The history of our world in 18 minutes | David Christian


First, a video. Yes, it is a scrambled egg. But as you look at it, I hope you’ll begin to feel
just slightly uneasy. Because you may notice
that what’s actually happening is that the egg is unscrambling itself. And you’ll now see the yolk
and the white have separated. And now they’re going to be
poured back into the egg. And we all know in our heart of hearts that this is not the way
the universe works. A scrambled egg is mush —
tasty mush — but it’s mush. An egg is a beautiful, sophisticated thing that can create even more
sophisticated things, such as chickens. And we know in our heart of hearts that the universe does not travel
from mush to complexity. In fact, this gut instinct is reflected in one of the most
fundamental laws of physics, the second law of thermodynamics,
or the law of entropy. What that says basically is that the general
tendency of the universe is to move from order and structure to lack of order, lack of structure — in fact, to mush. And that’s why that video
feels a bit strange. And yet, look around us. What we see around us
is staggering complexity. Eric Beinhocker estimates
that in New York City alone, there are some 10 billion SKUs,
or distinct commodities, being traded. That’s hundreds of times
as many species as there are on Earth. And they’re being traded by a species
of almost seven billion individuals, who are linked by trade,
travel, and the Internet into a global system
of stupendous complexity. So here’s a great puzzle: in a universe ruled
by the second law of thermodynamics, how is it possible to generate the sort
of complexity I’ve described, the sort of complexity
represented by you and me and the convention center? Well, the answer seems to be, the universe can create complexity, but with great difficulty. In pockets, there appear
what my colleague, Fred Spier, calls “Goldilocks conditions” — not too hot, not too cold, just right for the creation of complexity. And slightly more complex things appear. And where you have
slightly more complex things, you can get slightly more complex things. And in this way, complexity
builds stage by stage. Each stage is magical because it creates the impression
of something utterly new appearing almost out of nowhere
in the universe. We refer in big history to these moments
as threshold moments. And at each threshold,
the going gets tougher. The complex things get more fragile, more vulnerable; the Goldilocks conditions
get more stringent, and it’s more difficult
to create complexity. Now, we, as extremely complex creatures, desperately need to know this story of how the universe creates complexity
despite the second law, and why complexity means
vulnerability and fragility. And that’s the story
that we tell in big history. But to do it, you have do something that may, at first sight,
seem completely impossible. You have to survey the whole
history of the universe. So let’s do it. (Laughter) Let’s begin by winding the timeline back 13.7 billion years, to the beginning of time. Around us, there’s nothing. There’s not even time or space. Imagine the darkest,
emptiest thing you can and cube it a gazillion times
and that’s where we are. And then suddenly, bang! A universe appears, an entire universe. And we’ve crossed our first threshold. The universe is tiny;
it’s smaller than an atom. It’s incredibly hot. It contains everything
that’s in today’s universe, so you can imagine, it’s busting. And it’s expanding at incredible speed. And at first, it’s just a blur, but very quickly distinct things
begin to appear in that blur. Within the first second, energy itself shatters
into distinct forces including electromagnetism and gravity. And energy does something
else quite magical: it congeals to form matter — quarks that will create protons and leptons that include electrons. And all of that happens
in the first second. Now we move forward 380,000 years. That’s twice as long as humans
have been on this planet. And now simple atoms appear
of hydrogen and helium. Now I want to pause for a moment, 380,000 years after the origins
of the universe, because we actually know quite a lot
about the universe at this stage. We know above all
that it was extremely simple. It consisted of huge clouds
of hydrogen and helium atoms, and they have no structure. They’re really a sort of cosmic mush. But that’s not completely true. Recent studies by satellites such as the WMAP satellite have shown that, in fact, there are just tiny differences
in that background. What you see here, the blue areas are about a thousandth
of a degree cooler than the red areas. These are tiny differences, but it was enough
for the universe to move on to the next stage of building complexity. And this is how it works. Gravity is more powerful
where there’s more stuff. So where you get slightly denser areas, gravity starts compacting clouds
of hydrogen and helium atoms. So we can imagine the early universe
breaking up into a billion clouds. And each cloud is compacted, gravity gets more powerful
as density increases, the temperature begins to rise
at the center of each cloud, and then, at the center, the temperature crosses
the threshold temperature of 10 million degrees, protons start to fuse, there’s a huge release of energy, and — bam! We have our first stars. From about 200 million years
after the Big Bang, stars begin to appear
all through the universe, billions of them. And the universe is now
significantly more interesting and more complex. Stars will create
the Goldilocks conditions for crossing two new thresholds. When very large stars die, they create temperatures so high that protons begin to fuse
in all sorts of exotic combinations, to form all the elements
of the periodic table. If, like me, you’re wearing a gold ring, it was forged in a supernova explosion. So now the universe
is chemically more complex. And in a chemically more complex universe, it’s possible to make more things. And what starts happening
is that, around young suns, young stars, all these elements combine,
they swirl around, the energy of the star stirs them around, they form particles, they form snowflakes,
they form little dust motes, they form rocks, they form asteroids, and eventually,
they form planets and moons. And that is how our
solar system was formed, four and a half billion years ago. Rocky planets like our Earth
are significantly more complex than stars because they contain
a much greater diversity of materials. So we’ve crossed a fourth
threshold of complexity. Now, the going gets tougher. The next stage introduces entities
that are significantly more fragile, significantly more vulnerable, but they’re also much more creative and much more capable
of generating further complexity. I’m talking, of course,
about living organisms. Living organisms are created by chemistry. We are huge packages of chemicals. So, chemistry is dominated
by the electromagnetic force. That operates over smaller
scales than gravity, which explains why you and I
are smaller than stars or planets. Now, what are the ideal
conditions for chemistry? What are the Goldilocks conditions? Well, first, you need energy, but not too much. In the center of a star,
there’s so much energy that any atoms that combine
will just get busted apart again. But not too little. In intergalactic space, there’s so little energy
that atoms can’t combine. What you want is just the right amount, and planets, it turns out, are just right, because they’re close to stars,
but not too close. You also need a great diversity
of chemical elements, and you need liquids, such as water. Why? Well, in gases, atoms move
past each other so fast that they can’t hitch up. In solids, atoms are stuck together, they can’t move. In liquids, they can cruise and cuddle and link up to form molecules. Now, where do you find
such Goldilocks conditions? Well, planets are great, and our early Earth was almost perfect. It was just the right
distance from its star to contain huge oceans of liquid water. And deep beneath those oceans, at cracks in the Earth’s crust, you’ve got heat seeping up
from inside the Earth, and you’ve got a great
diversity of elements. So at those deep oceanic vents, fantastic chemistry began to happen, and atoms combined in all sorts
of exotic combinations. But of course, life is more
than just exotic chemistry. How do you stabilize those huge molecules that seem to be viable? Well, it’s here that life introduces
an entirely new trick. You don’t stabilize the individual; you stabilize the template, the thing that carries information, and you allow the template to copy itself. And DNA, of course,
is the beautiful molecule that contains that information. You’ll be familiar
with the double helix of DNA. Each rung contains information. So, DNA contains information
about how to make living organisms. And DNA also copies itself. So, it copies itself and scatters the templates
through the ocean. So the information spreads. Notice that information
has become part of our story. The real beauty of DNA though
is in its imperfections. As it copies itself,
once in every billion rungs, there tends to be an error. And what that means
is that DNA is, in effect, learning. It’s accumulating new ways
of making living organisms because some of those errors work. So DNA’s learning and it’s building greater
diversity and greater complexity. And we can see this happening
over the last four billion years. For most of that time of life on Earth, living organisms have been
relatively simple — single cells. But they had great diversity,
and, inside, great complexity. Then from about 600
to 800 million years ago, multi-celled organisms appear. You get fungi, you get fish, you get plants, you get amphibia, you get reptiles, and then, of course,
you get the dinosaurs. And occasionally, there are disasters. Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid landed on Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula, creating conditions equivalent
to those of a nuclear war, and the dinosaurs were wiped out. Terrible news for the dinosaurs, but great news
for our mammalian ancestors, who flourished in the niches left empty by the dinosaurs. And we human beings are part
of that creative evolutionary pulse that began 65 million years ago with the landing of an asteroid. Humans appeared about 200,000 years ago. And I believe we count
as a threshold in this great story. Let me explain why. We’ve seen that DNA learns in a sense, it accumulates information. But it is so slow. DNA accumulates information
through random errors, some of which just happen to work. But DNA had actually generated
a faster way of learning: it had produced organisms with brains, and those organisms
can learn in real time. They accumulate information, they learn. The sad thing is, when they die, the information dies with them. Now what makes humans different
is human language. We are blessed with a language,
a system of communication, so powerful and so precise that we can share what we’ve learned
with such precision that it can accumulate
in the collective memory. And that means it can outlast the individuals
who learned that information, and it can accumulate
from generation to generation. And that’s why, as a species,
we’re so creative and so powerful, and that’s why we have a history. We seem to be the only species
in four billion years to have this gift. I call this ability collective learning. It’s what makes us different. We can see it at work
in the earliest stages of human history. We evolved as a species
in the savanna lands of Africa, but then you see humans migrating
into new environments, into desert lands, into jungles, into the Ice Age tundra of Siberia — tough, tough environment — into the Americas, into Australasia. Each migration involved learning — learning new ways of exploiting
the environment, new ways of dealing
with their surroundings. Then 10,000 years ago, exploiting a sudden
change in global climate with the end of the last ice age, humans learned to farm. Farming was an energy bonanza. And exploiting that energy,
human populations multiplied. Human societies got larger,
denser, more interconnected. And then from about 500 years ago, humans began to link up globally through shipping, through trains, through telegraph, through the Internet, until now we seem to form
a single global brain of almost seven billion individuals. And that brain is learning at warp speed. And in the last 200 years,
something else has happened. We’ve stumbled on another energy bonanza in fossil fuels. So fossil fuels and collective
learning together explain the staggering complexity
we see around us. So — Here we are, back at the convention center. We’ve been on a journey,
a return journey, of 13.7 billion years. I hope you agree this is a powerful story. And it’s a story in which humans
play an astonishing and creative role. But it also contains warnings. Collective learning is a very,
very powerful force, and it’s not clear
that we humans are in charge of it. I remember very vividly
as a child growing up in England, living through the Cuban Missile Crisis. For a few days, the entire biosphere seemed to be on the verge of destruction. And the same weapons are still here, and they are still armed. If we avoid that trap,
others are waiting for us. We’re burning fossil fuels at such a rate that we seem to be undermining
the Goldilocks conditions that made it possible
for human civilizations to flourish over the last 10,000 years. So what big history can do is show us the nature
of our complexity and fragility and the dangers that face us, but it can also show us
our power with collective learning. And now, finally — this is what I want. I want my grandson, Daniel, and his friends and his generation, throughout the world, to know the story of big history, and to know it so well that they understand
both the challenges that face us and the opportunities that face us. And that’s why a group of us are building a free, online syllabus in big history for high-school students
throughout the world. We believe that big history will be a vital
intellectual tool for them, as Daniel and his generation face the huge challenges and also the huge opportunities ahead of them at this threshold moment in the history of our beautiful planet. I thank you for your attention. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The history of our world in 18 minutes | David Christian”

  1. How do we know the structure of the universe in the early years? Not picking an argument I swear I’m just curious

  2. I think everyone knows we are created beings. Everyone knows that there is moral chaos in this world, considering these past shooting events, wars, sexual abuse, etc. Love exists, no molecules there. Everyone also knows the Name of Jesus is something you need to talk yourself out of, rather than believe. Stop and think people; spirits and souls are do not have molecules. A perfect environment is sinless and there is coming a time when you will be held accountable for your life.

  3. Позор безграмотному редактору субтитров Галине Хасановой и тому кто наклацал текст к описанию этого видео!
    Наляпать столько (!) грамматических и пунктуационных ошибок мог только третьеклассник!
    Или откройте доступ для редактирования титров, чтоб более грамотные люди могли исправить ваш позор или относите тексты переводов учителю русского языка старших классов перед их публикацией!

  4. The Big Bang is what you get when you extrapolate the current expanded universe backwards in time without an adequate understanding of the universe's forces and properties. Traditional Big Bang theory does not take into account the (recently discovered) acceleration of the expansion of the universe, and renders embarrassing hiccups like the need for mathematical inventions like dark matter and dark energy to make the equations balance.

  5. It's, in my honest opinion, not about hope or despair, nor optimism, not even pessimism, rather we just have a lot of work to do. A little bit today, some help with a friend tomorrow, pass it on. Lawson di Ransom Canyon

  6. Daw need to forget them laws, speaking of coarse from a concrete pro standpoint about his opening statements !!

  7. Ok i will assume everything else but how such a big universe was smaller than atom.
    Ok lets assume a tree grows by small seed but it takes air minerals water from outside.
    Means there was nothing in black is lie.

  8. .. Universe is only 12.5 billion years not 13.7 years… we are accelerating faster than once thought….getting younger every day

  9. Yep! All this by ''coincidence'', no intelligence behind that design, right ? Who was holding the magic wand already that caused a Big Bang, light and energy to emerge? (nothing! said the ''scientist'' of the EDV religion (Empty Dark Void)). How come atoms and all those bigger spheres never stop spinning ? Deep interrogations, but easy to answer! Super Intelligent Consciousness Energy, more obvious than E=MC2. It takes much much more faith not to believe in a Creative Energy and to realize it could be called God.

  10. In your creation myth, it all happened by magic. Hahaha! Just admit it, you have no earthly idea. It gives you a false sense of security to think you know more than you do, and a false pride gives you to make confident assertions about matters beyond your comprehension. What put it all into motion? https://youtu.be/U9iGWFzMVm4

  11. Great talk from the gentleman and what a great idea to show younger generations the big picture!
    I think if children were tought about this they would have good clarity of mind and a good sense of appreciation for life growing up!
    ✌🏻❤🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🎩👌🏻🍻

  12. We ALL DIDMT BEGIN IN AFRICA! Black ppl did. And stayed there. They didn’t sail. They didn’t build. I believe w many others, that whites and higher developed Asians were form each their own planets. We destroyed them like we are doing here, now. We were at the heights of our individual technology! So we ventured here to Earth 🌍! We made sure to never mix w aboriginals hence we invented prejudice! To in effect scare individuals into not mixing their seed. For better or worse it worked effectively up until about 1500 A.D. now we are all linked through the internet and are spoiling Mother Earth. Through our combined use of Fossil Fuels. Deforestation. Pollution. Along w many other factors. Again looking for another “Earth “ in space so that Elon Musk can lead us there,lol, or someone like him in the not too distant future

  13. How about history in one or two sentences. The victor writes the history and history has been rewritten so many times, nothing about known history is true.

  14. How long will you talk bullshit made evolution genius Lol..the earth is 6000 years approx not millions genius..il teach you come to India

  15. I'd like to like this, but, dang, a menstrual waste product is a measurement to the dismissal of entropy. Take the right spin and you can win any argument when you amaze the audience with cool beans history. I'm not saying what he's saying is wrong, but he is flawed.

    Solid point and value reasoning. Still, flawed. Yes, we progress and do far better than others species by way of communicating history. No, it is not a right to dictate the outcome. It is a measurement of our ineffectiveness when we don't listen. It's not about changing our technology, it's about changing our ethics.

  16. Even though he skipped critical parts to fully logically explain the beginnings of DNA & life itself (we cannot just asume information wrote itself, did it happen by accident? Or was there a comand ((which is information itself)) for informantion to be written). It's very interesting how from a religious point of view, we are hopeless to our very own achieved power because if we look into ourselfs we have the ability to succeed 100% of the time with tasks, but the way in which we freely think also ensures that we also fail at vital tasks, and thus, need salvation from god (higher ethical values, understanding and power).
    Or from another way to view this, we are to ourselfs become increasingly ethical, gain higher inteligence/understanding and then correctly use this new found power, to stop our own destruction and of our habitat. But this is again put in the balance due to our free thinking system.
    Its like we are beings of unlimited pottential, but the system that enables our pottential, is flawed, and ensures we fail too. If we were capped from the ability to fail (no greed, no killing eachother, no self doubts etc) then in theory we would have much higher pottential and success, if not even infinite, but we would not be fully phycologically free, or in another way, we would not be humans as we are now.
    Jezz this video really got me thinking, anyone else feel free to add more to this… Or perhaps, argue what is written 🙂

  17. "Do you realise
    that you have the most beautiful face?
    Do you realise
    we're floating in space?
    Do you realise
    that everyone you know someday will die?
    But instead of saying all of your goodbyes,
    let them know you
    realise that life goes fast
    it's hard to make the good things last
    you realise the sun doesn't go down,
    it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning 'round"

    -The Flaming Lips, circa 2002 (yr?) A. D.

  18. Extraordinary way of building up to a very good point. I hope we can find ourselves continually perpetuating in such a volatile time.

  19. So… there was nothing then…. Bang…Yada Yada… then welcome home humans. Thinking I'd like to see what's behind door # 2.

  20. *This is the scientific community's presentation of the Universe and Earth's version of the "Wizard of Oz" and "Alice in Wonderland," a fictional bedtime story for IMPRESSIONABLE children and NAIVE adults. Their cosmic story of how the Oceans and Seas got here is enough to make you wonder why these CHARLATANS haven't already been ARRESTED and IMPRISONED for educational malpractice and fraud.*

  21. The very fact you are here reading this comment. The odds of this happening from "the big boom!" Is simply mathematically, fundamentally and logically impossible. This story is to support the bullshit we are told to believe in. Do your own research…. dont be told!

  22. If we are all "chemicals" and were created by accident, why is it wrong to kill one another, rub one another or lie etc?

  23. He was starting off with "In the beginning there was nothing"…really?…Nothing? ….Nothing does not exist, if there is nothing there is nothing so please tell me how anything can come from nothing! … unless my understanding of "NOTHING" is wrong… like asking my wife whats wrong? …nothing! So if nothing is the void of any existence or presence of things how can anything come into existence?

    Secondly
    Story sounds very familiar …In the beginning there was nothing,… Stars,…Water,….Land,….Life,….Humans… Did I miss something here?

  24. You know nothing about the universe we haven't even been able to go outside of our own galaxy so to me this proves nothing.

  25. “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

    ― c s lewis

  26. Dinosaurs disappear 65 million years ago
    Humans on earth 200000 years ago
    Farming 10000 years ago
    Trade 500 years ago
    Fossil fuel 200 years ago
    We are a 7 billion one joint learning machine
    What makes us spatial is language to pass on what we have learned

  27. An egg is a beautiful complex thing that can create even more complex sophisticated things such as chickens, and we know in our heart of hearts that the universe does not travel from mush to complexity … 2nd law of thermodynamics … entropy … general tendency of the universe is from order and structure, to lack of order and structure … ok so in the beginning, something came from nothing … the ingredients for everything busted forth … at first it's all a big blur … kind of like a mush of egg yolk … and over billions of years, Probability + Big Numbers = a chicken.

  28. It is really an effective presentation with the presentation ability of the lecturer. Yes He puts forward what has happened but he never quotes on how and who might have initiated all this. These are undoubted proofs of the GOD. As he asserted in the beginning of the presentation a marsh is not capable of creating an order. But how on earth can lack of order can create an order by itself that is what atheists lack to answer.

  29. This guys presentation makes me believe that the fairy tales I heard as a kid have more truth in them than what he is spouting… Everything is speculation…. he has no way of proving his speculations. Laughable.

  30. Amazing how science can deny God and yet describe exactly what he created. Your miniature life cannot understand the time line, you exist in a millisecond of creation and think you can fathom the creation. You do not have that much time. 😏

    10:59
    Do you really think DNA just programmed itself?

  31. During one of their speaches I'd love to hear how they go about figuring out when our solar system was created!?!

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