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Historian David Christian shares a compact history of the universe to illustrate “why complexity means vulnerability and fragility.” Learn how rare moments of ideal conditions enabled complexity to build on itself to create the remarkable, sophisticated Earth – and its human inhabitants – that exists today.


The law of entropy says that the universe generally follows a path from structure and complexity to disordered, random “mush.” Consider how an egg becomes a runny, gooey mess amid whisking. Yet seemingly defying this law, the modern world is packed with complexity. That’s because pockets of ideal “Goldilocks conditions” can generate complexity that builds on itself. The universe passed eight “thresholds of complexity” and endured increasing challenge and fragility to become what it is today:

  1. The Big Bang” – From dark emptiness, the universe originated with a bang 13.7 billion years ago. It was tinier than an atom but held everything that exists today, and it expanded rapidly. 
  2. The stars light up” – Some 380,000 years later, the first ...

About the Speaker

Historian David Christian worked with Bill Gates to create an online high school course about the history of the universe.

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