GASES



The number of elements that appear ordinarily in the form of a gas is relatively small: oxygen, hydrogen, fluorine, and chlorine in the halogen "family"; and a handful of others, most notably the noble gases in Group 8 of the periodic table. Yet many substances can exist in the form of a gas, depending on the relative attraction and motion of molecules in that substance. A simple example, of course, is water, or H 2 O, which, though it appears as a liquid at room temperature, begins to vaporize and turn into steam at 212°F (100°C). In general, gases respond more dramatically to changes in pressure and temperature than do most other types of matter, and this allows scientists to predict gas behaviors under certain conditions. These predictions can explain mundane occurrences, such as the fact that an open can of soda will soon lose its fizz, but they also apply to more dramatic, life-and-death situations.

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