13.798 billion years old and reborn every Breathe * Paradoxes of Origin in the Human Body

Humans 13.798 billion years old! No way! Or then again…

An 11 year old recently inquired how old I was – I joked of having origins beyond memory. I asked him why he wanted to know – and he said “You look like Noah.” His friend argued, “No – he doesn’t look that old.” His friend retorted, “How did you get all that gray hair?” I countered – “I raised a few children!” And we laughed together.

This almost 4000 yr old clay tablet tells the tale of a Mesopotamian God giving instructions for a reed / wood circular boat almost the size of a soccer field – onto which animals were to be led 2 x 2 in order to survive a great flood. It is thought to be the origin of the Noah story. (Found in what is now Iraq – Currently on display in the British Museum in London)

So what about it? Where has the matter we create our selves with emerged? Our form has an age connected to our lines of conception and birth. What about the matter of which we are formed? When has it had its conceptions and births and how does this inform the matter of our beings?

Cosmology’s are like stars – tales that tell origin stories within human communities. They arise and transform as the universe they tell the tale of does. Vancouver Island alone is said to be home of hundreds of Indigenous cosmologies. Star songs with peoples and lineages 7 to 12 thousand years long are sung to this day. The songs of star people’s who do their work deep in the caves. Interestingly, this is in fact where the latest scientific cosmology, astro physics, tells us that stars are creating new matter within the earth. Science’s ability to model and test models for deep history has given a new face to cosmology and this is an effort to share this perspective. A tale of starry origins.

orion nebula star nursery II
The sharpest known image of the closest star nursery M42 – 1500 light years away – fused image from La Silla and Hubble space telescopes. This is a supernova like that which birthed the sun’s solar system. It is located in the sword attached to the belt of the constellation Orion – The Archer. Sun is a part of the Orion arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.


………………….There are contrasting directions for questions of age and origin of the material world. In one direction we are a riverbed in which matter moves through. Quite literally. On average as much as 72% of our mass is water, completing cycles every 16 days in a healthy body. We even are a source of planetary water. Muddied water, but water no less. Whenever we digest sugars or starches we liberate the water from carbo hydrates (empirical formula of the family of compounds is C-H2O) becoming springs flowing into the ground of the world. There are some mammals who extract enough water out of their foods that they never drink.

Here is a list of atomic replacement rates for organs as evidenced by radioisotope studies.

Heavy elements like carbon, sodium and potassium take occupancy far longer perhaps 8 months – 11 months. For example the calcium and phosphorus in bones are replaced in a dynamic crystal growth / dissolving process that will ultimately replace all bones in your body.

Other larger organs’ atomic replacement can be estimated:
• The lining in stomach and intestine every 4 days
• The Gums are replaced every 2 weeks
• The Skin replaced every 4 weeks
• The Liver replaced every 6 weeks
• The Lining of blood vessels replaced every 6 months
• The Heart replaced every 6 months
• The Surface cells of digestion, top layer cells in the digestion process from our mouth through our large bowel are replaced every 5 minutes

This data was first pointed out by Dr. Paul C. Aebersold in 1953 in a landmark paper he presented to the Smithsonian Institute, “Radioisotopes – New keys to knowledge”
It is pretty safe to say that you reform yourself with completely new atoms on an annual basis – and that much of you is replaced several times a season if not an hour!

There is nothing like the quality of water in our lives to influence health. We are fountains of youth from the perspective of our atomic recycling. The quality of our contact with the natures of the world around us is continuously taking root in the form of our bodies.

But what about the deeper question of this matter itself?

Where has the stuff of matter had it’s origin? Einstein broke up the idea that there even is any stuff of existence with his famous E=mc2 equation – which elegantly shows how light’s speed relates pure matter and pure energy. All matter is ultimately stabilized patterned energy. The experience of “stuff” is ultimately the interfacing of contrasting patterned energies.

The term “matter” is used throughout physics in a bewildering variety of contexts: for example, one refers to “condensed matter physics”, “elementary matter”, “partonic” matter, “dark” matter, “anti”-matter, “strange” matter, and “nuclear” matter. In discussions of matter and antimatter, normal matter has been referred to by Alfvén as koinomatter (Gk. common matter). It is fair to say that in physics, there is no broad consensus as to a general definition of matter, and the term “matter” usually is used in conjunction with a specifying modifier.

A Red Star - where metals are beginning  to be made - with an old white dwarf - showing a lens  effect - a nasa artist used keppler data to construct this image
A Red Star – where metals are beginning to be made – with an old white dwarf – showing a lens effect – a nasa artist used keppler data to construct this image.  Most of the elements essential to human life were first made in Red Giants.

…………….To comprehend the history of bodily matter, we have to delve into the original moments of the universe and the creation and death of stars. Most of the mass of a human body has it’s origins in the death of stars as they eject dust in super nova events. Most of the atoms in our body are the very light Hydrogen atoms which have their origins close to the big bang moment of our Universe’s birth. Matter in elemental form finds the preponderance of it’s origins in these processes. Atoms of all flavors are made of the same 3 components – electrons and the nucliides – protons and neutrons. Neutrons are basically a proton that has absorbed an electron. Of these three particles, classified as fermions, only electrons are truly fundamental. They are in a class called leptons while the nucliides are composed of quarks – and the gluons or force fields that hold them together. While atoms as we know them are not thought to have begun forming in any significant quantity until  300 to 500 million years after the big bang, it is believed that most nucliides were formed in the first minutes after the big bang. Current estimates for the big bang moment are 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years. The formation of matter out of energy is called cosmogenesis and most of the nucliides in matter share these original moments. This is not a finished business however. Cosmic rays (high energy electromagnetic particles) come into the earth from outside of our solar system in bursts associated with blasts from supernova. When these rays are absorbed – primarily in soils and stones – new matter is born in a cosmogenic transformation of energy into substance. This is in part why unstable isotopes of matter like C-14 (which has a half-life of just over 5000 years) are in relatively stable concentrations on the planet. We can even read histories of the universe’s activity by variations of cosmogenic associated isotopes in the layers of sediment and stone in the earth’s body. So while a part of matter is continuously being born out of the mysteries of energy and light – the vast majority has its origins in the birth of the universe 13.798 billion years ago. This is the average age of our nucliides. The constructions of the elements themselves have a more nuanced story.

As the universe cooled in its first millions of years the first stars coalesced out of the simplest element – Hydrogen – fusing the protons and associated electrons into Helium (first element to be stable with neutrons) the second lightest element. During the first generation of stars in the universe there was pretty much just 2 of the 92 known naturally occurring elements.

We humans are much more complex than this these days.

Elements essential to human life
Elements essential to human life

“Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of the six elements oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All are necessary to life. The remaining elements are trace elements, of which more than a dozen are thought to be necessary for life, or play a role in good health (e.g., fluorine, which hardens dental enamel but seems to have no other function).
The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 3 x 10 to the 27th atoms and contains at least detectable traces of 60 chemical elements. About 25 of these elements are thought to play an active positive role in life and health in humans.
elementsThe relative amounts of each element vary by individual, with the largest contributor due to fat/muscle/bone body composition ratio differences from person to person. The numbers in the table are averages of different numbers reported by different references.
The adult human body averages ~53% water – though it can be as high as 75% when younger. This varies substantially by age, sex, and adiposity. In a large sample of adults of all ages and both sexes, the figure for water fraction by weight was found to be 48 ±6% for females and 58 ±8% water for males. Water is ~11% hydrogen by mass but ~67% hydrogen by atomic percent, and these numbers along with the complementary % numbers for oxygen in water, are the largest contributors to overall mass and atomic composition figures. Because of water content, the human body contains more oxygen by mass than any other element, but more hydrogen by atom-fraction than any element.”

orion nebula star nursery
orion nebula star nursery – nasa – fusion of images from spitzer and hubble space telescopes

……………………….What is the concept of body that finally emerged?… The answer is that there is no clear and definite conception of body…. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise.
— Noam Chomsky, ‘Language and problems of knowledge: the Managua lectures, p. 144

So it was not until the first generation of stars in our universe began to lose their vitality than there was creation of the larger elements. As stars age into Red Giants they experience more intense heat and pressure which allows fusion of nucliides into elements as large as Iron (Fe).

At the final stage in the life of a star there is a collapse and formation of nebula – these spew out dense clouds of high temperature high neutron density particles that can undergo nuclear fusion (iron 56 and lighter elements) and the nucleosynthesis which creates elements heavier than iron 56. Most elements larger than Oxygen are created in this way. Nebula are the universes primary forges in the transformation of energy into matter.


Our solar system is a third generation star system. Second generation systems begin existence with a diversity of elements created in their parent nebula star nursery. Nebula are where new stars and their solar systems arise. At the death of the second generation star system the density of heavier elements is increased again. And so it is that our home solar system was born out of a nebula about 4.54 billion years ago. Elements heavier than Helium, all called metals in astronomy, make up under 2% of the sun. Oddly the heaviest more complex (and also less stable) elements which we are made of are the youngest elements at just over 4 ½ billion years. We are concentrating younger aspects of the universe in ourselves as contrasted to the sun.

Star systems form in the whirling of a molecular cloud slowly densifying into a solar disc. This usually happens in a nursery nebula of a super nova. The outer portions of the disc become planets and asteroids.The presence of Iron 60 in the oldest known meteorites indicates that our solar system did in fact form out of a supernova event as Fe-60 is only produced in such events.

Planet garden
Planet garden – drawing by nasa artist using data from hubble to illustrate the disc formation out of which a fresh star developed its planets.

……….Planets continuously grow as they collect material from asteroids and meteorites. In the early history of the earth, as we know it, the planet had a series of large bombardments of asteroidal material. Interestingly, much of the material included water and one theory has modeled the planet being almost a complete “snowball”. Life’s diversities grew exponentially in the fossil record after each of these events.

What we can say is that we are made almost entirely of matter that had its origins in the first minutes of our universe. About 10% of an individual human mass has an age in the 13 ½ billion year range. The other 90% of our mass is star born. We truly are mostly the dust of stars constellated well over the 4 ½ billion year age of our third generation sun. Cosmic rays from near and distant star nurseries continue this cosmogenesis into the present.All this while keeping it fresh with a stream of continuously recycling atoms in the riverbed of our bodies breathing with the universe. Ancient babes we be.

Dark Sky Stars in the Idaho Rockies
Stars above Rocky Mountain Wilderness


Add yours →

  1. Very interested, Have a wonderful day friend :)

  2. Love it, fantastic and interesting read, thank you!

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