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The Air You Breathe Is Full of Surprises

(NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC) The gases in the air around us are unseen but their influence is surprisingly visible. For instance, did you know that, right now, you are probably inhaling the air from Julius Caesar’s last gasp in A.D. 44? Or that poison gases inspired Einstein to invent a refrigerator? Or that a man became the toast of turn-of-the-century Paris by controlling his own farts?

These are some of the fascinating details that science writer Sam Keanpacks into his new book, Caesar’s Last Breath. When National Geographic caught up with Kean at his home in Washington, D.C., he explained why analyzing the gases in the atmospheres of other planets will be the best way of finding intelligent life; how a German physicist created the gas warfare that killed thousands in World War I and continues to do so in Syria today; and why releasing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere may be the best way of reducing global warming.

The idea that we might still be inhaling the last breath exhaled by Caesar as he lay dying is a cute conceit for a book title. But there’s no science to it, is there?

As far as we can tell, it is a legitimate idea. It’s sort of an inevitable consequence of a) how many molecules you breathe in every time you take a breath and b) how long those molecules persist in our atmosphere. It’s not a guarantee that every single breath you’re going to get one. But, on average, it’s inevitable that you’re going to inhale some of those same molecules over the course of a day.

Source: The Air You Breathe Is Full of Surprises