Power: What It Is, Why We Want It, and How We Generate It
Why Do We Need Energy?
The Earth’s Atmosphere – Our atmosphere protects us from harmful radiation. Without it, life would not exist on earth. If we did not have air to breathe, there would be no humans here today! Air contains oxygen which is necessary for all living things to survive. Oxygen is what powers the cells of our bodies; without it we die instantly! (Although some people believe that plants can live without oxygen too!)
Water – Water is essential for life. Without water, we could not grow food or drink! Without water, life would cease to exist! The Earth’s surface receives approximately 40% of its annual rainfall. This means that most of the planet’s population lives within a few inches of the ground!
The oceans are another source of fresh water. They contain vast amounts of liquid water. However, they are very dangerous places to swim because of their high salt content.
Wind – Wind blows through the atmosphere and carries moisture from land to sea. Winds blow at different speeds depending upon where they are located in relation to the Earth’s center of mass. These winds carry heat from land areas to ocean areas. They also carry heat from the equator to the polar regions and from the sunny areas (near the equator) to the dark areas (poles). This keeps the entire planet at the same temperature.
Without wind, it is likely that all of the Earth’s water would evaporate or condense into ice, flooding everything!
Sunlight – The sun provides us with heat and light so plants can grow. Most of the energy that warms the surface of the Earth comes from the sun. The sun is a star, a giant ball of glowing gas. The sun produces its own heat and light by nuclear reactions taking place at its core. There are small amounts of other materials required for plant growth; however, water and sunlight are essential.
Earth – The Earth is our home. All humans were born from it. The Earth’s surface gravity is 32 feet per second squared. This is the amount of force with which Earth pulls objects towards its center. Without the gravitational pull of the Earth, we would all float off into space!
The Earth has a molten core, a rocky mantle and a hard outer crust!
Atmosphere – The atmosphere is all the gases that surround the Earth. Air surrounds every part of the planet. There are many different kinds of gases that make up the atmosphere. These gases help to hold the planet’s water and land in their places. There are also some gases that are poisonous (such as carbon monoxide, which you should never breathe in).
Without the atmosphere the planet would be so cold that there would be ice everywhere and it would be difficult to breathe!
Oxygen – This gas makes up about 21% of our atmosphere. It is a colorless, odorless gas. All animals need oxygen to live. Even plants need oxygen to survive! We breathe oxygen in and use it in cellular respiration, which is a process that converts food into energy (this is why if you don’t eat you eventually die).
Life – All living things on the planet require energy from their environment in order to live and reproduce.
The Sun’s Energy – The sun provides energy in the form of light and heat. Without the sun, life on Earth would not be able to survive. It takes the sun’s energy six minutes and eighteen seconds to reach the Earth.
Light – Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. All objects and living things absorb, reflect or transmit light in some way (for example, blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs all other colors). We can see objects because they reflect light that enters our eyes. Light travels extremely quickly: approximately 186,000 miles per second!
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