Crossroads@Meade             Big History Capstone Project       

               What is Big History???

                  Big History

  • I watched the first video and it was telling me about the history and how everything is not the same and science is based on history and it said something about not enough space but i think that.Is an emerging academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture.It integrates studies of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity using empirical evidence to explore cause-and-effect relations, and is taught at universities and secondary schools often using web-based interactive presentations. It is an academic movement spearheaded by historian David Christian of Australia's Macquarie University, who coined the term Big History and is made of an "unusual coalition of scholars". Some academic historians are skeptical about its value or originality.

                The Universe

  • The Universe started simply with a burst of energy. As it developed over billions of years, stars were born, new complexities emerge, setting the stage for radical change. Also Introducing absolutely everything. The beginning of history starts here. There are 50 billion galaxies in the universe. 95% is still uncharted. This series examines the mysteries of everything, from black holes to how our sun functions. Is our planet as insignificant to the cosmos as a drop of water is to the ocean? This series will investigate the uncharted frontiers of space and explore the possible existence of life-supporting worlds beyond our own.

         Our solar system & Earth

  • The birth and death of stars leave an aftermath of matter, gas, and clouds of dust. Through gravity, accretion, and random collisions, new complex forms of matter grow to become galaxies, the Earth, and even living organisms.looking for common themes across multiple time scales in history. Conventional history typically begins with the invention of writing, and is limited to past events relating directly to the human race. Big Historians point out that this limits study to the past 5,000 years and neglects the much longer time when humans existed on Earth. Henry Kannberg sees Big History as being a product of the information age, a stage in history itself following speech, writing, and printing.


  • What makes life on Earth so special? How do you explain its diversity. And what exactly is it. How life emerged remains a mystery, but we've learned that life is fragile in the face of gradual and sudden change. Just ask the dinosaurs.The mechanism by which life began on Earth is unknown, although many hypotheses have been formulated. Since emerging, life has evolved into a variety of forms, which have been classified into a hierarchy of taxa. Life can survive and thrive in a wide range of conditions. Nonetheless, more than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species,18 that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct.1920 Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10 million to 14 million,21 of which about 1.2 million have been documented and over 90 percent await description.22


  • Powerful brains. Precise language. Humans have a knack for gathering, preserving, and sharing information. We use these skills to create entirely new forms of complexity, making us the most powerful force of change on the planet.Humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families and kinship networks to states. Social interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values,9 social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. The human desire to understand and influence their environment, and explain and manipulate phenomena, has been the foundation for the development of science, philosophy, mythology, and religion. The scientific study of humans is the discipline of anthropology.

                    The Future

  • What does 13.8 billion years of history tell us? How does knowing so much about the past influence how we think about the future? These may be the most important questions Big History asks.Future studies, or futurology, is the science, art and practice of postulating possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future, and the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures.

                The Birth of the Sun

  • It was five billion years ago. A giant cloud of matter in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, condensed under its gravity, exploding in nuclear fusion.This fusion released what we call sunshine. Very, very, very hot sunshine. And the newly formed star was our Sun. It drew in most of the surrounding matter, but some escaped. And some of this material clumped together, settling into a protoplanetary orbit.

                What Makes Life, Life

  • As new complexities start to populate the air, sea, and land, it might be a good time to ask, "What's the difference between non-life and life?" What is the difference between a mountain and a whale? Both are made of molecules. Both engage in chemistry. And both change through time.True life is about purpose. Living things are compelled to self-generate and self-maintain. They strive to pass genome copies on to offspring. Mountains are splendid, to be sure, but in the end they have no purpose. They just are.For about 3.5 billion years life has been doing its thing on Earth. Hank and John Green take a Crash Course look at where the first single-celled organisms came from and how DNA keeps life going.


  • A wide range of traits can be naturally selected for, depending on the environmental niche: for example, camouflage, burrowing skills, bright plumage, acute hearing, or the ability to retain water in desert climes. Yet sometimes events on Earth are so catastrophic that a large portion of its species may die off — making room for newly formed life.Since the 1980s geologists and paleontologists have agreed upon five major extinction events. And today, many biologists agree that a sixth major extinction is currently underway. This one is unique — the result of humans degrading and destroying the habitats of other life forms. This extinction apparently began about 50,000 years ago when humans moved into Australia and then the Americas, causing the disappearance of many species.No one knows how many species currently exist on Earth. The best estimate is about 8.7 million, not counting microorganisms. A 2003 study by the World Conservation Union suggested that over the next several decades, extinction threatens one in four mammals. If the present trend continues, biologists fear that we could lose 50 percent of all known living species by the end of this century.

      Solving the Dinosaur Mystery

  • It just may be the biggest murder mystery in history. How did the dinosaurs, some of the biggest and certainly one of the most ferocious species this planet has ever seen, become extinct?The detective who solved the case is Walter Alvarez. While doing research on the K-T boundary in an unusual quarry in Italy's Apennine Mountains, he noticed an abundance of fossilized remains of tiny sea creatures in the limestone of the Cretaceous period, but not the Tertiary period. The scientist wondered: Could this be the result of a mass extinction event?His suspicions grew when he saw that the dividing line of clay was dated around the same time that the dinosaurs went extinct. Also interesting were the off-the-charts levels of iridium, an element that's rare on Earth, but common in meteors.

          DNA: Life's Little Instructions

  • After a major extinction, the weakest DNA dies off, while strong DNA is retained. But how it happens still puzzled biochemists by the middle of the 20th century. They accepted that creatures evolved like Darwin suggested, but still needed to figure out how parent organisms pass traits to their offspring. Most acknowledged that DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, delivered the instructions. Yet they were baffled about its structure and how it worked.

   Foraging, Migration, and Beyond

  • Humans had to use collective learning to come up with new adaptive strategies as they migrated in search of food, moving into environments they had never experienced before. They also altered landscapes and hunted many species to extinction.Though walking upright with big brains, humans were still a pretty primitive species at the time. They travelled in small groups, foraging for edible foods and hunting animals. But they also survived the ice ages. Tools for survival included the controlled use of fire and better clothing technology. They also met others, told stories, and exchanged knowledge through the development of symbolic language and art, such as drawings on cave walls. Change was slow, but change was on the move.

Did religion sow the seeds of civilization?

  • As humans abandoned foraging, farming claims the vast majority of credit in explaining the birth of civilizations. But what if it wasn't farming at all? A recent discovery in the limestone pillar ruins at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey, archaeological evidence suggests that this was a temple. Almost 12,000 years ago nomadic tribes made the pilgrimage here to worship, share community, or perhaps to simply stand in awe. It would have taken hundreds of people to construct Göbekli Tepe. Yet there were no rooms built for dwelling. No hearths for fire or cooking. Water was about three miles away. There was simply nothing about the site to suggest anything domestic.As exploration of this site continues, its Big History meaning is still being debated. Most notably, did religious gatherings have a fundamental role in farming technologies — creating the need for settlements and society? Do we need to reevaluate our thinking?

    Taking a trip down the silk road

  • As cities grew, they increasingly reached out to each other. Commerce and conflict exposed once-isolated populations to a diversity of culture, religion, philosophy, language, and technology, as well as disease. And major trade routes such as the Silk Road paved the way for massive growth throughout Afro-Eurasia.Much of the Silk Road trade also took place by sea, between Roman Egypt and the west coast of India. Sailors discovered the "trade winds," which blow reliably from the southwest in the summer, then reverse direction in the winter. That way, the same ships could make the return journey carrying new cargo.Though probably few, including the great explorer Marco Polo, travelled its entire 16,000 kilometers, the connectivity among cultures along its route held some of the greatest significance to world history. The associated bonds through trade and exchange became particularly important when world zones collided after 1492. Afro-Eurasia societies quickly dominated the rest of the world and led the modern revolution that followed.

The Modern Revolution and the Future

  • After the rise of agriculture, powerful civilizations such as the Persians, Romans, and Mongols exploited and developed long-distance trade routes to expand their regional influence. New transportation and navigational technologies would later connect all world zones, ushering in greater global exchange, commerce, and collective learning. Humans gained control over much of the Earth.

About two hundred years ago to the world today

  • Today, humans are the most powerful species on the planet, with seven billion people interacting as one interconnected global community. Human society is so powerful that it affects the fate of the entire biosphere. Some geologists call it the Anthropocene epoch.This modern revolution is the eighth major threshold of increasing complexity in this course. We began to link up as one society and accumulated vast resources of information. Because this collective learning worked on a much larger scale, innovation sped up. With the discovery of fossil fuels, humans could leverage energy resources that have been stored for hundreds of millions of years in the Earth. Standards of living have steadily risen and, for better and worse, humans have gained control over much of the biosphere.

                 Fuel for the Ages

  • There was a time when human hands provided most of the energy needed. Humans walked to travel long distances, planted crops by hand, and gathered fallen trees to cook and heat. That began to accelerate with the domestication of animals. Then the tiny island of England ran out of wood.In search of something else to burn, Great Britain turned to coal, a largely abundant fossil fuel. Demand was so high it caused greater innovation, the introduction of a tremendously powerful invention — the steam engine. At first it was used to pump water out of coal mines. But these engines worked so well, they were put to other uses in North American cotton machines, then later in steam locomotives and steamships. The Industrial Revolution was well underway.

        Climate and Atmosphere

  • With human fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions rising much faster than ever before, scientists are seeing the biodiversity of all sectors declining faster than the Earth's usual rate of change. Some reports have claimed that up to half of all species face extinction this century. And many biologists believe it will rank as one of Earth's six major extinctions before it is over.Even geologists are finding proof. Worldwide sediments contain radioactive signatures of atomic bomb testing in the 1960s. Similar evidence of chlorine from bomb testing and of mercury associated with the burning of coal also exists in ice-core samples.There are differing opinions as to what these effects to the biosphere might bring and how humans might be able to overcome them. Some believe that humans have been in tight fixes before and have always been able to figure a way out, using their unique abilities of collective learning to generate new ideas, new technologies, and new solutions.One might think that natural changes in climate would proceed slowly and gradually. It doesn't always happen that way.

             The Anthropocene Epoch

  • Geologists have worked out a system to name large segments of Earth's time. They call short periods of thousands of years "epochs," longer ones that last tens of millions of years "periods," and really long ones lasting hundreds of millions of years "eras." The longest measurements of time are called "eons." Paul Crutzen 1933, a Nobel Prize-winning Dutch chemist, suggested that we are in a new geologic epoch, which he proposed calling the Anthropocene. Anthropo is the Greek root for "human" and cene means "new." He believes that the state of human domination over the planet, drastically altering the Earth from its pre-industrial condition, warranted the name change.

           Can the past foretell the future?

  • What does 13.8 billion years of history tell you about yourself? How does knowing so much about the past change the way you think about the future? These may be the most important questions Big History asks. How would you answer them? Big history is an unfinished story. What ingredients will be important, and what Goldilocks Conditions will make circumstances "just right" for a new level of complexity? Of course, we cannot see the future, but we can study those trends that seem most likely to shape the future.

               The Evolutionary Epic

  • Epic of the Evolution" seem to have an originated from the sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson's on of the phrase "evolutionary epic" in 1978 The Epic of Evolution is a systematic story that helps make sense of humanity’s place and purpose in the process that is the Universe. It marries objective scientific facts with the meanings provided by philosophy and the spirituality of religious belief. It is a vast topic and much has been written and debated about it. It offers two different but combined perspectives of the same reality. It tells the tale of the Cosmos in a methodical way but with a religious acceptance of it while addressing complexity, directionality, purpose, human psychology and survival of the most cooperative and compassionate beings. This epic tale helps some people to deepen their faith and to understand and appreciate other religions and philosophies. They may move from believing in God, to knowing God.

             A Day in the Life

  • The story had been sold to the Daily Mail in Manchester by Ron Kennedy of the Star News agency in Blackburn' Ron had noticed a Lancashire Evening Telegraphstory about road excavations and in a telephone call to the Borough Engineer's department had checked the now famous annual number of holes in the road.Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, however, not being able to think of how to connect "Now they know how many holes it takes to" and "the Albert Hall". His friend Terry Doran, managing director of Apple, suggested that they would "fill" the Albert Hall'John Lennon on composing the song with McCartney.

    Threshold 8 - The Modern Revolution

  • 13.7 billion years ago: The Big Bang is the moment that matter appeared in an incredible explosion of energy. The appearance of particles from what is understood to be nothingness has yet to be explained by modern science, and so many cosmologists have resorted to accepting that understanding this phenomenon is not possible with today’s technology and knowledge. However, quantum physicists may hold a clue to the answer in their study of particles that appear and disappear without obvious cause. The most important point for Big History is that all of the matter that currently exists in our universe originated in the Big Bang explosion.

        “Collective Learning”

  • Most of these examples are from industry. However there are examples from formal education. For example there are instances of teaching and learning in universities using real world datasets (case 3). There are also examples of blurring the boundaries between education and work through large scale, authentic tasks involving learner groups in teams with employees in the workplace (case 6). We plan to build this bank of examples by adding your examples and ideas.

      This Threshold Today

  • Threshold 8 is both fascinating and timely because discoveries and exciting new innovations are being announced all the time. You are living in this threshold, and the research that you do in this activity will help reinforce that fact.

              Investigation 9

  • We all know the official story of September 11th: four jetliners were hijacked by groups of four and five Arabic men armed with box cutters, who proceeded to fly three of the four jets into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Subsequently the World Trade Center Towers, weakened by the impacts and fires, collapsed into piles of rubble. The FBI had compiled a list of hijackers within three days, and it was so obvious that Osama bin Laden had masterminded the operation from caves in Afghanistan, that there was no need to seriously investigate the crime or produce evidence. The "retaliatory" attack on the Taliban would soon commence.

    How Was the Modern World Created?

  • Three forces have combined to accelerate the pace of change in the modern world. In this two-part video, David Christian describes how global exchange networks, competitive markets, and the increasing use of energy have transformed human societies and changed the biosphere. After watching these videos, you should be able to explain the effects of these changes and why, together, they represent a new major threshold of increasing complexity.

“Why Is that T-Shirt So Cheap? The Origins of the Industrial Revolution”

  • Most products people in the industrialized nations use today are turned out swiftly by the process of mass production, by people (and sometimes, robots) working on assembly lines using power-driven machines. People of ancient and medieval times had no such products. They had to spend long, tedious hours of hand labor even on simple objects. The energy, or power, they employed in work came almost wholly from their own and animals' muscles. The Industrial Revolution is the name given the movement in which machines changed people's way of life as well as their methods of manufacture.

Crash Course World History: Globalization I - The Upside

  • In which John Green teaches you about globalization, a subject so epic, so, um, global, it requires two videos. In this video, John follows the surprisingly complex path of t-shirt as it criss-crosses the world before coming to rest on your doorstep, and eventually in your dresser. (Unless you're one of those people who never puts their laundry away and lives out of a laundry basket. If that's the case, shame on you.) Anyway, the story of the t-shirt and its manufacture in far-flung places like China, Guatemala, and India is a microcosm of what's going on in the global economy. Globalization is a bit of a mixed bag, and there have definitely been winners and losers along the way. In this episode John will talk about some of the benefits that have come along with it. Next week, he'll get into some of the less-positive side effects of globalization.

             World War II

  • In which John Green teaches you about World War II, aka The Great Patriotic War, aka The Big One. So how did this war happen? And what does it mean? We've all learned the facts about World War II many times over, thanks to repeated classroom coverage, the History channel, and your grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather) showing you that Nazi bayonet he used to keep in his sock drawer and telling you a bunch of age-inappropriate stories about his harrowing war experiences. So, why did the Axis powers think forceful expansion was a good idea? (they were hungry). So why did this thing shake out in favor of the Allies? HInt: it has to do with the fact that it was a world war. Germany and Japan made some pretty serious strategic errors, such as invading Russia and attacking the United States, and those errors meant that pretty much the whole world was against them. So, find out how this worldwide alliance came together to stop the Axis expansion. All this, plus Canada finally gets the respectful treatment it deserves. Oh, and a warning: there are a few graphic images in this episode. Sensitive viewers may want to use caution, especially around the 9:15 mark.

Archdukes, Cynicism, and World War I

  • In which John Green teaches you about the war that was supposed to end all wars. Instead, it solved nothing and set the stage for the world to be back at war just a couple of decades later. As an added bonus, World War I changed the way people look at the world, and normalized cynicism and irony. John will teach you how the assassination of an Austrian Archduke kicked off a new kind of war that involved more nations and more people than any war that came before. New technology like machine guns, airplanes, tanks, and poison gas made the killing more efficient than ever. Trench warfare and modern weapons led to battles in which tens of thousands of soldiers were killed in a day, with no ground gained for either side. World War I washed away the last vestiges of 19th century Romanticism and paved the way for the 20th century modernism that we all know and find to be cold and off-putting. While there may not be much upside to WWI, at least it inspired George M. Cohan to write the awesome song, "Over There.

Decolonization and Nationalism Triumphant

  • In which John Green teaches you about the post-World War II breakup of most of the European empires. As you'll remember from previous installments of Crash Course, Europeans spent several centuries sailing around the world creating empires, despite the fact that most of the places they conquered were perfectly happy to carry on alone. After World War II, most of these empires collapsed. This is the story of those collapses. In most places, the end of empire was not orderly, and violence often ensued. While India was a (sort of) shining example of non-violent change, in places like The Congo, Egypt, Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, things didn't go smoothly at all. John brings you all this, plus pictures of Sea Monkeys. Sadly, they don't look anything like those awesome commercials in the comic books.

USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War

  • In which John Green teaches you about the Cold War, which was occasionally hot, but on average, it was cool. In the sense of its temperature. It was by no means cool, man. After World War II, there were basically two big geopolitical powers left to divide up the world. And divide they did. The United States and the Soviet Union divvied up Europe in the aftermath of the war, and then proceeded to spend the next 45 years fighting over the rest of the world. It was the great ideological struggle, with the US on the side of capitalism and profit, and the USSR pushing Communism, so-called. While both sides presented themselves as the good guy in this situation, the reality is that there are no good guys. Both parties to the Cold War engaged in forcible regime changes, built up vast nuclear arsenals, and basically got up to dirty tricks. If you had to pick a bad guy though, I would point out that the USSR had no intention of bringing Laika the Cosmonaut Dog home alive. That poor dog never had a shot.

Globalization II - good or bad?

  • In which John asks whether globalization is a net positive for humanity. While the new global economy has created a lot of wealth, and lifted a lot of people out of poverty, it also has some effects that aren't so hot. Wealth disparity, rising divorce rates, environmental damage, and new paths for the spread of disease. So does all this outweigh the economic benefits, the innovation, and the relative peace that come with interconnected economies? As usual, the answer is not simple. In this case, we're living in the middle of the events we're discussing, so it's hard to know how it's going to turn out.

Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism

  • In which John Green teaches you about Nationalism. Nationalism was everywhere in the 19th century, as people all over the world carved new nation-states out of old empires. Nationalist leaders changed the way people thought of themselves and the places they lived by reinventing education, military service, and the relationship between government and governed. In Japan, the traditional feudal society underwent a long transformation over the course of about 300 years to become a modern nation-state. John follows the course of Japanese history from the emergence of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration, and covers Nationalism in many other countries along the way. All this, plus a special guest appearance, plus the return of an old friend on a extra-special episode of Crash Course.


  • In which John Green teaches you about European Imperialism in the 19th century. European powers started to create colonial empires way back in the 16th century, but businesses really took off in the 19th century, especially in Asia and Africa. During the 1800s, European powers carved out spheres of influence in China, India, and pretty much all of Africa. While all of the major (and some minor) powers in Europe participated in this new imperialism, England was by far the most dominant, once able to claim that the "sun never set on the British Empire." Also, they went to war for the right to continue to sell opium to the people of China. Twice. John will teach you how these empires managed to leverage the advances of the Industrial Revolution to build vast, wealth-generating empires. As it turns out, improved medicine, steam engines, and better guns were crucial in the 19th century conquests. Also, the willingness to exploit and abuse the people and resources of so-called "primitive" nations was very helpful in the whole enterprise.

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