Friday, March 14, 2014

"I am made of light, I am made of stars" - Don Miguel Ruiz

A delightful excerpt from Don Miguel Ruiz's book:

One day, as he slept in a cave, he dreamed that he saw his own body sleeping. He came out of the cave on the night of a new moon. The sky was clear, and he could see millions of stars. Then something happened inside of him that transformed his life forever. He looked at his hands, he felt his body, and he heard his own voice say. "I am made of light, I am made of stars."

He looked at the stars again, and he realized that it's not the stars that create the light, but rather the light that creates the stars. "Everything is made of light," he said, "and the space in-between isn't empty." And he knew that everything that exists is one living being, and that light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information. 

― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

A perspective from modern science:
We are all made of stardust. It sounds like a line from a poem, but there is some solid science behind this statement too: almost every element on Earth was formed at the heart of a star.

Next time you’re out gazing at stars twinkling in the night sky, spare a thought for the tumultuous reactions they play host to. It’s easy to forget that stars owe their light to the energy released by nuclear fusion reactions at their cores. These are the very same reactions which created chemical elements like carbon or iron - the building blocks which make up the world around us.

After the Big Bang, tiny particles bound together to form hydrogen and helium. As time went on, young stars formed when clouds of gas and dust gathered under the effect of gravity, heating up as they became denser. At the stars’ cores, bathed in temperatures of over 10 million degrees C, hydrogen and then helium nuclei fused to form heavier elements. A reaction known as nucleosynthesis.

This reaction continues in stars today as lighter elements are converted into heavier ones. Relatively young stars like our Sun convert hydrogen to produce helium, just like the first stars of our universe. Once they run out of hydrogen, they begin to transform helium into beryllium and carbon. As these heavier nuclei are produced, they too are burnt inside stars to synthesise heavier and heavier elements. Different sized stars play host to different fusion reactions, eventually forming everything from oxygen to iron.

During a supernova, when a massive star explodes at the end of its life, the resulting high energy environment enables the creation of some of the heaviest elements including iron and nickel. The explosion also disperses the different elements across the universe, scattering the stardust which now makes up planets including Earth.