Oberlin Big History Movement

The 2016 Syllabus
"Understanding of Nature (Big History)"


Professors: Hirofumi Katayama and Ryosuke Miyawaki
College of Arts and Sciences, J. F. Oberlin University

1. Course Content

Big History (earth and cosmic history) is a project to consider the place of humanity in cosmic history and cope with global issues while reviewing the 13.8 billion years of the universe. Big History seeks to cosmologically, philosophically and poetically consider the essence of the universe, life and humanity and the meaning of human existence in the universe throughout the 13.8-billion-year history with scientific information we can use today.

Big History Project is originally a new educational program in which the educators including Professor David Christian at Macquarie University have engaged with financial support of Bill Gates, while our course as a part of the Oberlin Big History Project is the first ever course in Japan whose theme is Big History.

In this course, we will overview from the birth of the universe and the formation of the stars, galaxies, our solar system and Earth via the origins and evolution of life on Earth and the origins of humankinds and the emergence of civilization to modern and contemporary eras, and then look to the near future of humans.

We hope that you, our students, will freely develop your own picture on the essence of the universe, life and humanity based on scientific and historical knowledge rather than to keep such knowledge in your mind. Please apply a vast vision of Big History to global problems we face today.

2. Attainment Target

(1) To be able to think of the meaning that the world and you exist from a cosmic viewpoint
(2) To be able to grasp a global issue from a cosmic viewpoint and find a solution for it

3. Lessons

Lecture 1 (Sep. 20)Introduction

Lecture 2 (Sep. 27)Big Bang: The Beginning of the Universe

Lecture 3 (Oct. 4)The Formation of the Solar System and the Earth

Lecture 4 (Oct. 11)The Emergence of Life

Lecture 5 (Oct. 18)History of the Evolution of Life

Lecture 6 (Oct. 25)History of the Evolution of Life (continued)

Lecture 7 (Nov. 1)Special Lecture ( 1 )

Lecture 8 (Nov. 8)The Emergence of Humankinds

Lecture 9 (Nov. 15)The Era of Agrarian Civilizations

Lecture 10 (Nov. 22)The Modern Era

Lecture 11 (Nov. 29)Special Lecture ( 2 )

The lecture cancellation (Dec. 6)

Lecture 12 (Dec. 13)In a Time of the Anthropocene

Lecture 13 (Dec. 20)Extra-terrestrial Life

Lecture 14 (Jan. 17)Special Lecture ( 3 )

Lecture 15 (Jan. 24)Wrap-up

*Special Lectures

( 1 ) "Big History and Biodiversity" by Tatsuo Motokawa (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology)

( 2 ) "Human-caused Scratches on Earth Considered from Space Agriculture" by Masamichi Yamashita (Professor Emeritus, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, JAXA)

( 3 ) "Big History and Information Revolution" by Wataru Sasaki (Developer of Hatsune Miku, Crypton Future Media, INC.)

4. Oberlin Big History Project

Our volantury students have just launched the "Oberlin Big History Project (OBHP)"as a voluntary seminar under the slogan of "Think Cosmically, Act Globally". In this year, the OBHP team will take part in COP 13 (Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) in Cancun, Mexico and make a presentation titled "Mainstreaming Biodiversity Utilizing 'Big History'" as a side event there (we call it Cancun Mission). Our team will make a report of Cancun Mission at the final lecture.

New members have been wanted. So please don't hesitate to contact us if you are interested in it.

5. Text and Reference

Christian, David (2007) This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity, Great Barrington, Mass.: Berkshire.

Kaifu, Norio, Motonori Hoshi and Shigenori Maruyama eds. (2015) Life in the Universe, Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press (in Japanese).

6. Assessment

You need to submit a reaction paper at the end of every class and a term paper at the end of a semester, whose theme will be "Describe your vision on your role in the universe".

Participation: 10%
Reaction Paper: 45%
Term Paper: 45%

7. Contact

If you have any questions and anything, please contact Katayama.
Office Hours: 2nd period on Tuesday, 3rd period on Thursday at B411, Suteikan
E-mail: katayama@obirin.ac.jp