Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Elements: Air

Our invisible friend, life-maintaining, and ultimately also one of the most destructive forces known to humanity. It contains all of my favorite things about the atmosphere. Thunderstorms—for all their connection to water, still remind me of the air that supports them—have always been my refuge. One of my favorite places to sit down and write happens to be amidst a storm.

(And, have I mentioned kissing during a T-storm can be the experience electric?)

Air has a special meaning when writing Scifi. Out there in outer-space, that airless void, it’s like a fish living in an aquarium—forever captured within the confines of a small space, a thin barrier between you and ultimate oblivion. Air is a necessity, and the oxygen in it our reaction fuel to run our muscles and build our bodies. Without it, we die very quickly. Which makes it even more amusing for first year biology students who learn exactly how poisonous oxygen is when presented in excessive quantities.

Want to kill people on a space station with air? First option: remove all of it, they suffocate; second option: pump in excess oxygen until their cells fry, or their very skin ignites and incinerates them like ghastly roman candles.

To the alchemists, the air supported a model for the luminiferous aether, a substance through which all light traveled—that possibly also supported the planets, as if they were suspended in a liquid, as well as the stars.

When the air is thin, we get lightheaded. And with that lightheadedness often comes a breath of euphoria—a twinkling exhalation of endorphins as the brain fights not to shut down. It’s the same reason why huffing works to produce profound pleasure, at the expense of damaging the brain.


If I am lucky today, it will deliver me a thunderstorm, and I’ll have more to write about.

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