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All the atoms that exist have been here since the beginning of the formation of the universe. Atoms have their birthplace in the center of stars and through the eons cycle through the formation of many structures over billions of years – eventually they may find their way to the formation of our bodies.

All the atoms in the universe, including the ones that make up us, were formed at the beginning of time. Amazing when you think about it, really, and that’s the first time I have. Far out, man. By the way, if you want to quibble with that assertion then have at it. I don’t know enough about that physics stuff to argue. So that led me onto reading that:

In a study published in the Annual Report for Smithsonian Institution in 1953, scientists found that 98 percent of our atoms are replaced each year.

Now I’ve seen stuff like that before, about how we’re completely recycled (apart from teeth, maybe) every so often. It begs many questions, so help me with a couple please, eggheads?

1) Where do the “new” atoms in our bodies comes from and how do they get in there? (Food? In the air we breathe?)

2) If the atoms in our brains are recycled every so often, what then is memory?

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50 thoughts on “HOW OLD DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

  1. Pete,
    Obviously all the tv licencing atoms flew right past you! 😉
    You have my permission to use that as a backup/alternative excuse.

  2. It almost all comes from food. We are mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Food is mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

    Memory is the pattern of atoms and molecules.

    eg. (Not chemically accurate)
    Lets say a memory is stored as CHOCHOH . Now imagine the HOH at the end is replaced by another HOH molecule (water) then the pattern remains the same but there are new atoms involved.

  3. How do you get self aware beings with personality and creativity out of impersonal, non- sentient atoms?

  4. //) Where do the “new” atoms in our bodies comes from and how do they get in there? (Food? In the air we breathe?)//

    Food. The pattern – the DNA programme – is always the same, but the material is constantly changing.

    //2) If the atoms in our brains are recycled every so often, what then is memory?//

    Brain cells are not lost as much as is often thought (e.g. drinking doesnt kill ’em, a person getting older has more neurons and more brain power than a younger person), but new brain cells are constantly being created through a process called neurogenesis, from stem neurons that exist in the brain. As in the rest of the body, the pattern remains the same. Memory is just a pattern of neurons and their connections to each other and to various bits of the body.

    What I find very interesting, and love to tell my kids, is that the vast majority of material in their bodies, all that they “are” in a physical sense, is actually much older than the sun. Just as there is evolution in biology, there is also evolution in inanimate matter – a long progression from Hydrogen and simple atoms to more complex forms. The sun is still mostly made of the simplest and youngest atoms – Hydogen and Helium – whereas our bodies consist of the higher and older atoms, hence our great age.

  5. deep questions for you Pete.

    All life comes from the dust of stars seeding planets with the essential molecules needed for life. On some worlds it takes hold on others it doesn’t.

    The Universe is a factory for life…. Just as God designed it to be.

  6. where is the best place to be in order to pick up musical/artistic/athletic/scientific/handsome atoms?
    Is there some sort Atoms for Dummies manual ?

  7. “On some worlds it takes hold on others it doesn’t.”

    Even on some websites that principle holds true.

  8. Jeepers, didn’t think I’d be having this discussion on ATW! *insert shocked smilie*

    Having an interesting discussion at the moment about where the Heavy elements in our solar system came from. From distant Supernova or even the possibility from our own sun (That a previous Sun went Nova and instead of destroying itself, left the existing Sun and the solar system).

  9. Thank you chaps, all understood, and that’s about my limit in these things.

    I can’t think too deeply about those Hubble snaps of cloud nubulae thingies. You get a caption which says something like “the distance from the left of the picture to the right is 300 million light years”. Then you think about what that actually is, and then the old head starts to hurt.

  10. take another hit listen to that song of yours and look at all the pretty lights in the sky…. 😉

  11. Think of the Arsenal. Even if you replace all eleven players with eleven different players it’s still the Arsenal, i’n’it?

  12. Is that supposed to be some kind of an answer to the mystery of personality?
    I hope not!
    I thought the Convolutionists would be jumping all over this one..

    “Well at some point way way way way before the sun was a twinkle in inanimate matter’s eye… an atom went through some kind of weird gamma ray bombardment which altered its composition, and Ernie the Sentient Atom just happened….

  13. Is the basic statement “All the atoms in the universe […] were formed at the beginning of time” generally accepted as proven, or is it a subject of debate in scientific circles?
    I’m just thinking that, as fusion/fission occurs in suns, and as radioactive isotopes decay, surely some level of change is occuring in the make-up and number of atoms in the universe?
    How could all the atoms in the universe have already been present at the moment of the big bang, when all of their mass would have occupied a space smaller than an atom? They couldn’t have existed in their present form, surely?

  14. …Oh, wait, I’m forgetting Einstein, and thinking of space as a single entity. If time “bends” space, then perhaps the big bang was the point at which space was utterly enfolded in on itself by “zero time”, and the bang represented the creation of time, with space unfolding into time-space?

  15. Something like that..
    It makes me laugh that people on this blog can wonder at the supposed age of these atoms of which everything (including us) is composed, but has nothing to say about the wonder involved in the mindless impersonal creating consciousness, emotion and creativity.

  16. Great questions.

    “2) If the atoms in our brains are recycled every so often, what then is memory?”

    I don’t think anybody exactly knows, but think of a wave on the ocean. At any given time it is made up of different molecules but it is the same wave.

    In some sense similar to a wave, you’re not molecules, but something that happens to them.

  17. “Is the basic statement “All the atoms in the universe […] were formed at the beginning of time” generally accepted as proven, or is it a subject of debate in scientific circles?”

    It’s wrong, at the very least the heavy elements were formed in stars which obviously came a lot later.

  18. I find the explanation that God is behind it all, made it happen and sustains it answers many more important questions of being than evolution does, and I have no problem accepting the idea that God has always existed and has no beginning and no end.

  19. Agit8ed

    But how did God come into existence, and if you answer he has always existed, how can he ave always existed. What made God exist ?

  20. Or put another way. Are there limits to God#s knowledge. Can he answer how he came into existence ?

  21. //But how did God come into existence, //

    Right. Agitated doesn’t realise that he contradicts with each sentence what he said in the other.

  22. Agit8, it’s two different questions. I too believe that God created the universe, but this post is a discussion of “how” the science works, not “why, or what caused it in the first place”. I’m happy to think about the science in purely scientific terms, it doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about God. After all, it’s no use to simply say “God magicked it into existence” – in a sense, He did of course, but He did it properly, he worked out all the equations and terms of the physical universe, and it functions accordingly. We can explore the laws of physics in depth without in any way repudiating the sphere of faith.

  23. Colm,
    Without being flippant I think that before time, space and matter existed, God existed.
    Believe me when I say as a Christian of some forty five years and after talking to believers and non believers far more intelligent than I am, I am still of the opinion that God just is. He is outside of time space and matter, and that’s what makes Him God!
    We can’t understand it because we have beginings and we know containment i.e everything is in something or born of something or is as a result of something (cause and effect).
    But God is outside all of that. So that’s the great conundrum. Everything we can conceive of has to have a cause, but God just is!
    I find it amazing to contemplate,and even just reading this fills me with peace and wonder.

  24. Tom,
    I accept your point, and as has been said here many times there can be no ultimate disagreement between true faith and true science. Yes how it was done is important and interesting, and you are most welcome to delve into it.

  25. Agit8ed (and Tom)

    Would you be prepared to accept the concept of God as a type of superadvanced catalyst or a superintelligent form of electricity that has automatic power but is not the concious entity that we imagine him to be.

  26. Anyway…
    I’ve always been fascinated by the way the structure of an atom (little electrons orbiting larger protons/neutrons) seems to be a micro-model of solar systems (planets orbiting suns). This model seems to be the same (or similar) at both the micro and the macro scale. There’s a sort of pattern there.

    Also, I think that the irrationality of pi has something to do with the way it all hangs together, but I can’t work out what it is, or even if I’m correct, it’s just a sort of hunch.

  27. Colm, basically, No, I don’t think of God as an unconscious, inanimate “force” in that sort of way. It’s not easy to elaborate satisfactorily in a blog comment, but in my experience, I’ve found God to be most definitely a Person, not a “force” as it were.

  28. Can’t answer for Tom. He is more articulate and intelligent than I am!

    But it does seem to me that the puzzle of consciousness, personhood, love and creativity is far more easy to understand if one accepts that we are created in the image of God -even if we are screwed up!
    So that loving and caring and emotions have meaning because they are a part of God’s revealed nature.
    For me Evolution cannot adequately explain those things.

  29. Well of course, Tom. Otherwise you wouldn’t be a religious man. You simply can’t be a deist and maintain any sort of devout belief or practice of worship.

  30. Pi: the ratio of the circumference of a circle with a straight line drawn through its diameter.
    It has been proven that this ratio is an “irrational number”. To ration means to divide into pieces. No matter into how tiny pieces you measure circumference, the diameter-line will not divide into any full number of the same measurement! If you could take a pencil so sharp that it would draw a line just one atom wide, and you draw a perfect circle with it, you could not draw a straight line through its centre which would be a whole number of atoms in length! Not even if the entire universe has expanded as a perfect sphere, can a straight line be drawn through it measuring a certain whole number of atoms!
    The implications of this are staggering! When I first thought about it, it seemed to mean that either there cannot be such a thing as a perfect circle (or sphere) in the universe, or else there cannot be such a thing as a perfect straight line. There cannot be both, at any rate.
    But then, consider Einstein: If time and space are part of the same thing, then it is incorrect to consider the universe as a “perfect” sphere (as you might draw on a piece of paper), because time at one end of the sphere is different from time at the other end. Indeed, even the drawing of a circle on a piece of paper is not really a perfect circle, as time is different (almost the same, but not quite) at one end of the piece of paper from the other.
    I can’t quite fathom it out, but I just feel that the problem of Pi is somehow bound up with Einstein’s relativity.

  31. Daphne, if you mean “I am a hypocrite”, then I offer no defence to that charge, you are correct. I am a bad and wicked man, continually guilty of many faults. I tell God in my prayers “you own my life; thy will be done”, yet in many ways I don’t fully mean what I say. I want to own my life, and I really don’t want God to own it. (I tell Him that, too. I hope He understands). To be a Christian is at once to admit to being a grave hypocrite; let’s nail that one for good.

  32. Tom

    I don’t think Daphne was accusing you of hypocrisy, quiet the opposite I think. She was saying that if you had agreed with me that would have been contradictory to your professed ‘faith’ in God, but by disagreeing you were remaining true and entirely unhypocritical.

  33. No, no Tom! I don’t think that at all! I honestly respect and admire your beliefs. I also think it’s wonderful that you find this stardust topic fascinating. It’s been a pleasure to read your intelligent thoughts on the matter at hand.

    I would never, ever dream of calling you a hypocrite, Tom. You’re a wonderful man.

  34. although Tom didn’t regard being called a hypocrite as insulting because in all truth as he rightly says, we are all hypocrites. There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t exhibited that trait to some extent.

  35. True, Colm.

    But having “known” Tom for eight (?) years now, he’s the last person on earth I’d ever call out as a hypocrite. His sincere and honest body of writing and thread commentary would never support such an unjust accusation.

    He’s a good guy, a thinking man, who happens to make all of this religious/science cosmology work as a unified whole for himself. I admire him.

  36. Tom you really want to have fun in figuring it all out try reading Michio Kaku. Now that will really put you onto realms that make Pi seem like a cake walk.

  37. mathematically that is of course, the spiritual side your already right where you need to be your 9:59 proves that.

  38. Whoops, sorry Daphne, I obviously misunderstood your comment! Please forgive me if I… you know, took it wrongly.

  39. I suppose it was inevitable that a deity would be brought into this considering the forum.

    However, if you consider the vastness of space (the word vast seems insufficient to describe how big space is, but don’t want to use the infinite word) and the christian belief that rapture is around the corner.

    Could a god be guilty of overkill as there’s no way we’ll be able to explore even the nearest reaches of the universe any time soon?

    Some interesting analogues here, particularly like the arsenal and wave ones to describe the brain.

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