Be noble, for you are made of stars.

There is supposedly a Serbian proverb that states, “Будите скромни за вас су од земље, да буде племенита за вас су од звезда.”

Be humble, for you are made of earth. Be noble, for you are made of stars.

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Whether it is Serbian in origin or not, it’s a good proverb. I like it. Because it’s true. From Random Science Tools comes this chart of the relative preponderance of elements in the body of an average 70kg man:

Element             Amount / kg  Amount / Mol.
Oxygen   43 2700
Carbon 16 1300
Hydrogen 7 7000
Nitrogen 1 .8 130
Calcium 1 .0 25
Phosphorus 0 .78 25
Sulphur 0 .14 4 .4
Potassium 0 .14 3 .6
Sodium 0 .10 4 .3
Chlorine 0 .095 2 .7
Magnesium 0 .019 0 .78
Silicon 0 .018 0 .64
Iron 0 .0042 0 .075
Fluorine 0 .0026 0 .14
Zinc 0 .0023 0 .035
Rubidium 0 .00032 0 .0037
Strontium 0 .00032 0 .0037
Bromine 0 .00020 0 .0025
Lead 0 .00012 0 .00058
Copper 0 .000072 0 .0011
Aluminium 0 .000061 0 .0023
Cadmium 0 .000050 0 .00044
Boron < 0 .000048 0 .0044
Barium 0 .000022 0 .00016
Tin < 0 .000017 0 .00014
Iodine 0 .000013 0 .00010
Manganese 0 .000012 0 .00022
Nickel 0 .000010 0 .00017
Gold < 0 .000010 0 .000051
Molybdenum < 0 .0000093 0 .000097
Chromium < 0 .0000018 0 .000035
Caesium 0 .0000015 0 .000011
Cobalt 0 .0000015 0 .000025
Uranium 0 .00000009 0 .00000038
Beryllium 0 .000000036 0 .0000040
Radium 3.1×10-14 1.4×10-13

Chemical composition of the human body by mass

chem_comp_of_body_chart

As little as it may be, we have gold in us. And other rare elements. And we have to remember that at the creation of the universe, the only elements present were hydrogen and helium. Every other naturally-occurring element in the periodic table was born in the hearts of dying stars which ended their lives as supernovæ, or – as recently hypothesized in the case of heavier elements like gold – in collisions between neutron stars.

GRB_illustration

I like Carl Sagan’s quote, which he also managed to work into his book Contact: “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” Whether we are alone in the universe is a question which science has yet to answer, but it’s pretty mind-bending to think that the elements which make up our bodies came from the universe around us. As astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson said,

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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