Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Mighty Atom

Dearest Goddesses,

So, John is reading this really great book called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and he’s been sharing some snippets which are just mind boggling. For me, science has never been easy – but I feel like the bits that John has shared with me has taught me more than all my science classes and has certainly lit a fire under John to want to study Physics!

Below is an excerpt from the book in the chapter called The Mighty Atom:

The basic working arrangement of atoms is the molecule (from the Latin for “little mass”). A molecule is simply two or more atoms working together in a more or less stable arrangement: add two atoms of hydrogen to one of oxygen and you have a molecule of water. Chemists tend to think in terms of molecules rather than elements in much the way that writers tend to think in terms of words and not letters, so it is molecules they count, and these are numerous to say the least. At sea level, at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, one cubic centimetre of air (that is, a space about the size of a sugar cube) will contain 45 billion billion molecules. And they are in every single cubic centimetre you see around you. Think how many cubic centimetres there are in the world outside your window – how many sugar cubes it would take to fill that view. Then think how many it would take to build a universe. Atoms, in short, are very abundant.

They are also fantastically durable. Because they are so long lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms – up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested – probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. (The personages have to be historical, apparently, as it takes the atoms some decades to become thoroughly redistributed; however much you may wish it, you are not yet one with Elvis Presley.)

So what does this mean? Well I took two major points away from these two amazing paragraphs:

  1. The same atoms that made up some of the greatest people in our history are a part of me. That I’ve travelled through stars and tree leaves and volcano lava – all that is within me – within us! So when I feel like I’m not good enough, all I need to do is think about the greatness that is within me – of the historical greatness. And when you think that DaVinci had more talent in the fingernail of his right thumb than you do? Well – maybe, just maybe you actually are made up of the atoms that made up DaVinci’s thumbnail!! Ha!
  2. That the atoms that are a part of me are a part of the same atoms that make up the guy across the street, the bum that sleeps on the side of my house, of my best friend, of the co-worker that drives me crazy, of Barack Obama, of George Bush! A part of what makes me up – also lives inside of everyone. We’re related, we’re one. What differentiates friend from enemy; family from foe is simply our experience, our stories.

I happened upon a site from an old student of mine and it was of a step dance performance from Bard College - really fun to watch - and I usually never take the time to read any comments - but for some reason I did last night and was just appalled. There was only comments about how fat the girls were and the racial makeup of the group. I just think if we all took the time to celebrate successes rather than finding ways to create distance - it might just be easier to be the great human beings we already are.

Phew! Very cool stuff. If you have a chance to check out the movie What The Bleep Do We Know, it puts a lot of the concepts of Quantum Physics into an edible form.

Don’t be afraid of the deep end!

Love to you,

1 comment:

Rowena said...

Awesome post. Awesome excerpt. Awesome kiki (I saw it today, too.)

You are right about the negativity... but let's look at it this way, not only are we sharing these same atoms, we are also somehow connected on a non physical level, because what you and I are doing is happening independently all over the world and it is picking up steam. You, me, all these bloggers and authors we read. Take a look at the link to the Last Lecture on my blog. He was doing it too, and now others are taking up where he left off.

Just saying we share atoms, maybe we also share inspiration.