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By Jim Downard
How did air evolve?
I am presuming the questioner means how is it that we have the atmosphere we do today. That’s a fairly easy one. The nitrogen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the natural products of the stuff that forms solar systems like ours. The oxygen part is another matter, since oxygen (formed in the core of main sequence stars and tossed out in supernovae along with other elements to form the next generation of solar systems) naturally reacts like mad with stuff, its why we have water (one oxygen atom latches on really easily to two atoms of hydrogen, an element literally formed to start with in the Big Bang).
But producing excess oxygen, such that it stays as a stable atmospheric constituent, didn’t occur until way down the stream in the natural evolution of life, when cyanobacteria appeared, generating oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. At this stage oxygen acted both as toxic waste (driving anerobic organisms out of their range) and reacted naturally in the oceans to rust out the iron there. So cyanobacteria farting like made is where we got most of the earth’s major iron deposits.
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