It’s been said that we sit at the bottom of an ocean of air. While air is much, much lighter than water, there’s still a substantial amount of weight being exerted every square inch by atmospheric pressure. We just don’t feel it because our bodies are generally equalized* with it—much in the same way deep sea creatures are with their environment.

Now, last week I mentioned that our atmosphere exerts about 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure at sea level (~1kg per square centimeter), which doesn’t sound like much. But that quickly scales up to 20,000 pounds per square yard, which is no joke.

My favorite way to demonstrate this unfelt pressure is through the old soda can crush demonstration. I’ve included some video clips below that demonstrate how you can try this at home, as well as how it still works with larger and larger containers.


Here’s the soda can demonstration via Scientific Tuesday

Veritasium (You should be subscribed to this) drives home the science and brings some great slow motion footage to the table

But for a truly spectacular reaction, check out the clip below. You can skip to 2:11 for the big finale.

…and to really drive the point home, a railroad tank car.


*There are exceptions, and as talked about last week, breathing relies on creating pressure differences to draw air into the lungs