The history of our world in 18 minutes | David Christian

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)

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

  1. Was I supposed to learn something from this because this talk was completely void of any complex information not already known

  2. The comments are being hijacked by delusional non science book followers.
    Quit spreading your disease (religion)

  3. Lol. He lost me at 4:28. Basically the universe was created out of nothing in less than a second in a "magical way" like he descibed. Sorry but the Big Bang theory sounds just like another religious theory, with miracles and magic but a little less creative. Just too lame.


  5. Rubbish. The universe did not begin from a singularity, it is expanding and contracting like a watch spring. So it was created complete as it is.

  6. The big bang theory has been proven to be false the universe has always been and always will be infinite.

  7. When ever a story begins with 13.7 billion years ago then you know that a fairytale is about to follow.

  8. I applied to the Coka Cola company some time ago for a research grant but I haven’t heard back from them.

  9. Wow, it takes more faith than I have to believe this theory!! Talk about a leap of faith! I just simple believe "God created the heavens and the earth". Not such a great leap.

  10. What if the big bang theory is false? What if the universe is expanding And contracting….breathing if you will..?

  11. A dirty transgender that tells lies about history! I wi'll reveal the truth to the future when humanity finds you tranna freaks out you all will be murdered really slow while humanity laughs and chears with a few aplose!

  12. Another anti God seminar , so sick of that dead horse, the big bang is just a theory not a law , that means that anyone who believes in it is a conspiracy theorist! Darwin isn't a law either ! Those are the real tin foil hat cooks ! Those who believe in Darwin and the big bang!

  13. As others have stated: an anti-God ‘theory’. Sorry TED talks, thought you had something ‘measurable’ today to share vs an unproven speculative theory. Guess we’ll have to wait for your next vid.

  14. Mmmmm who turned the lights on ??? Nothing about God. Nothing about how or why just snapping fingers and saying it happens. Opinions are like …..

  15. This guy is brainwashed beyond belief… the sad part is the mainstream and average jo would class him as ‘educated’ sad 😞

  16. Exploiting the environment is not a sign of intelligence!!! I'm sorry.. for instance you say a asteroid hit the planet in the Yucatan Peninsula and destroyed the dinosaurs… did it also destroy all of the insects… if the same asteroid hit the planet today with all of our intelligence… would it destroy us… with all of our intelligence.. how come we know so much about the beginning of time but still are discovering species under the Antarctic Ice Arctic Ice… we don't know anything about our own creation or the planet we live on but you claim to know everything from the beginning of time… do you even realize how ridiculous you sound…

  17. Because this collective learning species have been doing that on this planet for a long time I'm not going to give up dates but a long time…

  18. At 13 minutes he says humans have the ability to whatever Outlast everything when you die… if that was true who and how built the pyramids and all of the other monolithic stone structures on every continent…

  19. Amazing ,prodigious !!! Congratulations Mr. Christian for this clear , concise and complete explanation of our origins and why we are here!! Thanks

  20. Life alone briefly defies the second law of thermadynamics. Life alone has the intelligence to create complexity and what was done is passed down to the next generation.

  21. His book is simply awesome tons of info with beautifully images, one of the best books you can get if interested in our history, where we came and formed to become this complexity.

  22. 4:15 "Around us there's nothing" 4:30 "and suddenly a universe appears" lol
    'something can not come from nothing'

  23. Nice story, he and people like him are speakers for a dogmatism rivaling the most ridiculous religions.

  24. What a load of nonsense. And how many years did it take for him to learn this , what a waste of his parent's money.The best thing he said was the Goldilocks affect.

  25. Don't tell Daniel lies. Dinosaurs never existed and mankind was not akin to the apes. Charles Darwin came from apes… If it were true, all the said apes would have evolved into mankind. Lucy has been proven false long ago. Paleontologists were given huge grants after finding some large bone (1955), after which, they falsified bones. Most of the so-called dinosaurs at the museum are constructed of such bogus bones. People have been changing their field of study ever since, 'Paleontology' due to light being put on the so-called profession. Hollywood wants people to believe in dinosaurs. There is the current source of the falsely prophecized lie. Hollywood is a strong foe. Mankind was most probably the offshoot of alien society which is actually from our own world. They even still continue to impregnate a woman. The resulting child needs certain bacteria, which is produced by the human woman herself. The Greys extract enough of this bacteria before releasing the brainwashed woman. The very young child will have enough of it. These findings are widely known to be true, though unspoken of by most who know it's true… Understandably, it is a very sensitive subject.

  26. complete bullshit, nobody has a clue how it started, religion does not know and neither does science. you are just guessing . pure fantasy. it is a possible model. Humans cant comprehend the universe from our small perception and limited understanding . we are still in the stone age pretending to be smart

  27. Ya ok..First, we came from magic apparently. And then he claims that we are the only species with collective intelligence that gets passed on from one generation to the next, which is absolute nonsense. That happens with every species.

  28. Oooooman everything came from nothing🧐. If you are serious about looking for the truth watch Dr Ken hovin On you tube

  29. If the universe is truly ruled by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and order degenerates in chaos, then the prediction will be that evolution is caused by DNA failing and the code become more corrupted each generation.

  30. Better get back to basics before trying to understand the universe, people don't even understand human behaviors and attitudes and the close relationship with primates oh, you could save yourself a lot of headaches, because the universe is not going to cuz you're huge financial losses.

  31. When the organism dies, all of the information and experiences don't die with it. RNA records experience, and habitual information. It's all locked up in the cells and can manifest itself depending on current situations. All is not lost.

  32. God's version of Creation and history makes a lot more sense than this anti-God gibberish.

    Science should be left alone and not hijacked by people trying to claim ownership of science to push their nonsensical agendas. Science is not there for you to try crowbar your baseless argument into something brainwashes people into believing your theories.

    There was once NOTHING and then suddenly, magically, there was SOMETHING and this something created itself and everything else. Let's forget the long-winded story telling that follows. Can you please EXPLAIN and prove this starting bit?

    Are those prescription drugs that you're on???

  33. these dummies repeat what the elite has told them to learn.. they actualy believe the universe can create complexity. this is the power of money. they can make you believe anything.. even that building 7 collapsed because of fire.. you ppl are dumb

  34. DNA learns? Please explain coordinated mutations? For pakicetus to morph into the modern whale required 10s of thousands of coordinated and simultaneous mutations.

  35. Now as conscious beings of this universe, is the universe conscious? Since we came from it? So nothing wanting to be something was enough for matter to erupt from nothing???

  36. Man and his stupidity. The birth of Jesus, the Christ, was prophesied hundreds of years before been born. Witnesses give testimony of seeing the Lord resurrected. The fine tuned universe and the fixed path of celestial bodies including galaxies, give testimony of a conscious intelligence governing everything. God lives.

  37. The question would be, what make the first explosion to exit?
    What force made it to happen?

    And how big that empty space which existed before the explosion?
    And if the universe is expanding, does the original space where it existed within before the first explosion also expand and stretches to accommodate the expanding universe?!!

    And what behind the space thst contain the universe?
    Is this space unlimited? Or it contained within other bigger space?

    Can this actually be imagined or even mathematically explained?

    Continuous expansion, must have enough space to accommodate this expansion, but logically everything happen within a space, and based on our capacity, we always think and trying to contain the boundaries of this space!

    But yet we will never contain infinity?
    We never did and we will never be able to contain it or have understanding or even imagine how big the universe really is, and what behind universe!

    Simply, regardless how big universe is, based on what we think of universe, but this universe must exist within a much bigger space and the story continues
    That space must be contained within other bigger space!

  38. Within the first second BANG….PRESUMPTION, RADICAL ESTIMATION burst into existence…. and then logic, the scientific method, all the patterns and laws we know of reality, etc. get thrown out by 'scientists' and other people who think this all makes sense and who instead adopt a FAITH in something they can't prove (yet often teach) and that goes against ALL THAT REASON AND THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD IS BUILT ON. And in that first second, HYPOCRISY becomes the foundation of a great deal of 'scientific conclusions'. And in that first second the first joke is born out of a premise that would be rejected because of having more fallacies wrapped into one tiny ball (one might say molecule) than can be listed by ANY professional debater, polemicist, apologist – anyone who studies reason, rhetoric, science, etc. But it's ok! Just move on real quick and distract with a lot of shiny, highly technical language and nobody will notice – just like magicians do. Ofc one could just say "We Don't Know", but that requires humility and uncertainty. And know-it-alls hate that!!

  39. WTF??: The 4000 IDIOTS who DOWNVOTED THIS!!
    What MORON thinks this is stupid, untrue, not amazing, unscientific or… I CANNOT fathom any legitimate reason to dislike this presentation.

    The rip in the sacred, astounding fabric of humanity: We're dragged down by religious, antiscience dumbos and Luddites, apparently 😩😱😱😱

  40. I wonder what what caused the big bang, like how did nothing all of suddenly create something. And I wonder what the "nothing" was…it's hard to fathom.

  41. Science like this requires faith, In this religion there is no right or wrong just consensus of the members, with no deity to worship or direct I find it cold and barren.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *