Eutierria: Becoming One With Nature

Source: By Diliff, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

In a previous post I discussed a few terms collected and invented by the Australian sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht that may help reorient modernity’s approach to the rest of nature.

Today, I’d like to add another of Albrecht’s terms to the discussion—eutierria: “a good and positive feeling of oneness with the earth and its life forces.” It arises when “the human-nature relationship is spontaneous and mutually enriching (symbiotic).” (The prefix eu comes from the Greek word for “good”; the root tierra means Earth.)

Eutierria refers to secular experiences but echoes the “oceanic” feeling identified in various world religious traditions. When it occurs, your perception of the boundaries between yourself and all else—the thoughts and feelings setting you off from the rest of the cosmos—seem to evaporate. The distinction between you and nature (or in the religious versions nature and God) breaks down. You become one with the universe. A reassuring sense of harmony and connection with the world infuses your consciousness. It’s an experience that matches up with the knowledge of your own dependence on and connection to the world.

How might you experience eutierria? Perhaps you already have. One way might be going deep into nature, using all your senses to hear, see, smell, feel, and even taste the engulfing and enriching natural world in all its depth and splendor, creating a moment when the sensing mind quiets and overtakes the thinking mind. I believe under such conditions it’s actually rather easy to forget the self and instead become so wrapped up in sensing that ironically you, the sensor, disappear into the sensuous world of nature.

Experience of the Totality

A Mexican composer once asked students, including me, in his music composition course, “Can you see the past?” He meant it literally—can you see right now what has happened in the chronological past. Consider taking a moment now to think about this question before you read on.

After we all scratched our heads and thought hard, exhibiting a lot of skepticism as if it were some kind of new-age trick, our professor did enlighten us. Look up at the nighttime sky, he said, and see the stars. The light reaching your eyes was emitted thousands or millions of years ago. Some of those stars you are “seeing” no longer exist. You are seeing—sensing—the past. Even the light from the nearby moon takes more than a second to reach your eye after reflecting off that heavenly body.

This phenomenon applies, of course, to everything you sense, though usually to a much smaller degree. You notice it when you see a firework explode then hear it after a short delay. Different sensory stimuli—evidence of the outside world—reach you at different speeds. Plus, your body takes some time to propagate and process all sensory stimuli. In essence everything you sense is in the past, and your perception of “the present” is something your mind constructs by pulling together all sorts of different stimuli that have happened at possibly (very slightly or hugely, in the case of the stars) different times, creating something like a sensory “whole” from them.

Consider for a moment what this all means for identity and personhood. Each person is always living in a precise and unique position and moment. Nobody else receives all the same perceptual stimuli as you because you’re always at different positions on the planet, in the universe. That is, you exist at a unique juncture in the world and thus absorb a unique trajectory of sensory experiences that exactly match nobody else’s.

On the face of it, this understanding of the basic sensory “subjectivity” of all people (and animals, and perhaps even plants, as I write here) seems a bit lonely. We cannot fully observe everything anyone else does. So we are each alone in the world.

Source: By ElxanQəniyev, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Back to Oneness, But with Distinction

Suddenly, it seems that I’ve landed at a conclusion diametrically opposed to the one I set out to discuss. Eutierria helps us transgress our individualistic, isolated experience of the world by feeling we are one with all nature, even when we arrive at it through intensely focused sensory experience. Yet our senses at the same time separate us from others since they locate us at a particular spot in the lifeworld that’s (at least slightly) different from everyone else’s.

Instead what we have is a paradox: the senses both join us with the cosmos and all of nature and humanity and help make us into individual persons.

This simultaneous oneness and separateness, and the tension between the two, is a key point in environmental philosophy and psychology. We must identify with other people, animals, and nature as a whole—we have to see that we exist in utter interdependence with them and share most of our qualities with them—to have the greatest motivation for caring for these others, for adopting their welfare as our own.

At the same time we must acknowledge and accept their separateness from us, their individuality, their own wholeness, because we might otherwise simply impose our own needs or will upon them, as the renowned ecofeminist environmental philosopher Val Plumwood observes in her book Environmental Culture. We must take care to relate to others with respect for their needs as they express them.

We are both separate and one—neither standpoint by itself will do.

Let me conclude by noting that experiences of eutierra can be a powerful antidote to the over-separateness of our modern world. The rise of individualism over communitarianism and conceptions of the unity of nature in the West from early modern times, as I write in my book Invisible Nature, has left us with feelings and experiences of alienation from nature and lots of social alienation as well. By placing the individual at the center of concern rather than the whole community of life, modernity can create loneliness. Seeking out eutierria can help heal the divide.

Check out my book: Invisible Nature

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Read more of my posts: The Green Mind

Source: CC0 Public Domain


Plumwood, Val. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Worthy, Kenneth. Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2013.



There is nothing that I have experienced that has empowered my life more than the shift to becoming aware of my own breath.

Beyond the energizing and rejuvenating effects of a regular deep breathing practice, one of the more subtle things I have come to love about breathing is the way that it connects me with nature.

Sitting on a mountain under an old olive tree, there is a particular vibration and scent that I am receiving and contributing to as I breathe, deeply connected to my surroundings.

I believe this is a way that each of us can bring the sacred into our everyday lives. This vital energy (called Prana) connects us with all living things, and it is abundant in the air that we breathe.

I can feel this connection when I allow the air that I am breathing to drop deep into my center, knowing that what I am receiving is this powerful energy. This simople exercise will re-energize you and will calm your mind. Try to find at leas ones a day some time to spnd in nature!

1.First step

Allow yourself to sit in a place that is outdoors in nature or in a nourishing place in your home. Breathe deeply in and out of your nose very slowly sensing the air as it is traveling through your nose. Become very aware of the subtle feeling of receiving the breath and giving the breath. Notice what the air smells like and how you experience the inhale. After a few deep breaths, become aware of your heart beating in your chest and visualize the blood flowing through you being nourished with every breath.

2. Second step

Now imagine that what you are exhaling is not old air, but transformed life essence from within you. That anywhere you send your breath is actually blessed and invigorated by your heart and intention. Breathe your essence into the environment and the life around you. Send it to the trees and to the rocks. Spread it as a goodness that comes from your care and love. Imagine that each conscious breath is loaded with a treasure from within you and share it with pride.


Photio via Pexels via

How to Become One with Nature and Enjoy Life!

Sharing moments with others can be one of the main joys in life. But some of us forget the importance of aloneness and the connection we have with nature.

Being beside your friends and loved ones is always enjoyable. But your relationship with nature is just as important. We’re constantly affected by our environment on both psychological and physical levels. Acknowledging that fact and tending to it will definitely help you in achieving a happier time on earth!

Establish a Connection with Nature

We’re all connected to nature as fellow earthlings. In order to become one with nature, you need to strengthen and re-establish that connection. Technology has made us more prone to admire man’s creations, and overlook the vast beauty around.

Don’t spend most of your time behind screens, screeching through the virtual world. Get outside and mingle with the natural elements in your environment. Move around, feel the ‘oomph’ in you, and be as energetic as you can. It’s one lifetime you’ve got, and not seeing much of what’s already in your sight is definitely saddening. You’ll find sublimity in your connection with nature, and that’s priceless.

Appreciate The Natural Elements Around You

When you go on a mountain hike, let’s say, and feel so small among such scenery of massive rocks piled against each other, you start to realize how much is out there. It’s not just you and the silly quarrel you had earlier with your partner. The world has more to it than you might think.

At times, we get so caught up in our version of the story. We get so immersed in our lives that we forget to let go of all that suppresses our true nature. Every now and then, you should just head outside and be wild! Don’t go knocking on people’s doors, just go and run through the trees.

You’ll start to appreciate life much more when you’re just a tiny creature swirling around a world of magnificent natural elements. When that happens, you will start to appreciate your own existence and cherish every part of it. Knowing fully that you’re a part of something bigger, something much more beautiful and sublime will make you calmer throughout your day.

‘Save the Environment’ Is Not Just a Saying..

When you start interacting with your natural environment, you’ll begin to realize that ‘save the environment’ is not just a rhetorical sentence. By being one with nature and delving into the wildlife on your own, you’ll understand the obligation we have towards the environment. Many of my friends have shown keen interest in changing their consuming habits after a couple of trips abroad.

Leaving the office and heading to the woods is definitely something you need to do every now and then. Nature is always gifting us with miraculous creations and scenery. Don’t ever forget to connect with your natural surroundings to live more happily each day!

Woo Woo (Freak Out)

Uh, yeah
Uh, yeah
Verse 1:MC Lyte
Naughty but you like and nasty but you want it
I’m the chick that never front it
Picture that
Me wearin a pager
So you can be down my back
It ain’t happin jack
Am I too fine?
If so I can leave
Have somewhere to go
You better believe
I keep a tight schedule
Not many are blessed
Still on a quest
Not knowin I’m da best
Causin a mess wherever I go
They still want me there I’m the star of the show
Your ride is sweet
My ride is much sweeter
Come take a ride with this senorita
Theres more to me that the eye can’t see
But I’m twice as much as you’d thought I’d be
When I hit da scene
All better be where cause da party don’t jump till I get there
Chorus ( Nicci Gilbert )
Come on
We’re doin it everyday
All night is how we like to play
Feel the rhythm do what you want to do
Kick back we’re doin it at the woooooo
Verse 2: MC Lyte
You took to long to ask
Now I don’t know
If you can hang wit my flow
Keep it on da dlow I start da fire
Watch it go down
When it’s time to put the flame out
I put the juice down
When you woo-woo
So nasty it’s sick Wanna know my tricks
Studyin’ me like a flick
I’m the girl your mama warned you about at night
Ask Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike
I’m that candy girl
I got da suga for your sweet toothe
Comin in your crib in my birthday suit
I’m that, bad habit you just can’t shake
What I want I take
Some a y’all could relate
Got the yab yum
To get ya stuck like glue
It ain’t over to we all come through
When I hit the scene
All better be where cause da party don’t jump til I get there
Chorus x 2
Verse 3: MC Lyte
So you wanna be da tiger roaming through my woods huh
Babe boy you gotta bring da goods
Not just any penny
Can get in my piggy
Bently or empty you just can’t tip me
Lyte got, just what you like
All up in your ear but I’m not like Mike
Red Hot
Be the brown chili peppa
Y’all know my words
Let’s sing it together
Light to infinite
Like Dusk Til Dawn
When I hit da scene
All better beware cause da party don’t ump da jump til I get there
Chorus repeat til fades

Be One with the Earth

Image by Bessi

Whenever you have the opportunity, lie down on the earth — in a meadow, in the forest, on the bank of the river…

Just lie down on the earth and feel one with it. That will give you much energy, fresh energy.

Just sit silently on the earth and feel joined with it – as if you have roots, and those roots are going into the earth and the earth is vitalizing you, nourishing you.

Man Has Invisible Roots

Man also has roots; they are invisible.

Man is also like a tree. The tree has visible roots.

Man is a moving tree, but he has roots in the earth.

Sky and Earth Meet Inside You

So whenever you find time, just lie down, look at the sky, and let there be a meeting between the sky and the earth deep inside you, and you will feel tremendously happy in those moments.

Get The Latest From InnerSelf

Many problems that you have always been carrying with you will simply disappear.

Just let the sky and the earth meet in you, and ecstasy will arise out of it.

Copyright © Osho International Foundation1998

Related Book by this Author:

Creativity: Unleasing the Forces Within
by Osho.

Creativity is a handbook for those who understand the need to bring more creativity, playfulness, and flexibility to their lives. It’s a manual for thinking “outside the box”-and learning to live there as well.

Info/Orderthis book.

More books by this Author

About the Author

Known for his revolutionary contribution to the science of inner transformation, Osho continues to inspire millions of people worldwide in their search to define a new approach to individual spirituality that is self-directed and responsive to the everyday challenges of contemporary life. Osho’s teachings defy categorization, covering everything from the individual quest for meaning to the most urgent social and political issues facing individuals and society today. The Sunday Times of London named him one of the ‘1,000 Makers of the Twentieth Century,’ and novelist Tom Robbins called him ‘the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ.’ For more information visit

Video/Interview with Osho: Our Mother — The Earth
(subtitles available)

What Astrological Element Am I? The Meaning and Signs of All Four Elements

In western astrology, it is believed that the universe is formed by the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. These are the outward manifestations of the true Elements. Each of the four elements contains its own unique properties, which work simultaneously to create one united universe. None of the elements are inherently good or bad, however, each has both positive and negative qualities.

Whether you’re loud or quiet, timid or outgoing, impetuous or logical – your personality is filled with both pros and cons. Nobody is perfect and it is difficult to self-evaluate in order to understand our base emotions and desires. That’s why finding your element is so important. As you read over the qualities associated with each of the four elements of nature, you might have your “A-ha!” moment, or you might feel as though you don’t relate to certain aspects.

This is because every person is at a different point in his or her path to developing the human spirit. By finding your element, you’ll be able to better appreciate your own strengths and be more self-aware of your weaknesses. This understanding will help you to build better, stronger relationships with those around you. Let your element be a guide to a more intuitive self.

What Are The Four Elements? Earth, Air, Fire, Water


TAURUS (April 20-May 20), VIRGO (August 23-September 22), CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19)

The Earth is stable and reliable, yet constantly working and moving. Those with the Earth element share these traits. You are practical and logical and stand firm in your convictions. You learn through experience, which is never difficult for a curious person like yourself. You aren’t interested in unrealistic dreams, but rather you believe in setting achievable goals that are attained through hard work.

You are an artist and love to create. Your home is welcoming and warm and always open to friends and family, which is fitting considering you’re a bit of a homebody. While you are always friendly, you do not let people into the inner circle easily. However, once you do, you are loyal to a fault. On the opposite side of this, you can sometimes be overprotective. As it is impossible to stop the world from turning, it is also impossible to change your mind once it has been made up. You are stubborn and bull-headed and will often stick to your position for no other reason than it is your position. In relationships, you are empathetic and nurturing and don’t mind waiting out a few rough patches. But be careful, this also makes it easy for others to walk all over you.


  • Stable and consistent
  • Hard-working
  • Loyal
  • Nurturing
  • Logical
  • Empathetic


  • Lazy
  • Scornful
  • Overly cautious
  • Stubborn to the point of impractical
  • Rigid


GEMINI (May 21-June 21), LIBRA ( September 23-October 22), AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18)

Air is constantly in motion, even when you can’t see it. This is the same for the mind of a person with the Air element. Of the four elements, Air is the most concentrated on thought. You think through every decision thoroughly and often find clever solutions to difficult problems. You are studious and scholarly and often see “the big picture” when others cannot. However, as changeable as the direction of the wind, Air people can also vary quite drastically. While some are outgoing, rational and clever, others are scattered, eccentric, and cold. You excel at multi-tasking, however, be careful as you are also easily distracted. You have the ability to multi-task but you are strongest when focused on one problem at a time.

Air is also what gives humans the ability for speech. Because of this you are witty and entertaining and are a welcomed guest at any party. Be aware that while you have charm, you sometimes lack social graces. Your focus is placed so often on logic, that you often overlook feelings. Commitment doesn’t come naturally to you. Couple this with your sometimes insensitive nature and it makes relationships very difficult. You are not rooted in tradition. You go with what makes sense and don’t believe in doing something because “it’s how it has always been done.” This propensity for what others see as “radical thinking” and your quick mind makes you a natural born puppet master. While Fire may be the face of the uprising, you are the brains behind it.


  • Thoughtful
  • Witty
  • Charming
  • Carefree
  • Independent
  • Flexible


  • Inconsistent
  • Insensitive
  • Selfish
  • Flaky
  • Dishonest


ARIES (March 21-April 19), LEO (July 23-August 22), & SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21)

Fire provides heat and light, but it cannot exist on its own. The same is true for people born to the Fire element. You are passionate, warm and light up every room. You are the life of the party and your natural intensity that compels others to take notice makes you a natural-born leader. You follow your gut instinct and become fully committed to what you believe. Of the four elements, Fire is by far the most entertaining, drawing, and dynamic. You have the power of transformation and can convert any negative situation into a positive one.

However, be wary. You can also easily turn a positive into a negative. Your passion turns to anger quickly and blinds you when hurting those close. When not contained, Fire spreads to anything nearby and so do you. You are often unfaithful and will follow any lead to serve your own self-interest. Fire needs other elements to survive. While Air will make it grow, Earth will keep it burning steadily. The same is true for you. Your loved ones are what motivate you and keep you stable. Without them, your passion turns to obsession and you quickly exhaust yourself.


  • Passionate
  • Bright
  • Charismatic
  • Focused
  • Decisive
  • Daring


  • Prone to anger and rage
  • Obsessive
  • Unfaithful
  • Jealous
  • Easily irritated
  • Vindictive


CANCER (June 22-July 22), SCORPIO (OCTOBER 23-November 21), PISCES February 19-March 20)

Water is constantly flowing, with much of its activity happening below the surface. Water people, while your outside may seem calm and collected, inside your emotions are in constant turmoil. You are compassionate and caring and can relate easily to others. You connect with people whole-heartedly, which can sometimes make you overly trusting. When spread too thin you are ineffectual, but when collected and focused you are a force to be reckoned with. You see life as a journey and every movement you make is part of a definite path (though sometimes an unexpected one).

However, your ability to connect so deeply also makes you prone to carrying other people’s burdens. This compassion for others leaves your own needs neglected. Too many built-up negative emotions can lead to depression and often addiction. Your emotions ebb and flow, making you sometimes volatile and irrational. You often feel the need to bring up deep topics during lighthearted situations, much to the annoyance of others. You must find balance in learning to help others and learning to help yourself in order to find harmony.

Elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

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Science Lesson: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

The ancient Greeks believed that there were four elements that everything was made up of: earth, water, air, and fire. This theory was suggested around 450 BC, and it was later supported and added to by Aristotle.

(Aristotle also suggested that there was a fifth element, aether, because it seemed strange that the stars would be made out of earthly elements. He would be surprised to learn that they are in fact made up of many elements found on earth, and are so hot they could be said to be on fire all the time!)

The idea that these four elements – earth, water, air, and fire – made up all matter was the cornerstone of philosophy, science, and medicine for two thousand years (kids love to ask questions on the elements).

The elements were “pure” but could not be found in that state on earth. Every visible thing was made up of some combination of earth, water, air, and fire.

The four elements were even used to described the four temperaments a person could have, and Hippocrates used the four elements to describe the four “humors” found in the body. These theories stated that the temperaments and humors needed to be in balance with each other in order for a person to be well both mentally and physically.

While we do know now that these previous theories are false, in a way the four elements do align with the four states of matter that modern science has agreed on: solid (earth), liquid (water), gas (air), and plasma (fire).

Although the Greeks believed that the four elements were unchanging in nature, everything was made up of different elements, which were held together or pushed apart by forces of attraction and repulsion, causing substances to appear to change. This is similar to what really happens with elements and all molecules at an atomic level.

Matter is anything that has mass and volume and is made up of atoms, which are the smallest particles of matter. Bonding occurs among atoms to make larger molecules. (Click here to learn more about bonding.) Mass is how much matter is in an object whereas volume is how much space the object takes up. How atoms are arranged in an object determines whether it is a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.

  • In a solid, the atoms are packed closely together in an ordered pattern and cannot move, giving a solid a definite volume and shape. Examples of solids include rocks, wood, metal, and ice.
  • In a liquid, the atoms are close together but can move around each other. This allows a liquid to take the shape of whatever container it is placed in. Examples of liquids include room temperature water, room temperature mercury, and hot lava (molten rock).
  • In a gas, there is more space between atoms. The atoms can move so freely that if the gas is not trapped in a container, the atoms will diffuse and spread throughout the atmosphere. Examples of gases are oxygen and nitrogen (in the air we breathe), helium, and steam (water vapor).
  • In a plasma, the atoms are spaced similarly to gas except there is so much energy in a plasma, the atoms actually split into smaller pieces. Plasmas are able to carry an electrical current and generate magnetic fields. Examples of plasmas include lightning, solar wind, the sun, fluorescent lights, and neon signs.

Temperature plays an important role in how the atoms are aligned in a substance. As a general rule of thumb, the colder the matter is, the closer the atoms are to each other, and the warmer the matter is, the farther the atoms are apart. Of course, the temperature at which a matter is a solid or a liquid depends on what substance the matter is made of. For example, water at room temperature is a liquid whereas a rock at room temperature is solid.

Science Lesson: The Four Elements in Everyday Life

First Element: Earth

The earth is full of a wide variety of rocks and minerals which provides the soil to grow vegetation and support life. The two most common elements in the earth’s crust are oxygen (46%) and silicon (28%). Because of this, the most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust is silica (silicon dioxide). More commonly known as sand, silica is a major component of glass. How can glass be made out of sand? Interestingly, when silica is heated, it melts and becomes glass, hardening as it cools.

Rich deposits of metal ores are found throughout the earth’s crust. While these metals are used in the production of machinery, tools, buildings, and weapons, straight out of the earth these metals are pretty useless. Fire is used to heat, refine, and shape metal so that machines, hammers, and support beams can be made from it.

It is easy to think of the earth as being solid dirt through and through, but in reality it is made up of several layers. While many of these layers are solid, the layer that surrounds the core is called the liquid outer core. It is so hot inside the earth that the rock at this layer has actually melted. The solid inner core is just as hot as the liquid layer surrounding it, but the pressure on the inner core is so great that scientists believe it is “pressed” into a solid.

Second Element: Water

Water has many unique properties. The chemical formula of water is H20, meaning it is made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. The hydrogen atoms each attach to one side of the oxygen atom and have a positive charge whereas the oxygen atom has a negative charge. This polarizes the water molecule, much like a magnet, giving a water molecule positive and negative ends.

Since opposite charges attract, water molecules tend to “stick” together. This gives water surface tension and allows objects, such as paperclips, to float on it.

While it can’t dissolve everything, water is known as the universal solvent because it can dissolve more substances than any other liquid. It can dissolve salt, sugar, acids, alkalis, some gases, and organic material.

Water traveling through your body or through the ground takes chemicals, minerals, and nutrients with it. Water’s ability to dissolve substances helps keep the planet healthy. For more than a century, the burning of fossil fuels has pumped large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The water in oceans have absorbed about half of this CO2 by dissolving the gas from the air and processing it by sea vegetation.

Water has a high specific heat index, meaning that it takes a lot of energy to change its temperature. This is essential for life to survive on a planet. The abundance of water on the earth keeps the planet in a very short but comfortable temperature range. The average surface temperature of the earth is 59 ° F with the highest recorded temperature 135.9 ° F and the lowest recorded temperature -128.6 ° F.

To compare, it would seem logical that Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, would stay really warm on all surfaces of the planet, regardless if it was facing the sun or not. However, while the surface facing the sun does reach very warm temperatures (up to 800 ° F), the surfacing facing away from the sun drops to a chilly -280 ° F. Mercury’s lack of water is responsible for this drastic temperature change because the dry material that makes up its surface cannot hold heat like water does.

To experience for yourself how well water does keep temperature from drastic fluctuations, pay attention to the change between daytime and nighttime temperatures the next time you visit a maritime (near the ocean) or desert climate. You’ll probably notice there is little to no temperature change near the ocean, whereas in the desert there is a significant change in daytime and nighttime temperatures.

This high specific heat index also helps water put out fire by cooling the fuel surfaces that the fire is burning, removing the heat needed for the fire to burn. Water also smothers a fire by preventing it from getting the oxygen it needs to burn.

Third Element: Air

Air was considered a “pure” element, but in fact the air that’s all around us is made up of a variety of gases: primarily nitrogen and oxygen, with almost 1% argon and even smaller amounts of carbon dioxide and other elements such as krypton and helium. The composition of air is just right for life on Earth, though.

We use a lot of the oxygen we get from the air, then breathe out carbon dioxide – which plants need to manufacture their food through photosynthesis. Plants in turn give off oxygen during photosynthesis.

Although air is invisible (and most of the time we forget it is even there), it does take up space, it has volume, and it exerts pressure. This can be seen when you take an “empty” glass, turn it upside down, and try to push it down to the bottom of a sink full of water.

(You can see how air expands when heated and shrinks when cooled with this egg-in-a-bottle project.)

If the glass was truly empty, the water would easily fill the inside of the glass. But air is in there, and only a small amount of water can enter the glass. The air in the glass was compressed, giving the water some space that was previously occupied with air.

It is a good thing that air fills empty space because air all around us actually presses down on us all the time. We would collapse under the weight of the air, except air is also inside us and exerts pressure that balances out the pressure exerted by the outside air.

Fourth Element: Fire

How does fire work? It’s closely linked to air. Fire needs three things in order to exist: oxygen, fuel, and heat.

The intensity of a fire varies because it is dependent on the oxygen, fuel, and heat available to it. When all three of these things are in a controlled situation, such as in candles or a campfire, fires are considered helpful. But when one or more of these things are not controlled, such as in a wildfire or a burning building, fires can easily become very dangerous.

To extinguish a fire, the oxygen, fuel, or heat needs to be removed. “Smothering” a fire by placing a blanket or dirt on it works because the fire goes out without oxygen. The earth provides an abundance of fuel in the form of wood and fossil fuels such as coal. When the fuel is removed, the fire has nothing left to burn and is extinguished. Water often serves as an effective cooling source by removing the heat from a fire. This is seen when hot lava from an erupting volcano enters the ocean or when a bucket of water is dumped on a campfire.

Fire creates light, heat, and smoke by a rapid chemical reaction called combustion. Smoke is the result of the incomplete combustion (burning) of a fuel. Particles that were not burned become suspended in the air. Smoke is often dangerous because it contains harmful gases that can poison a person who inhales too much smoke.

You might be surprised to know that our bodies also use “combustion” to produce energy from oxygen and food through metabolic processes. We need a steady supply of oxygen to keep our bodies functioning normally; if there’s too little oxygen in the air, we’ll suffocate. At the same time, we can be thankful there’s not more oxygen in the air, or the chemical reactions in our bodies would speed up, causing us to soon “crash and burn”!

Too much oxygen in the air would also increase the risk of fires on the earth. Since nitrogen and argon are not very reactive, air is pretty safe for us.

Science Projects: Exploring The Four Elements

Make a Fire Extinguisher

In order to put out a fire, one of three things must be removed from it: heat, fuel, or oxygen. Knowing this, firefighters don’t always use water to put out a fire.

What You Need:

  • Empty soda bottle
  • 5 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Tea light candle

What You Do:

  1. Light the candle.
  2. Pour the vinegar into the bottle and add the baking soda. (You may want to use a funnel.) The mixture should fizz.
  3. Hold the bottle sideways over the lighted candle, making sure no liquid escapes. What happens to the flame?

What Happened:

The baking soda and vinegar react to make carbon dioxide, a gas that is heavier than oxygen. As it “pours” out of the bottle, it pushes the lighter oxygen away from the candle. The fire, now deprived of oxygen, can no longer burn.

Traveling Nutrients

Water is often called the Universal Solvent because it can dissolve more substances than any other liquid, often carrying these dissolved particles with it. When water travels through soil, nutrients (food) and dissolved particles travel with the water to be deposited somewhere else. Here is an experiment to visually demonstrate how this process happens.

  • 1/2 cup dry soil
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue powdered tempera paint
  • Funnel
  • Wide-mouthed jar (that the funnel can rest in)
  • Coffee filter
  • Cups or containers
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  1. Mix the dry soil and tempera paint thoroughly. Place the funnel in the jar and place the coffee filter in the funnel. Pour the soil mixture into the funnel.
  2. Slowly pour 1/2 cup water into the funnel, watching as the water runs out of the funnel into the jar. Notice the color of the water.
  3. Remove the funnel from the jar and pour the water into a cup or container. Replace the funnel over the jar, with the coffee filter full of sand still in place.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with a fresh 1/2 cup of water several times, saving the water in a new cup after each pouring.

What Happens:

You’ll notice that when the first half cup of water went through the soil, it came out as a very dark blue color. However, the water came out lighter with each additional cup. Eventually, the water traveling through the soil came out clear in the jar. Did you count how many half cups of water it took to make the water run clear?

The tempura paint in this experiment represents the nutrients and dissolved particles found in the soil. Water is a very efficient transporter of particles as evidenced by the color of water as it was poured through the soil. The soil started with a relatively high amount of nutrients and particles in it – the tempura paint. The water flowing through the soil was able to pick up a large proportion of the “nutrients” and carry them with it through the funnel. Each subsequent pouring of water picked up more nutrients. With each pouring, the remaining nutrients became less and less until the water ran clear and there were no more nutrients left to travel with the water.

Noteworthy Scientist: George Gabriel Stokes, 1819-1903

George Gabriel Stokes was an accomplished British mathematician in the 19th Century, but throughout his career, he emphasized the importance of experimentation and problem solving rather than focusing solely on mathematics.

By experimenting and applying mathematics to physics, Stokes came up with a law that describes the movement of a solid through a liquid or a gas. Known as Stoke’s Law, this law of viscosity established the science of hydrodynamics. Stoke’s Law explains cloud motion, wave motion, and the resistance of water to ship movement.

Most of Stoke’s work revolved around waves (sound, light, and water) and how they move through various mediums, such as water and gas. He experimented with how wind affects the intensity of a sound and how the intensity is influenced by the type of gas the sound waves travel through. He named and explained fluorescence and investigated the wave theory of light. He also worked on understanding the different colored bands that could be seen in a spectrum and made significant contributions to what we know about light and optics.

Stokes is often compared to Sir Isaac Newton because there are numerous parallels between Stoke’s life and Newton’s life: both had breakthrough discoveries, developed laws of motion, investigated light and optics, held the same prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and served in Parliament.

Fabulous Facts


Most gemstones contain several elements. The exception? The diamond. It’s all carbon.

Which of the 50 states has never had an earthquake? North Dakota.

The Earth’s equatorial circumference (40,075 km) is greater than its polar circumference (40,008 km).

The Earth is estimated to weigh 6.6 sextillion tons, or 5.97 x 1024 kg. To compare, a million is a 1 with 6 zeros following it – a sextillion is a 1 with 21 zeros following it. (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000)


An inch of rain water is equivalent to 15 inches of dry, powdery snow.

The deepest part of the ocean is 35,813 feet (10,916 meters) deep and occurs in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. At that depth the pressure is 18,000 pounds (9172 kilograms) per square inch.

The human brain is 80% water.


8-12 miles above the earth, rivers of air known as jet streams move above us. Several miles wide and 1-2 miles deep, these currents of air can have wind speeds as high as 250 miles per hour. To contrast, the strongest hurricanes have wind speeds between 150-200 miles per hour.


A bolt of lightning is about 5,000 °F (~2,800 °C).

The center of the Sun is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million °C).

Elements combined

When hydrogen burns in the air, water is formed.

Oxygen is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, waters, and atmosphere (about 49.5%).

Sound travels about 4 times faster in water than in air.

Wind and water both cause erosion to the earth, moving large amounts of sand and rock to tear down mountains and build new structures.

Further Reading

  • An Introduction to Light
  • Solar Energy
  • Identify Rocks & Minerals

At one with nature

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