Air Mail: Circulating
Today's Snack: Air-popped popcorn,
from the microwave.
paper and pencil
Air - it gets around.
And there's sure a lot
of it. How many molecules of air are there in the world?
Well, don't take the
time to count each one (!) because it's something like this:
That's a 10 with 44
zeroes after it. Take a piece of scratch paper, write a 10 over at the left,
and then write 44 zeroes. It's a lot, isn't it? It's an enormous number.
With every breath you take, you
take in air. Of course, it's going to be a LOT less than all the air in the
world. But wait 'til you see how much it really is.
With each breath, you take in about
one-thirtieth of a liter of air. To estimate how much that is, fill up the
empty liter bottle with 8-ounce glasses of water, until it's full. How many
8-ounce glasses did it take? How much was left? You can add up how many ounces
went in to filling the liter bottle, and then divide it by 30 to come up with
the amount of air that you take in with each breath.
Doesn't look like a
whole lot of air, does it?
But get this: there are
so many molecules of air in that one-thirtieth of a liter, there would be too
many to count. Literally countless! And guess what? They've been around for a
long, long time. And they spread fast.
Take a deep breath. Hold
Now take a guess:
What is the probability that you
just breathed in a molecule of air that was also inhaled once by Julius Caesar,
more than 2,000 years ago, in Rome, Italy?
It's a 99 percent
That shows you how many
molecules there must be in one lung-full of air, and how much those molecules
Kind of gives new
meaning to the old adage "clear the air." There's an awful darn lot of it to
Isn't that fascinating about the
Julius Caesar connection? Kind of . . . TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY, doesn't it?
This exercise also gives
you a glimpse into why we are working so hard to stop air pollution. Like air
itself, pollution spreads fast . . . and lasts a looooooong time.