Big History is an emerging field that addresses the history of the
universe, Earth, life, and humanity as a single unified whole,
integrating knowledge from across the natural sciences, social
sciences, and humanities. "Zoom," a course in Big History, will ask
you to think deeply and rigorously about some very big questions:
did the world come to be the way it is today?
- What do we know about
the physical origins of the planet we stand on, or the molecules our
bodies are composed of?
- How did life emerge, and how do humans fit
into this wider story?
- How did humans build the various forms of
complex social organization that we so often take for granted?
are the deep historical roots of the technologies we use, and how have
humans related to their environments over time?
As a history course,
"Zoom" will constantly put ideas in historical context, challenging
you to explore where our knowledge comes from, how confident we can be
in responding to these questions, and where the limits of our
Assignments will help
you master the basics of several disciplines while also actively
considering how disciplines fit together. There will be regular
quizzes to make sure everyone is following the basic content of the
class, but no big exams: the point of this class is to get you
actively processing the material in creative ways that are difficult
to capture in exams.
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The class will draw on guest speakers from departments as diverse as
Astronomy, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary
Biology, Anthropology, Near Eastern Studies, History, and more.Typical
80-minute class periods will include roughly 40 minutes of
lecture/Q&A and 40 minutes of discussion or in-class activity centered
on course readings. Reading assignments will be mostly primary sources
drawn from the disciplines we cover in class.
Readings will typically be brief, but will
require deep engagement and analysis.