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Desert Diary


Everyone knows that Nature abhors a vacuum, the absence or rarity of material within a space. Oh? Then how come most of the universe is nothing BUT a vacuum. Still, it's really not fair to blame the ancients for something they had no way of knowing. On earth, things act much as if the saying were true.

Yet, most people tend to forget that many things we take for granted actually are a result of different air pressures, pressures differing because there is less air in one place—a partial vacuum—compared to another place. Take wind as an example. Wind is the result of air rushing in to fill a partial vacuum, a barometric low. Or what about breathing? We tend to think we're forcing air out of our lungs when we exhale, but all we're really doing is turning the outside air into a partial vacuum relative to the air within our chests. And when we inhale, what we're doing is creating a partial vacuum within our lungs. But Nature abhorring anything is magical thinking—it's all simple physics!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.