Sunday, July 22, 2007

on atomic replacement

Ah, insomnia.

I heard something cool the other day on NPR. According to this study involving radioactive atoms and long-term observation, every year 98% of the atoms in our body are replaced. The exception are a few DNA atoms in our hearts and brains, but they don't count for too much. I essentially interpret this to mean that in a year we will all be dead, replaced by identical clones composed of almost entirely different atoms.

If I were told I would be cloned and then killed, I would be terrified. But this is kind of exhilerating. I guess you could kind of go either way on this, but it makes me feel like death isn't that scary because really, it's happening all the time.

Now this assumes that the research is true (which it probably is). Honestly, I'd like to think so.


rjamm said...

I've heard something similar, not about atoms, but about cells. Then in one of my cogsci classes, I found out the cells in your brain don't actually get replaced. So I don't know about atoms, but I know the cells in your brain are all the same.

Not that I want to burst anyone's bubble...

zurvan said...

What this person specifically said was that only a few of the atoms in DNA in a few regions of the brain and heart remain the same, so I presume that most of the atoms in the rest of the brain are replaced. Which kind of makes sense, when you figure everything that a cell has to do to live, it isn't going to stay the same cell over long periods of time.
And I guess I am generally dubious about mixing popular science with philosophy, because it is always contingent upon a) the science being right and b) us interpreting it in an way that is appropriate and fair to the data. Still, I felt something moving about when I heard this.

Paulina said...

Good post.