Understanding and Explaining the Universe Through Vacuums and the Quantum World
Anthony Ambrosius Aurelius
“Italian Jesuit Evangelista Torricelli (pronounced “ee-van-gel-ee-stah tor-ee-chell-ee”) was able to definitely prove that the atmosphere has a specific weight by designing an experiment in which a tube is filled with mercury and then placed into a dish of mercury. Torricelli found that half of the mercury runs down into the dish and the other half stays within the tubing. Until this point it was believed impossible to create a negative or empty space as the Greek philosopher Aristotle once stated, “nature abhors a vacuum” believing that nature would forever fight against the creation of true and pure nothingness. This is the same reason that an object crumbles when all of the air within is extracted (e.g. plastic straw or an oil drum barrel etc.). Torricelli was able to overcome this phenomena by using the extreme weight of mercury within a ridged glass tube. The level of mercury left within the tube was a measurement of the weight of the atmosphere, a balancing act between the weight of the mercury and the weight of air pressing down upon the mercury, balancing either side like scales. Torricelli famously stated, “noi viviamo sommersi nel fondo d’un pelago d’aria” which means “we live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of air” in Italian, and his findings made scientists realize that air was a substance for the first time in human history. Torricelli became the first person to invent the barometer because of his understanding of atmospheric pressure. Despite Aristotle being believed to be correct for millennia, Torricelli definitively proved that air does have weight.
French scientist Blaise Pascal (pronounced “blay-zz paas-kal”) took Torricelli’s discovery a step further by repeating the experiment at the highest tower in Paris, France, the church of Saint- Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (pronounced “san zhack day la boo-share-ee”) and recorded the mercury dropping to a lower level than it had previously dropped to on the ground. This allowed Pascal to surmise that air pressure intensity is unfixed and ever changing, fluctuating with altitude and weather conditions, and that the Earth was wrapped in an atmospheric cocoon which thins out the higher one climbs. This means that eventually the atmosphere would become so thin that air would not be able to be extracted thus causing a vacuum which allowed Pascal to realize that Aristotle was incorrect in that nature does not abhor a vacuum, rather it is the default state of nature.”