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Discovery Magazine 7/1/1991

Water's Unusual Properties

What is water? If you were asked this question, you would probably answer in one of the following ways. "It's what you drink when you are thirsty." "Water is what Mom uses to cook with and wash clothes in." "It comes out of a faucet or out of the sky when it rains." "My Dad likes to catch fish from a body of water."

However, did you know that water makes up three-fourths of the Earth's surface and two-thirds of your body? Since it is the most common thing on Earth, it is also one of the most precious. Water's unusual properties, which make it so precious, can be the result of its remarkable chemical characteristics.

The formula for one molecule of water is H20. A molecule is the smallest bit of matter that still acts like that matter. Water molecules are made up of two atoms of hydrogen (H) and one large atom of oxygen (O). Both hydrogen and oxygen are gaseous forms of matter. Does this mean that two gases can be combined and changed into a liquid? Absolutely!

Here is another example of an unusual property of water. Most liquids contract (their molecules draw together) as they freeze. Water, however, contracts until it reaches the freezing point (32° F), and then it begins to expand (its molecules spread apart). Therefore, ice does not weigh as much as an equal amount of water. This is the reason icebergs float in the ocean.

Also, water takes on the shape of the container it is in. If you could separate one molecule of water and put it under an electron microscope (a tool scientists use to look at very small bits of matter) you would find that the shape of the molecule of water is a perfect, solid triangle. We call this a prism (a three sided object). This is the reason we see a rainbow after a rain shower. God, Who made our world, made water this way so that the light rays of the Sun going through the prism of water are bent in such a way that we see the entire spectrum of light in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The next time you see a rainbow, check to see if the colors aren't in this order. God gave us the rainbow as a promise that He would never destroy the world again by water.



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