Water and Magic

Humans and most terrestrial life are mostly water. The human male is composed of about 60% water by weight and the female is composed of about 50%. Water is crucial to the functioning and existence of life as we know it. The very first thing that space scientists look for in their extra-terrestrial search for life is water.

Water is composed of one Oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms in water are attached to the oxygen atom by something called a covalent bond. Covalent bonds are very strong bonds that come from the strange world of quantum mechanics. Covalent bonds are very strong and are only occasionally broken by collisions with other water molecules.

Water has a characteristic V shape, which also is a result of the strange world of quantum mechanics. This gives the molecules the properties it needs to give rise to living organisms.  The effect is that the water molecule has a local net charge in locations about the molecule. The oxygen has an increased negative charge of 70% of a proton charge. The two hydrogens each have positive charges of about 35% of an electron charge. The molecule is charge neutral overall, but locally there are locations of excess charge.

In May, 1609, a fleet of nine vessels sailed from England with provisions and five hundred settlers for the newly founded colony of Virginia. On July 25 a storm separated the “Sea Adventure” from the fleet. It was wrecked three days later on the coast of Bermuda. The crew reached one of the islands in safety, and in May, 1610, continued their voyage to Virginia in two boats of cedar which they had built on the island.

Meanwhile news of the disaster had reached England. In 1610 some of those who had taken part in these experiences returned home. It is likely that William Shakespeare learned some details from the returned sailors themselves. In that same year, Shakespeare wrote his final play, The Tempest, which contains some of the most beautiful artistic insights into water that I am aware of.

Full fathom five thy father lies.

Of his bones are coral made.

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

This is how I relate to water and its magic that turns simple molecules into life.

For those of you who are watching this video as part of the How Water Thinks game, you have some homework. Create a short piece of literature of any kind and submit it through the comments section below. Please keep the length shorter than 200 words. The best submissions will appear on this post. The very best will be included in the game itself.

Read more in Confronting Complexity by Casti, Jones, and Pennock

 

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