Particle Portraits

Quote: “Take a deep breath! You have just inhaled oxygen atoms that have already been breathed by every person who ever lived. At some time or other your body has contained atoms that were once part of Moses or Isaac Newton. The oxygen mixes with carbon atoms in your lungs and you exhale carbon dioxide molecules. Chemistry is at work. Plants will rearrange these atoms, converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, and at some future date our descendants will breathe some in.”

11.07. filed under: play. science.

This may explain my strange attraction to lichen and—more importantly— belly-button lint. Thanks Mr. Morrison!


posted on 11.07 at 01:15 PM.

I think the more pertinent question is where the pictured particles are now. I have them. Here on my desk. I will be selling them on ebay in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

“Take a deep breath! You have just inhaled oxygen atoms that have already been breathed by every person who ever lived.”
This seems wrong. Some people were just born yesterday. Surely distribution takes a while? But I appreciate the sentiment.

posted on 11.08 at 08:36 AMPierce

@Pierce: You sly bastard. I bet you’ll make a pretty penny. Of course, the particles which now coat the surface of the money you receive were most likely at some point, possibly very recently, lodged deep in a mountain gorilla’s colon (or Joe Moran’s belly button)... so there’s that to consider.

posted on 11.09 at 08:46 AMjmorrison

Why is it always Isaac Newton in that quote? What is it about Newton’s oxygen that appeals so much more than that of other luminaries?

posted on 11.11 at 05:41 PMConrad Roth

@Conrad: I’d have to say it’s that oh so delicious whiff of alchemical obsession which underlies the main scientific juggernaut bouquet. Much the same way the other example, Moses, offers that beguiling and persistent stink of the mythical beneath all the other notes. Mmmm. Breath it in.

posted on 11.11 at 07:52 PMjmorrison

I remember as a young child at a family dinner being gleefully informed by my uncle that the water I was drinking contained at least one molecule from Napoleon’s urine. Not quite Newton’s oxygen, but still…

posted on 03.07 at 06:48 AMReuben

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