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Where did we come from?
What is human existence?

A 4 minute video by NASA
astronomer: Dr. Michelle Thaller.

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This is a remarkable four minute video by Dr. Thaller that describes, from a scientific perspective, from where humans came, and how fortunate we are to live in the universe's prime time. It is titled: "We Are Dead Stars"

It asks: "What is human existence?

It's answer is simple, but profound: We are dead stars, looking back up at the sky."

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During the ten months after this video was posted, it has been viewed almost four million times.

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Some comments posted by viewers of the video:

  • Maggie Downing: "Hits blunt."

  • James Tacker: "The universe has become self aware through us living creatures."

  • Rihi Yamah listed a qute from Keats: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

  • Daina Ratermanis Collins listed a quote from Mark Twain's novel: "The Adventures of Huckkeberry Finn:" "We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened."

  • Zen Tanchuan: "Sooo.... how come stars don't produce humans anymore? Huh? It was just that one time billions of years ago. Bam! Now we're here after one chemical reaction. Okay....? Just because our bodies are made of similar elements of a star doesn't mean I am made of a star. This doesn't make any sense. No sense at all. Oh what the devil can put into human minds to reject God."

    • Alberto Sanchez Escamilla replied: "I am going to explain without making it too long.

      What you do not seem to understand the astronomer is saying is that the first stars formed following the accumulation, over billions of years, first by the electric charges of protons and electrons , which were the first stable available matter, then the Union of one electron and one proton formed the first simplest atoms, the atoms of hydrogen, and through the accumulation of hydrogen first through electrostatic forces, and then by gravity the large gaseous formations which we call nebulas formed, and very many are still observable, but over time the atoms of those nebula's gases continue getting closer and they form a spheroidal cloud which progressively becomes denser, and as pressure between the atoms increases so increases temperature, until at one point the protons and electrons of the hydrogen atoms are forced to fuse together (atomic fusion which liberates large amounts of energy initiating the star ignition which pushes the atoms of the star apart against the effect of gravity and that way prevents the continuing collapse of the gas of the star, and besides the energy liberated in the atomic fusion the next atom in complexity, the helium atom, is formed, and afterward the next complex atoms are formed, the atom of Lithium, then the atom of Beryllium, and so on until over time Iron is formed and as Iron absorbs some of the energy from the fusion process the star is no longer producing enough energy to prevent its gravitational collapse so at that point all the matter of the star, the remaining hydrogen, and all the other elements that were formed collapse toward its center and this gravitational collapse is so fast and powerful that it liberates a very very large amount of energy which is the explosion of a supernova, and during that brief moment of very high pressure and temperature the heavier elements, such as lead, silver, gold, uranium are made and that is why there are much smaller quantities of the heavier elements.

      All the elements that form our bodies are made that way at the high pressures and temperatures of the stars, which when they explode they disseminate the elements all over and eventually by gravity they can come together to form planets and new stars, and from planets such as earth with a good enough temperature and presence of water life can evolve.

      The evolution is also long to explain, but you can look it up reading Ernst Mayr or Edward O Wilson, or other good biologists.

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    • James Mckaskle replied: "Stars produce the raw materials of the universe through stellar evolution. Begin with a large, lumpy cloud of hydrogen and helium. Denser areas become more dense through gravity. In time, the densest regions become extremely hot, extremely heavy, and begin to undergo nuclear fusion in the centers of those dense regions. Fusion reactions in the core create heavier elements over time which balance the inward crush of gravity and the outward pressure of the fusion reactions. Once nickle and iron isotopes are produced and become abundant at the core, fusion can no longer be sustained against gravity and the star collapses. If the star has enough mass, then the inrushing material of the outer star will bounce off the core, exploding the star and creating all the elements heavier than iron. This material spreads out over space, the pressure of the expanding gas cloud will induce or further induce star formation in nearby regions, and shower those regions with these new elements. After some time, all the things needed for life to occur will be found in some region, maybe many, and given enough time and enough chances, very unlikely things will occur. Including life."

    • Wendy Leigh: "Oh, poor humans...Every few years or so there's some savant who thinks that they have The Answer. Yes, it is simple and it's more exquisite and mysterious than our baby human brains can imagine. God knows. 'We see through a glass darkly'."

    • Matthew Seah: "If we're all made from recycled starstuff, then it's logical to conclude that we are a tiny part of the universe that has gained sentience and self-awareness. In essence - We are a part of the universe that has evolved the ability to gaze upon itself and marvel at its own wonders.

      Pretty mindblowing when you think about it huh?

    • Glenda Lee Rogers: "Amazing she looks so young and yet she was there at creation when God "spoke" the universe into existence. Another theory to put on the shelf with other theories."

    • Tom R Axon: "To think there was nothing then there was a massive bang, stars were made, collapsed and birthed constituents of living beings. All of which, stars and living creatures, will die and fade out to become nothing but a massive expanse of un-living darkness. That as a reality is severely intense."

    • Jim Sheff compares science with religion: "Isn't it grand to ask questions we can't answer rather then have answers you can't question..."

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
  1. Dr. Michelle Thaller, "We are dead stars," Atlantic magazine, 2015-FEB-05, at:

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Original posting: 2015-DEC-15
Latest update: 2015-DEC-15
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