Big History

Big History : From Big Bang to the Present

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An epic book that Kirkus called "world history on a grand scale," Big History begins when the universe is no more than the size of an atom and ends with a twenty-first-century planet inhabited by 6.1 billion people. It's a story that takes in prehistoric geology, human evolution, the agrarian age, the Black Death, the voyages of Columbus, the industrial revolution, and global warming. Along the way historian Cynthia Stokes Brown considers topics as varied as cell formation, population growth, global disparities, and illiteracy, creating a stunning synthesis of the historical and scientific knowledge of humanity and the earth we inhabit. Big History represents a new kind of history, one that skillfully interweaves historical knowledge and cutting-edge science. In an age when scientific advances permit us to grasp the history of mankind in the context of its ecological impact on the planet, Brown's lucid, accessible narrative is the first popularization of this innovative new field of study, as thrilling as it is ambitious.

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  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 144.78 x 226.06 x 22.86mm | 453.59g
  • The New Press
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations, black & white tables, maps, figures, charts, graphs
  • 1595584145
  • 9781595584144
  • 161,468

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Ordinary stars turn hydrogen into helium, helium into carbon, and so on. But only supernovas can create elements beyond iron; the elements that make life on Earth possible originated in giant exploding stars. Thus, Cynthia Stokes Brown writes romantically, "we quite literally are made of stardust." Alas, romance doesn't last long in Brown's brief history of everything. The "universal ancestor" -- the first living cells on our planet -- may have been related to today's blue-green bacteria. So we are stardust, yes; but we are "pond scum," too. Not to mention farmers: The earliest crops planted in the Americas include chile peppers and pumpkins. And voyagers: The Polynesians who reached Easter Island about 1,600 years ago must have landed on American shores long before Europeans did. How else could sweet potatoes have been introduced to the Polynesian islands? There's much to argue about in Brown's account, and much to discover. -- Alan Cooperman "Histories with Sweep" (01/04/2009)

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