Origin Story
A captivating history of the universe -- from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future.Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big bang through the present day -- and even into the remote future? How would looking at the full span of time change the way we perceive the universe, the earth, and our very existence?These were the questions David Christian set out to answer when he created the field of "Big History," the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we've come to know as "history." By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together -- from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond.With stunning insights into the origin of the universe, the beginning of life, the emergence of humans, and what the future might bring, Origin Story boldly reframes our place in the cosmos.

Origin Story Details

TitleOrigin Story
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 22nd, 2018
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316392006
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Science

Origin Story Review

  • Bill Gates
    January 1, 1970
    We all have an origin story. In some societies, they manifest as creation myths. In others, they look more like history textbooks. For example, as a kid in the United States, I grew up learning about the group of rebels who stood up to their British overlords and founded our country. It’s human nature to be curious about where we come from, and origin stories unite people through a common history and shared sense of purpose.But what if all of humanity shared an origin story? What would that stor We all have an origin story. In some societies, they manifest as creation myths. In others, they look more like history textbooks. For example, as a kid in the United States, I grew up learning about the group of rebels who stood up to their British overlords and founded our country. It’s human nature to be curious about where we come from, and origin stories unite people through a common history and shared sense of purpose.But what if all of humanity shared an origin story? What would that story look like? Historian David Christian tries to answer those questions in his new book Origin Story.As the creator of Big History—my favorite course of all time—David is well-suited to write about how we came to be. Big History tells the story of the universe from the big bang to the first signs of life to today’s complex societies. It shows how everything is connected to everything else, weaving together insights and evidence from across disciplines into a single, understandable narrative.Origin Story is essentially the Big History course condensed into a short book. It divides 13.8 billion years of existence into what David calls “thresholds”—moments in history that mark key transition points, like the formation of our solar system and the first appearance of early humans. The chapters about the early thresholds are heavy on physics and chemistry, but it skews more towards biology and anthropology as single cell life evolves into more complex beings.If you haven’t taken Big History, Origin Story introduces you to its concepts in a straightforward, understandable way. David is a very good writer, and he has a way of making complicated subjects fun. If you’re already a Big Historian, Origin Story is a great refresher. It does a fantastic job distilling the latest thinking about the origins of the universe. I learned some things that are simply too new to be included in the course.The book ends with a chapter on where humanity—and the universe—is headed. David is more pessimistic about the future than I am. He gets a little stuck on the current economic and political malaise happening in the West, and I wish he talked more about the role innovation will play in preventing the worst effects of climate change. But he nails the importance of this moment in history: “Things are happening so fast that, like the slow-motion time of a near accident, the details of what we do in the next few decades will have huge consequences for us and for the biosphere on scales of thousands of years. Like it or not, we are now managing an entire biosphere, and we can do it well or badly.”Understanding where humanity comes from is crucial to shaping where we go next. Origin Story is an up-to-date history of everything that will leave you with a greater appreciation of our place in the universe.
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  • Caleb Masters
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful and relatively compact history book that does its best to tell the history of EVERYTHING, from the big bang to what the future may hold for us and our universe. Christian highlights various "thresholds" that our universe and then our species crossed to take history to its next big level. I admire his ability to synthesize information and present it in an easy digestible package for the reader. Fans of Harari's "Sapiens" and Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" will find a lot A wonderful and relatively compact history book that does its best to tell the history of EVERYTHING, from the big bang to what the future may hold for us and our universe. Christian highlights various "thresholds" that our universe and then our species crossed to take history to its next big level. I admire his ability to synthesize information and present it in an easy digestible package for the reader. Fans of Harari's "Sapiens" and Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" will find a lot to enjoy here.
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  • Susan in NC
    January 1, 1970
    I want to read more good nonfiction, and came across this intriguing title - it fit the bill nicely, giving me a new cautiously optimistic outlook and taking my mind off of the dreadful news headlines for a bit.First of all, I really enjoyed the dry humor and interesting observations of the author. He uses the term Goldilocks to refer to the just right evolutionary conditions planet Earth possessed which allowed life to develop. The following passage is typical of his engaging style, in which he I want to read more good nonfiction, and came across this intriguing title - it fit the bill nicely, giving me a new cautiously optimistic outlook and taking my mind off of the dreadful news headlines for a bit.First of all, I really enjoyed the dry humor and interesting observations of the author. He uses the term Goldilocks to refer to the just right evolutionary conditions planet Earth possessed which allowed life to develop. The following passage is typical of his engaging style, in which he discusses these ‘evolutionary ups and downs’: “These changes did not take the smooth, stately forms that Darwin and his generation expected of evolution. Instead, the history of big life was an unpredictable and dangerous roller coaster ride… Like the cliché about the life of a soldier, evolution in the Phanerozoic meant long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror and life-threatening violence. The violence is most apparent in periods of mass extinctions.”Or these observations on agrarian civilizations: “Viewed ecologically states and their rulers represent a new step in the food chain, a new trophic level. We have seen how energy from sunlight enters the biosphere through photosynthesis and travels from plants to herbivores to carnivores. And we have seen how most of that energy is wasted at each trophic level, in a sort of garbage tax.… Rulers and nobles and officials begin to squeeze wealth in the labor and produce of peasants, who in turn got their energy in food for farming.… Thinking about such processes in ecological terms reminds us that wealth never really consist of things; it consists of control over the energy flows that make, move, mine, and transform things. Wealth is a sort of compressed sunlight, just as matter is really congealed energy.”See? Different and intriguing, yet accessible. And I admit, when I read the above statement about nobles squeezing peasants, I thought of my favorite scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur (Graham Chapman) is treated to a lecture on human rights from a peasant! I found Christian’s Big History ideas a fascinating, clear-eyed, intelligent way of getting a big picture of where humans have been and where we may be going; maybe not always a rosy picture, but an impressive and important way to organize our history thus far. I love how beautifully he weaves together so many disciplines and narratives! So much of current news coverage is breathless and cataclysmic and, I feel, takes our eyes and minds off the real, larger issues covered here. I am going to continue to seek out well-written and well-researched non-fiction that helps me grasp the important issues and try and make sense of our world!
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  • Gene
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating, well written, & full of information that you probably don’t know, but should. Makes you think, wonder, & want to learn more.
  • MaryBeth
    January 1, 1970
    I'll be honest--it was a little difficult to concentrate on this as one of my summer selections, but I'm glad I did. The author is an engaging writer and I found myself carried along once I started. History and science are fascinating. Glad I picked it up.
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  • Arun
    January 1, 1970
    excellent book that condenses the entire knowledge on universe into a delightful read
  • Teo 2050
    January 1, 1970
    <7.5h @ 1.7x. Contents:(view spoiler)[Christian D (2018) (12:23) Origin Story - A Big History of EverythingPrefaceTimelineIntroduction– A Modern Origin StoryPart I: Cosmos01. In the Beginning: Threshold 1– Jump-Starting an Origin Story– Threshold 1: Quantum Bootstrapping a Universe– The First Structures– The First Atoms– What’s the Evidence?02. Stars and Galaxies: Thresholds 2 and 3– Free Energy: The Driver of Complexity– Galaxies and Stars: Threshold 2– A Universe with Galaxies and Stars– Ne <7.5h @ 1.7x. Contents:(view spoiler)[Christian D (2018) (12:23) Origin Story - A Big History of EverythingPrefaceTimelineIntroduction– A Modern Origin StoryPart I: Cosmos01. In the Beginning: Threshold 1– Jump-Starting an Origin Story– Threshold 1: Quantum Bootstrapping a Universe– The First Structures– The First Atoms– What’s the Evidence?02. Stars and Galaxies: Thresholds 2 and 3– Free Energy: The Driver of Complexity– Galaxies and Stars: Threshold 2– A Universe with Galaxies and Stars– New Elements and Increasing Chemical Complexity: Threshold 303. Molecules and Moons: Threshold 4– From Stardust to Molecules– Chemical Trysts: How Atoms Combine– Threshold 4: From Molecules to Moons, Planets, and Solar Systems– Planet Earth– Studying Earth: Seismographs and Radiometric DatingPart II: Biosphere04. Life: Threshold 5– Life and Information: A New Type of Complexity– Defining Life– The Goldilocks Conditions for Life– From Rich Chemistry to Life: Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor– From Luca to Prokaryotes05. Little Life and the Biosphere– Geology: How Planet Earth Works– The Unity of Life– Prokaryotes: A World of Single-Celled Organisms– Photosynthesis: An Energy Bonanza and a Revolution– Eukaryotes to the Rescue06. Big Life and the Biosphere– Big Life– The Molecular Gadgets That Made Big Life Possible– Big Life Takes Off: The Ediacaran and Cambrian Periods– Evolutionary Ups and Downs: Mass Extinctions and Evolution’s Roller Coaster– Greening the Land and Oxygenating the Atmosphere– Long Trends: Larger Bodies and Bigger Brains– An Asteroid Lands—A Lucky Break for Mammals– After the Asteroid: A Mammalian Adaptive RadiationPart III: Us07. Humans: Threshold 6– Primate Evolution in a Cooling World– Early Hominin History: When Did the First Humans Appear?– Later Hominin History: The Past Two Million Years– What Makes Us Different? Crossing Threshold 6– Living in the Paleolithic– Settling the Biosphere: Humans Migrate Around the World– Increasing Complexity in the Paleolithic– The Earliest Era of Human History08. Farming: Threshold 7– What Is Agriculture?– The History and Geography of Early Farming– Why Did Humans Take Up Farming? Crossing Threshold 7– The Early Agrarian Era: Farming Spreads Around the World– How Farming Transformed Human History09. Agrarian Civilizations– Surpluses, Hierarchies, and a Division of Labor– From Towns to Cities and Rulers: Mobilization and a New Trophic Level– The Spread of Agrarian States– Measuring Change in the Agrarian Era of Human History10. On the Verge of Today’s World– The World Six Hundred Years Ago– Creating a Single World System– Fossil Fuels: A Mega-Innovation– Early Industrialization11. The Anthropocene: Threshold 8– The Great Acceleration– Transforming the World: Technologies and Science– Transforming the World: Governance and Society– New Ways of Living and Being– Transforming the Biosphere– Measuring Change in the AnthropocenePart IV: The Future12. Where Is It All Going?– Future Games– The Human Future: The Quest– Beyond Humans: Millennial and Cosmological FuturesAppendix: Statistics on Human HistoryNotesFurther ReadingGlossaryAcknowledgments (hide spoiler)]
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  • Nancy Ellis
    January 1, 1970
    Having read Dr. Christian's previous text on Big History, Maps of Time, as well as having studied his course on Big History produced by The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company), I found this an enjoyable refresher. It is a more condensed version of Big History than the massive Maps of Time and is an excellent introduction to whet the appetite of potential students. Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency towards OCD behavior in reading, in that I am obsessive about readin Having read Dr. Christian's previous text on Big History, Maps of Time, as well as having studied his course on Big History produced by The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company), I found this an enjoyable refresher. It is a more condensed version of Big History than the massive Maps of Time and is an excellent introduction to whet the appetite of potential students. Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency towards OCD behavior in reading, in that I am obsessive about reading a series of books in the order they were written. The study of history is one of my major loves, so Big History satisfies that obsession by taking us back to what we currently believe to be the very beginning of it all: the Big Bang. The story continues as levels of complexity increase (e.g. stars, planets, molecules, etc.), eventually leading to the emergence of mankind. This book includes a large concluding section dealing with the present-day changing of the biosphere by humans and what the future could hold. It's a relief that Dr. Christian is neither a predictor of doom and despair nor a believer that everything is rosy. He presents a fair depiction of the choices we face in the future of life on earth. Having said all that, I must say that I actually preferred his first book with its 600+ pages, because of the wealth of information that is within those pages.
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  • Janis
    January 1, 1970
    I read a recommendation for this book by Bill Gates and was lucky enough to get a copy quickly from the library. It was slow going at first as there was so much scientific information, much of which was not known when I was in school back in the 50s and 60s. However, in spite of the technological challenges, Christian's writing is engaging enough to keep the reader hanging in there. Proudly finished it a day before it is due back and where 44 people have it on their hold lists and are anxiously I read a recommendation for this book by Bill Gates and was lucky enough to get a copy quickly from the library. It was slow going at first as there was so much scientific information, much of which was not known when I was in school back in the 50s and 60s. However, in spite of the technological challenges, Christian's writing is engaging enough to keep the reader hanging in there. Proudly finished it a day before it is due back and where 44 people have it on their hold lists and are anxiously awaiting their turn. Gates's recommendation was spot on; this is a fantastic read and will leave you thinking about the universe, life, and what's really important as you might never have previously done. To create a world where economic growth is no longer the primary goal of governments, where people can escape the extreme forms of the rat race, where education and science become important and knowledge begins to replace material goods as a source of wealth and well-being, where we are no longer dependent on fossil fuels, and where poverty has been eliminated will rely, as Christian so aptly points out, on the existence of voters who take this quest seriously. Christian does not politicize this, but I will: the current administration seems to be taking us in the exact opposite direction and that's worse than just simple folly. Take the time to read this masterful work - it will be well worth it.
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  • Tarek Amer
    January 1, 1970
    -The Big Bang created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, the first of a series of key events in our history. -The appearance of stars 12 billion years ago and the way they die were important steps forward for the universe.-The earth was formed by the accumulation of debris about 4.5 billion years ago.-Earth had the right conditions to allow life to flourish.-Photosynthesis was an energy bonanza for early, single-celled life that helped spark a biological revolution.-Evolution and the extinctio -The Big Bang created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, the first of a series of key events in our history. -The appearance of stars 12 billion years ago and the way they die were important steps forward for the universe.-The earth was formed by the accumulation of debris about 4.5 billion years ago.-Earth had the right conditions to allow life to flourish.-Photosynthesis was an energy bonanza for early, single-celled life that helped spark a biological revolution.-Evolution and the extinction of dinosaurs helped the big forms of life develop that would eventually lead to humanity.-Humans evolved from primates and made a major breakthrough with the development of language.-Farming was a transformative innovation for human life.-As farming improved, it generated surpluses which enabled the development of more complex agrarian societies.-The exchange of ideas and discovery of fossil fuels accelerated the advance of human progress.-The earth has entered a new age: the era of humans.-The future is ours to make.
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  • Michael Huang
    January 1, 1970
    This is really a historical from 30,000 ft high (or, perhaps more appropriately 13 billion light years away). The story covers (a) the cosmology part of history from the Big Bang, formation of stars, explosion of stars (supernovae), to the formation of earth; (b) the biology part from prokaryotes, eucaryotes, to evolution and the rise of mammals; (c) the social part from hunter-gatherer society, farming-enabled complex society, to industrialized and information-age modern society.
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  • Jay
    January 1, 1970
    Comprehensive in scope and accessible in prose, Origin Story was a delight to read. I expect I will re-read this again regularly. Christian provided a very useful and broad summary of what has led us to today, and what our paths are forward. A compelling rallying cry, and a rare book that changed the way I think about several topics. Highly recommended.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    This is really a big history of humanity which is logical given our domination of Planet Earth. The writer does take the reader through everything from pre-Big Bang to the beginning of life to the emergence and growth of man to how he sees the future and the eventual end of the universe. Christian has that knack like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson of making the driest,most esoteric physics and biology fascinating. I thought when he tried to predict the future of Man he lost his way a little This is really a big history of humanity which is logical given our domination of Planet Earth. The writer does take the reader through everything from pre-Big Bang to the beginning of life to the emergence and growth of man to how he sees the future and the eventual end of the universe. Christian has that knack like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson of making the driest,most esoteric physics and biology fascinating. I thought when he tried to predict the future of Man he lost his way a little and got all Pollyanna/Utopian but he climbed back to reality with his explanation of the end of the Universe gazillions of years from now. All in all, a very interesting book.
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  • Mansi Gupta
    January 1, 1970
    I'd have given it 5 stars except the last couple of chapters just felt out of sync with the tone of the rest of the book.
  • Jerry Wall
    January 1, 1970
    History of universe and people with timeline in thresholds from one age to another with seven of so thresholds til we get to modern history. early on after big bang energy itself split up into 1 gravity, 2 the electromagnetic force, then the 3 strong and 4 weak nuclear forces. p.23. . . electromagnetism is . . . 10 to 36th times as strong as gravity. p. 28. . . the first living organism as Luca (Or LUCA, from "last universal common ancestor. . . p. 90. . . symbols (deceptively simple words like History of universe and people with timeline in thresholds from one age to another with seven of so thresholds til we get to modern history. early on after big bang energy itself split up into 1 gravity, 2 the electromagnetic force, then the 3 strong and 4 weak nuclear forces. p.23. . . electromagnetism is . . . 10 to 36th times as strong as gravity. p. 28. . . the first living organism as Luca (Or LUCA, from "last universal common ancestor. . . p. 90. . . symbols (deceptively simple words like symbol that carry a huge informational cargo. p. 174"The principal factor promoting historically significant social change is contact with strangers possessing new and unfamiliar skills." p. 175* * *collective learning p. 175 !!!!!. . . communities known to archaeologists as Natufians (affluent foragers) p. 196. . . as they learned what it meant to be farmers, they forgot what it meant to be foragers. p. 198Five thousand years ago, in the southern Mesopotamian city of Uruk, someone compiled a list of a hundred different special roles, The Standard Professions List. p. 213Arthashashastra . . . and Indian manual of statecraft, written about two thousand years ago . . . proclaimed worst state for a person was statelessness . . . . of law of the fish for without a ruler a weak man is devoured by a stronger man . . . . p. 223 !!!!!!!the noosphere, the sphere of mind. p. 267The universe really is indifferent to our fate. p. 291 as is fate, faith based gods, etc.John Stuart Mill * * * . . . "the best state for human nature is that in which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear being thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward." Growth was still needed, he stated in many poorer countries, but the richer countries were more in need of a better distribution of wealth. With basic necessities taken care of, the task for them was to live more fully rather than to keep acquiring more material wealth. p. 295!!!!!!!
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  • Patrick Pilz
    January 1, 1970
    One of those ground breaking books. Ran across it because Bill Gates had it on the summer read list. "Big History" is a new field of science, one that tries to tell the story of the universe, planets, life and humanity in a single uniform narrative. I read a lot of books which cover parts of this story from the angle of physics, chemistry or biology, but never in such an interwoven way. David Christian make an interesting story told in easy understandable language which really explains everythin One of those ground breaking books. Ran across it because Bill Gates had it on the summer read list. "Big History" is a new field of science, one that tries to tell the story of the universe, planets, life and humanity in a single uniform narrative. I read a lot of books which cover parts of this story from the angle of physics, chemistry or biology, but never in such an interwoven way. David Christian make an interesting story told in easy understandable language which really explains everything.If you liked Bill Brysons story of everything, you love this one.
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  • Jamila Heckathorn
    January 1, 1970
    it was really interesting and educational, but not overwhelming, right up until it got downright depressing. pretty much the cliffs notes of years of science and history that my brain had stored away, followed by the daunting plan of what can extend the life of our planet and species, and thusly concluded with how, even if we buy some time, eventually we will all be absorbed into black holes billions of years from now anyway. joy! glad i took this “refresher course” anyway. sometimes i miss scho it was really interesting and educational, but not overwhelming, right up until it got downright depressing. pretty much the cliffs notes of years of science and history that my brain had stored away, followed by the daunting plan of what can extend the life of our planet and species, and thusly concluded with how, even if we buy some time, eventually we will all be absorbed into black holes billions of years from now anyway. joy! glad i took this “refresher course” anyway. sometimes i miss school ;)
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  • Steve Perryman
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent history of our universe. I would consider this a must read for anyone interested in a contextual history of where we came from, where we are now and what the future looks like.
  • Carol Peters
    January 1, 1970
    Science changes so fast, I like to read new books that recount from the big bang forward. This one is pretty good at supplying occasional information that was new to me for about 200 pages, right up to the development of agriculture.Then it declines into econo-politico-anthropocene-futuristico filler. Too bad he didn't know where to stop.
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  • Tracy108
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting. Fulfilled its purpose very well. I wish it had been more about social systems but that wasn’t the goal of the book, just my personal preference and (incorrect) assumption that it would include more of that lens. Covered a tremendous amount of information with excellence.
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  • Jie Mauricio
    January 1, 1970
    Learned so much from this book!!!
  • Andre Chiasson
    January 1, 1970
    An overview of science and history and culture From astrophysics to geology, biology, history... You name it, an overview of everything from the Big Bang to today and beyond. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science, in history, in where we are and how we got here. I would like to see young people exposed to this kind of an overview to inspire their interests for future studies.
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  • Mahesh Kumar
    January 1, 1970
    I never thought history would be this interesting!
  • Flora
    January 1, 1970
    If anyone's feeling sorry for themselves, try reading up on The Origin Story by David Christian.For those who are remotely interested in world history, perhaps they have come across Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, which covers the history of humans, as named. However, that's not the full story - not even the marginal story. The Origin Story, then, gives a more comprehensive view of the universe. I have yet to cross any book that covers all disciplines, including: physics, cosmology, astronomy, che If anyone's feeling sorry for themselves, try reading up on The Origin Story by David Christian.For those who are remotely interested in world history, perhaps they have come across Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, which covers the history of humans, as named. However, that's not the full story - not even the marginal story. The Origin Story, then, gives a more comprehensive view of the universe. I have yet to cross any book that covers all disciplines, including: physics, cosmology, astronomy, chemistry, cell biology, geology, microbiology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, history etc.The book tells the history of the world according to the timeline of major events. In accordance to this, the chapters are divided into 9 major thresholds identified by Christian as follows:Threshold #1: Big bang creates the universe (~13.8 billion years ago)Threshold #2: The glow of the first stars (~13.2 billion years ago)Threshold #3: New elements form via dying large stars (Ongoing)Threshold #4: Sun & solar system forms (4.5 billion years ago)Threshold #5: Earliest life forms on Earth (3.8 billion years ago)Threshold #6: First evidence of Homo sapiens (200,000 years ago)Threshold #7: Agriculture revolution (10,000 years ago)Threshold #8: Fossil fuel revolution (200 years ago)Threshold #9 (?): Sustainable, ordered world? (100 years later?)As seen above, the book tackles some of the greatest questions mankind has asked and are worried about. For this reason, Christian does a tremendous job in highlighting the key points that are essential to get a comprehensive understanding of the universe without confusing the heck out of the general, non-science readers.The final chapter, of course, throws out wild ideas about our future: where are we going as a species, especially when it's clear from the timeline that we are going at an exponential speed? Will entropy ultimately breakdown everything? Are we far ahead enough to dodge our own ends that have ended many species before us? What about the fate of the universe?Here is where each question loop into the next and we can only sit and speculate as each pops out. The answer to all of the above is: there are no definite answers. There are too many unknown variables that can lead to infinite, foreseeable possibilities. Or even if there are a handful of things scientists are sure about, such as the ending of our sun, there are unlikely anything we can do to oppose it.It might sound like the book comes to a dark end, but it really isn't.My personal take on the book is to get a grasp of how the universe really operates and how it came to what is seen today. Most importantly, Christian's work highlights the remarkable progress of humankind and, paradoxically, humankind's trivial existence on a grand scale. It is an excellent and philosophical way for us to step back and realize no matter how frustrated, powerful, in control, lost we are about life, humankind thus far is nothing except a minuscule glimmer in the universe.All in all, The Origin Story is a true and concise encyclopedia worth coming back to again and again. And certainly, a work worth teaching to young children for them to get an accurate, comprehensive perspective of the world they live in.full review: https://westofthesunblog.wordpress.co...
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  • Bev Simpson
    January 1, 1970
    A most interesting read. David Christian takes us gracefully through what is called Big History, defined as "the attempt to understand, in a unified way, the history of Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity." Big History is a project funded by Bill Gates with Christian who is a professor of History at Macquarie and an elegant and interesting writer. Big History, in my understanding, is basically what is known about just about everything from the earliest days of the Cosmos, though early humans and th A most interesting read. David Christian takes us gracefully through what is called Big History, defined as "the attempt to understand, in a unified way, the history of Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity." Big History is a project funded by Bill Gates with Christian who is a professor of History at Macquarie and an elegant and interesting writer. Big History, in my understanding, is basically what is known about just about everything from the earliest days of the Cosmos, though early humans and their societies, Homo Sapiens and our evolution and impact on the earth, through to today and the possible futures that may lie ahead. Christian describes it as a unified history of humanity. He is an excellent story-teller, with a very good sense of where to go deeper, and where to let things lie. For example, I now understand entropy much better than I ever have before – it's likely there will be a blog in the coming days on entropy, organizations and leadership.What seems most fascinating is the idea, expressed in the early pages of the book, of a unifying knowledge, that all of humanity shares an emerging global origin story, that there can be no peace on earth unless we see ourselves as a human society, as a global village, all with a place in the universe, and not a series of tribes ready to go to war with each other, that our nationalistic pride will undo us as a human species if we aren’t able to build a strong sense of togetherness, that we have a common story in progress and we, as a human species, will dictate how the story progresses or ends.David Christian explores 8 different thresholds or moments of significant transition, each of which has increased the complexity of the story and introduced new emergent properties. As a student of complexity and complex adaptive systems, I was most intrigued by this approach. He writes "Even harder to grasp is the staggering increase in the complexity of modern societies, the way every detail of your life is enmeshed in networks involving millions of other people who supply food and employment, healthcare, education, electricity, the fuel for your car, the clothes you wear. Each of these chains of interconnection may include thousands or millions of other humans linked together in networks of fabulous complexity."
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  • Ian Tymms
    January 1, 1970
    A remarkable book. It strikes me that it reframes history to focus less on the social interaction of humans and more on the way humans fit within systems. It's not so much a history about the political interactions of humans, but a history of the way, throughout time, systems have evolved, thrived and sometimes died. Although humans are central to the story, we are not the most powerful players and, in our dance with entropy, we have a lot of steps still to learn. One of the key ideas I found my A remarkable book. It strikes me that it reframes history to focus less on the social interaction of humans and more on the way humans fit within systems. It's not so much a history about the political interactions of humans, but a history of the way, throughout time, systems have evolved, thrived and sometimes died. Although humans are central to the story, we are not the most powerful players and, in our dance with entropy, we have a lot of steps still to learn. One of the key ideas I found myself reflecting on was that the binary “human/nature” is simplistic and unhelpful. It sets too narrow an historical vision and sees humans only in the political context of a few thousand odd years of history. A better historical vision sees humans as a part of nature, recently evolved and acting within a complex system which may or may not be sustainable. Whether we are responsible for climate change is not the most important question; far more important is "can we use our skills and understandings to act within the natural systems of our biosphere to make it sustainable?" And just to be clear, a non-sustainable system is one that dies. Christian reminds me that, whilst my lifespan may be too short for the timescale of systems sustainability to have too detrimental an impact, the next half dozen generations to follow will be severely impacted. This impact can be positive or negative and decisions we make now will be decisive. One last observation: for my colleagues at United World Colleges, this is an important book also because it reads almost as a manifesto for the teaching of history with a UWC agenda. No accident perhaps given that the author is a graduate of UWC Atlantic College. The Big History Project is well worth a look. And Christian's dedication says it all:"I dedicate this book to my family, to my grandchildren, Daniel Richard and Evie Rose Molly, and to all students everywhere as they embark on the momentous challenge of building a better world."
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  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted more from this book. I should have known when I was getting into when I approached it, because it really does cover the "big history" of our world. I thrive on details, see, and the details I got were not enough to make me fly through this book. I hesitate to say that I found it dry, but as someone who struggles to wrap her brain around certain scientific principles, it was... a lot of science. Atoms and energy and chemicals and lots of numbers.The content seemed front-heavy, and it rus I wanted more from this book. I should have known when I was getting into when I approached it, because it really does cover the "big history" of our world. I thrive on details, see, and the details I got were not enough to make me fly through this book. I hesitate to say that I found it dry, but as someone who struggles to wrap her brain around certain scientific principles, it was... a lot of science. Atoms and energy and chemicals and lots of numbers.The content seemed front-heavy, and it rushed through humanity's contributions through history, but I think this was deliberate. After all, we're quite young in our universe.Every once in a while a brilliant quote would stand out and I found myself highlighting passages for future research. Certain things have never occurred to me. The smell of forest fires will never be detected on other planets in our solar system because "they lack the high oxygen levels and the woody fuel sources needed for the propagation of fire." It's such a small thing, but imagine never smelling woodsmoke!And the following quote is a pretty decent explanation of why I'm an agonistic: "If a god is powerful enough to design a universe, that god must surely be more complex than the universe, so assuming a creator god means explaining a fantastically complex universe by imagining something even more complex that just... created it."
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  • Matt Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    Audible Audiobook. A very fantastic, interesting history of how we got to here. Its really interesting reading this book just a month after I finished Origin by Dan Brown because it has the same big premise - life vs. entropy or life because of entropy. Entropy is basically that in the universe, things break down and energy is released. Life is the opposite of that, life conserves energy and creates things. The theory in this book, and in Origin is that Life actually makes entropy more efficient Audible Audiobook. A very fantastic, interesting history of how we got to here. Its really interesting reading this book just a month after I finished Origin by Dan Brown because it has the same big premise - life vs. entropy or life because of entropy. Entropy is basically that in the universe, things break down and energy is released. Life is the opposite of that, life conserves energy and creates things. The theory in this book, and in Origin is that Life actually makes entropy more efficient by bringing energy together so that when it does break down, it is more effective. To push it to intellectual final dimension, humans are "created" by the universe in order build Death Stars and turn the planets into Alderaan like wastelands. Its a theory I'm not yet ready to embrace. I don't think we need an entropy tax to simply believe that units that have a natural propensity to recreate themselves - and also has a natural propensity to make slight alterations to themselves (genetic mutations) need any additional reasons to come into existent or evolve. The ability to copy ourselves creates the eventual evolution.All that said, its an enjoyable book. It pushed me to think differently and that's fantastic.
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  • Nari Kannan
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing book!I have never seen a History book read like a novel before. This is "Big History" that explains the origins of the universe till the present day. David Christian explains everything in terms of only two things - "Information" and "Energy". And makes a lot of sense. I have never seen Organic and Inorganic chemistry explained so simply before! Few books in this world give you the feeling that you understand the world a bit better when you finish them. This is one of them! This books ma Amazing book!I have never seen a History book read like a novel before. This is "Big History" that explains the origins of the universe till the present day. David Christian explains everything in terms of only two things - "Information" and "Energy". And makes a lot of sense. I have never seen Organic and Inorganic chemistry explained so simply before! Few books in this world give you the feeling that you understand the world a bit better when you finish them. This is one of them! This books makes you go beyond national and lingustic borders and understand humanity's history in a way that makes sense. Information is the key to spread of knowledge and that is traced from its early origins to the present day Internet. We also see how Energy is understood and powers all living things, not just human. However, humans seem to have unleashed it in exponential proportions just in the last 100 years or so in a long history of a few hundred thousand years in human existence. Most of all, you get a sense of humility knowing we are all but a spec in the history of the Universe!
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  • Dennis
    January 1, 1970
    Good book. For those interested in science, astronomy, and evolution, there probably isn't a lot here that is totally new or that you haven't read before. It's kind of a survey of a lot of different topics. What's new is that it's put together as a "shared history", or origin story, of the entire human race. The argument is that, if we all understand our shared origin story, this should lead to more peace and cooperation in solving the world's large problems. I sure hope he's right.I'd recommend Good book. For those interested in science, astronomy, and evolution, there probably isn't a lot here that is totally new or that you haven't read before. It's kind of a survey of a lot of different topics. What's new is that it's put together as a "shared history", or origin story, of the entire human race. The argument is that, if we all understand our shared origin story, this should lead to more peace and cooperation in solving the world's large problems. I sure hope he's right.I'd recommend this book to anyone who's generally curious about the world, and I suspect that after reading it people will be led to delve deeper into some of the topics that interest them.
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