Sunday, December 27, 2009

Big History

About a year ago I watched Charlie Rose interview Bill Gates. Charlie asked him how he spent his time now that he wasn’t running Microsoft day-to-day. Gates replied that one of the things he was doing was studying “Big History.”

I’d never heard of Big History, but figured if Bill Gates could make time for it maybe I should do the same. Turns out Big History is a course developed in the 1980’s by David Christian, an Australian who teaches at San Diego State. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, Big History examines history across long time frames – from the beginning of time to the present day.

I found that the Teaching Company offers Big History on DVD’s, with Christian delivering the course in 48 thirty-minute lectures. Sandra and I decided to make it one of our 2009 projects. We began in June and finished Lecture #48 this weekend. It was a great thing to do.

In Big History we looked at a series of thresholds, beginning with:

1. The creation of the universe

And moving on to:

2. The first stars

3. The formation of chemical elements

4. The birth of our earth

5. The appearance of living organisms

6. Mammals

7. Hominines, our ancestors

8. Our species, homo sapiens

9. Humans as nomadic foragers

10. The appearance of agriculture and agrarian civilizations

11. Modern human communities

It’s a fascinating story, with much still unknown and more thresholds to come.

Today we’ll begin our next course from the Teaching Company, this one having to do with Greek and Roman archaeology. It’s part of our preparation for a trip to Greece we have planned for later this year.


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