An Astrophysicist Gives Thanks

“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” –Galileo

So tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, and it’s one of our traditions that I’m most happy to take part in. So without any ado, let me give thanks with you.

Thanks not just for the wonderful world we have, with its glorious skies and all the secrets it slowly reveals to us, but for everything that allows us to have the world we have.

Thanks to the atom, with its massive, compact nucleus and its oppositely-charged, much lighter orbiting electrons.

Thanks to the power of the atom, we can assemble all sort of molecules: the building blocks of all the matter familiar to us on Earth. (Ok, noble gases, I’ll be thankful for you, too.)

And it wouldn’t make sense to thank the matter on Earth without thanking the source of it all.

Thanks to all the stars out there, burning your primordial nuclear fuel from Hydrogen all the way up into the stuff of life: Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium and Iron, among others.

And thanks to the supernovae, that made all the elements heavier than that, and that sent all of this used-up nuclear fuel back into space, so it could collide with gas clouds and trigger formation of new stars and — for the first time — heavy, rocky planets.

Thanks to gravity, for holding the planets, stars, and galaxies together, and for giving us a Universe we can exist in.

And put all these together, and you get what we’re all really thankful for.

Home. And wherever you are, whatever you’re doing or thinking about, we all share this same home, and we all share the responsibility of keeping it a good home.

And of course, I’m thankful for our minds, that allow us to comprehend all of it…

And for you, my real-and-virtual friends, for sharing in the joys of it with me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of us here in the Universe!