FRONT MATTER

This book reviews the past at every scale. Visualizing time as the three-dimensional sands of an hourglass helps visualize disparate time scales more readily than a one-dimensional clock or calendar.

I. Preface:  Is This The Book You’re Looking For?

II. Introduction

III.  About the Cover

IV.  Full Contents

V.  Citations

I. Preface:  Is This The Book You’re Looking For?

A. The Ideas behind this Book
B. Why Listen to Me?

A. The Ideas behind this Book

I have read an editor’s advice that there’s no point in writing a preface, because most people don’t read prefaces and don’t know what they’re for!  For those of you who fall into that category, the preface is the section that answers the question, “Is this the book you’re looking for?”  Since I am not famous, I’ll have to tell you a little bit about who I am and why you should care, how this book came to be, what it’s about, what is unique about it, and what you might gain from reading it.

In a blurb, The Evolution of Human is a scientific history and pre-history of the world, focused on the events and trends that led to today’s human state of affairs.  You don’t have to be a student or an expert to read this book.  It is for everyone who loves learning, because I find it important for everyone to understand our shared past.  In this book, I use the term “us” as all people living today.

TEOH is one of the first books that qualifies as a “history of everything,” from the beginning of time to the present.  Writing such a book raises huge challenges.  For starters, there are thousands of religions and other belief systems that tell different stories about the past.  How do we decide among them?  Well, only one belief system is based on an honest, accommodating assessment of evidence, and that is science.  You are entitled to your own beliefs even while finding out what science has to say about our past.  Along the way, you might find it insightful to examine the influences that have shaped your own beliefs.  If so, this is the book for you.

The dichotomy between evidence and belief is especially relevant in our lifetime.  Although the scientific revolution is centuries old, and its technology is changing the world at breakneck speed, the underlying philosophy of science is spreading at a glacier’s pace from cities and universities out into rural and conservative communities.  I have grown up in both environments and have learned to reconcile the different belief systems around me.  It hurts me to see our society get increasingly polarized by left / right, urban / rural, scientific / religious divides.

To answer the big questions, the discussion must run the gamut of “everything”, from the big bang to big data, because origin stories are so central to religion.  That is impossible in any linear presentation.  If this book represented the age of the universe in timeline fashion, then our entire species, Homo sapiens, would be no more than the last two words of the book.  Traditional history books discuss the recent past and ignore the deep past, while natural history books do the opposite.

My epiphany (realized in 2007) was that a history of everything could be accomplished with a non-linear logarithmic scale, progressing in powers of ten years.  If the first chapter covered the whole ten-billion-year history of the universe, then the next chapter would focus on the last few billion years, and the next chapter the last few hundred-million years, and so on.  This pattern would take us all the way to the last few decades in just ten chapters!  With that problem solved and the vision clarified, I secretly set myself the challenge of writing the world’s first logarithmic history of everything.

B. Why Listen to Me?

Hopefully by now I have convinced you that a logarithmic history of the universe is interesting and important.  But why (aside from the fact that I wrote one) should you read mine?  Shouldn’t history books be written by experts and professors with PhD’s?  That’s a fair question and a fair criticism.  I do not have a PhD and cannot claim to be a leading expert in any field.  Heck, I’m not even a professional writer!  However, I think I have a fair answer.  Nobody is uniquely qualified to write this book, because there is no such thing as a PhD in general knowledge.  Today’s experts are specialists.  If we visualize knowledge as a tree, experts are perched at the top of the upper branches.  Their job is to make these branches grow higher, but as they do, they become increasingly narrow and separated from other branches.

I have always been an avid reader, learner, and armchair philosopher – as have many of you.  Though I am not an academic, I came close to it.  My degrees are in math, engineering science, and law, all from leading academic universities.  More pertinently, for the last two decades I have been a well-reviewed professional educator. 1 Many students have testified that I helped them learn material that no other teacher could get across.  If I can claim expertise in anything, then, it is the art of explanation.

The literature at the highest levels of academics includes peer-reviewed scientific articles and monographs.  These materials are judged by how well they cite their sources and explain their methodologies.  They are the most reliable sources of information available, the “scriptures” of science.  However, they are hopelessly unreadable to laymen.

At the other extreme is the “popular science” book, written for a variety of purposes:  to educate, entertain, espouse a viewpoint, or simply sell copies.  Popular science authors write compelling story-like prose, but they usually fall well short in citing their sources.  It’s hard to tell where facts end and speculation begins, or to double-check the author’s interpretation of facts.  This presentation does a disservice to the serious lay-reader and undercuts the book’s authority.

In writing TEOH, my imperative was, “write like a narrative, cite like a thesis.”  Almost every obscure or controversial fact in this book is supported by a reference – to a primary source or peer-reviewed journal article whenever possible.  I worked on this book for a decade, and I spent most of that time reading, tracing, and vetting information.

Textbooks usually organize their material by learnability: “First you must learn this, then you can understand that.”  Many popular science books present a “history of discovery” approach, which capitalizes on the fascinating mysteries, debates, forensics, and Indiana Jones-style adventures of scientists in the field.  What these formats sacrifice is a true and complete telling of the past.  TEOH is a straightforward chronology of “what happened, when, and why it matters.”

I wrote this book simply because I’m interested in understanding the true nature of my brief life before it’s over.  Some people choose to love life by relaxing, partying, raising children, or making money.  I love life by learning about it.  I figure that we should all look for the truth together so we can figure out how to deal with it.  Whether anybody ever reads TEOH or not, learning and thinking about it all has been one of the most meaningful and enriching experiences of my life.

Scot Fagerland

Los Angeles, CA

2007 – 2019

II. Introduction

This book is a history of the universe from the big bang to big data, a very large topic to swallow!  To help visualize it, I have had to use a few mathematical tricks related to operations that we don’t use often in everyday life:  powers, roots, and logarithms.  There won’t be much math in this book, I promise, but if you bear with me to get acquainted with these concepts, it will help you wrap your head around these scales of time.

Every chapter in this book measures a power of ten years.  The powers of ten are those numbers obtained by multiplying by ten again and again.  On paper, a power of ten is a one followed by zeroes.  The number of zeroes counts the multiplications by ten, also known as the logarithm.  For starters:

intro_p1

All of these astronomically large numbers correspond to equally small microscopic numbers, using negative exponents. One millionth, or \frac{1}{1,000,000} , is expressed 10-6.

The logarithmic scale enables me to give equal coverage to all periods of the past.  The chapters are numbered in reverse according to their logarithms.  The first chapter in the book is “Chapter 10” or “Chapter 10^{10},” which spans over ten billion years. The last chapter is “Chapter 1” or “Chapter 10^1,” which addresses the last few decades.

It is impossible to comprehend all these scales in linear timeline fashion.  If you laid out a billion-year timeline across your tabletop, the last million years would be almost microscopic.  My trick for visualizing the full history of everything is to represent time as a three-dimensional hourglass instead of a one-dimensional timeline.  To multiply the volume of an hourglass by 1,000, we only have to multiply its height, width, and depth each by 10, the cube root of 1,000.  This cube root trick will permit us to visualize an hourglass for even the largest scales of time.  Let’s suppose that a one-hour hourglass is one foot tall.  If we scale this hourglass to about 40 feet tall (while keeping the same small bottleneck in the middle) it will last for a decade, the smallest unit of time in this book.  A billion-year hourglass would stand 20,000 feet tall, up there with the world’s highest mountains.  That’s monumental, but it’s conceivable!

If chapter 1 represents “the last few decades” and chapter 2 covers “the last few centuries,” what is the boundary between them?  I define “a few” as “about three.”   That is, events of the last three decades belong in Chapter 1, the last few decades.  Events from four – five decades ago are logarithmically closer to 100 years ago than 10, so they are more appropriate for Chapter 2, the last few centuries.1

Using this rounding convention, here is a complete list of chapters and some of the main developments in each one.  The abbreviations TYA, MYA, and BYA stand for Thousand, Million, and Billion Years Ago.  Rather than using the ancient abbreviations “BC” and “AD”, I use positive and negative year numbers.

 

Chapter

Time Span

Dates

Events or Trends

10

The last few ten-billion years

14 – 3 BYA

Formation of universe, solar system, and Earth. Beginning of life and evolution. Genetic mixing.

9

The last few billion years

3 BYA – 300 MYA

Sexual reproduction.  Photosynthesis, oxygen, and mass extinction.  Animals, vertebrates, life on land.

8

The last few hundred-million years

300 – 30 MYA

Present-day continents. Oil. Dinosaurs and mass extinction. Mammals, primates.  Neocortex of the brain.

7

The last few ten-million years

30 – 3 MYA

Apes and hominins. Global cooling and ecological diversification.  Coal.

6

The last few million years

3 MYA – 300,000 YA

Ice ages.  Early humans and biological human nature.  The big brain bang.  Fire and stone technology.

5

The last few hundred-thousand years

300,000 – 30,000 YA

Modern humans. Abstract thought, language, culture. Religion and drugs.  Migration throughout the old world.

4

The last few ten-thousand years

-30,000 to -1,000

Interglacial and agriculture.  Americans.  First civilizations. Earliest extant religions. Writing. Wealth and power.

3

The last few millennia

-1,000 to 1700

Classic civilizations. World religions. Empires. Renaissance. Logic and Science.

2

The last few centuries

1700 – 1990

Enlightenment , Industrial revolution and computers. Globalism, capitalism, socialism. World wars and cold war. Birth control. Secularization

1

The last few decades

1990s – 2010s

Web and mobile computing.  Today’s four superpowers. AIDS and genetics. Alternative lifestyles.

You can see that the history of everything unavoidably takes us into the epistemology of science and religion.  The first half of the book is devoted to “origins” (or “genesis”, if you like):  how the world and human beings came to be, according to science.  In Chapter 5, we take an interesting turn when modern humans started to self-reflect on their nature and origins.  Then they essentially inhabited two mutually influential worlds, the real and the imagined.  Only in chapter 3 did philosophers begin to question human instincts about reality, but by that time every culture was already grounded on supernatural beliefs.  In chapter 2, epistemology played a major role in permanently changing the relationship between people and their governments.  Now, religion and science are playing out in the struggles of ordinary but diverse people to share the world.  It’s hard to change people’s minds, but I hope that this book can at least help us all understand each other better.  Of course, that will only happen if you turn the page … .

III. About The Cover

jellyfish galaxies outer space big history

Life really did descend from the heavens, but it went through many exotic phases on its way to becoming human.

The cover is a collage of three photographs.  One is a deep-space photo of hundreds of galaxies.  Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, it is in the public domain.  That original image and its attributions can be found here.  I took the other two pictures and edited them into this collage.

Midway down the page, the galaxies fade subtly into a photograph of jellyfish floating in a dark column of water.   At the bottom of the page is a Los Angeles skyline.

In this metaphorical image, time progresses from top to bottom.  Life descends from the heavens, as it did in real life and most creation myths.  But despite mythology, man did not descend fully formed.  Life was built up from interstellar molecules, and our primitive ancestors looked like jellyfish within the last billion years.  In the cover image, then, these mysterious sea creatures represent a transition from the beginning of life to the human species, which of course is represented by the city.  The cover image thus depicts a central theme of the book, the duality between the true past and beliefs about the past, and how they have both shaped the world.

Browse the contents below, or just start reading the book at Chapter 10.

IV. Full Contents

(In progress; will probably be replaced with a site map page)

Chapter 10:  THE LAST FEW TEN-BILLION YEARS

I.  Looking Into The Past

II.  The Big Bang

A.  The Stuff of Physics

B.  Attempts to Understand Creation

1.  Philosophical issues
2.  The theory of everything
3.  “When” and “where” did the big bang happen?

C.  The Early Moments After the Big Bang

D.  Cosmic Background Radiation

III.  Early Outer Space

A.  The Gravitational Clumping of Stars and Galaxies

B.  Stellar Nucleosynthesis and the Heavier Elements

C.  Atoms:  from Physics to Chemistry

D.  Complexity and Stability

IV.  Sun, Earth, And Moon

A.  Formation of the Sun and Solar System

B.  Formation of the Earth and Moon

C.  Earth’s Early Atmosphere and Oceans

D.  We Come from Outer Space!

V.  Life

A.  Prebiotic Chemistry:  the Ingredients of Life

B.  Abiogenesis:  from Chemistry to Biology

C.  The Earliest Life and the Universal Ancestor

D.  Two Billion Years of Bacteria

VI.  Summary

VII.  Margin Notes (Blog Posts)

Ch. 9:  THE LAST FEW BILLION YEARS

I.  Geological Time Periods

II.  Oxygen And Eukaryotic Cells

III.  Sexual Reproduction

IV.  The Sexual Evolution

A.  How Life Evolves

B.  Studying and Understanding Evolution

V.  From Amoebas To Amniotes

A.  Overview

B.  Multicellularity and Animals

C.  Animal Cells, Tissues, and Organs

D.  The Vertebrate Body Plan

E.  Tetrapods:  From Sea to Land

F.  Consciousness, Communication, Cooperation, and Competition

1.  Defining consciousness
2.  The early evolution of conscious behavior

VI.  The Rest Of The World

A.  Formation of Continents

B.  The Cambrian Explosion:  An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth

C.  Life on Land

D.  Coal and Natural Gas

VII.  Chapter 9 Summary

VIII.  Image Gallery:  Human Ancestors

Ch. 8:  THE LAST FEW HUNDRED-MILLION YEARS

 I.  The Mesozoic World

A.  Introduction and Geological Time

B.  Pangaea and the Modern Continents

C.  The Worst Mass Extinction of All Time

D.  Dinosaurs, Mammals, Birds, and Flowers

E.  Oil!

II.  Mammals And Primates

A.  Body

1.  Acquiring mammalhood
2.  The mammals who knew the dinosaurs
3.  Primates

B.  Brain and Behavior

1.  The neocortex
2.  It takes a village to raise a child

III.  Summary

IV.  Human Ancestor Gallery

Ch. 7:  THE LAST FEW TEN-MILLION YEARS

        I. Introduction

        II.  The Miocene World

                A.  The Seven Continents and the Seven Seas

                B.  Modern Ecosystems

        III.  Fossil Apes

                A.  From Monkeys to Apes

                B.  The Uniquely Human Clade

        IV.  Hominins

                A.  Walking Tall

                B.  No Fangs, We’re Hominin

                C.  Grandma Lucy and other Hominins of Note

        V.  Our Ape Nature

                A.  Changes by Degree

                B.  Brain and Intelligence

                C.  Tool Use

                D.  Linguistic Potential

                E.  Inner Angels:  Morality

                F.  The Social Male

                G.  Inner Demons:  Rape and Murder

        VI.  Ch. 7 Summary

        VII.  Chapter 7 Human Ancestor Gallery

Ch. 6:  THE LAST FEW MILLION YEARS

        I.  Introduction & Geological / Archaeological Terms

        II.  The Ice Ages

                A.  The Rule:  Glacials

                B.  The Exception:  Interglacials

        III.  Early Humans

                A.  Genus Homo

                B.  The Multiregional Hypothesis

                C.  The Big Brain Bang

                D.  Tools

        IV.  The Origins Of Human Nature

                A.  Meat, Hunting, and Cooking

                B.  Naked Apes Running all Around

                C.  Family and Social Life

                D.  Vocalization

        V.  Chapter 6 Conclusions

        VI.  Chapter 6 Human Ancestor Gallery

Ch. 5:  THE LAST FEW HUNDRED-THOUSAND YEARS

        I.  Introduction And Timelines

        II.  Hello, Modern Humans; Goodbye, Early Humans

                A.  The Last Early Humans

                        1.  Erectus and heidelbergensis
                        2.  Neanderthals and denisovans
                        3.  Hobbits and other exotic humans

                B.  Introducing Homo sapiens

                C.  Out of Africa One Last Time

                        1.  Modern humans in Africa
                        2.  Modern humans in Eurasia, or “When Africans conquered Europe”

        III.  Anatomically And Genetically Modern Humans

                A.  The Modern Skeleton

                B.  Haplogroups and Migration Patterns

                        1.  Understanding phylogeography
                        2.  The global family tree

        IV.  Behaviorally Modern Humans

                A.  The Modern Human Brain

                B.  Language

                        1.  What is language?
                        2.  The origins of language
                        3.  Language and the mind
                        4.  The sociology of language

                C.  Modern Behavior

                        1.  Modernity and language
                        2.  Modernity trait lists
                                a.  Clothing and ornamentation
                               b.  Mastering land and sea
                               c.  Tool technology breakthroughs
                               d.  Art
                        3.  Where and when?

                D.  Religion

                        1.  Why we are religious
                        2.  Spiritual beliefs and practices
                        3.  Drugs 

        V.  Chapter 5 Summary

Ch. 4:  THE LAST FEW TEN-THOUSAND YEARS

Ch. 3:  THE LAST FEW MILLENNIA

I.  Introduction: Empires And World Religions

A.  From the Mists of Time

B.  Autocracy and Unregulated Competition

C.  Church and State

D.  Nomenclature

1.  Times
2.  Places

II.  The Ancient Mediterranean

A.  Athens and Alexander

B.  Judeo-Christianity

C.  Ancient Rome

III.  Ancient Asia

A.  India

1.  Hinduism

2.  Buddhism

3.  Empires

B.  China

1.  Warring States and Chinese Philosophy

2.  The Qin and Han Empires

IV.  The “Middle Ages”

A.  Asian Dominance

1.  Islam

2.  China and India

3.  Mongols

B.  Quasi-Roman Europe

1.  Rome didn’t fall in a day

2.  Long ago, in a kingdom far, far away

3.  Nation-states

V.  Outside Eurasia

A.  African Sahara and Sahel

B.  The Americas

C.  Where Time Stood Still

VI.  The European Age

A.  Renaissance

B.  The Reformation

C.  Overseas Empires

D.  Capitalism and Protectionism

VII.  Reasoned Thought

A.  Logic

B.  Science

1.  The scientific method

2.  The scientific revolution

C.  Probability and Statistics

VIII.  Overview

IX.  Chapter 3 Margin Notes

Ch. 2:  THE LAST FEW CENTURIES

I.  The Enlightenment And Its Revolutions

A.  What is Enlightenment?

B.  The American Revolution

C.  The French Revolution

D.  The Free World in Incubation

E.  Secularism and Atheism

II.  Industry

A.  The Industrial Revolution

B.  Marxism

C.  Computers

III.  The World Wars

A.  How?!  Why?!

B.  The Wars

C.  How the Wars Changed the World

                       1.  The end of empires
                       2.  Pax civilia and the cold war
                       3.  Globalism
                       4.  The Israeli / Palestinian conflict

IV.  Modern Culture

A.  Universal Human Rights

B.  Birth Control

C.  Consumerism and Multi-National Corporations

D.  The Industrial Family

     V.  Summary And Conclusions

Ch. 1:  THE LAST FEW DECADES

I.  Overview:  Many Intermingling Themes

II.  The Web And Mobile Computing

A.  The World Wide Web

B.  Living in the Information Age

III.  Geopolitics And Current Events

A.  From the Cold War to the War on Terror

B.  Shifting First World and Second World

C. The Arab Spring and its Unintended Consequences

D.  Global Financial Crises

IV.  The Age Of AIDS

A.  The HIV Virus and the AIDS Epidemic

B.  The Gay Civil Rights Movement

C.  Genetics

V.  Demographics And Lifestyle

A.  Single Parenthood and Cohabitation

B.  Work, Home, and Body

                        1.  Gigonomics
                        2.  Population, migration, and urbanization
                        3.  We’re getting older and fatter

VI.  Modern Conspiracist Religion

A.  New World Order Theory

B.  Analysis

VII.  Chapter 1 Conclusion

VIII.  Chapter 1 Margin Notes (Blog Posts)

BACK MATTER

I. Conclusions

A. What I have Learned

B. What the World Needs

1. Global democracy
2. Happy, healthy children

C. Parting Words

II. About The Writer

CHAPTER 0:  THE LAST FEW YEARS (ONGOING BLOG)

V.  Citations

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