Saturday, September 29, 2012

Elementary People 006: Carbon

Carbon atoms are born free, but everywhere, they are in chains — without which life would not exist. Carbon is the most important child of stellar fusion, the biggest landmark on the way to the dusty death of stars, from hydrogen to fusion-stable iron.

Carbon is the greatest social networker among the elements. Small and attractive, it forms strong bonds with co-workers. It is also more able to form attachments in different directions than most such atoms. Combining these two traits leads to a plethora of strong attachments, parts of networks that endure.

And carbon is relatively inert, tough, neutral. Whether a girl's best friend or not, carbon is reliable in its many forms, immune to caustic retort or acidic corrosion, only vulnerable to high-temperature flaming in the presence of oxygen and other oxidants.

Carbon is the spine of the CHON-SP group, those stalwarts of biological chemistry. Without carbon, they wouldn't know where to hang out; and without carbon, there'd be nothing to do once they got there.

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