the true force in the universe
Lately he's been reading from a dusty book by Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs.
We spent a long time in Chapter 5, which talks about the formation of stars, and the cycles of that formation, and what elements start the process: looks like hydrogen.
"The universe is filled with thin clouds of hydrogen, which surge and eddy in the space between the stars"
and the wee little atoms are sort of dancing about there, and sometimes they meet, and bow, and fly away, and then...
sometimes, it seems, a great force makes them come together, falling to a core, a center.
"The shrinking, continously self-heating ball of gas is an embryonic star."
We talk about the baby stars a while, and then go on. At some point the produce guy is reading about the forces , the globe of gas which is about 10 trillion miles in diameter, which is apparently rushing to its heart, which is fairly quickly (say in 10 million years) heating up, and reaching a critical temperature, and
Wow! protons colliding, things changing, stars contract, expand, I am dizzy...we come to this sentence:
(it's about massive stars, whatever they may be) : "In this way, through the alternation of collapse and nuclear burning, a massive star successively manufactures all elements up to iron."
We pause and talk about iron (which, when it becomes the intensely heavy center of a star eventually stops burning...). I say, "you know all the legends about iron--how the little people did not like it? I wonder..." He hasn't heard the legends. We pause a bit for fairy tale lore.
The star collapses...and then...it explodes! And lo, all the other elements, the heavy elements are created and flung out into the universe.
"Where do they go?" I ask.
I can't resist humming the Moby song about "we are all made of stars".
We talk about supernovas, and pulsars, and neutron stars.
I have pulled out a periodic table and am trying to remember my high school chemistry. I took chemistry, actually, when I was in junior high, on an fast track program because some foolish teacher thought he could steer my young mind to a career in science. I was living in the desert at the time, where amazing tests were going on, and pilots were breaking the speed of sound, and my father pointed out the path of the first satellite crossing the starry sky. We moved away when I was in mid highschool, and I let my heart return to poetry and languages, my first and truest loves.
But as the produce guy keeps reading about the formation of the universe, and I think for a moment of when I first met him (he was 5 years old, madly wheeling about a poetry reading I had put on at the local library. He kept shooting his cap pistol to punctuate some of the dramatic poetry. I pondered many grisly options for him as I kept smiling--it was well before I had children of my own. Lemonade and cookies proved the better option.)--as he reads of how clouds come together and stars fly apart and return, he stops and says he believes he knows the major force in the universe. It's gravity, he says. It's obviously all about gravity.
Or, I say--is it attraction? Is it love that flings everything together?
He thinks I'm a rather flighty soul, I think.
Next week we are pondering what was here...before anything was here. Or something like that. He will posit gravity, I bet. I may still posit love.