What if the Earth lost oxygen for 5 seconds?

Oxygen is the lifeline of a human being. It is the main catalyst for intracellular energy that is necessary to sustain human life. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. But have you ever thought that what would happen if the world lost the oxygen for just five seconds?

The oxygen we breathe to live roughly makes up 21 per cent of our atmosphere with the 78 per cent being nitrogen and one per cent carbon dioxide and other gases.


Without oxygen, plants, animals, water and we humans wouldn’t be alive. Though five seconds looks a very short span of time and we all can easily hold our breath for that time. Many of us can even hold their breath for as long as 30-40 seconds. Some can even hold it for 1 minute as well.

Here are some debilitating changes would occur if that were to happen:

1) The sky during the day would get dark

Light from the Sun reaches the Earth’s surface as a result of multiple reflections that occur when light particles bounce off the particles in the air. The absence of oxygen means less particles for the light to bounce on, so the sky would appear dark, almost black, actually.

2) Earth’s crust would crumble

The earth beneath us won’t simply crack, but also turn into dust as oxygen constitutes 45% of the Earth’s crust. Therefore, without its major constituent, the earth below us would disappear and we would free fall.

3)  Everyone chilling out at the beach would get extremely sunburnt.

The chemical composition of ozone consists of 3 oxygen molecules. Ozone is the gas that prevents most of the UV from sunlight from reaching the troposphere.

4) Everyone’s inner ear would explode.

We would lose about 21% of the air pressure in an instant, which would be similar to jumping from sea level to nearly 2000m almost instantly. This would prevent the eardrums from becoming acclimated to the changes in pressures. We would experience something called barotrauma (refers to injury sustained from failure to equalize the pressure of an air-containing space with that of the surrounding environment). 

4) The oceans and other water bodies will start evaporating into space.

Water has two constituents – 2 parts  hydrogen and 1 part oxygen. Without the 33% oxygen, water would just be free hydrogen gas.


5) Vehicles with internal combustion engines would stop working.

All cars running on any type of fuel that relies on internal combustion engines (everything except electric cars) would just stop, since there isn’t any oxygen for the combustion process to occur.

6) Pieces of untreated metals in contact would instantly become welded to each other.

The reason metals don’t weld on contact is that they are coated in a layer of oxidation. In vacuum conditions, metal welds without any intermediate liquid phase. This is the principle used in cold welding.

7) Every structure made of concrete would crumble.

Oxygen is an important binder in concrete structures, and without it, the compounds do not hold their rigidity.

Thank you, Oxygen, for existing and letting us exist! 

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