12/29/16

You Might Have an Atom of Shakespeare Inside You

The carbon cycle.
Image from the University Corporation
for Atmospheric Research.
Washington Post reader recently asked science writer Sara Kaplan if he might have an atom of Shakespeare inside him. Kaplan provided this answer with help from chemist Suzanne Bell. A carbon atom that started out inside a star might, in 1616, end up in a carrot in Stratford-upon-Avon:
The carrot got eaten by an ailing William Shakespeare. When Shakespeare died shortly afterward, the carbon was buried beneath Holy Trinity Church along with the man’s body. It continued to move through the carbon cycle — air, plant, animal, earth, air again — and yes, maybe, it then drifted across the Atlantic, got bound up in a plant and was eventually eaten by [a Washington Post reader in 2016]. 
Hamlet speculates in a similar manner when he tells Claudius that a king may make a royal tour of beggar's guts since the beggar "may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm."

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