Some astrophysics news:
Scientists have found two interstellar clouds of original gas, which — unlike everything else in the universe — has never mingled with elements forged later in stars.
The existence of pristine gas that formed minutes after the Big Bang explosion some 13.7 billion years ago, had been predicted, but never before observed.
Let me break down this and a few other fascinating facts:
In the minutes following the Big Bang, only Hydrogen and Helium existed in the universe. Minutes. Remember we’re now 13.7 billion years ahead. Hydrogen and helium are the lightest elements in the universe. That is, their atoms are the lightest.
Now you might recall that hydrogen fuses to form helium in our sun.
Recall the boring periodic table from sixth grade. You will see that a lighter element, hydrogen in this case, fuses to form helium, a heavier element, under high temperature. Think of it as two clay balls are combined to form one ball which is naturally bigger, or in physics terms, a heavier element.
The high temperature makes hydrogen atoms paranoid and run around rapidly. This increases the chances it will collide with another hydrogen atom and fuse into helium. Imagine a roomful of blindfolded girls who are told there is a spider in the room. A giant spider.
You get the idea.
Now extend this logic. Every element heavier than helium–oxygen, carbon, nitrogen–is formed similarly. When helium fuses, you get heavier elements. By now, we have 5 elements that form the basis of life-forms on earth. All this happens in high temperature furnaces. Or as we know them: stars. Our sun is a star too. Earth is not a start because it doesn’t have an active core. Plus we’d be fried if the earth were a star. That might be delicious but now I’m segueing into cannibalism.
When a star explodes (This is called a supernova. Sounds familiar?), these elements are carried through asteroids or linger around in space. Some of these asteroids were part of the giant chunk of rock that was primitive earth. Further asteroids kept ramming into earth as it was starting to get its current shape. These asteroids brought the elements that would form water, oxygen, life forms, the metal that forms your iPod, and so on.
That is how we have all the elements that we do on earth today.
Lawrence Strauss illustrates this wonderfully. I’ll attempt to paraphrase: Look at your left hand. Now look at your right hand. The atoms that form both your hands were forged in stars perhaps billions of light years away (in today’s distance). There is an extremely tiny possibility that they were forged in the same star (There are billions of galaxies out there and each one has billions of stars). And yet, they came together to form your body. We are not different from the universe: We are the universe. We carry the history of 13.7 billion years of the universe in every atom of our body.
Isn’t that a beautiful thought?
I recall Vivekananda said something very similar while talking about the oneness principle. When I read Vivekananda, that was the first time I understood oneness. Spirituality often talks about how we are one with the universe. It sounds ridiculous to some (it did to me too).
But in just a few paragraphs, we saw how that is in fact true.
Don’t be disappointed if you didn’t know all this. For a nerd, I discovered these precise explanations a few weeks ago.
And how awesome Chemistry would’ve been if our teachers had taught us the periodic table in this manner! No?
P.S. Yes, I have simplified some things.