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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

we are the byproducts of exploding stars

Today I am going to tell you where the atoms in your body came from.

Below you will find the periodic table of the elements. Stick with me, cuz this will melt your mind. Each of these elements has a different size nucleus. The nucleus is the very tiny very heavy part of the atom. Nuclei are made of these things called protons and neutrons, and the more protons that the atom's nucleus has, the higher the atomic number (atomic # increases left to right, top to bottom, just like reading)(different atoms of a given element can have different number of neutrons). Those are the basics, now on to the really good stuff.


Shortly after the beginning of time, the universe was filled with just hydrogen atoms (atom #1, top left). We have a lot of hydrogen in our bodies, but we also have lots of carbon (#6), oxygen (#8), and even some nitrogen (#7) atoms too. In fact, by weight, hydrogen makes up 10% of our bodies, carbon makes up 18%, oxygen is a whopping 65%, and nitrogen is 3%.

So, the question is, if our bodies are made of 83 weight percent carbon and oxygen atoms, and there were none of these atoms around at the beginning of time, how did this come to be??? How??!!???? Where did our bodies come from???!! Get ready to find out.

Maybe you've already guessed, but the answer is that the heavier atoms (carbon, etc) are all formed from hydrogen atoms. But the real crazy part is how that happens.

The elements on the periodic table can be transformed and combined by a process called nuclear fusion. Under the right conditions you can combine four hydrogen atoms and get out one helium atom (atomic #2) and a ton of energy. This is what is happening inside of some stars, hydrogen is being fused into helium, and the energy is being released as light and heat. So this is how the first helium atoms in the universe were formed. Once a hydrogen-burning star fuses all of its hydrogen into helium, it heats up and starts fusing the helium atoms together. This helium fusion forms carbon and oxygen (and to be honest, I am not sure how nitrogen is formed, but it is something analogous to all this stuff).

So how do these atoms get from the core of a star into our bodies??? I'll give you a hint, it is something pretty awesome...like, really awesome... ...You guessed it, once the star fuses all the atoms it can fuse and if the star is big enough, it will collapse in upon itself, run smack dab into the laws of physics, and explode (supernova!!!!)...blowing an inconceivable amount of atoms into space. Given the right conditions, these atoms can clump together, forming planets, oceans, clouds, trees, people, etc.

To summarize: We are the byproducts of exploding stars, motherfuckers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 comments:

  1. your fascination with astronomy finally makes sense to me now.

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  2. hehe my captcha for that comment was "malls balls"

    ReplyDelete
  3. astronomy is incredible. what are malls balls? they probably rule too.

    ReplyDelete