UvA MOOC: Big History – From the Big Bang until Today

Notes for Big History – From the Big Bang until Today, from the University of Amsterdam on Coursera.

Duration: 4 weeks

  1. Introduction, Cosmic History
  2. The History of Earth and Life
  3. Human History
  4. Wrap up

Videos also available on ChronoZoom and BIG HISTORY web site.





Human history on cosmic scales: 13.8 billion years compressed into a single year:

  • Big bang on new years eve, first few months everything would be dark
  • In spring the first stars and galaxies emerge
  • On September 1st, our sun and solar system appear, including Earth
  • October, first bacteria (single-cellular) appear
  • Mid-December, complex (multi-cellular) organisms, like sponges, appear
  • By Christmas, the dinosaurs appear to be wiped out by December 30th.
  • December 30-31: evolution of the mammals
  • Last 6 minutes: modern human beings appear
  • Last 30 seconds: agriculture, written records
  • Last second: modern history (last 500 years)

In terms of space, the Earth (as peppercorn) would be at the distance of 10 meter from the Sun (as grapefruit) [3:00]. The next star, Alpha Centarii would be 3,600 km away.





To create a scale model with an earth only as big as a marble you need 7 miles of empty space (1:45). At this scale the sun is a meter and a half.

  • Mercury 68 m
  • Venus (same size as Earth) 120 m
  • Earth 178 m
  • Mars 269 m
  • Jupiter 920 m
  • Saturn 1,700 m
  • Uranus 3,400 m
  • Neptune 5,600 m


Agricultural Societies – State Formation and Development (2500 BCE)

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