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RC Passage

Until the mid-20th century, scientists believed that the chest cavity would implode at around 115 feet. Water pressure, they argued, reaches 65 pounds per square inch at that depth, which is enough to shrink lungs to the size of grapefruits and collapse rib cages like empty soda cans. Their theory went out the window in the 1950's and early 1960's, however, when divers like Enzo Maiorca returned from beyond 115-feet with rib cages intact. We now know that water pressure forces blood vessels in the chest to swell, filling the void left by the lungs with an incompressible fluid.

Among the dangers of free diving, the most disconcerting is shallow-water blackout—the brain's frightening tendency to shut down within 15 feet of the surface during the ascent. As you descend, water pressure squeezes your lungs, condensing the oxygen and giving you what feels like a second breath. During the return trip, however, your lungs re-expand, dissipating what's left of your oxygen. If levels drop too low, not enough will move into the bloodstream, and the lights go out. Fortunately, the body's laryngospasm reflex kicks in to tighten the throat and keep water out for up to a minute—just enough time for your dive buddy to drag you to the surface, tilt your head back, and beg, "Breathe, baby." Knowing Johnston will be there watching my eyes as I ascend (seeing them roll back in the head is a red flag), I dip below the surface. Staying in the syringe—dive speak for a tight hydrodynamic column—I kick down to 30 feet, my point of neutral buoyancy, and then sink effortlessly to the bottom. I feel good—surprisingly good—thanks to the densely packed oxygen molecules in my lungs.

Lingering a moment, I peer up at the mirrored surface that separates this liquid world from mine. Diving to 55 feet was no sweat. I figure I could dive twice that with a little practice, reaching what scientists thought, not 50 years ago, was the body's depth limit. Today, however, that boundary has been pushed to at least 531 feet (the current no-limits world record), which begs the question: Just how deep can humans go? "We don't know that yet," says Lundgren, adding ominously. "But one day someone will find out”.

Directions: Consider each of the choices separately and select all that apply.

1. According to the author, shallow-water blackout is a danger of free diving that is highly

  • A. confounding
  • B. agitating
  • C. whimsical
  • D. baffling
  • E. reposing
Answer

The correct answers are A, B and D

It has been brought out by the author that among all the dangers of free diving shallow-water blackout is the most disconcerting. Confounding, agitating and baffling carry the same meanings as disconcerting, but whimsical and reposing carry entirely different meanings. This implies that A, B and D are the correct answers.

2. Which of the following is true in respect of the effect of water pressure on humans?

  • A. Scientists believed that the chest cavity would blow up at a depth of about 115 feet
  • B. Rib cages will collapse at the water pressure of 65 pounds per square inch
  • C. Blood vessels of the chest enlarge and fill the empty space left by lungs that have been compressed
  • D. It is now known that lungs will not shrink with increase in water pressure
  • E. It is no longer believed that the chest cavity will cave in at a depth of about 115 feet
Answer

The correct answers are C and E.

The beginning of the passage clearly brings out that the initial theory which was believed by the scientists was refuted in the 1950's and early 1960's. This implies that B is incorrect. Also, it was believed that the chest cavity would implode at a depth of about 115 feet. Implode means to collapse inward or cave in and not blow outwards. Therefore, A is incorrect and E is correct. It is now known that blood vessels swell to occupy the void left by the lungs. This implies that the lungs shrink with increase in water pressure. Therefore, C is correct and D is incorrect. In view of the above, C and E are the correct answers.

3. When a free diver is coming up towards the surface of the water,

  • A. the breathing stops just before the surface is reached
  • B. oxygen from the lungs is dispelled
  • C. water pressure squeezes the lungs
  • D. the throat automatically tightens to keep out water for a minute if the oxygen levels drop very low
  • E. oxygen is condensed and stored by the lungs
Answer

The correct answers are B and D.

During the free diver’s descent, that is when the diver is moving towards the bottom of the water body, water pressure squeezes the lungs and condenses the oxygen. This does not happen during ascent which would be when the diver is coming towards the surface of the water. Therefore, C and E are incorrect. A is clearly incorrect because the diver is holding his breath for the entire duration that he is underwater and not just when he is close to the surface. B and D refer to the actions that take place as the diver approaches the surface of the water and hence, B and D are the correct answers.

4. The author attributes the feeling of goodness while sinking to the bottom to

  • A. Johnston, who is waiting for him to come up
  • B. the condensed oxygen in his lungs
  • C. the closely packed oxygen molecules in his lungs
  • D. the dissipated oxygen molecules in his lungs
  • E. the laryngospasm reflex
Answer

The correct answers are B and C

The author mentions that he feels surprisingly good as he descends to the bottom and he gives the credit for this feeling to the densely packed oxygen molecules in his lungs. Dissipated oxygen molecules mean exactly the opposite of being densely packed and therefore, B and C are correct, but D is incorrect. The laryngospasm reflex is supposed to kick in when the diver is ascending and it does not make the diver feel good in any way whatsoever. A is clearly incorrect as the author makes a reference to Johnston waiting for him to come up to elucidate the fact that he can rely on Johnston to drag him to the surface if required. In view of the above, it is evident that A and E are incorrect and B and C are the correct answers.

5. Which of the following conclusions based on the given passage are justified?

  • A. The author feels he could have easily dived 110 feet with some more practice
  • B. Divers can always rely on the laryngospasm reflex to save them when they run out on oxygen
  • C. The laryngospasm reflex cannot save a diver if he is well below the surface of the water
  • D. The limit to which humans can dive freely has not yet been confirmed
  • E. During ascent, a diver experiences a second breath which is a result of condensed oxygen in the lungs
Answer

The correct answers are A, C and D

The passage ends on the note that we are not yet aware of the limit to which humans can dive freely. Moreover, the author mentions that with a little practice, he can dive to a depth of twice of 55 feet. Therefore, A and D are correct. The laryngospasm reflex kicks in when the diver’s oxygen levels fall too low. This reflex can keep the water out of the throat for only a minute. If the diver is close to the surface, then only can he be pulled to safety. Therefore, B is incorrect and C is correct. E is clearly incorrect as the diver has condensed oxygen in his lungs during descent and not during ascent. Therefore, A, C and D are the correct answers.

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