MIT professor of science writing Tom Levenson discusses his new book, The Hunt for Vulcan…And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe. For decades, scientists discovered, dismissed, and rediscovered a hidden planet — Vulcan — thought to be responsible for the wobble in Mercury’s orbit. But in war-torn Berlin, in 1915, Albert Einstein proposed that gravity wasn’t as Newton saw it but was space itself, warped: what became his general theory of relativity. The discovery actually takes us back to 19th century astronomer Urbain Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who originally identified Mercury’s wobble, and causes Levenson to ask: why did it take more than 50 years for science to change its mind about the existence of Vulcan?
Levenson is director of our Graduate Program in Science Writing. He is the winner of Walter P. Kistler Science Documentary Film Award, Peabody Award (shared), New York Chapter Emmy, and the AAAS/Westinghouse award. His articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Discover, and The Sciences. He is winner of the 2005 National Academies Communications Award for Origins.