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Sunday, January 15, 2006 :::


I've been on-again/off-again reading this rudimentary mass-market science book, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, for the past year now. It's a good book because I like that kind of nerdy science stuff, and because today I read this passage:

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.)
Not to bring this admittedly mind-blowing concept to gutter level, but this means that little bitty parts of your body were once Alexander the Great's penis (which would make you part gay, by the way). You might like to think that some of your own personal atoms were also once part of Da Vinci's superior brain, or Chopin's nimble fingers, and that may very well be true, but you are also part Virginia Woolf vagina. Or you could be part of the fingernail that Caligula used to pick his crack. I could go on forever. Science is fun.

Religious people might want to believe that this makes them literally one with jesus (or maybe not, would that be sacrilegious?), but they would be forgetting that according to their tradition he eventually ascended into heaven, so none of his earthly atoms would remain, except for those in his foreskin as we have already learned.

I'm kind of bored today.

::: posted by dan at 4:22 PM :: [ link ] :: (11) comments Social Bookmark Button

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11 previous comments:

How in the world can they prove this? I don't believe it. Why are atoms so great that they live forever? So they never expire? They just get reabsorbed into something or someone else? That's retarded. And why all the famous people? Why not some harlot who died of the black plaque? Your book is stupid. And you make fun of me for putting so much into astrology and horoscopes. Same thing...

By Blogger brent, at 10:53 PM  

Oi, Brent.
Yes atoms live forever, conservation of matter and whatnot.
And yes, there are plenty of harlot, Liberace, Spuds MacKenzie and the rest of it milling about in you; in fact all your atoms that aren't hydrogen, helium and lithium were formed in stars, predating our own solar system.

By Anonymous Simon Patfield, at 2:12 AM  

Atoms don't "live", Brent, hence they can persist forever.

This is part of the first law of thermodynamics, which you just denounced as "retarded". So much for centuries of work on this bedrock of physics. It's now officially retarded. So let it be written, so let it be known.

Oh, and nobody in the 21st century has any excuse for believing in horoscopes and astrology. None. My head aches at the thought of such nonsense.

By Blogger DDS, at 4:51 AM  

Damn, you nerds have NO sense of humor. Obviously sarcasm is lost you "retards." Just kidding, but I can think science is hard if I want to, at least until someone explains or proves to me this "theory" in a simpler fashion.

Seriously, how does one prove this? I've read your links and it's all a bunch of big words that make my head hurt. How did they figure this out? Don't things burn up? What happens to your atoms when heat is exchanged or exerted between themselves? I just can't believe that atoms persist forever. Nothing persists forever. There has to be loss somewhere, just doesn't make sense.

By Blogger brent, at 8:26 AM  

In your face bitches...apparently, there is some theory about decay of protons online. SO in your face trying to make me feel bad for asking a simple question. All this is just "theory." Read it here:

Proton Decay
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Standard Model of particle physics states that protons are stable; that is, that the laws of physics do not allow a proton, which is baryonic matter, to spontaneously decay into a positron and photons, which are non-baryonic matter, because of conservation of the baryon number. However, most grand unified theories include "extra terms" which lead to the possibility of baryon number non-conservation, mediated by very high-mass X bosons. This possibility was interesting in cosmology due to the predominance of matter over antimatter in the universe, which could be explained as a very slight imbalance in the ratio that occurred very early in its formation.

Unsolved problems in physics: Do protons decay? If so, then what is the half-life?
This imbalance would have been exceptionally small, on the order of 1 in every 10,000,000,000 (1010) particles, but after most of the matter and antimatter annihilated, what was left over was all the baryonic matter in the current universe. This means that in essence, rather than breaking the law of conservation of the baryon number, proton decay could actually be the inevitable mechanism for bringing the baryon number back to equilibrium — in a sense correcting the original imbalance that produced the excess of matter currently observed in the universe.

By Blogger brent, at 8:43 AM  

Protons decaying are not the same thing as atoms dying. When protons decay it changes the nature of the atom but the atom still exits. Although the very same book does outline a theory that suggests atoms may indeed have a lifespan of something like 10 to the 32nd years, which is something like one million trillion trillion trillion years, but don't quote me on that, cuz my math is bad.

Whatever the case, the point is that there are so many atoms in your body that the actual amount is almost impossible to imagine, so they are suggesting that this amount is so large that you actually share a BILLION atoms with everyone and everything that has ever existed on earth and still have plenty of room for atoms that were forged in the hot gasses of our galaxy's origin.

By Blogger dan, at 10:25 AM  

wow planetdan is sure getting cerebral.

By Blogger Kathleen, at 11:08 AM  

Holy Foreskin, Batman! Atoms are communicable.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:23 PM  

As I read “Or you could be part of the fingernail that Caligula used to pick his crack”, I moved the hand I had been resting my chin on and gave it a disgusted look. I don’t know where that’s been and it’s so close to my mouth!

By Blogger Kristina, at 12:25 PM  

Brent, your article citation reflected a simple misunderstanding.
My non-sarcastic, totally simple explanation is this: all the building blocks in the universe are already present.

These building blocks = atoms. Don't confuse yourself by introducing protons, neutrons, or even the subatomic weird stuff. It makes no diference. Just think "atoms".

There is a fixed number of atoms in the universe, created from the Big Bang. This number doesn't change, aside from wild theoretical physics. From this fixed, unchanging number, things are made. Planets, laptops, "harlots who died of the black plague."

Think of matter like a $1.00 bill. You could trade it for four quarters or ten dimes or some combination of other coins. But, any way you split it up, you still have the same amount of money. Total matter is constant, even if the individual parts are different.

That's what your Wiki article was trying to say (read the last sentence of your article in this context).

Great blog, Dan!

By Blogger DDS, at 1:30 PM  

Geez. I just wanted to say "hey, I'm reading that off and on, too!" but instead of comments on the book I see that we are declaring that thermodynamics is retarded.

Brent, calling things stupid is not going to help you understand them. Just because something doesn't make sense to you doesn't make it wrong.

Oh, except astrology. Which makes no sense, AND is wrong.

By Blogger Angela, at 11:35 AM  

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