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In its violent early years, Earth was a molten hellscape that ejected the moon after a fiery collision with another protoplanet, scientists now suspect. Later, it morphed from a watery expanse to a giant snowball that nearly snuffed out all existing life.
Then hyper-hurricanes with waves as high as 300 feet pummeled the newly thawed ocean. But that’s nothing compared with the celestial turmoil and fireworks in the 9 billion years before the birth of our planet.
Science and history documentarian Dan Levitt’s upcoming book, “What’s Gotten Into You: The Story of Your Body’s Atoms, From the Big Bang Through Last Night’s Dinner,” 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. The book comes out on January 24.
“Now we know that the origin of the universe, the making of elements in stars, the creation of the solar system and Earth and the early history of our planet was incredibly tumultuous,” Levitt told CNN.
The nearly incomprehensible explosions, collisions and temperatures, though, were essential for life.
A disturbance in Jupiter’s orbit, for example, may have sent a hail of asteroids to Earth, seeding the planet with water in the process. And the molten iron forming Earth’s core has created a magnetic field that protects us from cosmic rays.
“So many things happened that could’ve gone another way,” Levitt said, “in which case we wouldn’t be here.”