Caesar’s Last Breath

Caesar’s Last Breath


Take a breath. It’s something you do all the time, mostly without thinking. But now let’s think about that air you just inhaled. What’s in it? Where did those substances come from? Is the air you just inhaled the same as the air your ancestors breathed in 100 years ago? 400 years ago? What have scientists learned from studying the air? And how have scientists and engineers used that knowledge to change our world?

The air might seem invisible and intangible most of the time, but it’s not empty. Sam Kean’s Caesar's Last Breath aims to share some of the stories that air has to tell, from how the atmosphere has changed starting from the formation of the earth, to stories of how scientists discovered the properties of the components of air and ways people have tried to harness the power of gases.


Watch Caesar’s Last Breath and the Fascinating Science and History of the Air We Breathe, a presentation by Sam Kean. Watch the presentation until the Q&A part at the end—you can stop when it ends at around 33 minutes and the moderator starts asking questions.

As you watch the video, answer these questions on your Caesar's Last Breath student sheet

  • How does the air you're breathing right now compare to what it was when the Earth had just formed? What about when life first evolved?
  • What kinds of events or processes were involved in shaping the atmosphere?
    • First Atmosphere:
    • Second Atmosphere:
    • Third Atmosphere:
    • Fourth Atmosphere:
  • What motivated Einstein to work on refrigerators?
  • What were the three types of refrigerators Einstein and Szilard invented?
  • Why didn't Einstein's refrigerator become a common household appliance?
  • What were some of the impacts of the refrigeration solution? 

This esheet is a part of the Caesar's Last Breath lesson.

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Esheet Details

Grades Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards