How aware are you of the fact that all that you are and everything around you is the product of stars? It has been established that all atoms are a result of cosmic processes. This knowledge has been known for a long time now, and Jennifer A Johnson, an Ohio State University astronomer, decided to do something with that knowledge. She created a twist to the periodic table by highlighting the origin of each element.
The average adult human body is made up of around 7 x 1027 atoms (that’s a 7 followed by 27 zeros – 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). The main elements that make up this number are Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O) and Carbon (C). Hydrogen is the most common element in our body and it has been produced by the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.
The rest of the atoms that are present in our bodies were all forged by merging and exploding stars in the Universe after its creation by the Big Bang.
In fact, the processes that were responsible for the creation of most of the known elements were those of merging neutron stars, exploding mass stars and dying low mass stars and cosmic ray fission.
On her blog, Johnson says: “This is what happens when you give two astronomers who are tired of reminding everyone about which elements go with which process a periodic table, a set of markers, and time when they should have been listening to talks. A heartful thanks to Inese Ivans for coming up with this idea.”
The original version with markers shows elements that were not marked at all. Johnson explains that she has left out Tc, Pm and the elements beyond U, as they don’t have long-lived or stable isotopes. However, due to aesthetic reasons, she left Tc and Pm in the table with gray color.
For this version, Johnson says that she had tried to avoid the technical terms and jargon and that she had updated the sources of the heavy elements to reflect the current semi-consensus.
As you can see from the periodic table, our primary atomic makeup comes as a direct result of the Big Bang fusion (Hydrogen). This makeup is followed by the explosion of massive stars and dying low mass stars (Oxygen and Carbon).
These three elements make up about 99% of the average human. The rest of the elements, called trace elements (as only traces of them are present in our bodies) serve to create different molecules and thus contribute to our chemical composition.
As a final thought, in his A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, Lawrence M. Krauss says: “The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.
You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution – weren’t created at the beginning of time.
They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”