More Bouncing Balls for Friday

Heather Cox Richardson

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a video representing changes in four empires over the past two hundred years. The empires were shown as balls, growing, bouncing into each other, and finally exploding after WWII. Reactions to that video were mixed—one person wrote that watching it was like watching paint dry.

Nonetheless, I remain unbowed.

Here is another video of history through bouncing balls. It is a fascinating representation of statistics, along
with their strengths and weaknesses.

I think this one, even more than my earlier, more sedate bouncing balls, would need to be used as the start of a conversation in a classroom, rather than without comment. It is, of course, an entirely Whiggish version of world history. That itself would be an interesting starting point for a class discussion.

It also remarks on the dramatic changes in life expectancy after WWII without speculating about why they happened. This could be productively interrogated in a classroom, too, since much of that change should probably be attributed to the heavy use of petrochemicals in commercial fertilizer and transportation systems, a use that many believe to be both unsustainable and potentially so environmentally destructive it will ultimately wipe out huge populations. It might be useful to juxtapose some of the historical questions of technology and environment alongside this cheery version of the last two hundred years.

It’s also notable that the narrator insists he is showing a triumphant progress, and indeed, for his own field of global health, he is. But change along the axis of wealth is notably small for Africa. That, too, could be productively discussed in a classroom, in terms of world history, national history; systems and exceptionalism.

Anyway, it’s a cool video for a Friday.