time span. I think the Summary Timeline at the end of the booklet needs pruning. Notably he ommits to put the invention of language in the timeline, one of the most significant events. Again too much focus on generalities at the expense of real knowledge. There are around 18 milestones from the Big Bang till HomoSapiens, then after that it is mostly normal human history which many people may already know. I feel that if this was done more clearly, then the end of the course, listeners could remember most of those fundamental 18 milestones, that describe how we got here. That's the kind of thing you want to explain to an inquisitive child. I will now list the areas in which this course is muddled and needs clarification. I will date events from After Big Bang (ABB) because then the relationships are more clear. 1. In the steps for the creation of our solar system, and the whole sense of geneology is lost. By geneology I mean, how many generations of solar systems could there have been in the 9B years before our solar system formed? In his timeline he shows the first start appearing 200m years ABB, then the first supernovae creating the elements we come from 2 billion years ABB. Then he has a gap of 7B years with nothing happening! I just wonder how many lifecycles of element producing stars could there be in that time? Well to produce our Earth, with heavy and useful elements like Silver and Lead and Uranium, you need a star that turns supernova. To get that you need one with a mass of 1.5 to 3 times that of our sun (a Huge Star) or larger (a Giant Star) but not too large or it will end in a black hole. The lifespan of element producing stars is about 2.5B to 3.5B years. Our solar system formed 9B years after the BB, and our advanced life appeared about 5B years after that, which is actually very quick, when you look at it. So either our solar system formed from one of the first stars after a gap of about 6.5B years, or it is formed later, from a star formed anytime in the first 6.5B years. The significance of this is that we are probably not the first generation of living creatures in the universe. There has been time for other solar systems to form, and still time for them to take 5B years to develop intelligent life like ours, before we even got here. There has even been time for their sun to become a red giant and destroy their entire solar system before we even got here. However, although we may not be first intelligent life in the universe, we are definitely here very near the beginning (of what will be a very long life). 2. In lecture 16 I found the description of Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes confusing. Perhaps the video version is better? Still, there could have been a diagram in the book. It would have been much simpler to say that Prokaryotes are unstructured, relatively homogeneous single cells, whereas Eukaryotes have internal struture, principally a nucleus (then add that they also contain mitochondria). Its one of the principal stages so we need to be clear about it. There is a lot of faffing about and talk about Darwin between lectures 10 and 16, which doesn't need to be so belaboured for a modern reader. In any case, putting the distinction between cells with and without a nucleus in lecture 16, rendered part of lecture 10 meaningless. 3. In Lecture 10 he names the 4 eons of the Earth, to which I have tried to add helpful description. The dates are from the start of our solar system, or 9B years ABB Hadean: 0.0B - 0.7B years (no life forms) Archaean: 0.7B - 2.0B years ((I think)=first life appears as single celled Prokaryotes) Proterozoic: 2.0B - 4.0B years (?) Phanerozoic: 4.0B - 4.5B years ((I think)=start of Cambrian i.e. multi-cellular animals found) So we are told of an entire 2B year period, the Proterozoic, with no indication of what it was about! Did they just stick a pin in the time line and give it a name? I think it is actually the period of the Eukaryotes, or when the single celled organisms gained a nucleus and mitochondria. If you list the eons in this way, with their corresponding biological progressions, it is suddenly very clear: the names of the eons correspond to the key complexity milestones we are identifying. 4. The invention of Fire could have got a mention. It was more than just a convenience. I read somewhere else that the cooking of food enables more complex chemicals to be created and digested, and that in turn may have allowed our brains and bodies to develop to a more advanced state. Is that true? I've no idea; I'm not the paid professor. 5. Instead of talking endlessly about "collective learning", it would have been nicer to just focus on the language question. For example, at what point did the physiology of our throats change to allow us to create the more complex sounds that the no other animals can produce? At some point, didn't our vocal chords migrate along the trachea? Also, taking cues from some of Chomsky's work, it would be nice to point out that a particular part of the brain developed to process language, that that language exists internally even when we aren't speaking, and that that genetic variation in one person must have somehow spread extremely widely. Also, in most people, the language learning component shuts down around puberty - which shows just how specialised and remarkable this evolutionary component is. Finally, the Professors peeks into the future are embarrassing. As other reviewers have mentioned, he knows his politically correct narratives, and again, it does seem like a struggle to add value. But if we are going to talk about the end of times, I'd have thought that a reflection on some of the fundamental, systemic, ideological battles that are going on, would be in order, and whatsmore wouldn't be telling people something they already know. For example, the conflict between the open, free society, and the closed theocratic one (Iran). Or the debate between small government and socialist central planning (causing the end of the USSR). Or the friction between the democratic capitalist model (USA), and the autocratic capitalist one (China). It would be worth reflecting that Democracy as we currently understand it (full suffrage), with all its attendant freedoms, has only been around for 100 years - a blink of the eye - whereas Islam has been a strong political movement for 1400 years. We need to disabuse ourselves of this impression of permanence, and realise that perhaps, these freedoms and rights we currently enjoy in the West, will be just a brief honeymoon in the history of human society. Alternatively we can just bring out all the old tropes as the Professor does, about Global Warming (sorry, Climate Change) and Nuclear War (but we only make caring noises; we don't do anything about Iran going nuclear). God give me strength. That's enough for now. I hope Prof. Christian, or anyone in fact, can be encouraged to revisit this subject, clarify and re-organise it, and re-release the course.
Date published: 2015-07-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing and dull For the past six months, I have sat through these lectures. I wanted to like this course. Indeed, this type of course is just the type of material that I have been developing and teaching: an integrated approach to the sciences. In the end, however, I simply cannot recommend this to others. First, David Christian's lecture style is dull dull dull. Every lecture felt interminable. I told myself they were only 30 minutes. I bribed myself to finish. And, yet, I still would pause as my mind wandered. Second, he would regularly say, "This is what we are going to do" and then a few minutes later having asserted something, he would say, "as we have seen . . ." Third, many times, he would present some data and say, "this data is tentative" and then later rely on this data to make some conclusion that seemed speculative at best, and still later rely on it to bolster his argument. I did buy his book. Maybe it will be better. We need this kind of integrated approach. For my money, I would suggest Hazen's Joy of Science course over this one.
Date published: 2015-07-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Creation Tale for the Politically Correct As have many other people reviewing this course, I heard about it through a NYT article about Bill Gates' excitement about it. I am sorry to say that Mr. Gates and I part ways over the value of this course. I watched every episode. I noted that a couple of Dr. Christian's slides contain misspellings and should be corrected. I put up w/ the most annoying habit Dr. Christian has of telling you what he's going to tell you, then telling you, then telling you what he told you. Perhaps the current crop of university student need this but I find it annoying. Plus, it does seriously erode the time allowed for the meat of the course. I watched all the episodes that are cosmology, astronomy and geology w/ great interest. It's been a while since I had much intense review of those subjects.But I did find myselt getting antsy, eager to get to the history. I am an old anthropology major who has kept up w/ popular reading in the field of Early Man, but the review was nice. It was of concern that by the time we got to actual recorded history, 30 episodes were over. But it was a shock for the epoch described as Early Agrarian to be the last survey of world history. The Late Agrarian touched down on various places but nothing - NOTHING - of any of the classical, medieval, Renaissance European development w/ the exception of trading was mentioned. The emphasis was on other parts of the world. Not to be rude but the development of what Dr. Christian calls the Australian and Pacific Islander civilisations is simply not a story of invention and cultural advancement. Then we jumped to the year 1700, and jumped back and forth for a lecture or two. Then the shift was from the story of human development to the evils of the modern age. The last few lectures were all the current politically correct blaming and struggle to be inclusive. The point at which Dr. Christian jumped to the future was incredibly egregious nonsense - hypothetical depictions of how technology has led the human species to seize control of the world and how this will all come to a bad end. I'd send this back and ask for a refund if I could. Lacking that, I'll simply throw it in the trash.
Date published: 2015-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A trek across disciplines This is my first introduction to Big History, so for anyone who is already familiar with the perspective of this field I may sound overexcited… Well, this course has certainly proven to be radically different than any other history course I have taken up to this point. The obvious reason is that large portions of the course cover subjects that are totally outside the scope of this discipline called history. Professor Christian's approach, as he describes very thoroughly, almost rigorously, in the first lecture – is to talk about the history of modern humanity. ALL of the history. That means going back as far as we possibly can and understanding the evolution of the systems that came to be during the full lifespan of our universe. Naturally, one cannot go into great detail in such a discussion. On the contrary, the idea is to find the striking, profound, structural changes to systems in our universe as they evolved, without getting bogged down in the details. In his terms, the idea is to look for complexity thresholds in the history of the universe – from the big bang all the way to modern humanity. Professor Christian used a fantastic analogy to help explain this perspective: if you were a flea sitting on an elephant, and you only knew intimately the elephant's wrinkles, how many Copernican discoveries you would have if you were carried away in a spaceship while looking back at your elephant… You would discover that your wrinkles are only a small part of an elephant, and that the elephant is only a tiny dot in a savannah, which is on the African continent…. You get the idea. So big history is divided into eight complexity thresholds; starting from the early universe right after the big bang, until gravity created enough of an energy gradient to create stars (the next complexity level#, which eventually burned in nuclear processes all of the energy fuel in their elements and exploded in Supernovas to create all of the chemical elements of which planets are composed, with these chemical elements turning eventually into organic compounds and later #and there must be some sort of magic in this next step# into single celled life forms. The next level is the unifications of billions of single cell organisms into multi-cell organisms, then the evolution of humanoids, and finally the anthropological evolution of Homo-Sapiens from hunter gatherer to primitive farmer, to farmer civilization and finally – to modern civilization. This is a bold undertaking, since in many cases going from one complexity level to the next means summarizing study of a different discipline. The Big Bang, Stellar fuel processes and Supernovas are in the realm of Cosmologists, Astrophysicist, and Astronomers, while the next complexity level in the chain – planets – is customarily the territory of Geologists. In Big History, Professor Christian treks across many different disciplines starting with the examples above and touching Chemistry, biology, Paleoanthropology, Archaeology and History. In our modern world of ever greater specialization – this is highly unusual. The natural tendency is to politely ask Professor Christian as he is discussing the Big Bang theory, "I am sorry, but are you a licensed Cosmologist? Why should I be listening to your explanations about the Big Bang if you are not?" The reason is that while his discussion on these matters is not terribly deep in and of themselves, they are deep enough and sufficiently focused to flesh out the points that are of interest to Big History. These are: what do such wildly varying systems and evolutions have in common? What does modern humanity have in common with Stellar Fuel processes or with Single Cell organisms? Most of the course is devoted to answering these questions and I personally found the answers to be quite surprising and interesting. Professor Christian did in my opinion a fantastic job in presenting this challenging perspective. As I have said, this is not easy since it demands quite a good grasp in many far flung fields. I have a strong feeling that many History Professors would not feel comfortable giving lectures about the big bang or about Plectonic plate dynamics - but he did. His approach seemed much more rigorous than one is accustomed to in history courses. At the beginning of each lecture there is a sort of theorem which we are seeking to validate during the lecture, and at the end we can decide if we have been convinced that the theorem has been proven in a persuasive manner. This is much more the language of the natural Sciences #which is my formal background) than of history, and it was fascinating and refreshing to see this perspective applied in History. I deeply enjoyed the course and felt it gave me a fresh new perspective and insight on things I have never considered before – exactly what I expect to get from a good TGC course.
Date published: 2015-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Engaging I enjoyed this course a lot. Much more than anticipated. To be honest, I decided to watch this course after learning that Bill Gates loved the course and was funding more academic teaching in this area at universities across the country. As an academic myself, the idea that a wealthy business man would seek to shape the direction of academia rubbed me the wrong way, because Gates is not an expert in history but rather in marketing and technology. Nonetheless, I was curious to see what impressed Bill Gates so much about Professor Christian’s “Big History” approach, so I listened to this course while exercising on the treadmill in my spare time. Despite my skepticism, I'll admit that I enjoyed this course. I also hope that Big History does not eclipse traditional history in college, but see a certain utility in offering such courses at the introductory college level. Professor Christian is a charismatic and engaging lecturer. Nonetheless, as the criticisms of this course reveal, its strength is also its greatest weakness. The entire idea of “big history” omits many important events and sometimes seems overly superficial, because it necessarily brushes over important things in the numerous fields it surveys in an effort to “see the big picture.” For this reason, it makes sense that several reviewers have criticized this course for being “too broad” or even “the least informative of the many Great Courses that I have encountered.” When you’re already knowledgeable about a particular field, this is a normal response to this course. The course is a really broad overview of almost “everything,” from the big bang, to the formation of our galaxy, to the evolution of life on Earth, to the advent of early primates and hominids, to the growth of modern civilization. That was a lot to cover in one course. And yes, as a social scientist, I wanted to protest when Professor Christian defined the modern state in a way that political scientists would patently reject. I’m also hesitant to accept his main theory of “progressive or evolving complexity,” which is merely conjecture and assumes that human beings are indeed “at the center of the universe,” so to speak. Likewise, my colleges and friends who are professors of philosophy and biology had similar reactions to his perfunctory treatment of issues in their fields. Yet while these criticisms make me unlikely to “jump on the bandwagon” of Big History (as a method approaching and analyzing history more broadly), I think that Professor Christian is a great lecturer and I enjoyed his broad overview of fields within which I do not claim expertise. Christian passes by many important developments rather quickly, but I still found it immensely enjoyable. I recommend it for what it is: A broad and often superficial look at “everything” presented by a talented and passionate teacher. That’s what the Great Courses are all about!
Date published: 2015-04-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Short on substance The course instructor spends the majority of the time summarizing and re-summarizing sparsely populated, vague pieces of actual course content. Topics are dealt with very superficially. The course does not venture beyond what is likely common knowledge to most curious minded adults.
Date published: 2015-03-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Little of Everything This is the least informative of the many Great Courses that I have encountered. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the universe, including the solar system and our earth will take little from this course. The title ‘Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth and Rise of Humanity’ is an undertaking that cannot be accomplished in 48 lectures. As the title implies it is an attempt to cover, at least, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, genetics, physics, political science and perhaps more. None of which are covered in sufficient detail to provide an enlightening course. Moreover, I doubt that any one person is capable doing justice to such an array of disciplines. Throughout his lectures Christian invokes ‘Big History’ as if he is providing the audience with something new to digest. His six lectures on the role of agriculture are good although they have little to do with the title of the course. Christian begins each lecture by summarizing what the last lecture covered, then tells what is to be covered before beginning the lecture, and ends each lecture with a summary. This format would be belittling to the college students with which I am accustomed. I would not recommend this course to anyone, certainly not as a college level course. ‘ Other courses I suggest See for example The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence by Robert Hazen or Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe by Mark Whittle
Date published: 2015-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Classic Approach to a Novel Topic At first I was a bit dubious about the "Big History" notion. I thought it was just a means of amalgamating a group of seemingly time-related topics in a superficial fashion, without any significant new insights to be gleaned. Well sure, the nature of the Big Bang / Big Inflation event certainly has a lot to do with the evolution of the galaxies and stars; and the earth's geography no doubt influenced the course of human history. But what, for example, could the emergence of quantum particles and eventually atoms from the "primal soup" have to do with the development of agrarian societies and industrialized civilization here on Planet Earth? Despite my doubts, however, I decided to give this course a listen. Even if Big History seemed at first like a rag-bag assortment from a variety of disciplines, all of those disciplines were of interest to me. So now I'm glad that I did. Professor Christian really pulls this course off. He indeed will inspire you to think in ways and on scales that might not be immediately obvious given the usual academic taxonomies. And he inspires you to do it in both directions -- both looking back, and looking into the future. I'm not going to offer a detailed review here, as I do not take issue with most of what Professor Christian says and presents. He generally fulfills the goal of identifying "big history" trends over the course of time, for example the underlying growth of complexity, energy concentration, and information accumulation. My biggest complaint would only be that there wasn't enough time to develop and elucidate further human history themes such as the origins and evolution of organized warfare. Despite the rush to get through billions of years of cosmological history, along with eons of earth history and the various ages of human history, most of the scientific topics were adequately handled. In fact, for me this was a rather good review on the dynamics of our planet's formation, including how the continents and oceans and atmosphere evolved. It was also a nice catch-up on modern thought regarding how life came about, and how the modern human species developed over many hundreds of thousands of years. As to "history" in the usual sense, don't expect much in terms of a classical approach to recorded events over the past 10,000 years; most of it goes by in a blur, as empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye. What's important are the major transitions from hunter-gatherer tribes to agrarian villages and then states, as expanding trade and on-going technology development lay the foundations for the eventual emergence of industrial civilization. Overall, though, this course works as well as it does in large part due to the skills and qualities of its presenter, Professor David Christian. I might take issue with some of his side-bars implying that modern scientific knowledge has done away with the need for any and all theistic speculations regarding the ultimate origins and nature of the universe; perhaps that is where big history gets a bit too big. (And yes, this is an interesting irony given his last name; although to be taken seriously in academia today, it seems as though you almost have to be a committed atheist). But overall, Professor Christian is the classic scholar, a stellar example of what I have come to expect from the Teaching Company after obtaining and enjoying over 20 of their courses. Well, mostly enjoying them. I recently purchased and listened to what I found to be a very disappointing TTC course. I hope to submit a review about that one in the near future. However, let me say here that the course in question failed not because of the topic or material. Its failure stemmed, in my opinion, from the unorthodox and (to me) unedifying approach that the professor took in organizing and presenting his materials, and the fashion in which he asserted certain questionable propositions in support of his contentions (while carefully dissecting arguably defensible ideas that opposed his own predilections). More on that at another time, but let me note that the referred-to course is similar to Christian's Big History in that it is grounded in a "liberal arts" tradition, but needs to make frequent reference to modern scientific knowledge and theories. Professor Christian was usually quite careful to accurately present the science required by the sweeping panorama behind big history (one reviewer notes that Christian asserts the once accepted notion that Neanderthals and modern humans did not mate, while more recent DNA research indicates that they did; in fact, according to 23andme.com, my own genes are about 3 percent Neanderthal!). The other professor by contrast said things that left me uncertain about his competency to elucidate such topics. In fact, that course was the inspiration for me to write and submit this review. I had finished Big History a number of months ago, and while I enjoyed it and while it certainly did inspire a measure of "big thinking" on my own part, I didn't believe that I had anything significant to say about it on this web site. But after slogging through Professor X's various attempts to mix scholarship and entertainment, I realized what a resource careful scholars such as David Christian and his like truly are. Thus I felt the need to offer this tribute to his work, and to express my hope that the Teaching Company will continue to focus on high-quality classic scholars, even if their lectures and presentments aren't necessarily as entertaining as a sci-fi action movie or a cable-channel drama.
Date published: 2015-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practice makes Perfect Unlike some Great Courses selections, this one is closely based on an actual, college-level course that was developed by Professor Christian and given previously many times. It shows in the exceptionally good organization of the material , the clear presentation, and the examples used. The use of multiple time scales to illustrate the different events and concepts was especially useful. So many different disciplines are covered (cosmology, chemistry, geology, biology, anthropology, ancient/modern history) that there should be something new for every student. I would especially recommend this for an advanced high school student who was considering a scientific field of study in college.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Historical Overbite On the face of it, Big History, the Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity is an ambitious attempt to show the evolution and development of everything - from the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe to the evolution and development of humanity - and everything in between. But unfortunately this a case in which the course material and the lecturer suffer from a severe case of overbite - so much material is covered that none is given justice. To paraphrase the poet Robert Browning, It's a case in which the course's reach definitely exceeds its grasp, and it's not a good thing. I do not understand the concept behind developing a multidisciplinary course that covers, at a minimum, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, earth sciences, genetics, paleoanthropology, agriculture, and political science in 48 lectures. With the exception of the inordinate number of lectures given to the topics of agriculture and agrarian societies, no topic is covered in any great detail. Audiovisual aids are scarce and minimalist in content. The course was first developed in 2008 and it shows it's age in several spots. The lectures on human evolution make no mention of the discovery of the close genetic relationship between humans and Neandertals; the discovery of the Denisovans and the archaic Hobbits of Southeast Asia. Modern concepts in cosmology including the Higgs Boson and String Theory are not mentioned. It doesn't help things that the professor lectures in a droll monotone. More than once I found myself dozing off watching Professor Christian drone on while discussing a topic that could be dispatched in half the time. I knew I was losing interest when I started to find other things to do while I watched - or half listened - to the lectures. Christian's lecturing style follows the dictum: "Tell them what you're going to say, say it to them, and then remind them what you just told them." And then remind them just how important Big History is. That's fine advice for how to give a PowerPoint presentation, but not over 48 thirty minute lectures. Unfortunately I have very few takeaways from this course and cannot recommend it to anyone with a well-rounded educational background.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have 25-30 of the Great Courses course's and this one - "Big History" - is probably the best that I've listened to so far. The content is excellent and the professor is above excellent. He's funny, engaging, down to earth and covers 5 billion years of history without feeling like you've missed anything important! This course is one I'd recommend above nearly all others.
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Course I learned of this lecture series when I sent an email to Craig Benjamin, the professor who did the course "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" (which itself was terrific). I had sent the email to Dr. Benjamin because I was so impressed and enjoyed so much his course that I wanted to personally thank him. He suggested this course to me -he is a colleague of Dr. Christian. I was not disappointed. This course starts at the beginning--the "real" beginning, the Big Bang, and moves in a detailed summary through the present. His lectures were stimulating; his subject matter contemporary and the information up to date. I would recommend this course to those interested in a much broader historical perspective than I've seen anywhere else.
Date published: 2015-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Integration of Science Disciplines This course is very good at integrating the separate disciplines of Astrophysics, Astronomy, Geology, Biology, Geography, and History. I was a bit disappointed the contribution of Dr. J. Tuzo Wilson to our understanding of plate tectonics was not mentioned.
Date published: 2015-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Revolutionary Approach to History. I have just finished the 48 lectures on BIG HISTORY by Professor David Christian, and I am simply in awe. Although a Nuclear Medicine Physician by training, I have taught in four faculties at our local university including in Physics and Neurosciences and as a teacher I was spell bound by his teaching technique and ability. I also have been taking lectures from the Great Courses series for at least 30 years. Although all of the lecturers I have had the pleasure of listening to were outstanding in their own way, Professor Christian is in a class all his own and quite simply is the most profoundly talented and informed lecturer I have ever listened to. But most important for me personally was the final moments of his last lecture. As a person who for some reason seems to have been born an atheist in spite of the best efforts of my mother and my Sunday school teacher, I must admit that searching for some sense of meaning and purpose in life has at times been challenging. Yet Professor Christian’s thoughts on the possible meanings and purposes for our extraordinary place in the universe, I found emotionally moving and powerfully meaningful. Thank you Professor Christian.
Date published: 2015-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A vast perspective of history It is some time since I watched this course in its entirety, but I have gone back repeatedly to individual lectures. I found the cosmological and geological aspects of history, and the evidence supporting this narrative fascinating. The evolution of transnational trading systems and the using the measure of 'energy use' to compare different systems unique and enlightening. Anyone interested in studying history on a vast scale will gain a great deal from these lectures.
Date published: 2015-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History I appreciate any class that opens my mind to different perspectives, and this class does that in spades.
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History- Professor David Christian I have purchased numerous courses from TC. This one ranks right up there for as good as it gets. Professor Christian takes a fairly complex subject and makes it very understandable AND interesting. I am shocked at how much I did not know based on how many advances science has made since I was in school. I am having a hard time doing anything else but listen to this course right now. Professor Christian- you have caused problems with my wife!
Date published: 2014-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Wonderful; Recommended for Everyone! I've ignored this course since it came out in 2008 because the idea of one person covering everything from the Big Bang and galaxy formation to contemporary society and global warming seemed absurd on its face. I decided I'd better watch it when I read that Bill Gates was teaming up with our professor to push the introduction of Big History into high schools - only so that I might be prepared to fight this silliness if it ever came to my district. Really. Instead, I have been converted into a Big History cheerleader, and would encourage every high school in the country (actually, in the world) to teach Big History as its required freshman history course, and would encourage every college to offer it as well for those who missed it earlier. Let's be clear. Big History is emphatically *not*, despite the hyperbole of TGC's course description, "the history of everything." As Professor Christian points out appropriately, this is an overview from a great height, and will necessarily miss many, many details which would be essential to more traditional, more focused courses. Even more importantly: while the course remarkably does, as advertised, include and beautifully tie together in this broad panorama the fields of "cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, and history," it is crucial to notice what is missing - pretty much all of the humanities other than history: art, literature, music, the study of religion, and philosophy. This is not a criticism! Just an important point. (And of course, all of these fields deserve to be studied as much as Big History. They treat different but at least equally important aspects of human experience.) Now, why (imho) should every human being learn Big History? For a number of reasons: - Every field covered is worth learning, at least at a basic level, even as an isolated area, purely for its own sake. They are all fascinating. - Anyone who wishes to function as a thoughtful and self-directed individual, and with understanding, in the modern world needs this information to do so. - Big History shows how these many disciplines, typically thought of as separate, self-contained fields, relate in many and important ways to each other. This gives deeper insight into all of them, and provides students who have a natural focus on only one or two areas with a motivation to learn something about, and to appreciate, the others. This is perhaps Professor Christian's most remarkable and impressive accomplishment. - If people throughout the world had this shared understanding of our common history, in the broad sense covered, this would potentially provide a shared basis for greater mutual understanding and respect, despite our differences. (Note: I am by nature a skeptic and a cynic. But I really believe this particular bit of naive idealism. The more we share with "the other", the less "other" they become.) Almost forgot to mention - Professor Christian is terrific, one of the best. He speaks beautifully and with simple eloquence; his joy in teaching is ever present; he is able to transmit his sense of the importance of his subject; he is preternaturally well-organized; and he actually has done the preparatory work to know what he is talking about. Also, very importantly, he consistently reminds us of the sources and limitations of our knowledge. The visuals are plentiful and mostly relevant and helpful. And the course guidebook is excellent, with brief but pertinent summaries of each lecture. There are several timelines, a glossary, and an extensive annotated bibliography. So - I'm not kidding: this course has my highest recommendation for everyone, everywhere. Depending on your background, some of it will be review, some will be new, but the connections and related insights, and the emergent properties of the whole, are wonderfully worthwhile. And I am completely in favor of promoting this as the introductory course in history for all students, whether at the high school or college level. Take it, appreciate, and enjoy.
Date published: 2014-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History of Everything An excellent dissertation on the history of everything from the beginning until now. It incorporates all disciplines. I have a new perspective about how the universe has gone from simplicity to complexity consistently since the beginning of time... be it the coalescing of matter to form the stars and planets, the development of agrarian civilizations, or the complex industrial and scientific systems that exist today.
Date published: 2014-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and stimulating course I read about this course in the NY Times. Bill Gates was interested in it. That piqued my curiosity. I am glad it did. The course brought together a lot of information I had learned through the years. But mainly it broadened my appreciation of my place in the universe. I am a believer in God. I found this scientific description of how everything came about expanded my appreciation of God's design for humanity. The professor stayed with science and did not move into philosophy or theology. I think that is the reason why I liked it so much and would recommend it to fellow believers.
Date published: 2014-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So far so good............. So far so good.......My son and I are through the first disc of "Big History." We are still adapting to alternative media vis-à-vis the (traditional) classroom for presentation of didactic academic material; additionally we are still adjusting to Professor Christian's affectations and idiosyncrasies during classroom instruction. So far so good..........the material is boggling in its' scope and really gives one an idea of how they actually fit in the grandest of schemes. Will update as appropriate.
Date published: 2014-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Difficult material but clearly presented The professor works hard and effectively to try to make the material understandable -- using excellent analogies. The material itself is necessarily hard to grasp for someone with a limited background in the physical sciences.
Date published: 2014-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful Like an expert boxer, Mr. Christian circles the skeptic, weakening his opponent with a broad approach and calculated wit that anticipates each rebuttal, before he closes in and finishes the match with hard evidence to support a scientific perspective. An illuminating series, every lecture was time well spent.
Date published: 2014-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History This course totally exceeded expectations. Very informative, easy to understand. Multiple aha moments! Yes, I finally get it!!! Love how the professor presented the ideas. It's like being in a lecture hall once again, only this time I'm right in front, always on time and most of all eager to learn. Kudos to TGC for offering this course and thank you Prof. Christian.
Date published: 2014-11-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Big History Well done with the exception of his apparent compelling need to discuss gender issues such as "why" '[ woman were not as powerful (rulers) as men thru most of history, which as with most so called professro's is not balanced. For example, could it be that these roles evolved naturally? Men "hunt" for food, which takes different physical capabilities and therefore evolve to lead groups? No eat - no people...could it be that simple? example is pro sports today such as rugby or football pro's? Why are they separate, men play, men coach....while there is a seperate sports teams for women...., etc, etc.............. This professor should stick to the facts and a lot less time sharing his opinion regarding the "power" of men vs women!....And the course would be much improved!!!
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor, Great Course This is one of the best courses I have ever heard. I followed in the audio version, The thread of the narrative, content and teaching allowed me to follow him to the end. EXCELLENT
Date published: 2014-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History, big interesting, big value! I am only about halfway through this course, but I love it. I listen while I work out or walk and I look forward to each lecture. Some of the early stuff - cosmology, chemistry of life - was a bit over my head, but the professor managed to make it so I could understand it at the moment, even if I couldn't really retain all he said. Now I am into human history and I can understand better. The professor is very articulate and erudite but relaxed, friendly, entertaining, down-to-earth. It is a big time commitment, but well worth making, in my view. I had read about this course in the press and was delighted that Great Courses made it available. So - highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't let Big History pass you by The Big History series is phenomenal. I originally read about the series from an article in the Wall Street Journal. LIstening to the lectures as they tie in the beginning of the universe, the creation of our galaxy and solar system, with biology, physics and the evolution of man triggers nothing but awe. Getting a comprehensive understanding of how we came to be what we are as humans and how the world around us developed is numbingly inspiring. This should be a mandatory course for every high school and university student. Well done.
Date published: 2014-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fine history of the universe...and of us A giant review of history---starting before the Big Bang---in digestible, understandable and fascinating pieces.
Date published: 2014-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History Great Course no pun intended. All should sign up. Provides a realistic yet unusual presentation of history on earth, particularly of the human. Quite credible and extensive threading the key drivers of how the planet earth and we got to where we are. Even the predictions of the future seemingly plausible and noted by Prof. Christian, as largely "educated" guessing were helpful in getting one's head around where are we headed. George Mauer
Date published: 2014-10-15
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