Big History: Under Construction

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January, and the first 30 days of my Year of 30 Days is done.

The idea behind the Year of 30 Days is to throw myself passionately into a topic, a new topic, each month.  For January, I decided to tackle Big History.

Big History is an online learning website I read about a couple of years back, saved to my bookmarks and rediscovered at the end of December. The promo said Big History would take about 6 hours. That seemed manageable, while I work out how this Year of 30 Days might work.

Nevertheless, I still found myself rushing through the last chapter as the month drew to an increasingly rapid close.

Highly Recommended

Big History is written at a high school level. If you want to dig a little deeper at any point, you can … but you don’t have to.

The program uses a variety of formats. That means you get the same piece of information more than once but in different ways. This is a manufactured memory aid that I found very helpful.  For fast delivery, go the highly edited Green Brothers videos. A little slower, the professor will happily oblige. Or you can just read what’s written.

I enjoyed the program and highly recommend it.

Opening-Screen-for-Big-Hist“All too often, students learn facts and skills but don’t have the chance to connect them all. Big history links different areas of knowledge into one unified story. It’s a framework for learning about anything and everything.” (Big History promo)

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RAS

So, having delved into the beginning of the universe in Big History, suddenly there are cosmology and physics and geology documentaries everywhere I look, all tackling bits covered in Big History.

Of course, they are always there. I’m just noticing them now thanks to the Reticular Activating System – or RAS – in my brain.

Remember when you were young and that hot guy you liked (or girl if that’s your preference) drove a particular coloured car (let’s say red, for the story, because it sounds better than the funny beige/brown colour it actually was). Suddenly, without warning, there are red cars everywhere.

That’s because an interest has triggered something in the brain to look out for whatever it was that piqued that interest. RAS.

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Did you know that the Milky Way looks like an emu?  When the emu is lying down, it is time to collect bush tucker.  When the emu is standing up, it is time to stop. The position of the Milky Way in the night sky is a marker for the seasons. That is brilliant. That is simplicity at its best.

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Opening Screen for Cosmic Dawn
Cosmic Dawn – The Birth of Light: A great BBC Horizon documentary screened recently on SBS; looks at how stars were born about 100 million years after the big bang.
Opening Screen for Astronomy Basics
ABC to the rescue with a beginner’s guide that includes photos of the milky way as an emu.

 

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Complexity

One of the themes of Big History is ‘increasing complexity’. This is when the right ingredients combine with the right conditions to form new complexity. When that happens, a threshold is crossed and history is made. Things have changed.

RAS drew my attention to an article about complexity in, of all places, an art magazine. Jonathan Openshaw was introducing his book, Postdigital Artisans.

” … our over-stimulating and baffling environment has meant that we anticipate complexity where previously we would have accepted simplicity.”

Apparently, there’s a YouTube video of a toddler trying to pinch and swipe on a printed page, and it just won’t work like the little tyke’s screen normally would.

It can be frustrating when the real world doesn’t live up to the digital promise of possibility, engagement and constancy.

A Circular Path

It has not escaped my attention that Big History is digital.

If it wasn’t for the increasing complexity that gave me this laptop and internet connection, I wouldn’t have seen Big History, and I wouldn’t have been triggered to think about complexity and I wouldn’t now be thinking about the digitally-engineered angst that is created by increasing complexity.

Perhaps my age is my saving grace. Much of my life is still pre-digital.

I see just enough complexity in my simple walks to keep me connected to my surroundings.

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Clancys-Track-6
It’s not the first circular path I’ve been on.

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The real world still contains plenty of intrigue and promise.

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