Friday, November 13, 2015

Even Higher

The goal of this blog is to bring some fresh air your Friday night dinner table a little higher. Please print and share.
Happy recent Amy in San Jose, Harmon and Steve in San Francisco.

atmospheric_layersQuick - can you name the four major layers of the atmosphere, from bottom to top?

OK, forget their actual names... How about what each one does for us?

If you look at a typical high school science textbook, you might see a diagram like the one to the left.

For 75 percent of the students, that is BORE-ing.

Why are we teaching to only 25 percent of our students?

Here's a way to teach it that will excite 95-100 percent of your audience.

There are exactly two things I want you to know about the atmosphere:

1. There are four layers of the atmosphere. (We know this because there are sharp changes in temperatures between them.)
2. Each layer does something for us we couldn't live without!

Layer 1 - where we live - the Troposphere. Holds 80% of the air (thanks, gravity!) and all of our weather. Without it, we would suffocate.
Layer 2 - where airplanes fly - the Stratosphere. Has the ozone layer which stops over 90 percent of the UV rays. Without it, we would fry!
Layer 3 - the middle area - the Mesosphere. Really hard to study, too high for planes and balloons, too low for sattelites. But what we do know is that it stops about 19,000 meteors from becoming meteorites - every day! That's about 100 tons of junk we are being protected from.
Layer 4 - where the ISS and other satellites fly - the Thermosphere. Gives us long-distance AM and shortwave radio and absorbs deadly x-rays from the sun. That's fortunate. And gives us the awesome Northern (and Southern) Lights, for which to my knowledge there is no practical benefit whatsoever!

If that doesn't give them a breath of fresh air, nothing will.

Thin atmosphereBut here's something else to add:

Ask at your table: If I made a basketball-size model of the Earth, how thick should I make the atmosphere? A centimeter? An inch?

Answer: the thickness of a sheet of paper.
Get that?
Just a thin blue line protecting you and me from the black chasm of space.

You are walking around all day, minding your own business and not even thinking about all of this. Admit it — you are living as if the 4 layers of the atmosphere don't exist and don't matter.

But they do exist, and without them, you wouldn't.

That's something amazing I learned this week. How about you?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Have you checked how many days til Hannuka?

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