Big History: An Introduction

What is big history? This emergent and interdisciplinary field, enriched and pioneered by Dr. David Christian of Macquarie University, encourages a more holistic understanding of human events than does the traditional study of history. While historians are concerned with understanding the past in context, and considering cause and effect in human terms, big historians are concerned with understanding the past not only in its immediate human historical setting, but in the context of scientific and physical laws of nature as well. If history is written by the victor, then big history is written in the stars themselves.

Screenshot 2015-12-20 at 1.39.32 PMDr. Christian, bolstered by the support of philanthropist Bill Gates, first injected big history into the public sector with a 2011 TED Talk, providing an 18 minute overview of world history. In this sensational talk, which has garnered more than 5 million views since its publication, Dr. Christian identifies the basic principles of big history, including the concept of Goldilocks conditions and the various “thresholds” of complexity that we observe in the universe. At various moments in the cosmic past, Christian states, certain Goldilocks conditions have come about, in which “not too little, and not too much” of certain components — usually energy or mass — have allowed the universe to reach states of increasing complexity.

Starting at the Big Bang and the first moment of time itself, Christian traces the cause-and-effect of each moment and identifies these thresholds. He highlights the six universal thresholds of complexity as follows:

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Good News!

I have had less time to write on Civ than I would have liked this year, due to my language studies in Greek, so I thought that I would share this major milestone. I still have more graduate projects to work on, but I also have much more material planned for Civ, when I get around to it. At least I am making progress towards my PhD!

Κέλσος

Screenshot 2015-11-30 at 6.31.27 AMI have received news that I have unanimously passed the Greek qualifying exam in my PhD program! This exam was the last of 11 qualifying exams that I have had to take in my graduate studies (5 in my MA program, and 6 in my PhD program). The Greek exam is, by far, the most difficult (the second most difficult is the Latin qualifying exam, but I consider Latin to be a much easier language than Ancient Greek, and that’s saying something!).

There has been a long journey to get to this point. I began studying Greek six years ago (the year before I entered my Classics MA program at the University of Arizona). During my time there I not only studied Greek every semester, but even took an independent study in Greek prose composition in which I completed all of North and Hillard’s Greek Prose Composition. In addition to…

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