Friday, July 22

Jaw-Dropping Droplets

Think water's nothing to light a candle with? I don't know how familiar you are with the chemistry you learned in high school, but it doesn't take long to realize how truly amazing water is when you begin to think about it--scientifically speaking.

Which is what I did.

After being mesmerized by my mom's homemade garden waterfall for about the 15th time this week, and gulpping down another glass of water that used to have ice in it only 5 minutes ago, (For those of you that don't know.. it's hot outside. Like fry-an-egg, one-hundred-plus, stay-inside-lest-you-instantly-succumb-to-heat-exhaustion, hot. Not only that, Indiana has this wonderful ability to trap the heat around you in its humid air like a giant atmospheric jacuzzi.) Anyway, after looking at all this water, I began to think, and I said to myself, "Self, you know what? Water is sweet."

To which myself replied, "Ya. It is. Remember chem and those little water bugs?"

And I said, "Yep. My thoughts exactly."

Fun fact? Water (H20) has lots of other excellent scientific names if you feel like sounding extra-smart (or answering a question right on Jeopardy). Because it is a molecule composed of 2 Hydrogen atoms and a single Oxygen atom, you can call it: dihydrogen monoxide. You can also call it oxidane dydroxylic acid, and hydrogen hydroxide. (The last one is my personal favorite but that's just because I'm a sucker for alliteration.)

Also, because of water's molecular make-up, it is constantly forming hydrogen bonds with its neighboring water molecules. Each Hydrogen atom has a single electron which is drawn near the Oxygen atom. (Remember chemistry? O has 6 electrons and everyone's looking for that magic 8?) Anyway, this leaves the H atoms with a positive charge and the O with a slightly negative charge when the two bond together. And... we all know that opposites attract. So, the negative hydrogen ends of water hop (Actually they bounce. Or float. Or do whatever molecules do.) on over to the positive oxygen ends of other water molecules and end up feeling a little more optimistic about their unbalanced state. And a hydrogen bond is formed! (Though only temporarily. You know how these things happen.. you start fast and end fast.)

Anyway... what this all comes down to is because of this constant hydrogen bonding, water molecules are unnaturally drawn to one another. It's like they're kinda sticky, and it ends up creating really cool things like surface tension, beading, and jaw-dropping droplets.

Surface tension is what all the cool bugs use when they want to take a leaf from Jesus--it helps them walk on water. Which is awesome!! Look:

And it isn't just insects. There's a lizard that does it too. The best part? It's called a basilisk. (Who doesn't love when biology and Harry Potter collide?)

Also, these hydrogen bonds cause water to form almost perfect spheres when it's on a waxy surface like a leaf or the hood of my brand new car. :)

Not only does it form these cool droplets, but water is also transparent and makes a sweet convex lens. It's with this phenominon that Flick used to make himself the coolest ant-sized telescope I've ever seen:

And if you know anything about water and water droplets it's that they're one of the most mesmerizing things to watch in slow motion. It's because of those crazy hydrogen bonds once again!

What's even neater? Anytime a drop of water falls into a pool of water, a tiny, perfect sphere of water bounces off the surface. The occurs over and over again. Each time, the sphere decreases (in a perfect mathematical units) until it disappears. Check it out:

And so I starting thinking about all this stuff and then myself reminded me, "What about ice?" So let me tell you what's cool about ice--and I'm not just talking temperature here.

Firstly, we take it for granted, but have you ever stopped to wonder why ice floats and what the implications of it are? I mean, think about it: What other substance do you know of that is less dense in its solid form than its liquid one? 

So, when winter rolls around in its nippy Jack-Frost manner, you'll notice that you're swimming hot-spots still stay relatively... well, hot. At least under the surface. As water freezes, it becomes less dense and floats to the surface, leaving all our favorite underwater friends safe and snug throughout the snowy season. 

And do you know what other awesome property water has that allows for this? Well.. water has an extremely high specific heat capacity--2nd only to one: Ammonia. Which means, it takes a whole lot of heat to raise the temperature of water. Because so much of the Earth is covered with water, this is what keeps our planet from experiencing extreme temperature fluctuations. It's also what keeps the underwater creatures from needing a thermostat.

Is your mind blown yet?

I'm not even going to get into the fact that the tides are created by the moon's gravitational pull; explore meteorological topics of snow or clouds or hail or sleet; examine the sheer force of water which, at extremely high velocities, is used to cut the metal parts for airplanes; discuss the life-sustaining qualities of it; or tell you about frozen glacier waves--which are just about the most amazing sight north and south of the equator:

Still think it's "just water"?

Think again.

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