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Origin Story summary

A Big History of Everything

4.3 (158 ratings)
31 mins

Brief summary

"Origin Story" by David Christian explores the history of the universe from the Big Bang to modern times, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things. It's a compelling and accessible account of how we got to where we are today.

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    Origin Story
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    The Big Bang created the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, the first of a series of key events in our history.  

    The tale of our origins is told through thresholds – key transition points when more complex things appeared. These moments happen under what’s known as goldilocks conditions – when things are not too hot or too cold, but just right.

    For most of the thresholds in our story, we can explain what those goldilocks conditions were, and why the threshold was reached. But what about the Big Bang?

    We simply don’t know the conditions that allowed our universe to emerge. Perhaps the best way to explain what happened is to use the words of science fiction author Terry Pratchett: “In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded.”

    What we do know is that the Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago – the first of a series of key events in our history.  And we know what happened next, a fraction of a billionth of a second after that moment.

    At this point, the universe was smaller than an atom. It’s hard for human brains to comprehend the size of things like atoms, but you could comfortably fit a million of them into the dot of this “i.”

    To begin with, we only had energy, which quickly split into different forces, such as gravity and electromagnetism. Within a second, simple matter emerged and was followed by more complex structures, while protons and neutrons – extremely tiny particles – teamed up to become nuclei. All this happened within minutes, but as the universe cooled things slowed down a bit. 380,000 years later, electrons became trapped in orbit around protons, pulled together by electromagnetic forces, and the first atoms of helium and hydrogen were formed.

    The universe began as something unimaginably small, with all the energy and matter present in the universe today packed into it, and it’s been growing ever since.

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    What is Origin Story about?

    Origin Story (2018) tells the story of our universe, from the Big Bang to the present day. It traces how the right conditions have allowed the development of forms, organisms and ultimately societies of incredible complexity. From the emergence of single-celled organisms to the development of agriculture, it tells the epic story of our origins.

    Origin Story Review

    Origin Story by David Christian (2018) is a captivating exploration of the history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the rise of human civilization. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents a grand narrative of how we came to exist, weaving together science, anthropology, and history, allowing us to see the bigger picture of our place in the cosmos.
    • Christian's ability to simplify complex concepts and connect seemingly disparate ideas makes the book accessible to readers of all backgrounds, sparking curiosity and understanding.
    • With its engaging storytelling and thought-provoking insights, the book challenges our perspective on existence, making it anything but boring.

    Who should read Origin Story?

    • Anyone interested in the history of natural and human innovation
    • Anyone with an interest in popular science
    • Those seeking to understand our place in the universe

    About the Author

    David Christian is a professor of history at Macquarie University, Australia, and cocreator of the university’s Big History School. He also cofounded the Big History Project with Bill Gates, which provides schools with resources to teach the history of the universe. His 2011 TED Talk, The history of our world in 18 minutes, has been viewed more than eight million times.

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    Origin Story FAQs 

    What is the main message of Origin Story?

    The main message of Origin Story is to understand the interconnectedness and unity of all life on Earth.

    How long does it take to read Origin Story?

    The reading time for Origin Story can vary but it typically takes several hours. You can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is Origin Story a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Origin Story is definitely worth reading. It provides a fascinating and thought-provoking exploration of our shared history and the forces that have shaped humanity.

    Who is the author of Origin Story?

    David Christian is the author of Origin Story.

    What to read after Origin Story?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Origin Story, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Moon by Ben Moore
    • The Grid by Gretchen Bakke
    • The Big Picture by Sean Carroll
    • On Immunity by Eula Biss
    • Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
    • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
    • Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
    • Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku
    • Antimatter by Frank Close