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Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity | [The Great Courses]

Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity

How is it possible for the disciplines of cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, and history to fit together? These 48 lectures answer that question by weaving a single story from accounts of the past developed by a variety of scholarly disciplines. The result is a story stretching from the origins of the universe to the present day and beyond, in which human history is seen as part of the history of our Earth and biosphere, and the Earth's history, in turn, is seen as part of the history of the universe.
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Publisher's Summary

How is it possible for the disciplines of cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, and history to fit together? These 48 lectures answer that question by weaving a single story from accounts of the past developed by a variety of scholarly disciplines. The result is a story stretching from the origins of the universe to the present day and beyond, in which human history is seen as part of the history of our Earth and biosphere, and the Earth's history, in turn, is seen as part of the history of the universe.

Like traditional creation stories told by the world's great religions and mythologies, this lecture series provides a map of our place in space and time. But it does so using the insights and knowledge of modern science, as synthesized by a renowned historian. While you may have heard parts of this story before in courses on geology, history, anthropology, biology, cosmology, and other scholarly disciplines, Professor Christian provides more than just a recap of those disciplines. "Because of the scale on which we look at the past, you should not expect to find in it many of the familiar details, names, and personalities that you'll find in other types of historical teaching and writing," he explains. "For example, the French Revolution and the Renaissance will barely get a mention. They'll zoom past in a blur. You'll barely see them. Instead, what we're going to see are some less familiar aspects of the past. We'll be looking, above all, for the very large patterns, the shape of the past.

"Prepare yourself for a journey through time and across space, from the first moments of existence to the distant reaches of the far future."

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    John P. Gillespie chapel hill 09-01-13
    John P. Gillespie chapel hill 09-01-13 Member Since 2009

    jgillespie

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    "The Big Picture of Big History"
    Where does Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This was my first foray into The Great Courses series of lectures, but it certainly will not be my last.


    What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?

    Professor Christian provides a stellar overview of history in accessible and engaging language.


    Any additional comments?

    I began listening to this at the same time that I was reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and I found a lot of reinforcement of ideas and details through both. If you are seeking a basic framework for understanding our universe, this is a great asset.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan United States 09-17-13
    Susan United States 09-17-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Amazing!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I have recommended this audio lecture to others. It really makes you think about our place in the universe very differently.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The breadth of the series.


    What does Professor David Christian bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He is such an articulate story teller that you get mesmerized listening to him.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The future of mankind in 1,000 years from now.


    Any additional comments?

    This series will broaden you total view of life and the world you live in.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Peterson 04-02-14
    K. Peterson 04-02-14

    The Grey Pilot

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    "WOW! History will never be the same!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is my fourth "Great Course" listen and by far the most fascinating and my favorite. Professor Christian is at the top of his game. I found myself thinking of all kinds of excuses to listen to "just one more lecture". The first lecture defines what "Big History" is and once you know that you are hopelessly hooked. From the idea of the Big Bang theory to where will our universe be millions and millions of years from now, put on your seat belt and prepare for one of the most interesting journeys of your life. I must say it is not for everyone. When bringing up (in a conversation with my spouse) what Professor Christian said about the formation of life and some thoughts about finding life on other planets (and what that life may look like), her reply was "Who cares". I just shook my head and wondered how Professor Christian would react to a student with that response.


    What other book might you compare Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity to and why?

    There is not another "great course" that covers the span of the "Big History" however another very interesting "great course" is called "The Other Side of History" which is my second favorite listen. Highly recommended also.


    What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?

    Every word is well spoken. Academy award caliber. He has an amazing and interesting way of presenting the facts and theories.


    If you could give Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Get to know the Big Bang and where it will end.


    Any additional comments?

    Every student dreams of having a Professor like Dr. Christian.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 10-13-14
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 10-13-14

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

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    "Perfect Title for an Enlightening Experience"

    Thank you Great Courses!

    I loved this listen! I bought it because I had read about Bill Gates' suggestion that this set of lectures be adapted for High School use. He thought it a brilliant new way of looking at the structure and content of the basic history course.

    Well, I think he and Professor Christian are absolutely right. This course begins with the real beginning - progresses through the formation of our universe, our solar system, and our planet to the eruption of life, division of species, and, finally, the development of human civilizations.

    It's all here and presented in a fascinating way. The Professor is a wonderful speaker, and his enthusiasm for this material is evident and contagious. My husband and I listened during many drives and found ourselves several times going out of our way to avoid arrival before a lecture ended!

    I hope Gates can help encourage more school systems to consider "Big History" as a high school course. It's high time for a more inclusive approach to history.

    "Big History" is a long trip, but it's a total pleasure. Embrace it!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Norwood Fresno, CA 02-21-14
    Paul Norwood Fresno, CA 02-21-14 Member Since 2005

    Paul Norwood

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    "Terrific compilation of the origins of matter/life"
    Any additional comments?

    This wonderful compilation of the scientific facts of the origins of matter, life and the rise of humanity is well organized, interesting and a good review or numerous fields. It is a must for the educated.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    harry PLEASANTON, CA, United States 04-05-14
    harry PLEASANTON, CA, United States 04-05-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A Great Lecture Series !"

    I have been wanting to try one of the "Great Courses" lecture series for some time. I had a little working knowledge of the Big History concepts so I decided to use a credit on this audio course.

    Initially I was a little concerned about whether or not these lectures would hold my attention for nearly 25 hours that would be required for the entire course. This concern turned out to be totally unfounded as I was completely taken in by the end of the very first 30 minute lecture!

    The scope of the material is vast and wondrous: From the Big Bang to our present technology driven civilization. Throughout the entire series of lectures David Christian moves just fast enough to instill excitement, always reviewing the material every few lectures and previewing what's to come.

    Because these lectures are only about 30 minutes in length they offer nice sized info-bites for the listener to digest. You can have as much or a little Big History as you want in nicely packaged increments. In fact, I think that the organization of the lectures in these easily digested increments is one of the more impressive elements of this audiobook as a whole.

    The narration is also absolutely first rate. Christian is a practiced speaker and this really shows in his wonderful delivery.

    If I have any criticism to offer it is on just two points:
    First, these lectures were obviously recorded in a studio environment so I don't see why Great Courses saw the need to dub in the same applause sound track at the end of each lecture. It's distraction and not necessary. Likewise the trumpet fanfare that precedes each lecture is completely unnecessary and artificial.

    My second criticism is aimed at the tact that I felt that Christian gets a little too "preachy" when discussing his ideas surrounding global warming. This is limited to only elements of one or two lectures but I did think that it marred an otherwise completely politically neutral outlook.

    On balance these are very very minor points of criticism. This is a masterwork that is matched with a flawless delivery and format and well wort one credit!

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    zein 09-18-14
    zein 09-18-14 Member Since 2013

    I am obsessed with learning. Either about history of society, epidemiology or spirituality. I would say I'm a seeker.

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    "50/50 on recommending this"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend with caution. The beginning was amazing but really dragged towards the end.


    What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?

    He was fantastic but his passion was clearly in scientific history and not human history which really made the last half of the lecture drag.


    Do you think Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    The beginning was AMAZING and I wouldn't trade anything I learned in for anything in the world. I was just a little disappointed that the second half felt less engaging. Like as soon as humans entered the picture in our world history something went missing in terms of passion or color from the lectures. Everything pre-human existence was engaging, colorful, jam packed with fun and memorable facts! I would rate the first half a 10 and the second half a 4.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 10-18-14
    Ben 10-18-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Very enlightening"
    What was one of the most memorable moments of Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity?

    The notion of energy flows and emergent properties unifying different systems of complexity made me see the extent to which everything is interconnected from the Big Bang all the way to modern human sociality.


    Any additional comments?

    This is an excellent story of complexity formation. I have seen the connections between complexity at the atomic, galactic, stellar, cellular, geologic and social levels. The only criticism is that the speaker tends to be rather redundant. But overall, this course is a fascinating ride through time, space, history and ideas. I highly recommend it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Deerfield, IL, United States 06-18-14
    Steve Deerfield, IL, United States 06-18-14 Member Since 2007
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    "Maybe the best audiobook I've heard"

    This is an amazing story, told in an amazing way. You will understand our place in the universe in a very profound way. It's easy to listen, presented with great clarity. HIGHLY recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Luke Bruges, Belgium 04-25-14
    Luke Bruges, Belgium 04-25-14 Member Since 2013
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    "The start of every thing."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity to be better than the print version?

    Not sure I do not have a printed version of this book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity?

    It was all memorable, I will be listening to this again


    What does Professor David Christian bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He brings real life to the audio version.


    If you could give Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity a new subtitle, what would it be?

    I think the title does not need to be changed.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • M. A. Atkin
    brighton, uk
    7/27/14
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    "Essential Reading for Humanity"
    What did you like most about Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity?

    It provides an overview of Humans and their place in history in the larger context of our existence within the universe in a wonderfully accessible way.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was compelling and fluidly delivered


    What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?

    He is a outstanding lecturer delivering enormous information I a wonderful way


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    KILMARNOCK, United Kingdom
    3/30/14
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    "The history of everything important"

    A wonderful series which launches a wealth of knowledge at the listener in a manner which allows it to be absorbed easily.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book and was absolutely hooked. The expansive task of describing the history of the universe, our planet and humankind is expertly handled by the lecturer who delivers in a very professional manner. It is very easy to keep up with the information, as there is very little jargon or complicated material.

    You will learn a ton of stuff and be smart as hell if you listen to this.

    Fans of History or Science will love it and even if you're not, probably.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Michael Bojang
    Basel, Switzerland
    3/21/14
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    "Best way to look at history of the earth"
    If you could sum up Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity in three words, what would they be?

    Absolutely fantastic book and Prof David Christian is brilliant.
    The idea to examine things from such a large scale is really thought provoking and allows us to provide some context to where we are today and where we could go.


    What other book might you compare Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity to, and why?

    Andrew Marr's world history book is a good introduction to the big bang, life on earth and the rise of humanity.


    What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?

    Simple sounds like and feels like a very nice man who is able to explain complex subjects in a very understandable way.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Formation of the planets


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • JOHN
    County Cork, Ireland
    3/16/14
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    "13.7 Billion Years in 24 Hours, 25 Minutes!"

    This is yet another excellent series of lectures from The Great Courses. Professor Christian brings a wealth of learning to bear on the history of the Universe to date and he conveys the information in an easily understood manner. He has a very good speaking voice and is a pleasure to listen to. Each lecture is approximately 30 minutes long and is thus easily digested but I have to say I found myself usually listening to two or more at a time as they are so interesting. Highly recommended. One of the best audiobook purchases I've made.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-4 of 4 results

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