Everything needs energy, but human beings need energy more than most. We get it from all kinds of places: Fossil fuels, hydroelectricity, wind energy—and that’s not even mentioning the energy we get from the food we eat every day. But maybe you’ve heard: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed”. If that’s the case, then where is all that energy coming from? Where did coal get its energy from? What powers the wind? What gives a cheeseburger the energy we take out of it?

As usual, the correct answer is the obvious one: That massive ball of flame in the sky.


The Sun: It Big

OK fine, maybe a little bit of energy comes from the Earth’s core, but let’s forget that for now. The vast, vast majority of the energy that fuels life comes from the Sun. But why does the sun have so much energy? Well, the answer is simple enough: Because it’s really, really big.

The sun is truly huge. If you took every other thing in our solar system—Earth, the Moon, Jupiter, every planet, every asteroid, every last speck of dust—and put it all in a big ball…that ball would account for 0.14% of the mass in the solar system. The other 99.86%? That’s all the sun, baby.

To put it another way, that’s 1.989 × 10^30 kg of stuff (picture a lot of zeros), all crammed together in a big ball. I wasn’t lying when I said that it’s really, really big.

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