IRON: A connection between stars and us

Regarding the intriguing quote about our origin, especially the origin of the iron in our blood being from distant stars billions of years ago, I was googling about this to get a better understanding, and came upon this article.

“Here’s an amazing fact for your next cocktail party: Every single atom in your body—the calcium in your bones, the carbon in your genes, the iron in your blood, the gold in your filling—was created in a star billions of years ago. All except atoms of hydrogen and one or two of the next lightest elements. They were formed even earlier, shortly after the Big Bang began 13.7 billion years ago.”

(From “The Star in You“)

The article went on to say that after an ancient star died and exploded into a supernova, dispersing its elements into the surrounding space, the stardust may eventually form a solar system consisting of planets and the sun, such as the solar system we live. The mystery remains as to how the atoms and molecules on our planet eventually become alive as we know it.

“Just how those atoms and molecules that ended up on our planet went from non-living to living remains one of the great unanswered questions in science. But where the elements came from to start with has now been worked out, in broad strokes anyway, to astrophysicists’ widespread satisfaction. It is an amazing story, isn’t it?”

(From “The Star in You“)

Solar System
Solar System (Photo credit: Joe Plocki (turbojoe))

I am also reminded from health articles I read so far that iron is important in our blood as it carries oxygen in the red blood cells. For some reasons, dark green leafy vegetables and beans, among others, contain more of this stardust than other plants. Who would have thought iron in stars can become life sustaining mineral for us?

Perhaps a greater mystery as to what causes iron in stars to become life sustaining minerals in our body is what holds everything in the universe, including the atoms in our body, together. It may take a moment in time or an eternity to appreciate the wonders of this mystery.



Vastness and voyage of discovery

Teklanika river valley panorama (Source: Wikipedia)

“Normally, we limit the meaning of perceptions. Food reminds us of eating; dirt reminds us to clean the house; snow reminds us that we have to clean off the car to get to work; a face reminds us of our love or hate. In other words, we fit what we see into a comfortable or familiar scheme. We shut any vastness or possibilities of deeper perception out of our hearts by fixating on our own interpretation of phenomena. But it is possible to go beyond personal interpretation, to let vastness into our hearts through the medium of perception. We always have a choice: we can limit our perception so that we close off vastness, or we can allow vastness to touch us.”

Chogyam Trungpa

It’s true that we live in a multi-dimensional universe in which each phenomenon can have more than one interpretation. Perhaps there is a built-in tendency in the human psyche to simplify and categorise phenomena to standardise meanings for everyone in order to achieve some form of order and understanding for the majority, if not everyone. For example, road signs and traffic lights are designed to communicate only one meaning to everyone – red light means stop, orange light means slow down, and green light means go. In the context of traffic communications, there is not much room for any other interpretation. But the very attempts to simplify the meanings of phenomena in some other contexts can limit people’s perceptions.

Like what the above quote says, we all can allow vastness to touch us even as we recognise we live in a multi-dimensional world. We can see the same phenomena through different eyes and come to a broader understanding of the world we live in. Sometimes, our interpretation goes beyond words because words are only a means to an end, and words can only convey so much meanings to communicate conceptual ideas about something. When that happens, we can turn to art, poetry and music, which transcend language barriers and speak to us in ways that are beyond the literal meanings of words.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

In some other cases, silence is the best way to behold and appreciate the vastness of universe as we meditate or contemplate on the phenomena we encounter. What that happens, traffic and traffic lights can become to us more than what they are supposed to be. We may see beyond the colours, the motion of vehicles, and the seeming routine and humdrum of transport and communications. The buildings and roads in the cities may become no different from mountains and valleys in a countryside: Same structures, different materials but same origin. Both urban and rural landscapes come from distant stars in their atomical composition, which brings us to my next post about iron and stars.

Blurring of lines between Nature and Us: Buildings and roads in a city resemble mountains and valleys in a countryside.
A view of the Bear River near Fielding, Utah (Source:

The beauty of science

I like the poem by Walt Whitman shared in the video – that somehow the charts and diagrams and figures and columns used to explain the stars do not quite do justice to the mystique and mystery of stars, and the poet decided to wander off by himself and looked up in perfect silence in the mystical moist night-air at the stars. Yes, sometimes, silence is the best response to appreciate the beauty of science, as we behold the glory of the universe with awe and wonder. There are times I looked at the majesty of some natural phenomena and was left speechless.

Earlier this afternoon I took a longer route to go for lunch, passing by rows of houses and a patch of rainforest, and upon returning to office, I decided to take a lift up to the top of a housing board flat, and look at the rainforest from above. Seeing the remnant of the rainforest amidst the suburban houses and flats filled me with a sense of awe – I wish this part of the land remains untouched and undeveloped for as long as it is necessary (see photo below).


The world we dream

Look at Mars in this video.

Video information

The World We Dream — Jill Tarter, Chair, SETI Institute. Putting a man on the moon was once simply a dream. What are some of today’s most innovative and thought provoking visions for our future? Image: NASA/JAXA

This is a fascinating message about how we all came to know and understand ourselves better as a collective humanity or earthlings, even as we seek to know the universe outside of our planet. The red planet Mars looks intriguing, and I hope more studies can be made on this planet as time goes by.

Phoenix and the American Flag on Mars
Phoenix and the American Flag on Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As shared by the presenter, perhaps extraterrestrial life does not necessarily live by the same principles of nature that we earthlings do, such as being dependent on liquid water for survival. I agree with the message that when we look at ourselves from a cosmic perspective, we all can learn to celebrate our commonalities instead of letting our perceived differences divide us. After all, we are also intergalactic beings, not just earthlings – as the message puts it, we are made of stardust and we have come a long way to study the evolution of stars (ourselves) today.

Life in the Universe

Video information:

Speaker: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Animation: The Known Universe by AMNH

Music: Main Titles (Spider-Man OST) by Danny Elfman

Arranged by Mike Solow

It’s noteworthy that the same ingredients for life in our body, such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, are found throughout the universe. We are indeed one with the universe, as proven by science. I think such scientific developments are part of the human evolutionary process today to rediscover our connectedness with the universe, which ancient wisdom has always taught and somehow modern humans have lost sight of along the way, and are now reawakening to the truth of our oneness, thanks to quantum science and astrophysics.