John A. Gowan and August T. Jaccaci

(revised Dec., 2010)

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There is a remarkable parallel between the physical structure of atoms and the functional structure of our solar system - not in the sense of the "Bohr atom" (that the atom is a miniature solar system), but in the sense that the atomic nucleus drives the stellar engine and its evolution (the creation of new elements), while the electron shell is responsible for the chemical activity of the planets and their evolutionary productions, from the creation of simple, hardy minerals to the elegant, delicate biochemistry of life itself. The structural "division of labor" in the atom is mirrored in the functional "division of labor" in our solar system: nuclear energy and the evolution of elements in the sun, electron shell energy (chemistry) and the evolution of mineral and biological forms on earth.  In this respect the duality in microcosmic atomic structure (nucleus plus electron shell) prefigures the functional macrocosmic duality of stars plus planets, which is all the more remarkable in that both dualities are necessary to the development of life, the central rationale of our cosmos.

While the stars are busy making the elements of the Periodic Table, the planets are busy making the chemicals of life. Even our "dead" moon plays a large role in the pageant of earth's life (especially marine and early life), stabilizes our climate, and perhaps works in other ways we do not yet fully understand (such as earth's internal heat and magnetic field?).  Even space rocks (in the form of comets and asteroids) have played significant roles in the evolution of our planet's biology. The significance of the other planets for earth-life is unknown (except in the case of the formation of our (unusually large) moon, but must certainly be large (for example, in determining our distance from the sun). The galaxy at large is necessary to produce the many different heavy elements life depends upon (via supernovas and stellar generations), and the entire cosmos is needed to supply temporal and spatial dimensions adequate to produce evolutionary forms intelligent enough to give the cosmos self-awareness, and a recursive, higher level of creativity, experience, understanding, and an evolutionary direction toward abstract/symbolic forms of information - as expressed (for a local example) in human imagination, thought, language, math, science, technology, art, philosophy, etc..

Hydrogen bomb development by humans is the equivalent of an atomic nucleus directly interacting with the electron shell of an atom, or of bringing a piece of the sun's interior down to earth. It is as if the electron shell has decided to help the nucleus along its path of transformation. But this cannot be a good idea - the nucleus doesn't need our help, and the nuclear energy domain is on the order of ten million times greater than that of the electron shell. In nature, a good result is obtained if this type of interaction (photosynthesis for example) is moderated by 93 million miles of intervening space (plus our atmosphere and the sun's atmosphere, earth's magnetic field, night time, overlying water, etc.). The symbolism/mythology relevant to this development is mind-boggling, recalling the opening of Pandora's box, the Genie escaping the bottle, the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the punishment of Prometheus, and all kinds of forbidden compacts with the devil and other human transgressions upon sacred (or cursed) grounds. Obviously, humanity has entered into a new age, the Nuclear Age (of fission or fusion), but is this a utopian age of great promise, or a horrible (perhaps final) age of great danger? Historically, we have behaved like apes with knives. Now science has replaced those knives with bombs which can destroy the world. Can we change our behavior in time to save ourselves and our planet? Is this why we see no visitors from other parts of our galaxy?
(section added Oct. 2017)