OOTO: Water and Miracle Ice
I’ve been reading again which has sparked my brain. In particular I would like to talk about water, water is easily my favorite drink. I’m not sure how many people would say that, but if you gave me the option of my favorite soda or juice and water I would choose water every time.
When I was little I was never informed about what dehydration feels like and for much of my young life before high school I felt like I was inferior, running with other students was difficult and painful. One day I mentioned it to my PE teacher and he simply said “Drink water, you are dehydrated.” Magically my performance improved dramatically and my confidence was boosted.
Water is fantastic.
But I’m not here to discuss how water saved my physical life (and dramatically reduced the amount of illnesses I get or was getting). I’m here to discuss water in its 3 forms and to push forward a notion from Richard Feynman that I felt was quite beautiful.
We’ll start from the most active and make our way down to the least active. The reason for this is I want to discuss a bit deeper to beat a “miracle” about ice to death. But first!
When you heat up water, or any liquid (most of which contain water), there is a point where the excitation of the molecules that make up water (the atoms two hydrogen and one oxygen) that the force that binds them together becomes weaker than the energy that is repelling them. When you do this enough the bonds that keep water together begin to break and they spread apart.
The close molecules are together the warmer they will become and the further apart they are the cooler they become. As the energy that separated the water into steam begins to cool the forces that attract the water molecules will start to take dominance and drag it back together.
Effectively the hydrogen atoms in water really enjoy being around the oxygen in it, this malleable bond is (to my knowledge) why water is a liquid. If you think about this bond as you would a pair of horse shoe magnets you can better get an understanding for how they stay together. The hydrogen atoms of various water particles are pushing away from one another while simultaneously trying to get sexy with the nearest oxygen atoms they can see.
Get too much of this excitation going on, perhaps by increasing the pressure or by increasing the energy being forced into the water and you will get these molecules attracting and repelling with such force that they will actually launch some of their brothers and sisters right out of the container. This is commonly called evaporating, which is one of those words that really clearly explains what it means in the name…kinda neat.
On a related note, ever wondered why increasing pressure on an object will make it warmer the more pressure you add? The crushing action of, say a piston, is very similar to hitting a ball with a racket or a bat. The speed that that ball bounces off either of those things is faster than the speed it had when it hit them. Increase speed leads to more collisions, which leads to more energy build up (through friction), which leads to more speed and more collisions and these things will keep banging against stuff until they find an escape. Alternatively they’ll keep doing this till all that energy is pulled away through the container (presuming the container is cooler than the water itself).
Everything is looking for equilibrium, if you give things a lot of space to level out they will be cool but if you force them into spaces that are smaller than their balanced state they will get warmer. Basically, that’s how I understand it.
As I jumped the gun in steam I mentioned the interesting interaction water has with itself. The hydrogen are trying to touch the oxygen which are trying to touch the hydrogen. This results in a lot of jiggling, like a bunch of McDonald’s customers at a rave, they begin to bump and grind against one another when they are near.
Atoms can certainly seem a bit homophobic when you put them in a pot, the hydrogen trying not to bump into other hydrogen for fear of being demoted to a less popular atom. Oxygen however doesn’t appear to be too averse to getting nice and close, perhaps oxygen is the more adventurous of the two, but the hatred that hydrogen has for its neighbors is big enough, or perhaps its love for oxygen is big enough, that the connections always end up looking like the following:
Now imagine if you built a network of magnets where all the white sides of the magnets are positively charged and all the red sides are negatively charged. Imagine if you had them all setup to be very close to one another. You would find that this would jiggle quite a lot as it constantly tries to find the most comfortable position. As with all cases (that I’m aware of) the goal is to reach a net neutral of push and pull, but the given layout of the molecules is just not conducive for it.
But these water molecules need energy to stay apart, apparently not all that much energy because they do damn well, and to their credit it takes a nice chunk of energy to get them consistently booking ass out into the air.
What happens when you suck all that energy out like some kind of energy vampire?
As mentioned previously in a manner that would make any professor cringe, the molecules have a very specific layout that they want to be in. These things are pretty anal about the whole thing, if you try to force them to be better friends they will lay themselves out in such a manner so as to reduce the nasty touching if possible. This stubborn attitude is why ice takes up more space than water does, the water molecules space as far apart as they can in the most awkward configuration as they can and this requires a lot of airspace.
Man…how many images will I be taking from Wikipedia today? Anyways… So as you can see in this example the whites are trying to get some sweet red action and the reds are trying to get some sweet white action. This requires a lot of space to get a nice even distribution across the entire ice structure.
This leads me to a notion that nearly made me go cross eyed many moons ago. My father-in-law brought up a line he had heard from a religious friend which was “one philosophical point for proving the existence of god is that ice gets larger when it freezes and becomes less dense meaning it floats to the top of the water, if it didn’t it would sink and kill all life in fresh water areas that freeze.”
These sort of “proofs” are incredibly hubristic and almost always moronic. It is an issue of the chicken and the egg, which again is not a complicated question but I’ve answered it before. Basically the ice wasn’t made the way it is so that the fish would survive, fish and other fresh water wildlife lives in there because the ice acts that way.
If the ice got more dense and sank, nothing would really change. You wouldn’t have fresh water fish (presumably) but that’s it. Fresh water animals are not essential for our existence or frankly the existence of just about anything. Life would simply be different, the environment didn’t change to be convenient for animals, animals adapted to the harsh environment to make it work for them.
The ocean doesn’t freeze over basically anywhere, so if the ice did sink it would not be much of an inconvenience for the largest source of life on the planet. If almost all life wouldn’t care about ice, then why should we find it to be such a miracle?
But then, you may say “Well why does all life depend on water then?! It must be special.” Once again I say nein! Water on Earth has the exceptional quality of existing in all three states naturally, this is why it is found in most (if not all) life. It’s the most abundant resource that exists in all the malleable stats that a biological organism would appreciate.
If the most common liquid was liquid arsenic, or mercury, or some other odd ditty like this then if any live did spring it would likely survive off these things. The world, and the universe, exist as we know it because they must exist as we know it. We only know what exists so no matter what variables you tweak the answers will always be the same.
Ice is not a miracle, it is tasty and fun and makes great for soothing bruises, but there is nothing about it that is a miracle. The only thing that would change in our universe if we changed some variable is that the universe would be changed to reflect that variable, there is no possible universe where life could exist and that life would not exist as life within it knows it exists.
That sounds confusing because the premise itself is basically retarded. It hurts my very being when people ask meaningless questions and feel they’ve been profound.
To put it another way, and I’m paraphrasing: “Look at water, look at all the things that water can do. It’s a simple continuation of the same molecule ad nauseam. This single molecule can make foam, clouds, fill massive seas, and show up in all sorts of forms. That’s the power of a single molecule, now imagine if you built something from many molecules.
Imagine all the things this thing could do!
Look at you, for instance. This is the power of the molecule.” – Richard Feynman