Macquarie University history professor David Christian tells the saga of humanity in context – an ambitious, impressive undertaking – though people don’t appear until Chapter 7, after an overview of the universe. Christian tells a contextualized history, starting with the big bang. Scientific purists may dislike the agency he awards certain principles or objects, and his ambition is huge. But, his informed, insightful, useful history gives new perspectives on old stories and a lens for understanding contemporary society. Readers will revel in his vast knowledge and remarkably accessible style.
Most histories omit too much. To understand human history, you must understand the history of the universe.
To understand the story of human beings, you need the context of the larger “history of everything.” A unified history of everything can provide a map from one development and discipline to another. The universe grows continually more complex. Humans live in “Goldilocks conditions,” where things are not too hot and not too cold for evolution. As the universe grows more complex, it moves through “transition points” or “thresholds” whereby things take on new forms and develop new qualities.
The universe reaches new “thresholds” when new qualities emerge. The big bang marked Threshold 1 some 13.8 billion years ago.
Threshold 1 happened with the big bang, though scientists can’t explain why the big bang happened. Prior to the big bang, the universe pressed against itself like a compressed spring. The spring expanded outward and has continued to do so for more than 13 billion years. As this hot point of pure energy expanded and cooled, its energies differentiated into strong and weak nuclear ...
David Christian, DPhil, is director of the Big History Institute and distinguished professor of history at Macquarie University in Sydney. He was founding president of the International Big History Association and co-founded (with Bill Gates) the Big History Project. His 18-minute 2011 TED Talk on the history of the universe has been viewed nearly one billion times.