Sylvie Vauclair

Origins of the World, Origins of Life

Sylvie Vauclair is astrophysicist at the Institut de recherche en astrophysique et planétologie, professor emeritus at the Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse. She is a member of the Académie nationale de l’air et de l’espace. She is notably the author of La Naissance des éléments (2006) [The Birth of the Elements] and, with Claude-Samuel Lévine, La Nouvelle musique des sphères (2013) [The New Music of the Spheres].
Who am I? What am I?
These age-old questions have in the last decades received radically new responses. After all living species were revealed to come from the same origin, some 3 billion years ago, the Universe itself has been revealed to be the fruit of a much more ancient cosmic evolution, which began during the Big Bang some 15 billion years ago.

Elementary particles, atoms, molecules, living beings thus followed each other in the new cosmic saga that is being written before our eyes. What is most surprising in this history is the role of time, to which Sylvie Vauclair here devotes a great deal of thought. The time of atoms and of the origin of the universe is not that of the stars and the planets, nor that of the cosmos, just as our human time has nothing to do with the one that was needed to go from bacteria to the elephant.

And so we are very complex “star dust,” granted, endowed with reason, but also condemned to the ephemeral. “A breathing, a breath, an active punctuation – a comma in space-time” the author sums up nicely.