Whether you’re sitting in your class or standing in the middle of a park, there is a massive weight right above your head, even though you do not feel it. And, while it may seem weightless, it’s far being so. This is atmospheric pressure, or air, as we know it.
Composed of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other gases, the atmosphere or air surrounds the planet like an envelope and stretches nearly a thousand kilometers above Earth’s surface.
Air is composed of a vast number of molecules. Though these molecules are super tiny, they still have a decent amount of weight of their word. While a single molecule is incredibly light and seems negligible, they become weighty when they go collectively and become capable of weighing us down.
Try lifting something cumbersome on your head or shoulders. You will begin to feel a force weighing you down. The pressure of the atmosphere works primarily in the same manner. Thousands of air molecules from different gases exert pressure on your body constantly. Truth to be told, the standard amount of atmospheric weight has a mean value of 14.6959 pounds per square inch at sea level. It’s seemingly carrying a small car above your head all the time.
If that is the case, how come we don’t feel it and get crushed? Well, it’s a matter of equilibrium. Air particles around you employ a specific amount of pressure on your body. What’s remarkable is that the body exerts the same amount of pressure to the air molecules. Thus, creating a state of equilibrium.
Moreover, the human body has adapted in the presence of air over the years and evolved in relation to the atmospheric pressure it is dealing with constantly. With these evolutions and adaptations, the human body is able to withstand atmospheric pressure without popping like a tin can.
Again, it is the equilibrium of pressures that is responsible for why we don’t feel crushed by the weight of the atmosphere. The amount of pressure outside the body equalizes the pressure existing inside the body, such as on your nose, ears, and lungs. We don’t feel anything due to the absence of pressure differences.
But, what if there are actually differences? You might be surprised but, you might have already felt the effects before. If you’re a frequent plane traveler, then you might have felt that strange feeling on your eardrums that seems to close whenever the aircraft takes off or land.
It’s pretty common for the ears to ‘pop’ when you take flights a change in the internal and external air pressures occurs. While the plane is still on the runway, the air pressure in the ear equalizes that of the cabin. But, as the aircraft goes into the sky, an imbalance with both pressure occurs, causing your ear to ‘pop’ or ‘shut off.’
There are other situations when a change in air pressure is felt that affects the ear and the nose. While there is no cure for them, there are practices you can do to revert the effect. One such method is taking big yawns or closing out your mouth and nostrils, and blowing out air through the nose can aid in ‘unpopping the ears.’
While atmospheric pressure is undeniably weighty, it’s fascinating how our nature is able to balance it to continue sustaining life on Earth.
Atmospheric Pressure (Wikipedia)
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