Water Woo

Not many people know this, but water is weird. We're all familiar with water. It's all around us and the healthiest of us drink 8 glasses of it a day, stopping only for a colonic every now and then. Water makes up 3/4ths of the Earth's surface and 3/4ths of our bodies (coincidence? I think not). Because it is so common and part of our every day experiences, many people don't know that water actually has many peculiar properties that aren't typically seen in other molecules.

For example, water has surface tension, which is great for water bugs and Jesus. Water also expands when it freezes, which is great for the Arctic because otherwise the entire Arctic ocean would freeze instead of just the surface. Also, ice would sink instead of float - great for the Titanic, but not so great for a nice cold glass of iced tea.

Scientists have been examining the peculiar properties of water for ages, and now it looks like they've created a simple computer model that duplicates most of these oddities, with a special look at why oil and water don't mix.

Weird water: Discovery challenges long-held beliefs about water's special properties While their water imitator is hypothetical -- it was created with computer software that is commonly used for simulating interactions between molecules -- the researchers’ discovery may ultimately have implications for industrial or pharmaceutical research. “I would be very interested to see if experimentalists could create colloids (small particles suspended in liquid) that exhibit the water-like properties we observed in our simulations,” Debenedetti said. Such laboratory creations might be useful in controlling the self-assembly of complex biomolecules or detergents and other surfactants.

While it is amusing to imagine chemists bandy about "surfactants" like it's going out of style, I doubt that their simulations have taken into account a water's capacity for memory. So, these sciency types may think they're riding the high horse with their fancy computer simulations, but eventually they will come to know that there is a higher horse to ride.

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