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I don’t know if this phrase is in widespread use. My Nana used it to describe playing with water, splashing it out of the bath, submerging rubber ducks and letting them bob to the surface. Water as fun.

Water is fun, as anyone who’s ever had a waterfight will tell you. You can swim in it, sail on it, let it knock down sandcastles. The amorous opportunities afforded by a bath or shower with a loved one are not to be underestimated. Watching a cat trying not to get rained on is fun.

But water is also very odd indeed. A most curious compound.

It’s pretty simple for a chemical compound. Two hydrogen atoms, and an oxygen atom. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. It really doesn’t. Its properties are very strange.

Here’s a thing. Almost all fluids become denser as they get colder. That’s why the oil in your car engine is a bit thick of a cold winter’s morn. Water does this down to about 4 Celsius, at which point it reaches its maximum density. Then anomalously it starts to expand again. Ice is less dense than liquid water and it floats, which is why you get the pleasing clinking from a vodka and tonic as the ice cubes tap the glass. It’s also why rivers and ponds only freeze at the top, unless it’s seriously cold. If you’ve got a garden pond, the water at the bottom, even when it’s iced over, will be at 4 Celsius. This is very good news for any fish you may have.

Ice itself is weird. For one thing, warm water will freeze faster than cold water. Try it in your freezer at home if you don’t believe me. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this should happen, but the current favourite is that the two freeze into different forms of ice. You may not know that there are no fewer than eight identified forms of ice. This fact was used by Kurt Vonnegut in the novel Cat’s Cradle, where a ninth form was developed as a weapon. So, eight types of ice. Their formation depends on the pressure and temperature at which they form. You can get water to well below 0 Celsius before it freezes if the pressure is high enough. Some of the deeper oceanic trenches are below freezing, but don’t have ice in them because of the immense pressure.

So as a solid, water acts strangely, and as a liquid it acts strangely too. Liquid water is not as random or disorganised as it appears. Molecules will group together into highly organised domains, which have some of the properties of a solid, a bit like local ice crystals. They’re less dense than the overall liquid. See


if you can be bothered. Incidentally there was a serious discussion in the 70s about whether the organising of water molecules, and the effect of these domains on other masses of water, might be an explanation for telepathy. I didn’t swallow this myself, but it was real mad scientist thinking. I admired that.

Interesting stuff. But it does not constitute a memory; the domains are very short lived. Water does not have a memory, as you will know all too well if you drop a glass of it. It goes all over the place, and does not reform itself into the shape of the glass. Just as well, or it would be god’s own job to get the stuff out of the tap and into the glass, if you want to take the reductio ad absurdum route. This lack of memory blows the whole homeopathy argument out of the water, as it were. I’ll be posting on homeopathy shortly. Be warned. I think it’s a crock. Dr Daniel Hahnemann was one of the biggest charlatans the world has ever taken seriously. So there.

Lots of other interesting facts about water, but I’ve bored you enough.