An Astrophysicist Gives Thanks

“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” –Galileo

So tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, and it’s one of our traditions that I’m most happy to take part in. So without any ado, let me give thanks with you.

Thanks not just for the wonderful world we have, with its glorious skies and all the secrets it slowly reveals to us, but for everything that allows us to have the world we have.

Thanks to the atom, with its massive, compact nucleus and its oppositely-charged, much lighter orbiting electrons.

Thanks to the power of the atom, we can assemble all sort of molecules: the building blocks of all the matter familiar to us on Earth. (Ok, noble gases, I’ll be thankful for you, too.)

And it wouldn’t make sense to thank the matter on Earth without thanking the source of it all.

Thanks to all the stars out there, burning your primordial nuclear fuel from Hydrogen all the way up into the stuff of life: Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium and Iron, among others.

And thanks to the supernovae, that made all the elements heavier than that, and that sent all of this used-up nuclear fuel back into space, so it could collide with gas clouds and trigger formation of new stars and — for the first time — heavy, rocky planets.

Thanks to gravity, for holding the planets, stars, and galaxies together, and for giving us a Universe we can exist in.

And put all these together, and you get what we’re all really thankful for.

Home. And wherever you are, whatever you’re doing or thinking about, we all share this same home, and we all share the responsibility of keeping it a good home.

And of course, I’m thankful for our minds, that allow us to comprehend all of it…

And for you, my real-and-virtual friends, for sharing in the joys of it with me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of us here in the Universe!


  1. #1 ThirtyFiveUp
    November 24, 2010

    Ethan, I read your blog daily, and although I do not comment, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn.

    Thanks for our universe, we are all one entity, may we always live in wonder and awe.

  2. #2 Tom_23
    November 25, 2010

    From a frequent reader and less than frequent commenter, thank you for your time and enhthusiasm to physics, science and life. I have cited your writings quite frequently!
    PS: I love the profile picture! “Step into a Slim Jim…”

  3. #3 Abby Smith
    November 25, 2010

    Happy Thanksgiving, Professor!

  4. #4 Scott Marr
    November 25, 2010

    Wow, not only has this article lifted me, it has given me such inspiration, I thank you!

  5. #5 Matthew von der Ahe
    November 25, 2010

    Dr Siegel:
    And thanks to you for consistently writing this consistently inspirational, informative blog.

    I, like you, am grateful for inflation and the Big Bang, and for the subsequent supernovae and stars that created and spewed our component elements out into the universe and then gathered them together, respectively.

    But to whom are we grateful? Our cosmogony, like Descartes’, has no need of a hypothesis that includes a deity, and yet you and I and Mary Oliver have strong feelings of gratitude. Doesn’t gratitude require a direct object? I mean, when I am thankful that the gravy is handed to me, I am thankful to my mother-in-law, who is sitting beside me. Whom do I thank when the whole universe is handed to me?

    Thanks again, Dr Siegel.

  6. #6 Mark Baker
    November 25, 2010

    Another great post Dr. Siegel Thank you

    and of course Happy Thanksgiving

  7. #7 tchoden
    November 25, 2010

    Where do you get all these amazing pictures from?


  8. #8 Morgan
    November 26, 2010

    As with others – I am a daily reader but not a poster.

    All best wishes for the holiday. Thanks for the blog and congratulations on the well deserved “best blog” awards.

  9. #9 sueskimo
    November 26, 2010

    beautiful posting and congratulations on winning best blog in the 2010 awards

  10. #10 peter
    November 26, 2010

    What a beautiful post.

    I’m thankful that you are around to write it, and that I’m here to read it.

  11. #11 Sphere Coupler
    November 26, 2010

    I’m thankful for…well…everything and I’m really Thankful I’m NOT a Turkey.

    *ducks and runs*

  12. #12 Lloyd Hargrove
    November 27, 2010

    One of the highlights of my (more or less) daily routine is to check in with “Starts with a Bang” to see the eye candy and well written expressions of wonder. My personal feelings are that if one wishes to start his day on a high note (truly high, huh?) it’s hard to do much better than this. Apparently many others feel the same, so thank you Ethan.

  13. #13 Carlos Sousa
    November 27, 2010

    I’m portuguese so in my country we not have Thaksgiven day, but thanks Dr.Siegel for your existence in this wonderful universe that i have the chance to live.
    I’m sorry for my poor english.

  14. #14 Titus
    November 30, 2010

    And thanks to you for the blogging. Thanksgiving is indeed the best holiday — no stressing over gifts; it’s all about gratitude. Gratitude is the key to happiness.

  15. #15 Drake33
    December 1, 2010

    Thanks to the Science Blogs for giving us great voices. Thanks to Science Bloggers for sharing!

    And last but not least, thanks to Al Gore for inventing the internet.

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