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How Much Does Air Weigh?

Air might seem weightless, but it actually has mass. The weight of air is measured in terms of air pressure, which at sea level is about 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). This means that a column of air one inch square stretching from the Earth's surface to the top of the atmosphere weighs approximately 14.7 pounds. To put it in perspective, the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is estimated to be about 5.5 quadrillion tons (5.5 x 10^15 tons), according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

When we talk about the weight of air, we're referring to its density, which can vary depending on altitude, temperature, and humidity. At sea level and at 15 degrees Celsius, the average density of air is about 1.225 kilograms per cubic meter. However, as you ascend in altitude, the air becomes less dense and thus lighter. This variation in air density is a crucial factor for activities such as aviation and meteorology, influencing everything from how airplanes are designed to how weather patterns are predicted.

The most awe-inspiring thing about the London structure formerly known as the Millennium Dome isn't what you can see inside -- it's what you can't. According to engineers, the air trapped inside the monstrous dome-shaped building weighs approximately 2,866 tons (2,600 tonnes). The combined weight of the rest of the structure -- cables, fabric covering, and masts -- comes to approximately 2,425 tons (2,200 tonnes).

The Millennium Dome, which is located on the Greenwich Peninsula in Southeast London, was built to house the Millennium Experience, an exhibition celebrating the beginning of the third millennium. It now is home to the 02, an entertainment venue with everything from bars and restaurants to an arena and exhibition space.

The air inside London's Millennium Dome weighs more than the structure itself.
The air inside London's Millennium Dome weighs more than the structure itself.

At the time it was built, the dome was was twice as big as the largest existing tensile structure. Although the dome has faced considerable financial and managerial challenges, it opened to great fanfare, with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming, "In the Dome we have a creation that, I believe, will truly be a beacon to the world."

Building a new world:

  • When it was built in 1893 by George Ferris, the first Ferris wheel was the world's largest piece of constructed steel.

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that still stands.

  • Despite disease, landslides and other woes that killed approximately 25,000 workers, the Panama Canal -- one of history's greatest engineering projects -- opened in 1914.

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    • The air inside London's Millennium Dome weighs more than the structure itself.
      The air inside London's Millennium Dome weighs more than the structure itself.