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Casting out the building blocks

Supernova, from Wikipedia

A change of tack for you longtime reader. I had thought of throwing in a link to a favorite jazz piece of mine, Lionel Hampton and Friends tooling away on the old Hoagy Carmichael classic ‘Stardust,’ but that’s still a little beyond me.

We are star stuff, and I’m not talking Joni Mitchell here.

Were you aware that the atoms that make up the molecules which are the building blocks of everything we know, the trees, the grasses, rocks and rivers, the cells, tissues, sinews, muscles and organs, those atoms were forged in the heart of stars?

There’s something poetic, something wondrous beyond measure in that simple fact.

Here’s the layman’s way it works, because I’m nothing if not a layman.

Scientists agree the universe as we know it had its origin some 16 billion years ago. I’ve always thought it less a Big Bang than a Big Passing Through some titanic all-engulfing black hole.

And there’s that Passing Through thing again. I’m just not big on beginnings or endings.

Energy beyond reckoning is born from the cosmic cataclysm that is the super black hole, like a universal recycling machine transforming dead matter into energy.

The energy is thrown far and wide, and as it cools it shifts back into matter, forming the first protons and then atoms, hydrogen. These atoms have a weight of one, and they are everywhere.

Gravity, the attraction of all things to another, pulls these super abundant hydrogen-ones together into vast clouds. As more and more ones are pulled in the pressure in the center of a cloud increases. Heat builds as the ones are compressed tighter and tighter. And tighter still.

Until…ignition! The ones, positively charged, repelled one another like positive ends to magnets, but gravity crushed them together beneath their own vast weight, and finally… They become twos! That’s fusion.

Hydrogen is transformed into helium. One plus one equals two, the weight of a helium atom.

Only here, one plus one did not quite equal two. One plus one equaled almost very close but not quite two. That’s 1+1=1.9999. So what happened to that tiny fraction of matter, that 0.00001?

Is it morning yet and is the sun shining? Go outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. That’s what happened. That lost or vanished 0.00001 was transformed back into Life giving energy. Miraculous!

We’re talking Einstein’s Energy=Mass x The Speed of Light (squared)

To shorten this already lengthening story, the one and ones have become almost twos, helium, providing the heat of the sun in the process. When the sun runs out of ones to convert to twos, it begins converting ones and twos into threes and fours, lithium and beryllium.

And so on. Matter, the building blocks of all we know, are formed in the heart of giant stars. And when those stars finally die, go supernova, the building block elements are cast out into space far and wide, free to coalesce into other bodies, other stars, planets, you and me and all we see.

Only a poet can do that justice, and I am no poet. It fills me with wonder all the same. Bluthering, stammering idiot wonder.

We are Star Stuff.