Water is cool

Water is cool

Did you see the pictures of frozen Niagara Falls that were everywhere a couple of weeks ago? Awe-inspiring. It was even news in the UK. And this website noted that it looked like Narnia, which of course, I loved. I know, it's cold. But it's beautiful, no?

Water. It quenches our thirst, cleans our bodies, cools our brows. Water. We need it. We are it!

The human body is over 60% water! In many parts of the world it is a scarce resource. Take it away from any one of us, and in a mere matter of days, we die. Water: critical to human life—and remarkably unique in the world of science. 

I am learning to drink water. Sounds silly, but I tend to drink coffee, diet soda, etc. I am learning to enjoy a cool glass of water. It is much healthier.

When I think about this earth, this big ball we live on, there are so many amazing parts of our lives. Most of them I take for granted. I live day-in and day-out, trundling along, taking some of the most incredible natural aspects of this world, for granted. 

Consider water.

I was recently outside in a hot tub. Water vapor rising, as I sat in liquid water, with frozen water floating in the ice water I was drinking. All three forms coexisting. 

In our world, we typically experience substances in either gas, liquid, or solid form. They don’t often hang around together at the same time. Get something hot enough, and it becomes a gas. Cool it down enough, and it becomes a solid. When a substance is solid, it is denser, it sinks.

Yet there was my frozen water, floating in my liquid water. 

I know I am oversimplifying a bit (for you scientists out there), but the point is water seemingly co-exists in all three states. And when frozen does not sink – both points are just two of the special things we notice about Water.

Water is a compound. H₂O. When Hydrogen combines with something else, chemists call it a hydride. They group things together because they normally behave similarly, and it makes studying them easier. 

Water is a hydride. Most hydrides, as they get smaller, the boiling point gets lower. Take H₂S (Hydrogen Sulfide); its boiling point is minus 62 degrees Celsius (C).

Water breaks the rules. It is smaller than H₂ S, and yet its boiling point jumps to 100 degrees C! 

The same concept is applied to freezing point as well. The boiling and freezing points of water enable the molecules to be very slow to boil or freeze.

If water were easy to freeze or boil, drastic changes in the environment and so in oceans or lakes would cause all the organisms living in water to die. This is also why sweat cools our bodies.

Speaking of cooling, water, as it cools, does get denser, until about 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit). Below that temperature, the molecular structure makes it less dense. 

Why is this important? Imagine if lakes froze from the bottom up. It isn’t simply that ice-fishing is no longer a viable sport. It is that life is altered. All the life forms that stay alive under the ice, are now frozen.

Its behavior is critical to life on this planet. (Which also explains why we are running around in space looking for planets that have water.) 

So, next time you are sipping on a cool beverage… take note of the floating ice!

For a more serious read, check this out.

Why I am I even talking about this? Check out my first post in the Science & Faith series.

P.S. You can have lots of fun searching the internet for properties of water… and even Star Trek has a fun twist on “Ugly bags of Mostly Water.” 

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