Big History: The History of the Universe in Under 18 minutes….David Christian at TED

Want to know about the history of the universe in under 18 minutes? There is a marvelous movement afoot world wide: to teach ‘Big History’, the history of the 13.7 billion years of the universe, to high school students around the world. Adults could do with it too. The movement was founded by David Christian, and here he is below at TED giving a history of the 13.7 billion years in 17 minutes 40 seconds: no mean feat. 

Big history weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines across 13.7 billion years into a single, accessible origin story. One that explores who we are, how we got here, how we are connected to everything around us, and where we may be heading. The concept arose from a desire to go beyond the specialized and self-contained fields that emerged in the 20th century and grasp history as a whole, looking for common themes across the entire time scale of history.

If you are a high school teacher or educator, and want to consider building this into your school’s curriculum, see details at:

Six US high schools started on this project in 2011, two of them in this city. I am interested in the effect this will have in breaking down insularity, and also short termism in the way we perceive our world, not to mention the barriers between educational subjects. I am also interested in how this project plays out in the culture wars that paralyze US education, politics and economics. As an archaeologist friend of mine once said: ‘Many religious fundamentalists think the world was created 6000 years ago, about the time Babylonians invented brewing’

Big history will thus provide very specific, detailed understanding of the whole 13.7 billion year history of the universe right up to now. Not an orthodoxy but a coherent complicated story still with many unknowns. And maybe that is what we need to get the perspective that ensures we continue to grow complexity as David Christian characterizes the 13.7 billion years.

And this Chronozoom tool helps you see this whole Big History picture and zoom on into the detail:

I got to know David’s work through his book: Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, but see also see also Brown, Cynthia S.  Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present.


This is David:


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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