Are we alone in the universe? Or it isn't that so?

in #life4 years ago (edited)

This post is neither about aliens nor science fiction, but a point of view based on scientific facts.


First of all, you are part of a group of mammals that's still very young, but we can write Steemit posts already, and build Large Hadron Collider!
We have also split the atom and invented Pokémon.

Our most valuable inventions ;-)

We stem from an ancient life form that began living about three and a half billion years ago. We feel like we are in control of this planet, but we aren't really. One little asteroid or one creative virus is really all it would take to kill us all for good!
Humanity credits itself with being able to destroy the planet, but even with all our nuclear toys, we would probably just cause a huge mass extinction, at best. Maybe we could kill 90% of everything living on this planet.
End of our age

Big deal!
A few million years later, life would be back everywhere.
Most microscopic life and life below the surface wouldn't even be disturbed that much, probably. On a geological timescale, our impact on Earth is kind of laughable.
Our part in Earth's history

Roughly speaking if all Earth's history is 24h, dinosaurs lived 1h, and humans just 38 seconds.
We live on this tiny wet rock that speeds through space following a massive ball of burning plasma. One day, this ball of plasma will stop burning and most likely kill us in the process.
We are tiny!

If we survive the death of the Sun and colonize the galaxy, theoretically, we could survive until the last star in the universe goes out. After that, life becomes pretty impossible.

Okay, so everything has an end. What does this mean for you as an individual?

At one point in your life, for about half an hour, you were only one single cell inside your mother's womb. A creature just 0.1 mm in diameter.

Stem cell under microscope

Today, you consist of about forty trillion (40*1012 = 40 000 000 000 000) cells.
40 trillion incredibly complex little biological machines that are much bigger and more complex than an average bacteria! They operate by the laws of physics and chemistry and use micromachines to build proteins, make energy usable, devour food, transport resources, transmit information, or reproduce. They communicate, duplicate, commit suicide, fight off intruders, and fulfil super-specialized duties.
But where is the "you" part in this, if you're made of trillions of little things?
The basic information for "you" is stored in the DNA, a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living things.
DNA in cells

If you were to unravel it, it would be between 1-2 meters(3.3-6.6 feet) long! The total length of all the DNA in your cells is twenty billion kilometers (20 * 109 = 20 000 000 000 or 12.5 billion miles). At that distance, you would be able to travel to the Sun and back almost 70 times or to Pluto and... back!
And your DNA is a direct connection to your very first ancestor. Take a second to think
about this: in every cell of your body, there's a little string of stuff that's been
there in various forms for 3.4 billion years.
It evolved, it mutated, it duplicated trillions of times, but it directly connects you to the first living being on this planet. We could say you "touched" every living being that came before you with your DNA.

But, you are more than your DNA.

Your body is made of seven octillion atoms.
That's seven billion billion billions (7 * 1027 = 7 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000).
Roughly 93% of the mass the human body is made up of just three elements: oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. Oxygen and hydrogen are predominantly found in water, which makes up about 60% of the body by weight. Carbon is, maybe, the most important element for life. It can easily bond with other atoms, which allows for the building of long complex chains of molecules, which make up the solid part of you. The remaining 7% is a tour of the periodic table of elements:

Periodic table of human elements

(By the way, this also means you are about 0.5% metal, no matter what your favorite music is.)

Anyway, these elements perform various functions like enabling oxygen transport, building of bones and cell structures, carrying signals, driving chemical reactions, and a lot more.
Your body is in a constant state of transition:

  • Every 16 days, 75% of "you" has been replaced, because a healthy human exchanges about 100% of their water in that time period;
  • Each year, about 98% of your atoms are replaced by new ones;
  • Every 5 years, close to all of the atoms that make up your body weren't there five years ago.

So, you could call yourself a temporary collection of atoms!

But where did these atoms come from?

In the beginning of the universe, there were mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.
Enormous gas clouds formed over millennia and grew denser and denser, until they collapsed under their own gravity, giving birth to the first stars. In the cores of these stars, hydrogen was converted into helium under extreme conditions. After millions of years, the hydrogen became exhausted, and the stars began dying. All elements we know today were created under super-extreme conditions, in a fraction of a second, before they died and exploded in supernovas. They shot most of their contents into space, while the cores collapsed and became black holes.

Nebula is a forge of the stars!

All these elements travelled through space for who knows how long.
Until they arrived at a different cloud that was slowly forming a new star — our Sun. These elements, that once were the insides of a star, formed planets and found their way onto Earth, where they enabled life to begin.
So we are directly connected to the first stars ever born in the universe.
We are part of the universe.
The idea of being a deeply connected minuscule part of an enormous structure is really mind-blowing. We don't know what all this means, or if it means anything at all. We know that we are made of little parts that connect us to everything in the universe, to the beginning of everything.
Then this is kind of a nice thought:
You are not alone, you never were, you never will be!

Thanks for reading, I hope you like this topic. There is more to come!

© Image credits: 0 BBC; 1 My own; 2 Imgur; 3 Wikipedia; 4,8 NASA; 5 Biocision; 6 The University of Waikato; 7 Bodyparticles.


Damn, you making me look damn for never giving a thought about where I have come from

I think the idea that humans can destroy the earth or even the ecosystem is a bit over rated. When Mt Toba exploded about seventy five thousand years ago it was an explosivity index of eight. That would be quite a few GIGA tons of explosive equivalent. Lots and lots more than all the nukes on earth put together.

Like I said...excellent post.

Thank you, I appreciate you comment. Interesting details!
This topic is very close to the theme of "filters" in the Fermi paradox,
but that's a subject for separate discussion!

I'm a sci-fi writer. I try to keep my science real. Lately I've had occasion to research 'extinction events' (earth has had at least five and possibly as many as twenty) When Toba blew (many gigaton) it was no big deal....compared to one of the extinction events.

People don't seem to have any idea of scale. The biosphere of earth is as relatively thick as a film of water on an apple. (about ten miles vs about 8K miles)

Really interesting!

I'm glad, thanks!

"Are we alone in the Universe"
HOWEVER, the distances are so HUGE that we might as well be. It takes YEARS or even lifetimes for light to go from one star system to another. The best that we can realistically expect would be some type of 'bulletin board' system for communication, and a long, long time between post and reply.

remember those from the early internet?

Surprisingly, only recently "breakthrough starshot" was announced!
What is not so long ago we thought - the future, coming true in our lifetime!

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