Things Science Doesn’t Yet Know About Water

Surely we know everything there is to know about water?ice berg

Every living thing needs water to live — humans, who can go a month without food, die after just a week without some of it — and every living thing contains a bunch of it. Water makes up 75 percent of the average Butterball turkey or ponderosa pine tree, and more than 80 percent of a Hawiian pineapple or Colorado melon.

Water is really, really old. The same amount of water exists today on Earth as was around billions of years ago, and, because of nature’s “water cycle,” it’s the same water, moving perpetually from sea to clouds to rain to earth and back again. Ad infinitum.

Could the tears that run the makeup of an upset girlfriend be the same rain drops that once washed the back hair of Noah and his creatures during the deluge many millenia ago? Yes, entirely possible.

  • If every household in America has a faucet that drips every second, 928 million gallons of water will leak down our collective drains in a single day.
  • The average American uses about 160 gallons of water a day at a cost of 30 cents.

Beyond these inane statistics what else is left to know about water, H2O, Agua? Guess what, science still has yet to come up with explanations for several really basic things about water and it’s properties.

Water doesn’t behave like any other chemical, in fact water is probably the “most weird” substance on earth. Water can do magic and this magic is mainly possible because water is like a mermaid swimming by its own rules. It would likely wear a sexy swimsuit, if only we could get the creature to pose long enough to give up its secrets.

For example, a standard principle of matter is that most all liquids fill less volume when frozen into a solid. That’s because molecules move closer together becoming less active when cooled, which is why frozen liquids are hard. But water, unlike anything else, expands as it freezes. You’ll know if you’ve ever had a water pipe burst in your home during a winter cold snap or a Coke explode in your car’s cold trunk. This is why ice cubes float — unlike any other substance, the frozen version, ice, is lighter and less dense than the liquid version. Hey, Mr. Scientist, Why is this? “Heck if I know”, he replies.

Why is ice slippery? Brilliant Mr. Science doesn’t have an answer to that one either.

That’s not where water’s mysteries end, either. For some reason, hot water freezes faster than cold water. That is to say, if you take a glass of hot water and a glass of cold water and put them both in the freezer at precisely the same time, the hot water will turn to ice before the cold water does.

The fact that hot water freezes faster than cold has been known for many centuries.  The earliest reference to this phenomenon dates back to Aristotle in 300 B.C.  The phenomenon was later discussed in the medieval era, as European physicists struggled to come up with a theory of heat.  But by the 20th century the phenomenon was only known as common folklore, until it was reintroduced to the scientific community in 1969 by Mpemba, a Tanzanian high school pupil.  Since then, numerous experiments have confirmed the existence of the “Mpemba effect”, but have not settled on any single explanation.

Water can explode. (Without using explosives) Demonstrating this fact is seriously dangerous. This involves “superheating” water, by getting it way beyond the boiling point without having it actually bubble and boil. This is rather easy, since actual boiling, that is bubbles and steam escaping hot water, can only be achieved with a “seed” (or points, preferably sharp, where bubbles form and release energy). Normally, minerals in the water and imperfections on the surface of the container are more than enough for this boiling action to occur at 212 degrees F.

Distilled water that has been superheated in a polished glass cup, when the boiling process happens all at once, in a fraction of a second, explodes in a way that results in super scalding water flying everywhere. (Do we need to tell you that if you decide to try this at home, do it only with adult supervision and proper safety equipment? Do we really have to warn you? Of course, some rookie scientist will still attempt this while fully nude.)

Water can also be supercooled without freezing. Once a “seed” is introduced to water-cooled well below 32 degrees, it will immediately crystallize, the whole volume all at once. Once again, water surprises!

For those of us in the Restoration industry dealing with the effects of water every day, there is really not much about water that surprises us any longer. We know its effects when water sneaks up on our customers frequently, in nasty and often very expensive ways. Water flowing into our homes may be some “Act of God”, an accidental or negligent event. Water damage can result from water in the wrong place in any of its forms -liquid, vapor or solid. Add some Time to spilled Water and things really get interesting.

If your little experiment with water goes painfully awry, just pick up the phone and call 406 892-1717. Floodco’s water techs will be on the way!

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