The Earth's Elements; October 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by Kirshner; 8 Page(s)
Matter in the universe was born in violence. Hydrogen and helium emerged from the intense heat of the big bang some 15 billion years ago. More elaborate atoms of carbon, oxygen, calcium and iron, out of which we are made, had their origins in the burning depths of stars. Heavy elements such as uranium were synthesized in the shock waves of supernova explosions. The nuclear processes that created these ingredients of life took place in the most inhospitable of environments.
Once formed, violent explosions returned the elements to the space between the stars. There gravitation molded them into new stars and planets, and electromagnetism cast them into the chemicals of life. The ink on this page, the air you breathe while reading it--to say nothing of your bones and blood-- are all an inheritance from earlier generations of stars. Walking down the corridors of an observatory, you see collections of carbon atoms hunched over silicon boxes, controlling distant telescopes of iron and aluminum in an attempt to trace the origin of the very substances of which they are made.