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You're 13.7 Billion Years Old: Congratulations!

April 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 187

How old are you? Well that's obviously an easy question. You were born on such-an-such a date; today's date is such-an-such; therefore you are such-an-such old. Or are you really? While both the physical you - your body, and the 'inner you' - your mind, have a time frame that dates from your conception, there's a few twists in the tale to be considered.

Firstly, 99.999% of the fundamental constituents (elementary particles and simple atoms) of everything that now comprises you, all those now currently complex and not so complex organic bio-molecules (proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, etc.), as well as the simpler inorganic molecules and atoms (like water, salt and oxygen say) were originally part and parcel of an immense gas and dust cloud that slowly, under gravity, contracted and contracted and ultimately became incorporated into the Sun and associated solar system we see today. That happened some 4.5 billion years ago. All the fundamental bits and pieces that now comprise you have been around doing their thing for all that time. Since all those carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, etc. atoms that now make you, you are 4.5 billion years old, and so in a way that makes you 4.5 billion years old. But wait, that vast interstellar dust and gas cloud that came together 4.5 billion years ago didn't just pop into existence then. They had an earlier history.

The late Carl Sagan noted that we are all ultimately made however of 'star stuff'. That is, with the exception of hydrogen, all the higher chemical elements, which ultimately comprise us (carbon, oxygen, iron, sodium, etc), were cooked and manufactured in the heart of stellar interiors, at extreme temperatures and pressures. When stars explode (nova and supernova) those elements get spewed out into the cosmos as interstellar gas and dust, ultimately to clump as the stuff from which new solar systems, planets, and life are formed. In addition, the even greater extremes of temperature and pressures experienced when stars go ka-boom assist in the creation of even more complex atoms, like silver and gold and uranium. These elements too get incorporated into the next generation of stars and planets, and if biologically useful, into any life forms that may develop - like you.

So the bits and pieces that clumped together 4.5 billion years ago to make up our Sun and our solar system and our Earth - and you 4.5 billion years later - came from stuff comprising a myriad of earlier stars and solar systems that died natural deaths in the stellar cataclysms that are the fate of stellar objects over a certain mass. Some of that earlier generational 'star stuff' has found its way to be a part of the current you.

Since all of that earlier generational stuff came from objects that existed as part and parcel of that mass of stellar objects we call the Milky Way Galaxy, and since our galaxy has existed with its quota of stuff for roughly 10 billion years, well in a manner of speaking, the bits and pieces that make up you can trace their history back 10 billion years. But the stuff comprising the Milky Way Galaxy didn't pop into existence 10 billion years ago. Their history goes back even further, back before our galaxy existed.

However, we can go one step beyond that since, on the other hand, you are ultimately comprised of fundamental particles like electrons and quarks which in turn make up those chemical elements (atoms) which can combine to form molecules, even the complex biochemical molecules which make you, you. 100% of you ultimately consist of these particles, all of which were created when the Universe was created. That's also the event that created the universal supply of hydrogen and helium. The Universe, as best we can tell came into existence in the Big Bang event some 13.7 billion years ago. In other words, you are ultimately the same age as the Universe, some 13.7 billion years old!

Of course the next step backwards is, was there a 'before the Big Bang'? The answer to that is nobody knows. Many postulate that the Big Bang was the first cause; others argue that the Big Bang itself had a cause - say the Big Crunch of a previous universe, in itself comprised of stuff. So, in theory, if you keep going back and back and back ever endlessly back, you might be infinitely old! In makes a sort of satisfying sense - one universe dies and gives rise to the next generation universe, just like some of our earlier stars die but ultimately their 'star stuff' gives rise to the next generation of stars, planets and life - like you.

So, get in contact with your inner self, meditate with your inner quarks, hadrons, fermions, leptons, bosons and baryons, and discover the history of the Universe, for they were there!

Oh, and in a manner of speaking, you will achieve immortality, or at least achieve the same age as our Universe does, since even after there's no more physical you as in body, or 'inner you' as in mind, all those fundamental bits and pieces that currently make up your body and your mind will keep on keeping on, strutting their stuff. Their tale isn't yet finished - even if you ultimately will be.

Science librarian; retired.

Source: EzineArticles
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