“The atoms appear into my brain, ball a dance, and afresh go out – there are consistently new atoms, but consistently accomplishing the aforementioned dance, canonizing what the ball was yesterday.” –Richard Feynman
Here you are, a animal being, a admirable Universe of atoms that accept organized themselves into simple monomers, accumulated calm into behemothic macromolecules, which in about-face comprise the organelles that accomplish up your cells. And actuality you are, a accumulating of about 75 abundance specialized cells, organized in such a way as to accomplish up you.
But at your core, you are still aloof atoms. A mind-bogglingly ample cardinal of atoms — some 1028 of them — but atoms nonetheless.
Those two things — you and an atom — may assume so altered in calibration and admeasurement that it’s adamantine to blanket your arch around. Here’s a fun way to anticipate about atoms: if you bankrupt bottomward a animal actuality into all the atoms that accomplish you up, there are about as abounding atoms that accomplish up you (~1028) as there are “a-human’s-worth-of-atoms” to accomplish up the absolute Solar System!
All the amount in the Solar System, all summed together, contains about 1057 atoms, or 1029 human-beings-worth of atoms. So an atom, compared to you, is as tiny as you are in allegory to the absolute Solar System, combined.
But that’s aloof for perspective. The 1028 atoms that are existing-as-you-right-now anniversary accept their own adventure addition aback to the actual bearing of the Universe. Anniversary one has its own story, and so today I accompany you the adventure of just one atom in the Universe.
There was a time in the abroad accomplished — some 13.7 billion years ago — aback there were no atoms. Yes, the activity was all there, but it was far too hot and too close to accept alike a distinct atom. Imagine all the amount in the absolute Universe, some 1091 particles, in a aggregate of amplitude about according to that of a single, behemothic star.
The accomplished Universe, aeroemism into a aggregate of amplitude that one ample brilliant takes up.
Yes, aback afresh it was too hot to accept any atoms at all. But the Universe didn’t break that way for long: it may accept been abundantly hot and dense, but it was accretion and cooling abundantly rapidly aback then. Afterwards beneath than a second, the quarks and gluons had abridged into abiding protons and neutrons, the architecture blocks of all diminutive nuclei.
The atom we’re cerebration of started out as a neutron. Protons approved to agglutinate with it to actualize deuterium, but the Universe was too hot for that to happen, and anniversary time it formed deuterium, it was accursed afar beneath than a nanosecond later.
After about three minutes, a few of the neutrons had addle into protons, but this one remained, and assuredly the Universe had cooled abundant so that nuclear admixture could proceed. The neutron bound formed deuterium, afresh Helium-3, and assuredly begin addition deuteron to become a Helium-4 nucleus. Alone about 8% of the atoms in the Universe became Helium-4 like this one; the added 92% were aloof apparent old protons, additionally accepted as Hydrogen nuclei.
It took addition 380,000 years for the Universe to air-conditioned abundant for this to become a aloof atom, and for two electrons to accompany this nucleus. The Universe — admitting its accelerated amplification and cooling — charcoal 100% ionized until the temperature drops to aloof a few bags of degrees, which artlessly takes that abundant time.
Over the aing hundred-million years or so, this atom begin itself bent up in the gravitational cull of the Universe, which began to anatomy stars and galaxies. But the all-inclusive majority of atoms — added than 95% — weren’t a allotment of the aboriginal bearing of stars, and neither was this one in particular.
Instead, aback the aboriginal stars formed, they kicked the electrons out of the atoms that amidst them, creating ions already again.
It was alone by luck that this atom we’re afterward anguish up in a close atomic cloud, cloistral from this radiation. Afterwards added than a billion years in this accumulating of aloof atoms, it assuredly begin itself pulled in by gravitational allure to what would become a behemothic star.
This atom absent its electrons and fell to the amount of the star, area it lay abeyant for millions of years, as hydrogen nuclei alloyed into added helium nuclei aloof like this one. Aback the amount ran out of hydrogen fuel, helium admixture began, and our atom alloyed with two others to become a carbon nucleus!
While added atoms alike afterpiece to the centermost of the brilliant alloyed further, carbon was as far as this accurate atom went. Aback the amount of the brilliant burst and the brilliant went supernova, our atom was absolute out into the interstellar medium, area it resided for billions of years.
While billions of added stars went through the life-and-death cycle, this carbon atom remained in interstellar space, eventually acrimonious up six electrons to become neutral. It begin its way into a gravitational accumulating of aloof gas, and cooled, eventually accepting sucked in to addition gravitational perturbation, as star-formation happened all over again.
This time, the atom didn’t acquisition its way into the axial brilliant of its system, but rather into the arenaceous deejay that amidst it. Over time, the deejay afar into planetoids and planetesimals, and this atom begin itself aboard one of those.
It aboriginal aing calm with four hydrogen atoms, acceptable methane, and went through millions of altered actinic reactions over time.
After activity took authority on Earth, it became a allotment of a bacterium’s DNA, afresh a allotment of a plant’s corpuscle wall, and eventually became allotment of a circuitous animal that would acquisition itself consumed by you.
The atom is currently in a red claret corpuscle of yours, area it will abide for a absolute of about 120 days, until the corpuscle is destroyed and replaced by a altered one.
Although the corpuscle — and all beef in your anatomy — will be destroyed and replaced, you will abide the aforementioned being you are, and the atom will artlessly booty on a altered function, whether in your anatomy or out of it. The atoms in your anatomy are temporary, and can all be replaced — disregarded by you — by addition of the aforementioned type.
And anniversary of the 1028 atoms in your anatomy has a adventure as amazing and different as this one! As Feynman abundantly said,
“I / a Universe of atoms / an atom in the Universe.”
The adventure of the Universe is central every atom in your body, anniversary and every one. And afterwards 13.7 billion years, 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them accept appear together, and that’s you. The Universe is central of you, as absolutely as you’re central the Universe.
You, a Universe of atoms, an atom in this Universe.
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