It has been an abhorrent weekend, but I am trying to stay positive (hard as that may be when the newly minted occupant of the White House quotes (or paraphrases) an honest-to-goodness Batman villain in his inaugural address – and not in any ironic way either! I was working today, but one of my colleagues joined the over one million people who marched in protest against Trump and his ilk … marches that stretched from Washington across the globe … all the way to the Antarctic. To give Trump credit, as much as he divides our society, he has helped bring parts of society closer together.
That said, I am going to stay positive by sharing something neat. As a young man, I saw Cosmos, the PBS mini-series that introduced me to that generation’s great communicator of science, the soft-spoken, poetic, yet tough Carl Sagan. It was one of the greatest science lessons ever presented, and it sent a message of hope.
One of my favorite Sagan quotes (and he wasn’t even the first to use it), is one that teaches us that we are true citizens of the universe, for that is where we all came from:
Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
What the good doctor was poetically saying is that the very elements that make up our bodies were born in the extreme and often violent throes of the universe: hydrogen and helium were mostly born from the remnants of the big bang that marked the birth of the universe. Others were made in the cores of stars as they lived their life. Others were born in the supernova deaths of stars or in the massive collisions of stars… one of the great cosmic truths … often times an act of destruction is simultaneously an act of creation.
Dr. Jennifer Johnson, an astronomer at THEE Ohio State University, has come up with her own version of the periodic table, highlighting where the elements tend to come from.
Just in case you were ever wondering where the phosphorus that helps hold your DNA together, or the nitrogen that makes up the folic acid that leads to healthy babies, or the sodium and chlorine that allows a thought to come into existence … all of what we are really did begin out there. In at least one way, we are as extraterrestrial as any alien species we might one day hope to encounter.