Fall 2014

From Atoms to the Stars

What are the origins of the chemical elements that compose life on Earth? How has the universe evolved since the Big Bang, and where is it heading? And how does our understanding of the transformations of matter affect our ability to combat disease and build a sustainable future for our species?

Through the study of contemporary developments in astronomy and chemistry, the Fall 2014 issue of Dædalus – guest-edited by Jerrold Meinwald and Jeremiah P. Ostriker responds to these profound questions, exploring our universe from the simplest atom, hydrogen, to the awe-inspiring “walls” of galaxies measuring up to billions of light-years across.

Each of the eleven essays in this volume discusses a specific area of study to which the essay’s author has made major contributions. But these areas of focus, like the greater disciplines of astronomy and chemistry, are also interconnected. As Ostriker writes in his contribution to the issue, “Astronomy starts at the point to which chemistry has brought us: atoms. The basic stuff of which the planets and stars are made is the same as the terrestrial material discussed and chemically analyzed in this volume.”

Image:
“Life seen as a miracle of organized atoms.” Artwork by Adam Hurwitz. © by American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
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Woman composed of elements from the periodic table stands at attention in outer space
Image:
“Life seen as a miracle of organized atoms.” Artwork by Adam Hurwitz. © by American Academy of Arts & Sciences.