Other matter(s)

This page was moved from the Chronicle Flask in December 2017; I felt it fit better here.

Inspired by Aaron Freeman’s piece, You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral, I wrote the following for my daughters’ secular naming ceremonies:

tree_and_starsWe are all connected
by Kat Day

13.8 billon years ago the universe sprang into existence. All the matter and energy that exists today came into being at that moment. And since it is a fundamental law of physics that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so the energy in all of us, and our parents, grandparents and distant ancestors has existed since time began. We carry within us matter that was once stars; protons, neutrons and electrons that have existed for nearly 14 billion years and will probably exist for 14 billion more. This little corner of the universe, with its warm yellow sun and pretty blue jewel of a planet, is a very special place. Here, about 3.5 billion years ago, life began. It started with single-celled organisms, and over time developed into plants which produce our oxygen-rich atmosphere and allowed more complex animals to evolve.

And so, eventually, humans came to be. Every single human is unique and special, made up of about one hundred trillion different cells. Seven months ago this little human was born, having grown from just two cells into a living, breathing and thinking person. The matter that came into existence 14 billion years ago lives on in her, as it has existed in more than one hundred billion others before her. Every moment of every day it passes from her to others and others to her. The oxygen that she breathes has passed through millions of lungs and millions of leaves. The photons that bounce off her, their path forever changed by her existence, bounce into our eyes and are captured by our retinas, to end up encoded into the neurones of our brains. The vibrations that we make when we speak and cry and laugh send atoms and molecules scattering in millions of trillions of different directions. The heat that our bodies give off passes into our surroundings, absorbed by the air and the earth and all the living things around us.

We are all connected, all part of one whole. In the great circle of existence humans are special, because we take energy and matter and shape it. But most of all we have the capacity to think and to understand the amazing, wondrous world we live in. The biggest gift we can give our children is that of curiosity. We hope that our daughter will explore, and wonder, and discover things we never knew. And wherever she goes in the world she will carry us with her, entirely literally.


You are welcome to use this as a reading if you’re planning a naming ceremony, copyright Kat Day 2017, reproduction and use for non-commercial use only. You may, of course, modify the number of months and gender to suit your circumstances.