“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky”*…
In between Earth and space lies an ocean of air. That “great aerial ocean,” as biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (the other natural selection guy) called it, is an extremely thin envelope of gas and suspended particles that encompass our planet. To get perspective on just how thin, there’s this very rough equivalency: The atmosphere is to the Earth as an onion’s wafer thin outer skin is to an onion. But while it may be just a sliver, it’s critical to life on Earth.
Without our atmosphere, there wouldn’t be rain for our plants and vegetables to grow—and feed us. There’d be no greenhouse effect keeping the planet temperate enough to sustain life. There’d be no talking or music-playing because sound wouldn’t exist as we know it—without a medium like air, sound waves can’t travel and thus don’t create vibrations that hit our eardrums allowing us to hear. And there wouldn’t be the oxygen we need to breathe. Bottom line, without it, life on Earth would be nada…
More on the extraordinary envelope that surrounds our planet at World Science Festival’s “Rethink Science.”
* Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
As we take stock of what we take for granted, we might send sunny birthday greetings to Alexander Buchan; he was born on this date in 1829. A Scottish meteorologist, oceanographer and botanist, he is credited with establishing the weather map as the basis of weather forecasting (after tracing the path of a storm from North America, across the Atlantic, into northern Europe in 1868).