Monday, February 6, 2012

David Christian's Big History

Enthusiasts in natural history need little convincing as to the value of paleontology and other avenues of research into the deep past. We have a seemingly innate attraction to artwork and writing which can conjure images of lost vistas teeming with prehistoric life. We look around, and where others see gravel, building stones and fuel for our engines, we see the evidence of Earth's deep history. It's an immense field to explore, which can be daunting. But it's a benefit, too, as it offers all manner of peculiar areas where we can engage our interests. There are those vulgar sorts like us, who find the draw of the saurians irresistible, but there are myriad other hooks to grab those with the right strain of curiosity. And that's a good thing, because a deep understanding of humanity's place in the cosmos allows us to make better decisions about how to manage civilization.

That's a message we try to deliver here, no matter how silly things get. Luckily, there are people like David Christian out there, doing a much better job of it.

A tip of the hat goes to Jeff Martz for mentioning this on Facebook, and to Greg Laden, who posted this video on his blog last spring.


  1. A phenomenal 18 minutes. I must confess I've always been slightly more enamored of the spectacle of deep time from a cosmological perspective than via the more "vulgar" (as you say) entertainments paleontology provides. I love them both, though, despite my limited understanding of either.

  2. Ha, first time I've listened all the way thru a talk about natural history by a Christian!

    He should've double-checked the graphics tho', because the labels for the time since the Big Bang are in powers of 10^3 (as you would expect) but they're attached to the scale at increments of 10^5. Most notable at 4:55.

    Still a good talk that neatly wraps it all up in under 20 mins.

  3. That was really inspiring! it would be cool if he mentioned that dinos didn´t really go extinct, they just suffered a "readjustment" in more specifical niches. ;)


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