This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, host Gary Scott Thomas had a mind-bending conversation with Dan Levitt, the author of What’s Gotten Into You: The Story of Your Body’s Atoms, from the Big Bang Through Last Night’s Dinner. From contemplating his daughter’s vegetarian diet to delving deep into the history of scientific discovery, Dan took us on a ride from the Big Bang to modern biology. He also shares something enthralling about Robert Oppenheimer, Georges Lemaître, Fred Hoyle, Martin Kamen, Sam Ruben, Einstein, and all things geeky. So, join us to hear more discussions about extensive research filled with fascinating stories that may blow your mind!
This episode is sponsored by:
In this Episode:
- How questioning Dan’s daughter’s vegetarian diet led to an intriguing path of scientific discovery.
- The eye-opening revelation that every particle in our bodies originated from the Big Bang.
- Hear stories and tales about science history, controversies, DNA discovery, tragedies, triumphs, and many more!
- Discussion about the human complexity, mitochondria story, and challenges faced by scientific pioneers.
- Reflections on life’s wonders and geological disagreements regarding evolution due to limited evidence but constant reinterpretation lead us closer to truth over time.
“History of science. I love it.” ~ Dan Levitt
“We are puzzle-solving creatures and the satisfaction of puzzle-solving drives us forward.” ~ Dan Levitt
“Many times the scientific breakthroughs don’t come with Eureka. They come with, oh, that’s weird.” ~ Dan Levitt
“No one had any idea how life could have evolved, and no one thought that you could even study it.” ~ Dan Levitt
“One of the things that is incredible that scientists have been able to do is reconstructing how we got here from the Big Bang—from this crazy, just random explosion of these tiny sub-subatomic particles and an energy package. Uh, it doesn’t necessarily explain why we’re here, right? Cause, you know, who knows what went before? Uh, but it certainly does explain why we’re here and it’s incredible—just incredible that we can do that.” ~ Dan Levitt
“One of the interesting things that I found when I was writing my book because I traced so many different kinds of discoveries is, you know, a lot of discoveries were brilliant insights like Einstein and relativity and Lemaître and the Big Bang.” ~ Dan Levitt
“It’s interesting because, you know, you have to also come up with new ideas and then defend it when people say you’re nuts.” ~ Dan Levitt
“That’s a large part of the scientific process, is, you know, coming up with an idea, and if you find the evidence and you believe in it, you know, you’re going to have a lot of skeptics, because scientists are trained to be skeptical, and that’s why science works because people are constantly saying, well, yeah, that sounds nice, but couldn’t it be this, or couldn’t it be this, or couldn’t it be that, right?” ~ Dan Levitt
“As our instruments get more powerful, we’re going to learn all kinds of things that we had no idea about.” ~ Dan Levitt
Dan Levitt is the author of What’s Gotten Into You: The Story of Your Body’s Atoms, from the Big Bang Through Last Night’s Dinner. The book brings together a lifetime of discovery and research that led to a sweet spot where history meets science. He fondly recalls a chemistry kit his parents gave him when he was seven; he had a great time recording his results in a small notebook. He still misses those musty cards that he used to browse as he researched assignments as a student in Philadelphia’s public schools. In high school, his favorite class was chemistry, and that’s what he thought he would study, but then he found cognitive psychology at Swarthmore College.
In the Peace Corps in Kenya, Dan taught high school physics, biology, and world history in a remote village. Living close to Mount Kilimanjaro, walking by anthills as tall as people, and seeing snakes, hippos, and other wildlife gave him an intense curiosity about the natural world. He returned to Philadelphia to take a job developing exhibits and videos at the Franklin Institute Science Museum. That led to an interest in documentary filmmaking. After getting an MFA, Dan moved to Boston and started his career writing, producing, and directing documentaries for Discovery, Science, National Geographic, History, HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute), and others. His productions include films on dinosaurs; how Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hawking made their greatest discoveries; the archeology of Custer’s Last Stand; and scientists’ efforts to uncover the cause of Malaysia’s Nipah virus. His work has received numerous awards, including two Cine-Golden Eagles, Emmy Award nominations, and the coveted Spur Award for scriptwriting from the Western Writers of America.
While dreaming up films, Dan was seized by an idea for a book and decided to go for it. What’s Gotten Into You: The Story of Your Body’s Atoms, from the Big Bang Through Last Night’s Dinner, published by HarperCollins, is his first book.
He considers himself lucky that his career combines science, history, and writing, all of which he loves. He lives in Cambridge with his other loves: his wife, two kids, and their dog, Maxwell Smart.