Origin Story

Origin Story

A Big History of Everything

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2018
ISBN: 9780316392006
Branch Call Number: History 909 Chr


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Mar 05, 2019

It's not for everyone but I loved it. Obviously, it is a big challenge to cover everything from the Big Bang up to space travel and cell phones in 300 pages but Christian does an excellent job.
For me it was humbling yet comforting. Restores my faith in the Scientific Method and our place in the scheme of things.

Jan 28, 2019

This is a summary of the history of the universe. It is a dense book and not to be rushed through. It is divided into chapters by stages and brings us right up to our present world. I found it most enjoyable to just tackle one chapter at a time and take in whatever interested me. I wouldn't suggest you skip through it because it will ruin the fluidity of the narrative but you may find dry patches that don't connect with your interests and you can still really enjoy this book if you decide to skim some parts.

SnoIsleLib_LindseyA Nov 06, 2018

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. For example, 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!

SkokieStaff_Steven Oct 03, 2018

Science or history? While much of my nonfiction reading is either one or the other, I didn’t have to decide between the two while reading David Christian’s “Origin Story: A Big History of Everything.” My library puts the book in the history section, but it fits just as well with the science books. Living things don’t appear in Christian’s narrative until Chapter 4 and biological humans until Chapter 7, about half way through the book which starts with the Big Bang. Christian is a good explainer and an unobtrusive, solid writer rather than a flashy one like Randall Munroe. Since we’re talking history of the universe here, it’s not really necessary to point out that Christian covers a lot of ground. Little in the book will be completely unfamiliar to the educated reader, but Christian’s extremely broad perspective makes his history refreshing and intellectually invigorating.

Sep 01, 2018

An interesting read. Not a light-weight book but a presentation of the history of the universe. We are pretty insignificant.

Jul 15, 2018

In the Origin Story, the author provides a straightforward summarization of events from the Big Bang through to the industrial revolution. After that he falters and in the musings regarding the future appears to be adrift. Once past the beginnings of human society from the hunter gatherer to the agrarian based civilization, the narrative given by the author appears to lean heavily on Vaclav Smil, "Energy and Civilization: A History" which is much more insightful and fact based. Where the author goes off in the descriptive narrative: 1) There is virtually no mention of the social transformation due to access to inexpensive energy and the focus on an information-based economy. Now women are released from much of their drudgery work and are participating in large numbers at all levels of the economy. 2) Although mentioned, there is insufficient time given to explaining the advances of medicine and its effect on societal transformation. Only relatively recently do we have the expectation that doctors will cure us. With technological advances, there are possibilities to actually improve our abilities and what is the societal impact for our species on that? 3) According to the author, one of the bad elements of the Anthropocene age is income equality ignoring that income inequality has been with us since the early agrarian civilizations. The author darkly warns of global conflicts arising from Income inequality. Nowhere does the author provide any factual based analysis to back up this claim. Wealth is not a zero-sum game but the creation of wealth generally helps everyone. Income inequality, while an obsession of the leftist political circles (e.g. the 1%), does not form a useful metric of anyone's quality of life. There are much better metrics many of which are cited by Steven Pinker in, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”
Given that the author's understanding trends in history seems to be limited to that of "like minded" individuals, it is hardly surprising that the discussion on "Where is it all going" is pretty muddled. For example, the author postulates that we could take some pointers from indigenous societies with regard to living within the environment. This is ridiculous on the surface as these societies do not have the processes to manage the capabilities and energy that we have. There are plenty of cases where, some noted in this book, the indigenous societies did not preserve nature (e.g. extinction of the mega fauna, or of the environmental results on Easter island).


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