Around 450 BC, the Greek philosopher Empedocles wrote that the world was made up of four things: earth, air, fire and water. Plato described them together the four elements. These were not aspects in the contemporary sense, however rather essences that gave whatever their physics properties. The idea that every little thing was do of these an essential elements had a deep influence on beforehand Western science. It to be a central aspect that alchemy till Robert Boyle demonstrated over there were more than four elements in 1661. The 4 elements additionally connected to the 4 humours of the human being body, which developed a communication of Western medicine until the 1800s.

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The abundance of facets in the human body.ASU institution of Life SciencesThe diversity of aspects in the human body.

Over the previous two centuries, us have gained a much far better understanding that the atom elements and also how they have formed. Among the points we have learned is that we—and every other living point on Earth—are consisted of mostly of four elements. These 4 atomic aspects are oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and also nitrogen. Together they do up around 96% of our bodies, together you can see in the number above. There room 92 naturally developing elements top top Earth, indigenous hydrogen to uranium, for this reason why carry out these four comprise such a bulk of living things? part of the factor lies in the reality that they space versatile elements, capable of creating a vast array of chemical compounds, yet it additionally has to perform with the reality that they are among the many abundant facets in the universe. To understand why, we have to look come the stars.

The first elements showed up a few minutes ~ the big bang, through a procedure known together nucleosynthesis. The aspects produced by the large bang consist of of around 75% hydrogen and also 25% helium (by mass) through trace amounts of lithium and also beryllium. For the next several hundred million years only these four facets existed. Then the an initial stars appeared. They created from big clouds that hydrogen and also helium, and as they collapsed under their very own weight the hydrogen in your cores started to fuse right into helium.

The energy created by this nuclear combination gives a star the light and heat crucial to counter the force of gravity for a time, yet as a star eras the quantity of helium in the stellar core increased. Together helium become much more plentiful in the stars core, few of it fuses right into carbon. The carbon interacts v the hydrogen to create nitrogen and oxygen as well as helium, through a procedure known as the CNO cycle. Together a star periods the CNO cycle becomes the dominant process by which a star create light and heat. As a result, these facets become reasonably plentiful in ~ a star.

The an initial stars are thought to have actually been very big stars. Towards the end of a their stays they created even heavier elements, such together silicon, neon, and eventually iron. Beyond iron there space no elements a star have the right to fuse to develop energy. After several hundred thousand years these an initial stars had actually no further means to create energy, and in the finish they explode in a huge explosion recognized as a supernova. The gas and dust remnants of these stars to be tossed out into the universe. In time this gas and also dust became part of clouds the formed new stars, which also fused hydrogen and helium right into heavier aspects until lock too died in supernova explosions.

Then around five billion years ago a cloud that gas and also dust started to type a new star. Many thanks to the lives and deaths of previously generations that stars this cloud was affluent not just in hydrogen and helium, but likewise in carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and iron. Together the star formed, few of the dust created a disk around the star, the end of which developed planets. The 3rd planet indigenous this star had the great fortune of being not too close come the star and not too much away. It had actually plenty the hydrogen and also oxygen in the type of water, and also carbon and nitrogen, all many thanks to long dead stars. At some point life showed up on this tiny world, and also took benefit of these useful and also plentiful elements.

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The atoms in her body save the history of the universe. The hydrogen in her body was born amongst the an initial elements, around 13.7 billion year ago. The carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in your muscles and also mind were developed within a star the died more than 5 billion year ago.