Archive for October 12, 2017

How Much Water Is in a Cloud and More Questions From Our Readers

Ever wonder how much water is in a cloud? (Illustration by Yutaka Houlette)

How much water is in a cloud? What would be left if you squeezed the water out of it?

It depends on the cloud. A giant thunderhead may contain more than two billion pounds of water, but even a modest-sized cloud may contain water equivalent to the mass of a 747 jet. If you could squeeze the water out, the cloud would disappear. But you can’t. Some desert peoples use cloth “cloud catchers” to gather condensation and fill local water tanks for drinking and irrigation.

What is the practical use of the imaginary number √–-1? 

The number is “imaginary” in the mathematical sense (that is, its square is less than zero). Such numbers represent solutions to many algebraic equations, and they are central to describing the motion of waves in such practical areas as hydrodynamics and aerodynamics, electrical circuit design, quantum mechanics and the theory of heat conduction. Read more