Thursday, 25 September 2008

Big History

Big History is an area of science I only recently discovered via a talk given by Walter Alvarez at the 33rd IGC meeting in Oslo, Norway. This multi-disciplinary approach to looking at history, considers the major events/factors that have been the driving forces behind the formation of the world and indeed the universe as we know it today.

Personally, I find the idea of bouncing around ideas on such large scales fascinating.
The way that, for instance, you can consider the evolution of complex life from the view point of a series of astronomical forcing factors really tickles my little grey cells. Also, discussing such topics is clearly perfect for pub based debates, where almost anyone from any walk of life can contribute something. It reminds be greatly of my 2nd and 3rd year Astronomy tutorials with Prof. Hughes, which turned into massive debates on subjects such as the origin of the solar system, or asteroid impacts, or any one of a million other subjects.

For an introduction to the topic one shouldn't look any further than Marnie Hughes-Warrington's excellent article in the Bulletin of the Historical Society, which provides a brilliant and engaging overview of the subject and how it has developed from the early imaginings of, for example, Isaac Asimov and Preston Cloud, in the 1980s through to the recent pioneering writings of David Christian and Fred Spier. Anyone interested in the subject should, I think, start there. It certainly worked for me!

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