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In the violent early years, Earth was a molten hell that ejected the Moon after a fiery collision with another protoplanet, scientists now suspect. It later transformed from a large body of water into a giant snowball, destroying almost all life in existence.
Then intense hurricanes with waves as high as 300 feet battered the newly thawed ocean. But this is nothing compared to the celestial commotion and fireworks 9 billion years before our planet was born.
The upcoming documentary on science and history by Dan Levitt ”What Happened to You: The Story of Your Body’s Atoms, from the Big Bang to Last Night’s Dinner’, a series of stunning and often powerful images that trace how our cells, elements, atoms, and subatomic particles get into our brains, bones, and bodies. The book was released on January 24.
“We now know that the origin of the universe, the formation of elements in stars, the creation of the solar system and Earth, and the early history of our planet were incredibly turbulent,” Levitt told CNN.
Explosions, collisions, and almost incomprehensible temperatures were essential to life.
Disturbance in the orbit of JupiterFor example, it might have sent an asteroid shower toward Earth, dousing the planet with water in the process. He made the molten iron that makes up the Earth’s core. A magnetic field that protects us from cosmic rays.
“So many things have happened that could have happened any other way, in which case we wouldn’t be here,” Levitt said.
Reconstructing the epic step-by-step journey of our atoms over billions of years, he said, filled him with amazement and gratitude.
“Sometimes when I look at people,” he said, “I think, ‘Wow, you are such an amazing being and all our atoms share the same deep history that goes back to the Big Bang.'” He hopes that readers will realize that even the simplest cell is incredibly complex and deserving of a lot of respect. And all people are.
Our bodies contain it 60 or more items, including the torrents of hydrogen released after the Big Bang and calcium from dying stars known as red giants. As Leavitt pieced together the evidence for how it and more complex organic molecules came to be, he became embroiled in the turbulent history of the scientific process itself.
Initially, it wasn’t intended as a comparison between the turmoil of the universe and the turmoil of the scientific world, but it certainly came with the territory. “Many scientific facts have been ignored since our great-great-grandparents were alive,” he said. “That’s part of the fun of the book.”
After Leavitt finished his first draft, he realized, to his surprise, that some of the scholarly upheavals were due to all kinds of recurring biases. He said, “I wanted to tap into the great scientists who were making great discoveries—to see the progress they were making and to understand how they were received at the time.” “I was surprised to see that almost every time the initial reaction to the leading theories was skepticism and rejection.”
Throughout the book, he points out six recurring mental traps that blind even the brightest of minds, such as the opinion that it is “too weird to be true” or “If our current tools don’t detect it, it doesn’t exist.”
Albert Einstein initially hated the outlandish idea of expanding the universe, for example, and had to be persuaded over time by George LemaitreLittle-known but current Belgian priest and cosmologist. Stanley Miller, the “Father of Prebiotic Chemistry” who brilliantly mimicked conditions on Earth in glass vials, was a fierce opponent of the hypothesis that life could evolve in the ocean depths, fueled by mineral-rich enzymes and superheated vents. and so on.
In his book, Levitt wrote, “The history of science is full of great statements by great statesmen about the certainty that they will soon be overthrown.” Fortunately for us, the history of science is also full of radicals and freethinkers who are happy to find holes in these statements.
Levitt described the number of leaps and bounds taken by researchers whose contributions did not get due recognition. “I am drawn to little-known heroes with their dramatic stories that people have never heard,” he said. “So it was to my delight that many of the most interesting stories in the book ended up being about people I didn’t know.”
They are scientists like the Austrian researcher Marietta Blau, which helped physicists see some of the first signs of subatomic particles; Dutch physician and philosopher Jan Engenhaus, who discovered that sunlit leaves can create oxygen through photosynthesis; And the pharmacist Rosalinda FranklinWho was instrumental in creating the three-dimensional structure of DNA.
wonders of the universe
A bolt of new ideas often strikes independently around the world. To his surprise, Levitt found that many scientists had come up with plausible scenarios for how the building blocks of life could have started together.
“Our universe is rich in organic molecules – many of which are precursors to the molecules we create,” he said. “So I alternate between thinking that beings like us are very unlikely to exist and thinking that life must exist in many, many places in the universe.”
However, nothing has been apparent on our journey since the Big Bang.
“If you try to imagine how life evolved from the first organic molecules, it must have been a bumpy process, full of winding paths and malfunctions,” Levitt said. Most of them must have gone nowhere. But evolution has a way of creating winners from countless attempts over long periods of time. ”
Nature also has a way of recycling building blocks to create new life. It’s called a nuclear physicist Paul Ebersold We found that “we change half of our carbon atoms every month or two and we change 98% of all our atoms every year,” Levitt writes.
Like a house undergoing a constant process of renewal, we are constantly changing and replacing old parts with new ones: water, proteins and even cells, most of which we replace seemingly every decade.
Eventually, our cells will grow silently, but their parts will coalesce into other forms of life. “Though we may die,” Levitt wrote, “our atoms do not die.” “It whirls through life, soil, oceans, and sky in a swirl of chemistry.”
In other words, like the death of stars, our destruction opens up another wonderful world of possibilities.
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