Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mr. Clam visits my mitochondria


I am now breathing out carbon dioxide, made from atoms that were once part of Mr. Clam and his clammy buddies, who kindly provided me with the energy to keep my heart beating, my limbs moving, and my fingers typing.

(For the kiddies out there, "typing" is what we used to call keyboarding.)

Of course, Mr. Clam got his energy from tiny critters and pieces of other critters that got their energy from other critters, or pieces of critters.

Where did they get their energy from?

Algae and green plants and protists clever enough to make their own food.

Where did that energy come from

Sunlight--caught by pigments in algae and green plants and clever protists.

And how does the sun throw off so much energy?

Protons colliding in our nearest star, hydrogen banging against hydrogen, then banging against hydrogen again. Four protons converted to a nucleus of helium (two protons, two neutrons).

4 protons weigh a tiny bit less than 2 protons and 2 neutrons, no matter what your elementary school teacher said. And that tiny bit of matter had to go somewhere.

Where did the matter go?

Turns out Einstein was right (as far as he went, anyway):


Matter and energy are different versions of the same stuff.

Where did that matter come from?

Go ask your local physicist, priest, or street pharmacist. It's all a mystery to me.

Some things are unanswerable, or rather unknowable. Plenty of charlatans with plenty of answers.

If you want to know the answers to the mystery, ask a clam.

Pictures taken by Leslie, who now wants to get her own clamming license so she can join in the fun. The gentleman in the bottom photo is Bob. We both have licenses, all our clams were bigger than 1 1/2", and we finished before sunset.

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