Just got back from my trip to London. It was rad! Let me tell you, though – I won’t be flying long-haul again for a while. It’s the worst, especially in economy. It’s not only jet lag that you have to contend with. There’s also the blocked ears! Granted, I get that last one on short flights too. During the descent, my ears go completely haywire from the change in air pressure. I know this is pretty standard, but I feel like I get hit with it a bit worse than others.
This has got me thinking about how we humans interact with the air around us. We respond to its chemical composition and pressure in taking it into our system through highly specialised mechanisms. It’s really quite fascinating. You could legitimately say that we are literally continuous with our ambient environment.
I actually read an article that was kinda related to this in the science magazine I brought on the plane. It was a write-up on the increasing availability of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Melbourne as a treatment for various conditions involving blocked circulation, and thus oxygen not being able to reach tissues that need it to get their healing on.
The article outlined what the treatment entails: basically, spending time in a chamber with an ambient pressure similar to that at 30m below sea level, inhaling pure oxygen (chemically, the air we normally breathe is not 100% oxygen). It also touched on the fact that it is now possible to buy portable hyperbaric chambers in Australia. It seems that this is a desirable option for people who need ongoing hyperbaric treatment – as you might expect, it’s not cheap to rock up for treatment in a hospital facility on a day-to-day basis. The portable units work out cheaper in the long run.
Reading all that gave me a renewed appreciation for the fact that the air around us is not just empty space – there’s a lot going on in our interactions with it.