Inside each of us are our organs, cells, molecules, and atoms. ~ above the smallest scales of all, there... <+> are more than 10^28 subatomic corpuscle in our bodies, an massive number. If us ask the questions of how numerous of them have been inside an additional person"s body at part point, we gain an alarmingly huge answer.

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When girlfriend eat food, drink liquids, or also breathe in the air, many of those atom wind up obtaining incorporated to your body. Once you sweat, exhale, and either secrete or excrete issue from your body, those atoms go earlier into Earth"s biosphere, where they can ultimately wind up getting incorporated into other people"s bodies. Below on Earth, every little thing is connected.


But how associated are we? In particular, how plenty of of the atoms in our bodies were in one more human"s human body at part point? execute we share atoms in common with everyone alive today? with everyone who"s ever before lived? with King Tut, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, George Washington, etc.? The price is fascinating: not just do us each have actually hundreds the billions the atoms that were when in anyone else"s bodies, yet we have around 1 atom in our human body from every breath the every human has ever before taken. Here"s just how we know.


The person body, together we conventionally think that it, is written of organs that space made the cells. But... <+> at an even smaller level, everything within us is composed of atoms: an enormous variety of them because of their overwhelmingly small size.

Pixabay user PublicDomainPictures

Let"s start by acquisition a look in ~ what the human body actually is. You could think of yourself as a collection of your macroscopic organs and the cells the make lock up. That you"re nothing yet bones, muscles, skin, and also the other organs within of you. But from a moving standpoint, that only makes increase 4% the the cells in your body. The various other 96% are split, roughly evenly, between your blood cells and bacterial cells the live on and also in her body.

The blood cells (mostly red cells) live only for about 4 month apiece, at which allude they"re broken down, their materials are excreted, and replaced by new cells the were produced in your bone marrow. Bacteria live almost everywhere that they can: there are approximately a million bacterial cells on every square inch of your skin, and also tens the trillions of bacter cells flourishing in your digestive tract.


The aspects in the human being body. While, through mass, us are largely Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen and Hydrogen,... <+> there are dozens of elements essential come life procedures in the human body. Over there are an ext than 10^28 protons writing a usual adult human being body.

Openstax college, Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions internet site

In regards to atoms, this cells are overwhelmingly do of simply a few elements. By weight, the person body is:

65% oxygen, 18.5% carbon, 9.5% hydrogen, 3.2% nitrogen,

and around 4% every little thing else combined. That has the calcium in your bones, the phosphorous critical to those ATP molecules, the sodium and also potassium the are crucial to regulating her body"s neurons, and also the sulfur, chlorine, and magnesium that play crucial roles in your body.

But also if us talk about only the 4 most typical elements, we"re talking about remarkably big numbers the atoms. A person being, as soon as you counting up everything inside us, is in reality an amazingly big collection the atoms: there are an ext atoms in her body than there are stars in the whole Universe.


miscellaneous long-exposure campaigns, like the Hubble excessive Deep field (XDF) presented here, have actually revealed... <+> hundreds of galaxies in a volume of the universe that to represent a fraction of a millionth that the sky. Every told, we calculation that over there are about 2 sunshine galaxies in the observable Universe, but even if they had actually a sunshine stars every (a high estimate), there would be an ext atoms in our bodies than stars in the Universe.

NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and also M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and also Z. Levay (STScI)

With every year that go by, in fact, you could be surprised to find out that much more than 90% of the atoms the were in your body are no much longer there. Cells get damaged down, taken right into your bloodstream, filtered by her liver and kidneys, and large components that their contents are excreted. Meanwhile, you ingest and also breathe in new atoms all the time, whereby your body assembles lock into new molecules and also cells. At any given moment in time, your body contains about (for one average-sized human):

4× 1027 hydrogen atoms, 2× 1027 oxygen atoms, 3× 1026 carbon atoms, and also 8× 1025 nitrogen atoms.

These are huge numbers, even by astronomical standards. And yet, we have to ask where they come from.


The facets that make up the person body and also are most vital to life take it up a variety of... <+> locations on the periodic table, yet all can be generated by the procedures of a few different types of stars in the Universe.

Ed Uthman, M.D., via http://web2.airmail.net/uthman/ (L); Wikimedia Commons user Zhaocarol (R), under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

Almost all the oxygen and also hydrogen in our body come from drinking water and breathing air. Meanwhile, many of the carbon and nitrogen in our bodies originates from the food we eat. This makes a difference: it"s simpler for water and also air come circulate all over the planet and mix well and also thoroughly. Assuming the atoms are neither created nor destroyed— a really an excellent approximation of reality— some fraction of the atoms of waiting you"re breath in were when in someone else"s lung throughout history, whether that"s Hitler, Caesar, Ramses, or Otzi the Iceman.

Given that hydrogen and oxygen make up the greatest numbers of atom in your body, and also that the atmosphere and also Earth"s watery bodies space where those atoms reside, this gives us a method of pull close the problem: by considering the variety of atoms in the atmosphere and also in all of Earth"s water.


The dry Earth, compared to all of Earth"s oceans (large blue dot), every the freshwater on Earth... <+> (medium blue dot), and also all the rivers and also lakes on earth (small blue dot), the critical of which is the same loved one mass/size of Earth"s atmosphere.

Howard Perlman, USGS/illustraion by Jack Cook, WHOI

The planet is a huge place through an enormous number of atoms, yet most the those atoms room in the interior of our planet. The outer component of it— our planet"s biosphere— is the just component that us care about when it concerns the atoms us regularly communicate with. Overall, the whole sum of all the watery body on Earth, including lakes, oceans, rivers, seas, icecaps, glaciers, etc., equates into around 0.02% the the planet"s mass: 1.35 × 1021kg. The entire atmosphere, meanwhile, is about 1-part-in-a-million that the whole planet: 5.15× 1018kg.

When we do the mathematics to transform these into atoms, here"s what us get:

4.1× 1040oxygen atom (atmosphere), 4.5× 1043oxygen atom (water), and also 9.0× 1043hydrogen atoms (water).

These are massive numbers, especially contrasted to the variety of atoms in a human being body. But they aren"t big enough.


Whether us wear a mask or not, we"re still inhaling the same variety of atoms into our bodies with... <+> every breath we take, and those atoms have actually the exact same probability they always did of having actually once been inside somebody else. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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If you to be to take all of the atoms in your body and let them go back to the natural atmosphere of the Earth, and you climate thoroughly mixed all the air and also water ~ above the Earth, you"d realize a couple of spectacular facts.

One out of every 21 quadrillion hydrogen atom (2.1× 1016atoms) come from her body. One the end of every 26 quadrillion oxygen atoms (2.6× 1016atoms) come from your body.

And this is true for everyone"s body, top top average, once you consider the atoms the made them increase a year ago.

But remember: the typical human body has actually 4 × 1027hydrogen atoms and also 2× 1027oxygen atom in it! If each of united state accumulates atoms randomly, the still means that every of us, on average, have actually hundreds of billions of atoms that were, a year ago, within each and also every other human being on Earth. Hundreds of billions the atoms room in your body not only from me and also everyone else on Earth, but additionally from dinosaurs the lived numerous years ago.


This photo shows the remnant skeleton of Sue the T-Rex, on display at the ar Museum in Chicago.... <+> there are around a couple of trillion atoms the were as soon as inside Sue that now comprise your human body today.

Dallas Krentzel / Flickr

It"s only since atoms room so small, and also there are so many of them within each of us, the this is possible. If atoms were bigger and much more massive, and also we to be made of fewer of them, this would be a much more challenging proposition. But the truth is the we room made of incredibly tiny building blocks, and there are an ext of them in every of united state than there space kilograms in the Earth, stars in the observable Universe, or grains of sand in the entire Solar System.

In fact, best now, if you take a deep breath and then exhale, by the time a year walk by, roughly one atom from that breath will certainly wind increase in every other human on Earth"s lungs at any moment in time. In other words, you most likely have approximately one atom native Caesar"s last breath in her lungs ideal now.


Each person breath contains approximately 10^19 atoms, which way that also in our well-mixed... <+> atmosphere, you probably have about 1 atom the was at one point a component of any type of breath ever breathed in human being history.

Sasha Kargaltsev / flickr

Our body might show up to remain roughly the same on a year-to-year basis, yet the fact is that we"re actually expelling the atoms inside of us all the time:

the carbon we exhale in carbon dioxide is the carbon that composes ours bodies, the water that we excrete once we urinate is the hydrogen and also oxygen from our bodies, and the other elements, in a combination of sweat, urine, and solid waste, additionally leave our bodies on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, we"re breath air, drinking water, and also eating plants and also animals, and also that brings new atoms into our bodies to change the persons we"re continually losing. Planet earth is a around closed device as far as the atoms in our biosphere go, which method that, given enough time for things to sufficiently mix, this tiny, microscopic contents of our people will inevitably spread wherever water and also air are enabled to go.


indigenous macroscopic scales under to subatomic ones, the size of the an essential particles play only a... <+> small duty in identify the sizes of composite structures. Even if it is the structure blocks room truly an essential and/or point-like particles is still not known, yet we do understand the universe from large, cosmic scales down to tiny, subatomic ones. There are nearly 10^28 atoms making up each human body, in total.

Magdalena Kowalska / CERN / ISOLDE team

Every time you breathe in, you"re breathing atom of air the were when inside an additional human being. Every time you take it a drink the water, you"re drink water the was once inside an additional human being. And every bite that food friend take is composed of atoms the were inside an additional person. Us all re-publishing the very same planet, the same biosphere, and— at a fundamental level— also the exact same atoms.

At an atom level, we"re all very deeply connected. Inside your body, ideal now, are thousands of billions that atoms that were as soon as inside each other person being on Earth. Transparent the generations and the aeons, those very same atoms continue to consist of everything: the atom of the dinosaurs, the plants, the trilobites, and also even the single-celled organisms that once overcame our earth are currently inside you.

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I am a Ph.D. Astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, that professes physics and also astronomy at assorted colleges. I have won numerous awards for scientific research writing

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I to be a Ph.D. Astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, that professes physics and also astronomy at miscellaneous colleges. I have actually won countless awards for science writing due to the fact that 2008 because that my blog, Starts through A Bang, consisting of the award for best science blog by the institute of Physics. My two books, Treknology: The scientific research of Star Trek indigenous Tricorders to Warp Drive, beyond the Galaxy: just how humanity looked beyond our Milky way and found the whole Universe, are accessible for purchase at Amazon. Follow me top top Twitter