Have you ever seen the air we breathe? It is one question that people asks and some still do. We have never seen it yet we believe it exists, they claim.
On Joy News’ Newsfile program on Saturday 16th April 2016, when other panelists were dismissing T. B. Joshua’s prophecy of terrorist attacks in Ghana as unnecessary rehash of security alerts, a lawyer on the same program used similar argument of invisibility of the air to defend his belief in the supposed source of the prophecy.
Like many, he insisted that we have never seen the air we breathe yet we believe it exists. The claim only illustrates how most of us are still stack in the world of our eyes. It is also mistrust of science, that it is indeed extending our view of the universe.
As far as science is concerned, the air is Matter. Matter has property. Property is a distinguishing feature and two or more substances of the same family are certainly dissimilar in way or another. As Matter, air interacts. At least on Earth, anything that interacts is in principle identifiable via any of our sensory organs. Observation in science means more than what our sensory organs can reveal naturally. Accordingly, technology has complemented our inadequate sensory organs. So we know (at least approximately) the composition of the air and most importantly the vital component that human beings use for breathing. To understand whether the air is unseen or not, let me ask, whenever you take the empty cylinder to the gas station and fill it, do you not realize the difference in weight (mass) after filling?
Do you really think the additional weight (mass) the cylinder accumulates was due to collection of unseen or invisible things simply because your eyes were intrinsically barred from the atomic world? Do you believe that the pump attendant just gauged and sold an unseen or invisible substance to you? Do you know any collection of invisible things that is heavy?
We are familiar with solids and liquids because our eyes can readily interact with them through light. For the gases, common sense declared them invisible though that is not the case. Like liquids and solids, gases are also made of collection of molecules that equally interact. We smell them. By their scent, we can differentiate one from another. Those odourless have other revealing properties.
In other words, we identify them via their unique properties. For instance, both air and LPG are mixture of gases. Air is a mixture of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen gas and others. LPG is a mixture of propane and hydrogen sulphide gas. Without even knowing their chemical constitution, you can readily differentiate between the collection of gases called the air and the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the cylinder in the kitchen.
You become aware of gas leakage in the kitchen due to the rotten egg-like (hydrogen sulphide) scent of the LPG, deliberately added by the manufacturers to signal leakage for quick response for avoidance of disaster with nearby fire source.
Just imagine if indeed gas is unseen, invisible and unobservable. Gases interact, therefore observable. This means without the interactive nature of gases, such preventive measure is impossible in the kitchen. To this end, we have come to know oxygen as the active metabolic substance in our biological systems when we breathe air.
Knowing this, if we could and we can, we should and we do produce only oxygen for the metabolic breathing purposes. This is the case in hospitals in extreme cases for patients. The production of pure oxygen in the laboratory and industry for respiratory and combustive purposes respectively is due to the observability, collection and analysis of the air. It would have been impossible if the air were indeed invisible or unseen as the common sense question proclaims.
EXTENSION OF OUR EYES AND VISIBILITY
We see with our eyes. Light ensures that our eyes perform that fundamental function. From our infancy as man and in the absence of science as known today, we use our eyes to define visibility. This means that anything our eyes cannot see is invisible. And anything invisible is a Spirit, says religion. All microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi and others were invisible beings. Ignorantly, they were supposedly evil spirits.
Today we know that light is a member of a bigger family called Electromagnetic Spectrum. The portion our eyes make use of is the visible light. This portion, fitting our eyes like lock-and-key defines visibility for our ancestors. With this, so many things like the microorganisms were indeed invisible. We now know better.
Still, our eyes cannot see them today. Nevertheless, they are visible. Thanks to science. Using other portions of the Electromagnetic Spectrum via technology, we can see almost anything that was once invisible to our ancestors. At the back of microscopes, we descend into a world full of living microorganisms once regarded as invisible spiritual world full of evil spirits causing diseases.
The “evil spirits” such as virus, bacteria and others that were responsible for different diseases are seen, arrested and their causative effects undone in most cases and even made useful in other ways. Similarly, we ascend to the largest substances at faraway distances with the telescopes. Despite the limitation of our eyes, they are visible because they are made of Matter hence interact with the electromagnetic energy.
Let us end with a classic case. In the absence of artificial illumination, you walk through the bush late in the night. With our eyes naturally locked to the visible light of the EM spectrum, you cannot see the snake lying in the bush in the dark. The snake sees using the infrared light of the EM spectrum. Meanwhile you, the snake and everything made of matter glows in the dark, giving off a form of heat. This glowing in the dark exposes your presence.
In the dark, the snake has advantage over you because its eyes can see you glow. On the contrary, your eyes cannot see the snake glow. Barring its hissing sound in the bush, the snake becomes an invisible entity to you. It ends up biting you in the dark. This is a classic case of how limited our eyes are. As far as our appreciation, if not understanding of the implications and applications of EM spectrum is concerned nothing is invisible in principle.
In other words, science has extended our domain of visibility to the range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Invisibility is not an intrinsic property of anything that interacts but a limitation of the human eye or our technology. Observation in science means more than what our sensory organs can reveal naturally. Therefore, the constituents of the air we breathe are observable, collectable and reproducible as done in hospitals and industries.