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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define the property of pressure
  • Define and convert among the units of pressure measurements
  • Describe the operation of common tools for measuring gas pressure
  • Calculate pressure from manometer data

The earth’s atmosphere exerts a pressure, as does any other gas. Although we do not normally notice atmospheric pressure, we are sensitive to pressure changes—for example, when your ears “pop” during take-off and landing while flying, or when you dive underwater. Gas pressure is caused by the force exerted by gas molecules colliding with the surfaces of objects ( [link] ). Although the force of each collision is very small, any surface of appreciable area experiences a large number of collisions in a short time, which can result in a high pressure. In fact, normal air pressure is strong enough to crush a metal container when not balanced by equal pressure from inside the container.

The left side of this figure includes a graphic of the earth with an inverted rectangular prism extending from a point on it. Near the top of the image, the label, “square inch column of air molecules” is connected to the prism with a line segment. This label is also connected with a line segment to a downward pointing arrow at the right side of the figure. Beneath the arrow is a red circle labeled, “atmospheric pressure.” A narrow rectangle with a dashed line border extends from the bottom of the arrow vertically through the circle. Directly beneath this rectangle at the lower edge of the circle is a hand with a thumb appearing to be resting on a tabletop. The thumb is connected with a line segment to the label, “14.7 lbs of pressure on 1 square inch.” The red circle is sitting on top of the thumb.
The atmosphere above us exerts a large pressure on objects at the surface of the earth, roughly equal to the weight of a bowling ball pressing on an area the size of a human thumbnail.

Atmospheric pressure is caused by the weight of the column of air molecules in the atmosphere above an object, such as the tanker car. At sea level, this pressure is roughly the same as that exerted by a full-grown African elephant standing on a doormat, or a typical bowling ball resting on your thumbnail. These may seem like huge amounts, and they are, but life on earth has evolved under such atmospheric pressure. If you actually perch a bowling ball on your thumbnail, the pressure experienced is twice the usual pressure, and the sensation is unpleasant.

In general, pressure    is defined as the force exerted on a given area: P = F A . Note that pressure is directly proportional to force and inversely proportional to area. Thus, pressure can be increased either by increasing the amount of force or by decreasing the area over which it is applied; pressure can be decreased by decreasing the force or increasing the area.

Let’s apply this concept to determine which would be more likely to fall through thin ice in [link] —the elephant or the figure skater? A large African elephant can weigh 7 tons, supported on four feet, each with a diameter of about 1.5 ft (footprint area of 250 in 2 ), so the pressure exerted by each foot is about 14 lb/in 2 :

pressure per elephant foot = 14,000 lb elephant × 1 elephant 4 feet × 1 foot 250 in 2 = 14 lb/in 2

The figure skater weighs about 120 lbs, supported on two skate blades, each with an area of about 2 in 2 , so the pressure exerted by each blade is about 30 lb/in 2 :

pressure per skate blade = 120 lb skater × 1 skater 2 blades × 1 blade 2 in 2 = 30 lb/in 2

Even though the elephant is more than one hundred-times heavier than the skater, it exerts less than one-half of the pressure and would therefore be less likely to fall though thin ice. On the other hand, if the skater removes her skates and stands with bare feet (or regular footwear) on the ice, the larger area over which her weight is applied greatly reduces the pressure exerted:

Questions & Answers

what is measurement
Isaiah Reply
is the comparison of an unknown quantity with a fixed quantity of the same kind
How does an element differ from a compound? How are they similar?
Adeola Reply
an element is an indivisible particles that can take part in a reaction and consist of smaller or tiny particles i.e proton, neutrons and electron while a compound is when two or more element chemically combine together. They are similar when they are homogeneous compound. they take the same rxn.
How to get the Lewis formula of SeCl+3
Erica Reply
hi,I'm new here can I join the conversation
what is the structural formula for starch
EZEA Reply
Starch is a mixture (of chemicals) of amylose and amylopectin. Both are macromolecules and polymers. You can search on wikipedia.
what is the roles of filter bed
what is the roles of Alu m
what is the roles of chlorine
Roles can be classified or correlate it to different areas: For example: Chlorine can be used in reactions (in industry) to manufacture HCl, which then can be used for other things. Or in swimming pools to kill bacteria. Or as a component in compounds with pharmaceutical roles (drugs). For Al:
Its dentisty value is suitable to be used in alloys (mixture of metals) in aircraft bodies. Also, Aluminium foils, Tin cans,.. Some of them are also in Al overhead cables in streets and long roads.
what is chemistry
what is the meaning of exceedingly
Yushao Reply
it is an adverb which means extremely
what is atomic chemistry?
Gladys Reply
Lewis structure for no3
Lewis structure for no3
what is weak acid
Muhammed Reply
It is an acid which partially ionises in water.
what is incandescence
what makes it glow
why is it red, irange and yellow in color
hello am new here and I want to join you
hello i am new here please i want to join this group
Hi, I'm also new here
hello guys !!
what is pressure?
Slark Reply
The force applied to suction Area of the body
Matter composed of exceedingly small paticle called atom.
questions related to metals
Regina Reply
occurrence and preparation of the representatives metals
list the 20, periodic table and their symbols
Fathmat Reply
hydrogen:h helium;he lithium:l beryllium:be Boron:b Carbon;C Nitrogen:n Oxygen:O FLUORINE:f Neon:n Sodium:s Magnesium:mg Aluminum:a Silicon:s Phosphorus:p Sulphur:s Chlorine:c Argon;a Potassium:p Calcium:c
Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon, sodium, magnesium, aluminium, silicon, phosphorus, sulphur, chlorine, argon, potassium, calcium
what is a solute
Ekezie Reply
Any substance that is disolved in a liqid solvent to create a solution
sorry liquid
it's a liquid substance
hello group
is the substance that dissolves in the solvent
so is HCl ionic compound
Honest Reply
No, covalent compound ➡️ molecule. As both H and Cl are non-metals and and form covalent bind by sharing valence e-. But can fully ionice in water forming H+ (a proton, a reason for acidity) and Cl- (anion =Chloride) Hydrogen Chloride is a gas at room; Hydrochloric acid = HCl (aq), dissolved in w
Form covalenr bond*
The question marks are an emoji in the first sentence is an unread emoji. HCl Covalent compund -> molecule
what is chemistry
Chukwu Reply
is the study of composition of substances and the way they behave under different conditions
how do calculate n1 though n6 any help on understanding the concept
where can I get the test bank or mcqs ? any idea ?
Sourav Reply
what are the types of intermolecular forces between organic compounds
Eke Reply
Intermolecular forces exist between molecules of different units like van der waal force, hydrogen bonds
Practice Key Terms 9

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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