Wednesday, August 19, 2009

People can breath water... (Cool Things I Never Learned In School )

Way back when my brother Matt still lived in Wisconsin, when he had fish instead of dogs, he made a comment to me about how he believed his fish breathed.

They breath, he told me, by separating the oxygen atoms from the hydrogen atoms in the water molecules from the water they swim in.

I told him that was ridiculous -- that would mean that the fish were performing nuclear fission and that they'd be exploding or glowing or something and that what they were doing was actually pulling oxygen out of the water, that in the water were oxygen atoms that the gills could separate from the H20 molecules surrounding them.

We had that discussion when we were in our 20s, and it occurred to me today that (a) I was making up my response to him, since I had no idea, and (b) I still had no idea, years later, how gills work.

So I looked it up, and according to "How Stuff Works,"

The oxygen that fish breathe is not the oxygen in H2O. Instead, the fish are breathing O2 (oxygen gas) that is dissolved in the water. Many different gases dissolve in liquids, and we see an example all the time in carbonated beverages. In these beverages, there is so much carbon dioxide gas dissolved in water that it rushes out in the form of bubbles.

The site also says: Humans cannot breathe underwater because our lungs do not have enough surface area to absorb enough oxygen from water, and the lining in our lungs is adapted to handle air rather than water. However, there have been experiments with humans breathing other liquids, like fluorocarbons...

I clicked the link they provided and found that, yes people can breathe liquid, in some cases.

I set out to learn one thing, and learned two. All because they never covered how gills operate in biology class in school.

School: 0. Looking Stuff Up to Prove Matt was Wrong and I Was Right: 1

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