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The adventures of a nitrogen atom

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You have more than six hundred muscles in your body. Pick one of those muscles at random—say one of the eight in your tongue. Its cells will contain protein fibers. These consist of long chains of amino acids, which in turn contain nitrogen atoms. Now pick, at random, one of those nitrogen atoms. For storytelling purposes, let us refer to it as Atom. It turns out that Atom has quite a history, as do all your atoms. You became part of Atom’s story when Atom became part of yours. This probably happened long after you were born; indeed, it is unlikely that any of the atoms in your newborn self are still with you. Those atoms have departed, only to be replaced by others. And besides the replacement atoms, many other atoms have joined you; otherwise, you wouldn’t have grown as much as you have since emerging from your mother’s womb. Atom would have entered you as a component of the food you ate—more precisely, as part of the proteins you consumed. It might, for example, have dwelled in a. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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