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Stardust

September 4, 2010


For a second I felt a wave of surprise and embarrassment at the fine particles of dust that seemed to be floating around me in my home office/studio but this was immediately replaced by a sense of awe at the beauty of the moment. Bright white Calgary sunlight streaming in the room revealed these micro planets and stars slowly spinning in their seemingly erratic but logical orbits.

“It’s stardust,” a poet-scientist visiting from California reminded me.

Apparently NASA’s 1999 space probe called Stardust has been investigating links between these interstellar particles, the planet earth and its inhabitants. Indeed, NASA scientist Dr. Brownlee claims that stardust provided us with water and carbon-rich molecules necessary for life. It’s in us and all around us. Billions of years ago starry furnaces transformed hydrogen and helium, the universe’s simplest elements,  into carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon and iron. The process continued over billions of years creating even more complex molecules and compounds: graphite (pure carbon), silicon carbide (carbon and silicon), water ice (hydrogen and oxygen), methane,  methyl alcohol and complex organic compounds rich in carbon. 4.6 billion years ago planet earth condensed out of a dusty cloud.

[Stardust] is the stuff of people, as well as cats, plants, buttons, shoes, seas, planets, comets, moons, cars, books and cell phones, not to mention the paper (or computer screen) on which these words appear (Broad 1999-02-02).

But Joni Mitchell was familiar with the concept of humans being composed of billion year old carbon at least since 1969 [1].

Notes
1.

Woodstock
Written by Joni Mitchell, performed by
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, ‘Tell where are you going?’
This he told me
Said, ‘I¹m going down to Yasgur’s Farm,
Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.’
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
‘Well, then can I walk beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel like I’m a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year,
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am,
But life is for learning.’
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust, we are golden,
We caught in the devil¹s bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Selected webliography

Broad, William J. 1999-02-02. “In Search of Star Dust and Clues to Life.” New York Times.

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