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Earth
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Air

Water

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Earth and Sky

"Asked to name the three things he would rather have more than anything else in the world, man would probably first say riches and the other two, more riches, which shows how little man knows what's good for him.  If he had no air he would die in a few seconds, if he had no water he would die of thirst in a few days, and if there were no land he could have no food and would slowly die of starvation.  But all three of these working together in the sunshine produce everything the richest man in the world can possess: food, clothing, forests, and all the living creatures on earth.  Leave out any one of the three and the other two are powerless to keep us alive."

- Jay N. "Ding" Darling

Air

Air is also fundamental to our daily lives in many ways - the carrier of our weather, and the carrier of nutrients we all need to survive. Air also protects us from the dangers of solar radiation by screening out the most powerful (and dangerous) light rays.

Beyond adding variety to our daily lives, weather provides the variety needed to ensure the survival of life. Plants typically live in just one place their entire lives and rely on the air to bring nutrients and water to them. While animals are much more mobile, animals could not survive without plants and weather enables animals to survive while living in just one place.

Animals breathe air to gather oxygen, while plants "breathe" air to gather carbon dioxide and water vapor during the daytime and at night to gather oxygen. 

(Read more ...)


Weather can be unpredictable and powerful.  Thunderstorms like this one provide awesome displays of the energy in earth's atmosphere.

Water

Oceans, rivers, and lakes are the largest reservoirs of water that we see, but water is literally everywhere - from the air we breathe to the ground upon which we walk. 

Critical to all forms of life on earth, water is a basic building block of life, providing energy for some organisms, and homes for others. Water can be found in abundance in all three phases - solid (ice and snow), liquid (what we typically call water), and gas (water vapor). 

Water has shaped the earth through erosion, flooding and glaciation. A balance must be struck with water - too much water leads to flooding and may wash away all our homes and food, not enough water and we might perish for thirst and watch our crops wither. 

Explore with us the wonders of water and how our activities are impacting water everywhere... (Read more!)

 
This stream represents a home for fish, water for wildlife, and a transport route for sediments.

Land

Floating atop giant "tectonic" plates, are the livable regions of the earth - land. Seven continents - Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America - comprise the largest land masses on earth and along with many, smaller islands.  Land is ultimately composed of many things, but at its most basic its composed of rocks, minerals and soil. 

Rocks are aggregations of minerals and minerals are composed of elements or chemical combinations of elements.  There are three varieties of rocks - sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic - named for the way in which they are formed. 

Soil is far more than dirt (which is really just soil somewhere we wish it weren't) - soil is the place where intricate chemical reactions occur  making possible the nourishment of higher order plants. In most places a relatively thin layer of soil covers rock from which it was originally formed.  Soil is nothing more than rocks that have been ground into a "powder" - typically by water.

Find out more about the land under our feet ... (Read more!


From mountains (top) to the ocean shore (bottom) land is integral to the survival of man and many other species.

 

Space

In the immortal words of Star Trek - "Space is the Final Frontier." Here we use the term space to mean everything beyond planet Earth and its atmosphere, including planets, stars, comets and everything in between.  Stars provide us with nightly evidence that there is more to life than those places we can and have visited. During the daytime the light from our nearest star - the sun - is so bright we can only see the closest stellar objects like our moon.  However at nighttime we can see thousands more dots of light.  These stars have been the source of myth and valuable navigational aids through-out history. 

Space and the stars continues to provide us with more questions than answers. To study space is to study history - as often the light we are seeing has already traveled hundreds or even thousands of years before it reaches our eyes.

Begin to unravel the mysteries of space ... (Read more!)


Space can be more amazing than either our imaginations or any artist's palette as this image (captured by the Hubble telescope) demonstrates.

Making the first step through education!

 

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