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Origin Story

A Big History of Everything
Narrated by: Jamie Jackson
Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Astronomy
4.5 out of 5 stars (72 ratings)

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Summary

A captivating history of the universe - from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future. 

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.

©2018 David Christian (P)2018 Recorded Books

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A Very Good Effort

So the challenge to write a big history of everything must be a huge task. My knowledge of the topics covered in this book are elementary but I was seeking a consilience of thought.
David Christian has to be congratulated on his excellent attempt to achieve an almost impossible task. I found the reading and subject matter excellent. There were sometimes parts I didn't fully grasp but this is the joy of learning in so much that it stimulates one to research some more.
I have noticed on general book review sites there becomes almost an intellectual one- upmanship and a culture of "look at me I have a better knowledge than the author" by picking fault and quoting other books. Not into this game and for me what made this book superb was the theme of energy flows in natural systems a constant thread throughout.

4 people found this helpful

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Informative and well structured

Really didn’t expect the ending of this book to form the way it did, but it was much better than I could have expected.
Very well detailed conclusion

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How we got to here

Most history books focus on recent events, military campaigns, kings and queens or political events. They also tend to focus only on events in the last 10,000 years or so. And most focus on events much more recently than that. What I loved about this book is that it starts with the moment the whole universe could be contained in a size less than the dot that finishes this sentence that began with all the light to the energy we needed to form a universe. The moment we now call the Big Bang occurred over 13 billion years ago. It uses this moment as the first threshold to explain the history of the origin of earth and moves through nine more thresholds to tell the story of how we got to here, right now. From this moment, it explains 4 forces including gravity, electromagnetic energy, and quantum mechanics that explain how everything comes together through simple laws of nature. But then explains how atoms work which then come together to form planets. And then 4 1/2 billion years ago, in a swirling dust cloud that formed our sun, shortly after all the planets of our solar system were born and we had the planet Earth. Then from planets and rocks, it then moves through life and mass extinctions (we’ve had at least 5 we know of - the last being the one to wipe out most of the dinosaurs [we still have some relatives of dinosaurs such as birds and chickens]). When it gets to Homo sapiens there is an Interesting moment when the human population was down to just a few ten thousand humans (enough to fill a moderate sized sports stadium) about 70,000 years ago. Our species came close to extinction, possible due to catastrophe that may have been triggered by a massive volcanic eruption on Mount Toba in Indonesia that pumped clouds of soot into the atmosphere, blocking photosynthesis for months or years and endangering many species. We survived and we now have 7.7billion people on the planet. However, all other species of upright ape have also become extinct. The threshold including timelines from billions of years and transformed into a 13 year time frame line to help us get an idea of the deep time is as follows (I always love using my arm to explain to people how much I would need to delete to wipe out the entire existence of humans who ever existed on this planet – it’s literally one swipe at a nail file across the nail of a finger of an outstretched arm or the removal of one layer of paint off the top of the Eiffel Tower):
THRESHOLD 1: Big bang: origin of our universe
13.8 billion years ago - 13 years, 8 months ago
THRESHOLD 2: The first stars begin to glow
13.2 (?) billion years ago - 13 years, 2 months ago
THRESHOLD 3: New elements forged in dying large stars
Continuously from threshold 2 to the present day
THRESHOLD 4: Our sun and solar system form
4.5 billion years ago - 4 years, 6 months ago
THRESHOLD 5: Earliest life on Earth
3.8 billion years ago - 3 years, 9 months ago
The first large organisms on Earth
600 million years ago - 7 months ago
An asteroid wipes oiit the dinosaurs
65 million years ago - 24 days ago
The hominin lineage splits from the chimp lineage
7 million years ago - 2.5 days ago
Homo erectus
2 million years ago - 17 hours ago
THRESHOLD 6; First evidence of our species, Homo sapiens
200,000 years ago - 100 minutes ago
THRESHOLD 7: End of last ice age, beginning of Holoceine, earliest signs of farming
10,000 years ago - 5 minutes ago
First evidence of cities, states, agrarian civilizations
5,000 years ago - 2.5 minutes ago
Roman and Han Empires flourish
2,000 years ago - 1 minute ago
World zones begin to be linked together
500 years ago - 15 seconds ago
THRESHOLD 8: Fossilfuels revoliition begins
200 years ago - 6 seconds ago
The Great Acceleration; humans land on the moon
50 years ago - 1.5 seconds ago
THRESHOLD 9 (?): The Future
A sustainable world order?
100 years in the future? - 3 seconds to go
The sun dies
4.5 billion years in the future - 4 years, 6 months to go

When it moves to the future, understanding the laws of nature to say what will happen to our planet and sun are easy to foretell. The mystery however, regarding the future, is it in the complexity and mystery of the nature of man. That is a much more difficult future to foretell. This is a wonderful book, and I look forward to thinking about this book a lot.

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Not great

If you wish to know the history of everything, I cannot recommend A Brief History Of Everything by Bill Bryson enough, it explains almost everything in an informative, fun and interesting way.

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  • Diana
  • 15-08-18

A great introduction into big history

The book takes you through what we understand as the beginning of the universe up to the creation of modern civilization. I myself can start to lose attention when big numbers are thrown out, but I wasn't too put off by the way they described our early universe. The evolution of big life, then hominid species, is when I really found it to get interesting. So if you find the beginning to be a little slow, I would advise you to stick with it. It's really worth it.

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  • N. Weston
  • 29-07-18

Really interesting

I really enjoyed this book and it held my attention the whole way through (although I was a little surprised by that to be honest). It is factual, apolitical and ended with some very thought provoking ideas. The narrator was excellent with just the right amount of energy and inflection for the book.

72 people found this helpful

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  • 11104
  • 05-09-18

A brilliant achievement, must read/listen

This is the best and perhaps most important book I have read or listened to in a long time. We humans have a very poor sense of our place in the universe and this planet, of what a speck we are on the ocean of time. Origin Story places us in the context of, quite literally, the history of everything: the Big Bang, formation of galaxies, our star and our planet; the chemical, geological and biological development of the Earth; and where our species has come from, how it has transformed in an instant; and how our hurtling acceleration of technology and energy consumption may destroy us and our home. However, it also discusses how we can change our direction, possibly leading us to a brilliant future.

One of the main characters in this book is entropy, and entropy always wins in the end. Christian states that it will lead to the heat death of the universe, which he explains well. (I have read, however, that some scientists think that the ever faster expansion of the universe may lead to a Big Rip, in which the fabric of spacetime is literally shredded.)

The book is written with exceptional clarity and organization. There is limited scientific jargon and when technical terms are used, they are well explained. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in something more than the myopic vision of ourselves that is so prevalent.

90 people found this helpful

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  • Joe Klepacki
  • 07-08-18

A Little Bit of Everything

After reading A Short History of Nearly Everything, I was worried this book may be a little repetitive. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this only built-on any prior tid bits and only made the reading more enjoyable.

21 people found this helpful

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  • William F. McCann
  • 09-08-18

Interesting but boring

is that an oxymoron? This book is a great introduction to the current thinking regarding creation of the universe and evolution of man. that said, it's pretty dry and a bit boring to listen to.

30 people found this helpful

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  • ALW
  • 27-02-19

Fine until the last few chapters

The book was fine with the excepion of the last few chapters which left Scince behind for pure opinion and speculation.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rebecca Sokol
  • 03-08-18

Interesting-Fascinating-Scary

An enjoyable book to remind us who we are and where we are going. All ages will profit from the lessons in this book. I did not agree with some of the conclusions reached, such as why hominids control the earth. I think the author falls short in his assessments of the other species with whom we share this planet.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Lori
  • 10-07-18

Amazing!

Lots of data but that's what made it so interesting. I highly recommend it for all who are curious and who struggle to find their place in the universe.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Wayne
  • 29-07-19

Excellent except for the pessimistic finish

If ORIGIN STORY had been terminated at 10.5 hours it would have earned 5 stars. But the final two hours are grossly excessively pessimistic as the author becomes preacher for socialistic causes. Audible classifies this book as about astronomy. It isn't.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 25-09-18

Outstanding!

Recommended reading for all humans. Don’t let a bit of a slow beginning deter you, this book is incredibly rich, informative and well done.

8 people found this helpful