We are made of stardust


"You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle."         
- Eckhart Tolle

Almost everything we see in our everyday life is made of atoms (from the greek word άτομο, the one that cannot be cut). Since the time of Demokritus - the National Center of Science and Research in Athens, Greece is named after him N.C.S.R Demokritos - in the 5th century B.C humans had already thought about the existence of atoms. The real breakthrough began in the early 20th century after the emergence of the scientific branch of Nuclear Physics. Half a century later, the human kind managed to explore the realm of the very small. However, the knowledge earned was not only used for social prosperity, and this led to the two lethal nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945).

Fig. 1 - The mushroom cloud resulting from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rises 18 km (60,000 ft) into the air. Nuclear Physics unfortunately can have detrimental effects. Source
We tent to take atoms for granted, but there are so many different kinds, beautiful and useful at the same time. There are around 92 discreet chemical kinds of atoms naturally on Earth (the others are man-made - see table below), which are called chemical elements. All the beauty of our natural world, comes from this few kinds of atoms. Almost every element on Earth has been made inside the heart of a star, just like those we see every night in the sky.

Fig. 2 - The periodic table of the elements. The color index shows how are these elements made. Created by the writer.
By varying Carl Sagan, the Nitrogen in our DNA, the Calcium in our teeth, the Iron in our blood, the Oxygen we are breathing, even the Silicon your computer chips are made, they are all made inside the hearts of collapsing stars. We are made of stardust.

Bonus Video:

Note by the writer:  This was the first post concerning Nuclear Astrophysics. Stay tuned for more coming up! Post your questions & suggestions in my Twitter account @psaltistha