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You might have heard of the difficulties divers face when they descend into the ocean depths. Before a person can scuba dive, she needs to have many hours of instruction and training. Divers can experience joint pain, light headedness, loss of coordination, and paralysis if they do not carefully limit the depth and length of their dives. They also need to be especially cautious during their ascents and descents. Why?Pressure, or the amount of force per unit of area, is the key. The Earth is covered with a layer of air 80 miles thick. Like any type of matter, the gases in air have mass, and since Earth’s gravity pulls this mass down onto the Earth’s surface, the air produces a force called atmospheric pressure.Water is much denser than air. A column of water 10 meters thick exerts the same amount of pressure as the entire Earth’s atmosphere (which is 80 miles thick!). That means if a diver descends just 10 meters underwater, he would experience the pressure of two atmospheres pressing down on every part of his body. If he were to descend to 20 meters, he would experience three atmospheres pressing down, and so on. The increased pressure changes the way gases behave in the diver’s body. You might think you need a large ocean tank to see how depth affects water pressure, but believe it or not, you can observe how pressure changes with depth just by using a plastic soda bottle.

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Fecha publicación: 12.5.2016

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