You’re doing it right now. In fact, in the normal resting condition, you’ll probably do it every three to five seconds –more frequently if you’re stressed in some way.

You’re doing it right now. In fact, in the normal resting condition, you’ll probably do it every three to five seconds –more frequently if you’re stressed in some way.
We do it constantly and without conscious effort – until we are deprived of the opportunity. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but just a few minutes without breathing and we’re in big trouble.
While we all know that we do it, there are some misunderstandings about this activity that I encounter from time to time. First off, getting air is not why we breathe: this bodily action seeks just oxygen portion within the air. Likewise, fish do not breathe water– they have gills that work differently than lungs, but still they work to gather oxygen from the water for respiration. It is a lack of oxygen in a room that makes it feel “stuffy” and fish will gasp at the surface of oxygen-depleted ponds.
According to some estimates, green algae and cyanobacteria in marine environments provide about 70 percent of the free oxygen produced on Earth and the rest is produced by terrestrial plants. No matter who is doing it, we can thank the process of photosynthesis for this production. Photosynthesis is the magical plant procedure that uses the energy from the sun to transform water molecules and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen. This food-production byproduct is unstable by itself, so it couples with another identical atom to make dioxygen, written as O­2 in chemistry shorthand. In vertebrates, O2 diffuses through membranes in the lungs and into red blood cells where hemoglobin binds to it, changing its color to bright red.
It wasn’t until the mid-1600s that scientists realized air was needed for combustion. Further experiments proved that only part of it, originally called “nitroaereus,” was needed, and it was also the key ingredient for respiration. Finally, the element known as oxygen was officially discovered in 1774, and a few years later it got its current designation. It was named “acid producer” from the Greek “oxys” and “genes” because it was errantly thought to be the cause of all acids. Eventually they found that only about 21% of the air we inhale is oxygen –the rest is mostly nitrogen, plus carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gases.
A major step forward happened in the late 1980s for the hatchery in regards to this essential molecule. Mechanical oxygen generators were installed in a dedicated O2 house and lines were added to allow for the infusion of the gas into the hatch house and raceways. This boosted the amount in the incoming spring water, and the result was a tripling of fish capacity for the same amount of water. We went from about 30,000 pounds of 9-inch trout per year to 100,000 pounds of 10-inchers.
After going through a couple of overhauls with the equipment, in 2003 the decision was made to forego the generators and switch to a large holding tank. We now get about 100,000 cubic feet of liquid oxygen delivered every three weeks or so, and have no mechanical upkeep to contend with. Our fish are able to respire happily in our cool, clear water despite their large numbers.
So breathe deeply, relax and enjoy the influx of this wonderful diatomic molecule.

Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.