The Heavens Declare the Glory

Several people who follow this blog have been complaining about the recent dearth of posts.  Mea culpa!  I repent!

Here is a fascinating special case of the fine-tuning of the universe.

There are 90 naturally-occurring elements in the periodic table – elements like hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and many others.  Every physical thing in the universe is made up of these elements or of combinations of these elements.

Each element has distinctive properties, and the properties of all the elements, taken together, result in our physical world –the Earth, the Earth’s atmosphere, the iron that drives the Earth’s magnetic field, the water that makes life possible, the sun, the moon, the stars, our bodies.

It makes me weep to realize the wisdom and power displayed in the Creation.

Where do these elements come from?

I learned several years ago that there have been three or four generations of stars.  The first generation, formed at about 100 million years after the Creation event, consisted only of the lightest elements, hydrogen and helium.  During the lifetime of those stars, they produced heavier elements by a process of fusion – that is, by combining lighter elements to form heavier ones under extreme heat and pressure.  When these stars reached the end of their lifespans, they collapsed, and then they exploded, spreading those heavier elements throughout the cosmos.  Then under gravitation the debris from the explosion of those stars formed a second generation of stars, which likewise produced even heavier elements, collapsed, and exploded.  (They are still exploding; they are called “super-novas.”)  Our sun is an instance of at least a third-generation star, if not a fourth.

Recently it was learned that iron is the heaviest element formed in this manner – by fusion within the first generations of stars.  Now cosmologists have discovered how the heaviest elements were formed.

Most massive stars (say, 10 times the mass of our Sun) exist in binary systems with a twin.  When they die, they explode, but their cores remain, and they collapse to a diameter of only 10 to 12 kilometers, forming the densest objects in the universe other than black holes – so dense that the protons and electrons combine, forming neutrons; and hence they are called “neutron stars.”

The twin neutron stars then circle each other for eons until at last, under their mutual gravitational attraction, they fall into each other.  When they collide, they annihilate in the most spectacular events ever observed.  But after the collapse and before the explosion, they form the heavy elements by a process called “rapid neutron capture,” or the r-process.  Then the explosions again spread these heaviest elements throughout the universe.  Some of them ended up in Earth’s soil.  We ingested the plants that drew those elements out of that soil, and those elements keep us alive by performing vital life functions, from the regulation of brain development to the formation of strong bones.

You can read more from Scientific American at

Glory to God!

This entry was posted in Philosophy, Science, Science and faith, The Existence of God, The Fine-tuning of the Universe. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Heavens Declare the Glory

  1. ruthywood says:

    Wow, that’s fascinating!


  2. Ruth Wood says:

    Wow, fascinating. I’m glad to see you posting again!


  3. debahlynn says:

    Mind-boggling and wonderful! Thank you.


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