Nuclear fusion occurs in nature all the time. It’s that big hot thing in the sky. We all know that.
But does nuclear fission every occur in nature?
The answer is: yes. Once, that we know of. 1.7 billion years ago, in what is currently, but was not then, Gabon, veins of uranium ore arranged themselves just so and were affected just right so that nuclear fission spontaneously began.
But how did this affect the life forms atop the land? Did they mutate and acquire superpowers? IS THIS HOW DINOSAURS BEGAN?
No. Because multicellular life as we know it only started about 600 million years ago.
As with so much of natural history, the only witnesses were protozoa, and they weren’t in the habit of filming newsreels.
Took our two youngest to Spot Pond this afternoon. The light gleamed gold through the autumn leaves, witnessing their tumbling fall. The water rippled despite no discernible breeze. We saw a garter snake slither away from us, found a dead, half-eaten hawk. The kids played with sticks and threw rocks in the water.
Looking to my own childhood, I have a thick sheaf of memories of myself with my parents in the woods, on rocky seashores, near rivers and lakes. I always felt greatly at ease in such places, with my family. I remember exploring the woods around our house in Stillwater, NJ, at age 6, walking behind my father through the trackless forest. I was a little worried, since there was no path and no way to know where we were going, but I trusted him. My trust was rewarded, and we always found our way home.
Appreciating parenthood can be tricky. It’s exhausting, and goes very quickly. Which is why it can be nice to be with your kids in the wild, because it allows you to simply watch them for a time, to appreciate who they are at that moment. It’s a great advantage of nature, of taking yourselves out of the defining haunts of home and work and school and being outside, part of something larger. Perhaps it’s a way of saying to biology “Look, I reproduced! Just like you told me to!” but that’s a little materialistic for me. I think more it’s an abeyance of time as we experience it, a refuge in the endless cycle of the seasons. Our lives come and go, childhood especially, but the light will always be there.