This essay started off as a simple reply to another Newsvine post which simply asked, "What are the odds that you'll encounter a molecule of air that once passed through the lung of Jesus?" The atomic world is a funny place, and I figured I could use my science background to reply to that. I put so much effort into the answer, and thought it was so interesting, that I thought I might as well have written an article about it. So here it is. The numbers are pretty rough, and I think in the end they represent the best case scenario, but they should still give us an idea of what the odds are.
So, assuming Jesus existed, assuming he live to age 32, and assuming he breathed like a normal person...
With each inhaled breath, we hold about 6 liters of air within our lungs and circulatory system. For simplicity's sake, lets assume Jesus lived at standard temperature and pressure (he didn't but close enough in this case) No matter what gas we're talking about, at STP that gas will occupy 22.4 lites per mole. A note to my chemist friends, I would have used PV=nRT but the only variable that really matters there is temperature, quite useless for these hypothetical measures. But ultimately That means there are 6/22.4 =.268 moles of gas sitting in our lungs at any given time. The unit of moles is actually an ingenious measure of the number of atoms. One mole contains 6.022e23 atoms. That's a TON of atoms. If the "e23" part is throwing you off, in numbers terms that means one mole contains roughly
602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. (602 sextillion)
So within each breath we have .268 x 6.022e23 = 1.61e23 molecules of gas in our lungs or...
16,100,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules (161 sextillion)
How many molecules did Jesus breathe in his lifetime?
Our breathing rate changes a lot, but on average its about 1 breath every five seconds, or 12 breaths a minute, or 720 breaths an hour, or 17280 breaths a day or 6,307,200 breaths a year, and if we live for 32 years that gives us 201,830,400 breaths in his lifetime. How many atoms? multiply 2.02e8 total breaths x 1.61e23 molecules per breath to get a total of 3.25e31 total molecules. The actual number is a bit lower than this, because not all of the molecules in our lungs enter and leave at the same time due to tidal volumes. Combined with the fact that that you're probably re-breathing some of those molecules if you spend your time standing in a room with uncirculating air...and at the most conservative estimate we probably end up re-breathing a minute amount of those air molecules just because of proximity. In the end though, it shouldn't change our rough number too much. So let's think about it. That means for Jesus, there were
32,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules (325 decillion) that came into contact with his lungs during his lifetime. We're not even getting into water molecules, or other air molecules that just happened to brush by his body! But even with this huge number, what portion of our total atmosphere would that represent?
The total mass of the atmosphere is estimated to be 5.3e21 grams. We know that 99% of the atmosphere is nitrogen and oxygen. The percentage corrected amount for each molecule is about 28.56 grams per mole of atmosphere. In essence there are 5.3e21 / 28.56 = 1.86e20 moles of gas in our atmosphere. 1.86e20 moles x 6.022e23 molecules= 1.12e44 molecules in our atmosphere or... (drum roll please)
112,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules in our atmosphere. Thats an incoprehensible 11.2 quattuordecillion particles! I'm not even sure how to pronounce that, but you can look it up.
This number of gas particles is constantly changing though, because gases are always being recycled, flung off into space, created or stored via chemical reaction, etc. But in the best possible circumstance, let's guess that most of those air molecules remained airborn. We can also assume that 2000 years worth of atmospheric mixing will have dispersed the molecules up enough, so your chances of encountering one remain pretty uniform no matter where you stand.
So what are the odds that a single one of your breaths contains even a single molecule of Jesus' breath?
When we divide 3.25e31 (total number of air molecules used by Jesus) by 1.12e44 (total number of air molecules in our atmosphere) we get 2.91e-11%. That means the atmospheric concentration of Jesus' breath is a minuscule .000000000000291% Small percentages are pretty hard to understand, so when we take the inverse of 2.91e-11% we realize that there is 1 molecule of air he breathed for every 3.45e12 air molecules on earth. A.K.A. each air molecule has a 1 in 3,450,000,000,000 chance that it once passed through Jesus. Don't be so disheartened by these odds, because you still have to remember that you're not breathing one molecule of air at a time, your breathing 1.61e23 molecules of air at a time. 1.61e23 molecules per breath x 2.91e-11% = holy smokes...take a breath
You just inhaled 4,685,100,000,000 molecules that were once within Jesus's lungs. (4.685 trillion)
This of couse, is under ideal circumstances. We know that the gases on earth are constantly being recycled, stored as carbon dioxide, photosynthesized as sugar, dissolved in the ocean, and the above number appears to be a very liberal estimate. Maybe you're skeptical to the idea that we can be sharing this much air. Thats ok! Thats why the number represents the best possible circumstances. Anything we can imagine that detracts from this number, we can apply as a simple fraction or percentage of.
For the sake of argument, imagine that not just a 10%, or 50%, but 99% of all the air that Jesus ever exhaled got trapped away in innaccessible regions of the planet. That still means that an average of 46,851,000,000 molecules of that gas per breath Even if we came under the unreasonable assumption that 99.99999999% of all the carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen that ever came into contact with this guy's lungs was somehow completely unavailable for breathing, there would still be 4 of his molecules in each of our breaths.
The reality is that the odds of breathing a single molecule of air that once passed through the lungs of Jesus, even in a single one of your breaths, is near certainty. The odds of encountering even one of those molecules within your entire lifetime is even more certain.
What significance could this possibly mean? Absolutely nothing I'm sure, an air molecule is an air molecule and nothing else. Just because we share it, does that mean we're somehow spiritually connected by it? No, of course not. Something even more fascinating to consider though is this: all the energy and mass in the universe, every person, every tree, every planet, every star, every galaxy, all of it...once shared the same point of space smaller than the size of a quark. I would think that would be far more fascinating to imagine.
Many thanks to "CurtisS-1079250" for pointing out a simple calculation flaw, in which earlier I did not take into account the number of atoms per breath we inhale.
Also notable is "John-1079288" who applied the same kind of numbers to determine that we probably contain 227 air molecules of Jesus's last breath, or Ceasar's last breath, or Lincoln's last breath, or Hitler's last breath, within our lungs right now. My number is a bit higher because I applied it to the total number of breaths Jesus took in a lifetime.
This is all of course, assuming that Jesus even existed, as for his claims that he was the son of God, I have no opinions to give out today.
If you don't like the Jesus example, for what its worth, there's probably a near-certain chance that you're breathing air molecules that once passed through the lungs of Hitler (and even more of them) That's the crazy atomic world we live in.