During the first few millennia after the dawn of Creation, simple atoms began forming from pure cosmic energy and their parent subatomic particles as the profound words "Let there be Light" imply in the first chapter of Genesis. Intense light is always a by-product of particle formation from energy. In their desperate attempt to become more stable, very soon they began to rearrange their electrons in order to achieve more stable forms as ions (+/- charged atoms). The noble gaseous atoms were inherently close to immortal by virtue of their stability at birth from their aristocratic chemical genetics, achieving either an octet of electrons(8) as in neon(Ne) or a duet(2) in helium(He), the magical arrangement for atomic and chemical stability. If Hitler had received the helium he requested from Roosevelt to replace dangerous hydrogen, the fate of the Hindenburg would have been much different. By the way, very soon you can have a hydrogen powered car. How ‘bout a little test drive? I’m sure the hydrogen is stable enough for a fender bender, assuming no static electricity is produced and the hydrogen stays contained!
The humble proton, having a 1xE20 year lifetime, was created in the first few days of Genesis by the marriage of the correct number of three quarks frozen out of cosmic energy at just the right intensity to give to proton’s apparent immortality. There will be some protons in the universe at entropic doomsday (1xE20 years), several cycles of the Big Bang expansion/contraction, not quite eternity! What about the longevity of the common chemical elements we deal with on a daily basis? Helium, neon and argon will certainly be among the last to move to an assisted living condo for elderly atoms. They have no social life - they never bond! How dull their monastic life must be; in the latter days, floating around the cosmos as antisocial loners with only one possible exception (1). Which elements have judiciously inherited the shortest lifetimes? It is the radioactive isotopes which can last only microseconds or less and then subsequently decay to a more stable group of atoms/particles - a sort of indirect reincarnation for their isotopic children. Except for a tiny number of the most stable radioactive atoms with the longest half-lives, they and their children will be long gone after 1xE20 years.
The theological question is: As most dogmatic religions teach, must atomic particles earn their immortality as humans do or is ita God-given right? Has a just God(2) long decided which well-behaved particles achieve immortality and which unstable ones will be recycled as pure energy, "Chemical Nirvana" ,according to E=mc2 (energy = mass times the speed of light squared, see 3 below) or as some lowly photons hopelessly radiating through outer space at light speed to absolutely no where - a sort of "atomic hades" - total separation from God and other stable well-behaved atoms and particles which reside forever in "atomic paradise".
According to Einstein, the theological/metaphysical answer is not based on a game of chance, such as dice. God, as the original physicist who defined all laws of Creation, built into the universe a variety of possibilities in the subatomic world with certain sets of particles and certain allowed lighter particle combinations forged from pure energy at the Creation and continuing to be created today in stellar explosions ultimately manifested as the heavier natural elements up to uranium. Does "let their be light" sound scientifically logical to you? The conversion of energy to matter and vice-versa is the key to the Genesis process, then and now! Mass is continually being created from energy - supernova creation of heavy elements all over the universe which can actually be observed over a relatively short period of time by spectroscopic observation of emerging light from the newly formed atoms of elements. A very apparent conversion of concentrated mass to large amounts of energy is the explosion of an atomic/thermonuclear bomb when heavy atoms are split or fused with a relatively high % of mass converted to dangerous very high energetic forms of radiation such as gamma rays. Again, the conversion is defined by E=mc2, which apparently implies a two way street as it is reversible and could be written mc2 =E.
The fusion of protons/neutrons into the nucleus of an isotope at atomic birth ultimately determines its chance for long life - a ratio of protons/neutrons which is out of this magic range will force radioactive atoms to an untimely death - a sort of atomic purgatory, before nuclear decay, to more stable children (isotopes/particles/photons) in a time frame which is not predictable for single atoms, only communities, according to probability rules.
The various chemical combinations of more stable isotopes have become our biosphere and after along awaited incarnation, man himself! Every compound in our planet’s crust and oceans is made from the most stable combinations of atoms, ions and molecules. As an example: an important electrolyte of life - sodium chloride. Sodium and chloride atoms were born fairly early after Genesis because of their relatively low mass and atomic number. Because of their high reactivity due to low ionization energies and unpaired electrons, it was early on, a match made in "Atomic Heaven". Every chloride atom that sodium atom could find gained an electron from sodium and they became "a happily married ion pair" and achieved virtual immortality. This explains why NaC1 is so pervasive in our biosphere. Stable ionic compounds with relatively low entropy are everywhere in the seas and the earth’s crust. (CaCO3,FeO,AL2O3).
Covalent (organic) compounds such as glucose and DNA. are chemically less stable and due to inherent molecular entropy much more likely to degrade with time. Organic macromolecular living systems invariably die and degrade to simpler more stable organic/inorganic compounds such as carbon dioxide or water. There is a slim but fairly good chance that each time you take a breath of air you inhale a CO2 or H2O molecule that Jesus Christ, Beethoven, Einstein, or Marilyn Monroe exhaled because CO2 and H2O are thermally stable covalent compounds (long lifetime). Their predominance in cellular respiration products confirms this. CO2 abundance may be responsible for global warming. If only CO2 had been more unstable in the eyes of God! Global warming must be part of the plan for the new millennium. Colorado, Jackson Hole, or North Carolina is looking real good to me for retirement -wherever the "holy trout" reside.
By the way, 007 (James Bond) is dead wrong! Diamonds (Sp3 carbon - covalent network molecules) are not forever! The diamond structure is an unstable arrangement and due to subtle entropy changes with time will slowly degrade to black graphite with higher entropy, less order. Remember the second Law says entropy always increases in molecular systems with time (older diamonds are smoky-grey due to increasing graphite). On the other hand, the less expensive, more stable cubic zirconium (ZrO)x, a synthetic gemstone, will last many millennia longer! Ladies, you must rethink this out-dated fantasy about the romantic meaning attached to a chunk of carbon which is short-lived, less refractive and durable than Zircons! Not to mention the safety factor when thieves realize the truth. If MarilynMonroe were alive today, I would rewrite her famous song to say "Zircons are a Girl?s Best Friend". I?m taking a deep breath now - maybe a (CO2/H2O) molecule from Marilyn’s last breath will randomly float into my lungs, become part of me and sustain her atomic immortality for a few more decades! If the truth were known we probably have a plethora of atoms from famous people in our bodies! If only they could communicate with us and each other, as some researchers believe they do at the nano/pico level!
I now understand the metaphysical beauty in scattering one’s ashes into the ocean - some more stable atoms truly become immortal in the ocean and biosphere in stable compounds (CaCO3,NaCl). Could immortality be available to us in various forms? If we so naively assume that the human soul can seemingly live forever, then it must be pure energy*! Everything in God’s universe must be either matter or energy - it is the Law! Again, E=mc2 is the key to understanding creation and possible immortality of the human soul(3). Some excellent evidence confirms loss of this soul energy as a loss of mass at biochemical brain death! It is possible that our more stable, well-behaved atoms, also extend our physical immortality? Dual immortality - twice as nice! I wonder how many famous people are physically reincarnated into my beautiful long lived, six month blooming, California-born, golden Phalaenopsis Orchid...bathed in early spring sunlight in the corner of my room? ........................ Hello, Norma Jean!
1. Actually Xenon, due to it's relative reactivity, can have a temporary social life under extreme conditions! It can be forced to form the compounds XeF2, XeF4 with fluorine, an extremely socially active element. These are very unstable compounds and Xenon atoms will eventually become anti-social again by divorcing fluorine atoms in order to regain it's preferred monastic life.
2. God is whomever you perceive Him/Her to be, depending on your religious training, or very simply the original creator/physicist who created all the physical Laws of nature which drive creation (Genesis) even to this day!
3. (E=mc2) is a simple Einsteinian equation where E is energy, m is mass and c2 is the speed of light squared in a vacuum. It defines the Law of Conservation of mass and energy which explains the balance and conversion of Mass and Energy in the Universe for all time, for Eternity, no matter how long that might be!
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