For readers of Bill Bryson, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Siddhartha Mukherjee, a wondrous, wildly ambitious, and vastly entertaining work of popular science that tells the awe-inspiring story of the elements that make up the human body, and how these building blocks of life travelled billions of miles and across billions of years to make us who we are.
Every one of us contains a billion times more atoms than all the grains of sand in the earth’s deserts. If you weigh 150 pounds, you’ve got enough carbon to make 25 pounds of charcoal, enough salt to fill a saltshaker, enough chlorine to disinfect several backyard swimming pools, and enough iron to forge a 3-inch nail. But how did these elements combine to make us human?
All matter—everything around us and within us—has an ultimate birthday: the day the universe was born. This informative, eye-opening, and eminently readable book is the story of our atoms’ long strange journey from the Big Bang to the creation of stars, through the assembly of Planet Earth, and the formation of life as we know it. It’s also the story of the scientists who made groundbreaking discoveries and unearthed extraordinary insights into the composition of life. Behind their unexpected findings were investigations marked by fierce rivalries, obsession, heartbreak, flashes of insight, and flukes of blind luck. Ultimately they’ve helped us understand the mystery of our existence: how a quadrillion atoms made of particles from the Big Bang now animate each of our cells.
Shaped by the curious mind and bold vision of science and history documentarian Dan Levitt, this wondrous book is no less than the story of life itself.
Dan Levitt has over twenty years of experience writing and producing award-winning science and history documentaries for the National Geographic, Discover, Science, and History Channels among others. He has worked with scientists throughout the world, including Sean B. Carroll, Jack Horner, and Michio Kaku. He lives with his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What’s Gotten Into You is his first book.
“A truly astonishing and eminently readable work of chemical detection, provocative, surprising and alive with moments when you just want to tug your neighbor’s sleeve and ask—can you believe this?” — Simon Winchester, bestselling author of The Perfectionists and editor of Lapham's Quarterly
"Dan Levitt's What's Gotten Into You is one fascinating journey, from the fireworks of the Big Bang to the busy life of cells, this is a story of scientific discovery, history, dazzling egos, quiet courage, and pure unexpected insight. In other words, the best kind of story. Don't miss it." — Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poisoner's Handbook and The Poison Squad
"Levitt sheds light on the tiniest bits of what humans are made of in his stellar debut . . . . This is marvelous." — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Mind-broadening and thought-provoking.” — Boston Globe
"Science and history documentarian Dan Levitt’s upcoming book, What's Gotten Into You evokes a series of striking and often forceful images in tracing how our cells, elements, atoms and subatomic particles all found their way to our brains and bones and bodies . . . . it's a pretty mind-blowing book to read." — Bryn Nelson, CNN
"[Levitt] keeps matters simple enough that science buffs will be satisfied and average readers will learn a great deal . . . . Lively, illuminating popular science." — Kirkus Reviews
“This documentary effort is truly ambitious. He investigates the various chemical elements that make up the human body, then tracks them all the way back to the big bang.” — Library Journal
“In What’s Gotten Into You, Dan Levitt delivers a survey of life’s building blocks that’s intelligent, accessible and just sheer fun.” — BookPage
"The 14 billion years story of how the primaeval seeds of matter become you and your breakfast—easily digested." — Frank Close, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics, Oxford University and author of Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass
". . . brilliant popular science." — Undark
"If someone asks you 'Where are you from?', thinking Europe maybe, or China or Africa, some ancient village somewhere, this book tells the deeper story, that you aren't local. You come from everywhere, from the air around you, from the sunshine, from rocks in your solar system, from comets, from distant stars that blew up long ago, from teeny mushroom threads boring into boulders. You and every atom in you have an origin story that will make you feel very small, very lucky and very magnificent and that, says Dan Levitt, is What's Gotten Into You." — Robert Krulwich, cofounder of Radiolab
“Great book! Big Bang to vitamins! It brings home how we go about our daily lives with such a narrow and myopic view of the world. It’s refreshing to take a step back to see the very large, very small, and very old. What we know of the nuts and bolts of the universe is so far outside our everyday experiences.” — Paul Kenrick, Paleobotanist, Natural History Museum, London
“This book is sheer pleasure, a grand exploration through space and time from the expanding universe to the molecules in living cells. As told through the experiences of the men and women who made the discoveries, this is also a beautifully human story—a marvelous read in every way!” — Ruth Lewin Sime, author of Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics
“In this breezy ramble through multiple scientific domains, Dan Levitt takes the popular pursuit of family ancestry to cosmic extremes.” — Laurence Marschall, Natural History
"The book is an immense journey and a deep dive into an endless and endlessly fascinating subject." — proto.life