How many of my website visitors have been tuning in, like me, to the fabulous science shows on TV this year? I can’t get enough of these engrossing, globe-trotting programmes that help me to understand the laws of the universe and the evolution of humankind.

Many people think all scientists are atheists but, in fact, some of the most spiritual people I know are physicists and astronomers. One even has a Nobel Prize! I believe that the more we discover about our galaxy, the more aware we become of how much is unknowable, and that creates a deeper belief in God.

I was fascinated to learn that all the elements on Earth began as the debris of exploding stars, millions of light-years away. The atoms are indestructible, and they can never be changed. Once an atom of gold or oxygen or carbon has been forged in the white heat of a stellar blast, it will always be the same.

An exploding star. Image courtesy of NASA

Atoms are building blocks, and they will be part of many different objects during their existence. The carbon atoms in you and me, for instance, were probably part of some dinosaur in the jurassic era. And every particle came from those exploding supernovas. When Joni Mitchell sang, “We are stardust, we are golden,” it seems she was stating a scientific fact.

One atom on its own is unimaginably small… rather like a single human being, compared to the vastness of the whole universe. But when atoms connect, they can build anything, even entire solar systems. 

That’s what I want all of my website visitors to do this week… just connect! Imagine you are an atom, one building block in God’s immense construction project. The more connections you make to other atoms, to other people, the more effective you can be in the overall design.

The best way I know of making a connection is simply to talk to people. And that means asking questions, and listening with real interest to the answers. I’m never afraid of being too inquisitive — if people don’t want to connect with me, that’s fine. And almost always, they are very happy to talk, and share their ideas, their hopes, their worries, their opinions. 

If you’re naturally shy, make life easier by preparing some standard questions in advance. Whoever you bump into, it’s always OK to ask, “Did you do anything interesting at the weekend?” “Are you planning a holiday this year?” or “How has your week been?”

Listen to the answer, and use it to shape your next question. Instead of saying something about yourself, try to understand more about the person you’re talking with. I make it a rule that I must find out at least one key fact about everyone I encounter, whether that’s a fan or a businessman or a cashier in the supermarket. And very often, within a few minutes, I have made a new friend.

That’s how atoms make connections. It’s what holds the universe together


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