By Bertha May Clark
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Additional info for General Science (1912)
Com CHAPTER VII AIR 75. The Instability of the Air. We are usually not conscious of the air around us, but sometimes we realize that the air is heavy, while at other times we feel the bracing effect of the atmosphere. We live in an ocean of air as truly as fish inhabit an ocean of water. If you have ever been at the seashore you know that the ocean is never still for a second; sometimes the waves surge back and forth in angry fury, at other times the waves glide gently in to the shore and the surface is as smooth as glass; but we know that there is perpetual motion of the water even when the ocean is in its gentlest moods.
76. The Character of the Air. The atmosphere which envelops us at all times extends more than fifty miles above us, its height being far greater than the greatest depths of the sea. This atmosphere varies from place to place; at the sea level it is heavy, on the mountain top less heavy, and far above the earth it is so light that it does not contain enough oxygen to permit man to live. Figure 40 illustrates by a pile of pillows how the pressure of the air varies from level to level. Sea level is a low portion of the earth's surface, hence at sea level there is a high column of air, and a heavy air pressure.
Let us see why water could rise 34 feet and no more. If an empty pipe is placed in a cistern of water, the water in the pipe does not rise above the level of the water in the cistern. If, however, the pressure in the tube is removed, the water in the tube will rise to a height of 34 feet approximately. If now the air pressure in the tube is restored, the water in the tube sinks again to the level of that in the cistern. The air pressing on the liquid in the cistern tends to push some liquid up the tube, but the air pressing on the water in the tube pushes downwards, and tends to keep the liquid from rising, and these two pressures balance each other.