Distance From The Sun

Light from the Sun takes eight minutes and twenty seconds to reach Earth.

Plants can do this magical thing call photosynthesis which takes light, carbon dioxide, and water to make carbohydrates. Those carbohydrates are later converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary source of energy for all living things. Light energy becomes life energy.

You could measure the amount of time it takes for light to travel to the Earth, get stored as a carbohydrate, converted to ATP, and then used by a living creature. That’s our new distance from the Sun, on the order of a couple hours at most.

Unless you’re not a plant, but rather an animal, that has to wait for seeds to germinate, grow, and be harvested before they can be eaten and used as energy. So now we’re a few weeks or months from the Sun.

Unless you’re a carnivore, in which case you need to wait for that first animal to eat the plants, grow up, and then eat it. That puts carnivores a few months to years from the Sun.

Of course, the process of photosynthesis didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It too took time to form, through a ridiculous amount of iteration, false starts, and luck, probably taking on the order millions of years, greatly increasing our distance from the Sun.

Then there’s the process of creating the carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen that make up carbohydrates. Stars made those elements at some point that predates our Sun, after collapsing and exploding with such unimaginable force that protons, neutrons, and electrons fused into more complex arrangements and stayed that way.

Without other stars billions of years ago, we wouldn’t have the elements needed to make carbohydrates, ATP, plants, animals, and even our own Sun.

When our Sun explodes in a few billion years, it will expand and reabsorb all the pieces of Earth and we won’t feel so distant from it any more.

— written on BART