DNA and Carbon in Asteroids (oh my), bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

DNA and Carbon, in Asteroids (oh my)

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series

You know, us Carbon-based life forms
always wonder where we came from,
how we got here.

And with science on our side,
we’ve looked beyond
guessing and story telling
to find proof in our answers.

And still, we look beyond
what we know around us
to find out how we were formed
here on earth.


A couple of asteroids
just flew
perilously close to the earth.
Asteroid 2012 DA 14 intersected the iridium constellation,
flew through all of our global communication satellites.
An asteroid turned meteor blew up in the atmosphere
above the Ural mountains;
every Russian on the road
filmed the sky explosion
with their dashboard cameras,
before the sonic boom shattered windows everywhere
and injured over a thousand people.

And over two thirds of our planet
is covered in water,
just think of all of the impacts
we’re missing out on;
I mean, our news feeds
don’t come from the middle of the ocean…

So we seem to think that these stellar explosions
are becoming more and more rare,
because our planet is pocked with massive impacts
from the earth’s early history.
But now that these scientists
have been scanning the skies
and studying the meteors buried in Antarctica,
they’ve learned that many asteroids and meteors
colliding with our planet’s crust
actually carry atanine and guanine.

Asteroids carry major structures that form DNA.

It’s very possible
that throughout the early history of earth,
asteroids collided with this planet,
leaving their Carbon-rich DNA structures behind
to help start life, and populate the earth.

I mean, Scientists have always wondered
how the elemental sextet of life:
Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorous, nitrogen, calcium,
how did these elements got together
in just the right way
to eventually create earth’s Carbon-based life forms.

I guess it would help that primordial soup
if some asteroids brought along
a little bit of DNA,
so some of our building blocks
came ready-made.

Astronomers say that we’re all made out of stardust,
because all of our atoms
originate from the explosion of stars,
but for this Carbon-based life form,
it’s cool that some of these asteroids and meteors
carried our Carbon —
and some of our DNA —
here to planet earth,
to jump-start our creation
and get our genetic gears going.

Cerium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#58, Ce)
including the poem “Jumping from the Skyline to the Clouds”

Joining commuters driving
toward the Chicago Loop,

I watched majestic skyscrapers
frame the skyline,

as I witnessed over Lake Michigan
early morning clouds —

thin at the top, each cloud looked
like a snow-capped mountain,

framing this flat-land city, and
surrounding the skyscraper skyline…

But all those clouds
were only formed in the mornings

by the early morning weather,
pulling water daily from Lake Michigan.

When the water from the lake
is warmer than the dew point,

water rises until the air is cold enough
so that lake water forms those clouds.

But the thing is, Lake Michigan
is more than hydrogen and oxygen —

at times they even warn the public
to not go into the unsafe water

(the same water Chicago filters
for everyone to shower in, or drink).

So I checked some of the studies
on what foreign compounds

Lake Michigan actually contains —
at times you can find everything

from cadmium, mercury, lead or zinc,
to copper, chromium, even selenium.

That list included harmful elements,
but the numbers that were really

off the charts came from Cerium.
Cerium acts like calcium

in the human body, and you can
find a lot of Cerium in tobacco plants —

and with Cerium’s moderate toxicity,
prolonged exposure can lead to

itching, heat sensitivity or skin lesions.
And wait a minute, Cerium can

spontaneously ignite if the air
is hot, and you may be thinking

that if Cerium’s in water it should
be safe, but water can’t be used

to stop a Cerium fire, since Cerium
reacts with water to make hydrogen gas.

Well, if Cerium fire fumes are toxic,
then so much for Lake Michigan being

good for you — even when Chicago
has multiple water purification plants.

Because Cerium in the water
that forms those morning clouds

is one thing, but no matter the toxicity
of Cerium, remember that us humans

are over seventy percent water.
With all the compounds

that Cerium goes into,
it’s probably best if Cerium’s left

to it’s industrial uses, instead
of working it’s way in our water…

And besides, it’s nice to think
that those beautiful morning clouds

framing the Chicago skyline
with snow-capped mountains

are actually more than just hydrogen
and oxygen, because every once

in a while, look at that morning sky.
Because in just the right way,

a little Cerium
can really go a long way.

Aluminum {April Fool’s Edit}, “Periodic Table of Poetry” bonus poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Aluminum {April Fool’s Edit}

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#013, Al) – 4/1/13

On our wedding anniversary,
I try to remember
annual anniversary gifts:
we’ve passed wood, copper, iron,
and are just passing tin, steel,
and aluminum now.
What on Earth do I buy
for a gift that’s aluminum?
And how does Aluminum
represent a marriage?

Oh, I suppose
the pliability of aluminum
shows how our marriage
needs to be flexible
and durable, and like
aluminum, which can be bent
without being broken,
we have to learn to bend
to each other’s wills
so that we can be
stronger when we’re together.
And we are.

So, because of Aluminum’s
durability and pliability,
we see aluminum used a lot
because it mixes well
with others.

But in the body
it competes with calcium
for absorption, so it might
even lead to Osteoporosis…

So I guess that rules out
Aluminum cookware
for our anniversary…

This is really getting on my nerves,
trying to come up
with an Aluminum gift —
I better make sure my antacids
don’t contain Aluminum,
‘cause although it’s not good for my insides,
it’s used in so many other things
around us…

In the meantime,
I’m going to
grab some leftovers
from the fridge,
get it out of the
aluminum foil
and eat while I brainstorm
what his anniversary
present should be.

But wait,
maybe a picture frame would be good,
because if WE work well together,
an Aluminum frame
would be a different way
to hold us together, too.

Calcium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

The media shoves it down your throat now:
how important it is to have Calcium,
especially women.
Make sure you don’t get osteoporosis
and take Calcium.
Drink an extra glass of milk each day.
It’s healthy.

And you know, I take my supplements
and have to take two Calcium pills daily
just so I can say I’ve ingested what
the USRDA says I should consume,
but I’m sure those pills barely get absorbed,
so I should at least eat more cheese
(since as an infant at six months I rejected milk,
and I can’t understand why it’s smart to drink
milk from another species as an adult,
when no other species would ever do the same).

But really, the more I think bout it,
the more I wonder:
adults didn’t suffer with osteoporosis
before the seventeen hundreds.
Was osteoporosis not discovered because
they didn’t know how to discover it,
or was it not discovered because no one had it?
And if it didn’t exist before,
what has changed in our society to make
osteoporosis (porous bones) a real concern
for so many people as they get older?


Just watched a documentary recently
that advocated a plant-based diet.
They even had a segment showing
the global promotion of meat consumption
so you could have enough protein in your diet.
And this documentary showed how China
had lived for millennia without excess
red meat or processed food in their lives.
And now with dietary modern “luxuries” in China,
alone with new record highs for heart attacks,
youth were interviewed on the streets of China
and asked why they needed to eat more meat.
They all said… for protein.
So it makes me wonder how vegetarians can do it,
or how vegans with a plant-based diet
can get enough Calcium into their bodies
to save them from bone decay and osteoporosis.

So as I looked into how to get Calcium,
I found that on earth it’s seldom alone,
but is chiefly found in sedimentary rocks,
and over the years us humans
have even used Calcium in construction
(makes sense, if we need Calcium so
we can have stronger bones).
Calcium carbonate is used in concrete
and mortar, lime and limestone,
and can even take part in glass manufacturing.
I mean, when researching, I found Calcium
is even used as a refracting agent
in the extracting of other elements,
like uranium, zirconium and thorium…
It’s a deoxidizer sometimes, it’s even
used as an alloy agent in the production of
aluminum, beryllium, copper, lead and magnesium.

Then again, Calcium arsenate is an insecticide.
Calcium carbonate can be used for acrylic torches.
Calcium chloride, in addition to it’s other uses,
can even provide body to car tires.
Calcium hydrochloride disinfects swimming pools.

Calcium phosphate is used in animal feed,
and Calcium is a food additive in vitamin pills.

Which brings me to Calcium in the body,
because ninety percent of all of our Calcium is in
our bones and teeth (which we wanna keep strong).
And some wonder if there’s a link between
too much Calcium (like twice the USRDA)
and testicular cancer, but hey, I’m just
worrying about getting enough Calcium
in my diet in the first place, you know,
to ensure I won’t get osteoporosis (much less
rickets, or difficulty with blood clotting).

And while researching this, I found
an additional place for getting Calcium:
egg shells. Yes, literally grinding them up
to add to your diet can give you lots of Calcium.

But when looking for ways Calcium is used,
here’s where the learning jackpot
paid off for me with food and health:
when making cheese, Calcium ions
influence the activity of rennin,
to actually make the milk coagulate.

So seeing this bonus application for Calcium
in this pizzatarian’s favorite food (cheese),
it then made me wonder if this “plant-based” diet
can actually provide enough Calcium…
And it really made me feel good to know
that although cow milk (i.e., drinking the
lactations from another species as an adult)
is an excellent source of Calcium,
soy milk and other vegetable milks
are fortified with enough Calcium
to make then a just-as-rich in Calcium
alternative to milk from an animal.

I know, I know, Calcium and it’s ions
are used in a ton of different things,
but I’m stuck on obsessing over my bones
right now.

And granted, Calcium carbonate (that stuff
that also aids in the creation of acrylic torches)
is the same form of Calcium in diet supplements,
and I do make a point to take them twice daily
with food, but… It made me smile to learn
that a doctor in a study found that as women
got older, if they took Calcium supplements,
they tended on average to gain
five pounds less than other women.
(Granted, that doctor even said he’d really be
“going out on a limb” to link weight loss
with Calcium supplements, but I’ll take whatever
I can get, or at least laugh at the coincidence.)

And hey, even though this relatively non-toxic
Calcium can be hazardous as Calcium metal
(found in cleaners), and taking too much
Calcium carbonate in antacids (like Tums)
can lead to serious health problem,
doctors have still found that enough Calcium
may seem to prevent some cancerous pollups…

So yeah, even though we’ve found a ton
of other uses for this element, I’m sticking with
possibly dairy (you know, for this pizzatarian) —
and definitely vegetable sources —
for getting this vital element into
my extended bones.