Carbon is not at all the most abundant part within the cosmos; however, it’s unquestionably crucial for life. For each 1,000 hydrogen atoms in the universe, there are only five or so carbon atoms. However, every cell in the human frame relies on carbon as the chemical spine of all natural molecules.
In Symphony in C, geophysicist Robert Hazen offers a deep dive into the historical past, tradition, and technology surrounding carbon. And that historical past is way older than cosmologists once considered. Even though the majority of the universe’s carbon is solid inside of stars, about a trillions of these days’ carbon was gathered from subatomic debris almost 13.8 billion years in the past, only 15 to 20 minutes after the Big Bang. Because of this, a fragment of the carbon in your frame isn’t “star stuff,” as astronomer Carl Sagan once asserted — it’s even older than the universe’s first stars.
Carbon is not just vital for living beings. Its atypical chemistry gives it an unmatched ability to react with different atoms to form small, simple molecules as well as and large, advanced ones, making it a building block for everything from polymers to prescription drugs and nanomaterials. As Hazen explains, carbon’s chemical range yields materials that come with the darkest surfaces and the shiniest paints, in addition to the polished lubricants and stickiest glues.
As many musical symphonies, Hazen’s book is arranged in four portions, corresponding the Greeks’ fundamental elements of earth, air, hearth, and water. Individual accounts in carbon’s tale discover its presence in our planet’s minerals, the position of carbon-bearing gases in keeping our first world warm under a faint younger sun, carbon’s universal existence in fossil fuels that humans burn and its role within the beginning and evolution of life in Earth’s oceans.