Stars are thus factories creating energy and heavy elements; and that’s a good thing because you can’t assemble much complexity out of just hydrogen and helium. So, don’t forget when we get to resources such as metals, they originally came from the stars. They might seem even more precious 7 . Just as it can be hard to get your head around the fact that your far-distant relatives were once single-celled critters, all this talk of star explosions sounds like so much mythology. But it’s also your own story, because without all the stable elements which existed in the cloud of debris which formed our sun and solar system — which came from earlier generations of stars and supernovae — life would have been utterly impossible. Unimaginable forces and temperatures are the only way heavy elements can be formed in this universe. During our lives, these elements cycle through us, combining with one another, residing for a while in our bodies and then being replaced, and eventually, through death, dispersed. We are each a special sort of complex thermodynamic pattern and process which requires these elements to flow through our bodies in just the right amounts, mobilized by redirected solar energy. In turn, that solar energy comes from the ongoing process of turning hydrogen into helium, and eventually into heavier elements. So, we are the children of the stars: composed of stellar explosion products and animated by the energy of our nearest star, the sun, with stellar evolution being a prerequisite for biological evolution. We are made of stars. TaaL: It’s impressive what gravity and hydrogen can do, given enough time. Once stars burn through their fusion fuel, the universe will once again go dark and will exist without stars for so long that the stellar era will have been like a single night of fireflies preceding an infinity of darkness. But there will be stars around for perhaps 100 trillion years yet, so there’s a lot left to do and see. The only caveat is that the existence of complex, conscious life, like yourselves, is the only way for the “universe” (sentient beings) to observe itself, and it is the rarest, ephemeral, and most-fragile emergence of gravity’s dance with hydrogen; dependent for its long endurance on transcending its own evolutionary cognitive limitations. You’ve come a long way, baby. Don’t take it for granted. The Bottom Line: We’re all stardust, animated by our star. The elements which comprise us have been other things in the past and will be other things in the future.
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