The Fairy-Land of Science eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 185 pages of information about The Fairy-Land of Science.

One of the simplest examples of wind is to be found at the seaside. there in the daytime the land gets hot under the sunshine, and heats the air, making it grow light and rise.  Meanwhile the sunshine on the water goes down deeper, and so does not send back so many heat-waves into the air; consequently the air on the top of the water is cooler and heavier, and it rushes in from over the sea to fill up the space on the shore left by the warm air as it rises.  This is why the seaside is so pleasant in hot weather.  During the daytime a light sea-breeze nearly always sets in from the sea to the land.

When night comes, however, then the land loses its heat very quickly, because it has not stored it up and the land-air grows cold; but the sea, which has been hoarding the sun-waves down in its depths, now gives them up to the atmosphere above it, and the sea-air becomes warm and rises.  For this reason it is now the turn of the cold air from the land to spread over the sea, and you have a land-breeze blowing off the shore.

Again, the reason why there are such steady winds, called the trade winds, blowing towards the equator, is that the sun is very hot at the equator, and hot air is always rising there and making room for colder air to rush in.  We have not time to travel farther with the moving air, though its journeys are extremely interesting; but if, when you read about the trade and other winds, you will always picture to yourselves warm air made light by the heat rising up into space and cold air expanding and rushing in to fill its place, I can promise you that you will not find the study of aerial currents so dry as many people imagine it to be.

We are now able to form some picture of our aerial ocean.  We can imagine the active atoms of oxygen floating in the sluggish nitrogen, and being used up in every candle-flame, gas-jet and fire, and in the breath of all living beings; and coming out again tied fast to atoms of carbon and making carbonic acid.  Then we can turn to trees and plants, and see them tearing these two apart again, holding the carbon fast and sending the invisible atoms of oxygen bounding back again into the air, ready to recommence work.  We can picture all these air-atoms, whether of oxygen or nitrogen, packed close together on the surface of the earth, and lying gradually farther and farther apart, as they have less weight above them, till they become so scattered that we can only detect them as they rub against the flying meteors which flash into light.  We can feel this great weight of air pressing the limpet on to the rock; and we can see it pressing up the mercury in the barometer and so enabling us to measure its weight.  Lastly, every breath of wind that blows past us tells us how this aerial ocean is always moving to and fro on the face of the earth; and if we think for a moment how much bad air and bad matter it must carry away, as it goes from crowded cities to be purified in the country, we can see how, in even this one way alone, it is a great blessing to us.

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The Fairy-Land of Science from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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