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Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'm thankful for water

Thankful for water

The graphic above is based on a photograph by Monteregina, on Flickr, and is used by permission. The model of the water molecule is from en.wikipedia.org, which allows such usage. I thank both of these.

I'm thankful for water. You should be, too. We are mostly made of water, after all.

Why else should we be thankful for water?
Water provides a great deal of beauty -- water drops on leaves, clouds, rainbows, waterfalls, reflections in pools, and in other ways. Indirectly, it provides more beauty, because most of the living things that we think of as beautiful, such as roses, or bluebirds, depend on water to live and grow. See the graphic above, which shows the beauty of water in cloud formation and reflection.

Water is an important solvent. It carries food molecules, hormones, and waste products throughout our bodies, and those of other organisms. It carries the ions that we use to cause signals in our brains, and in other nerve cells.

Water is the basis of a transport system in the body. It helps carry food through the gut, for digestion, and carries red blood cells, with their load of Oxygen, white blood cells, which fight infection, and platelets, which repair tissue damage, around the body. It helps our sperms and eggs get together. It does these things for many other organisms, too.

Water is one of the two raw materials of photosynthesis, the process which makes, directly or indirectly, almost all of our food, and that of most other organisms. In other words, our food, carbohydrates, proteins and fats, is partly constructed from atoms taken from water molecules.

Water serves as a habitat for many organisms. Some of them live in water and never come out of it. Some of these, such as some humans, alligators, herons, and beavers, can live near water, and depend on it, but don't live in it full-time. Some, like dragonflies and toads, live in water in part of their lives, but out of it in the rest. Some organisms use frozen water -- snow or ice -- to live in or on.

Water is responsible for shaping the land around us.

Water has been necessary for much of human transportation and exploration. It still serves in that way.

Water serves to moderate climate -- temperature fluctuations are usually less, near bodies of water. Although we don't hear much about it, water vapor in the atmosphere is the most important greenhouse gas. (We hear more about carbon dioxide because there isn't nearly as much of it in the atmosphere, thus significantly adding to it is much more likely than adding to the amount of water vapor.) Without greenhouse gases, the earth's temperature would be well below freezing -- not conducive to life.

Water is necessary for many manufacturing processes. Other such processes may not absolutely require water, but use it, because there is often a lot of it available, and it is inexpensive. For example, it is used in cleaning and cooling. We use it in our homes, to wash our bodies, our food, our dishes and clothes, and to carry off body waste.

Water is able to do some of these things because it has some remarkable, even unique, properties.

It is the only common substance which exists normally in all three states -- gas, liquid and solid. That makes living in snow or on ice possible. It also makes the water cycle possible. It rains!

Water is the only common substance which has a solid form which is less dense than the liquid form. In other words, ice floats. This makes it possible for fish and other organisms to live in bodies of water in the winter -- they live in liquid while there is a solid roof over them. It also gives polar bears a place to live.

Water is the only common substance which is most dense between the temperatures where it changes state. It is most dense at 4 degrees Celsius, which is about the temperature of a refrigerator. It becomes less dense as it cools from 4 degrees down to 0 degrees, where it freezes, and also as it warms from 4 degrees up to 100 degrees, where it boils. So what? That property makes it less likely that a body of water will freeze solidly, and also allows nutrients, which have sunk to the bottom of a body of water, to be recirculated. Bodies of water often are at 4 degrees on their bottom. See here for more information.

Water has a high heat of fusion, and a high heat of vaporization. This means that water moderates temperature, not only in weather and climate, but in us -- we can expose ourselves to temperatures significantly higher or lower than our own, and suffer no ill effects.

Water is transparent. Other substances are, too, but not as many as you might think. This transparency means that we can see -- light goes through the water-based fluids in our eyes, to hit the retina. Plants can carry on photosynthesis because light goes through parts of their cells, to reach the chloroplasts. Underwater plants can carry on photosynthesis because light comes through water to them.

Water is polar. See the model of the water molecule in the graphic. The two white spheres represent Hydrogens, the red sphere an Oxygen atom. Because they are arranged asymmetrically, there is more positive charge near the Hydrogens, more negative near the Oxygen. This makes water molecules attractive to one another -- they tend to hang together, the positive part of one attracted to the negative part of another. This makes water drops possible. It also allows some insects, and even birds and lizards, to walk on top of water -- the water, as it were, would rather hold on to itself than let the animal fall into it. This polarity makes it possible for plants to bring water up to their tops, so those cells can live. Plants don't have any pumping mechanism, like our hearts. Other substances are also polar.

Life on earth is often, with good reason, called Carbon-based. But it is also water-based.

Genesis 1:2 says, at the beginning of the creation story, "The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters."  Revelation 22, the last chapter in the Bible, says "1 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2a in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month." How to interpret Genesis 1, and Revelation, are matters of considerable controversy, but, however they are interpreted, water is mentioned as an integral part of creation, and of the Final Kingdom.

Clearly, water is important. I believe God planned it that way. I can't prove that He did, but it can't be disproved, either. I'm thankful for water, with all its characteristics. Thanks for reading.

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