It’s a tiny little molecule, made up of 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen. Yet water is essential to life on Earth. We’re not just talking about the fact that it makes it a whole lot of you either. Liquid water is the thermostat of our planet. The polarity of the molecule gives the solid state (aka ice) some interesting properties that sustain life in aquatic environments. And while water is fun to splash around in for humans, we’re lucky we’re not bug-sized. Because you see, the smaller you get, the less fun water becomes.
Did you know that if we gave Venus Earth’s atmosphere, it would actually be pretty liveable despite its closer distance to the sun. But the reason our neighboring planet is a hot ball of acid is because there was no liquid water present. On Earth, rain acts as a carbon dioxide scrub. It takes this greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and sequesters it in the Earth’s crust. Volcanoes eventually spew carbon dioxide back out, but this slow cycle keeps Earth’s temperature relatively stable. Give or take an Ice Age here and there.
A Less Dense Solid
Thank goodness water becomes less dense when it freezes. Aquatic creatures take advantage of this and spend most of the winter in the chilly-but-not-freezing water that’s underneath the ice. It’s quite brilliant actually. Remember, cells are damaged by the expanding water inside of them when they freeze. In order to survive winter, animals living in ponds and lakes need to find somewhere that is just above freezing. And there’s no better place than under the ice that forms over their watery homes
Water is Sticky
The definition of the word “wet” is really just water molecules sticking to our skin. This is another fun characteristic of water, it’s sticky! This is fine if you’re human-sized, but the smaller you are, the more dangerous water becomes. Imagine if you’re an insect and you encounter a drop of water. Instead of getting you wet, it engulfs you like a mound of sticky glue or molasses. And then you drown. So while we splash around happily as humans, smaller animals must evolve ways to not drown every time it rains.
Holding Our World Together
Celebrate this sticky molecule that literally holds so many things together on this planet. Our water necklace comes in silver or 18K gold plated. It makes a fantastic gift for environmental scientists, climatologists, organic chemists, and humans who love to splash around.
written by Science with Evie