Sunday, July 18, 2010


It's gratitude Sunday and I just came back from kayaking on Bass Lake so this week's gratitude is water.  How fortunate most of us are to have clean drinking water and lakes, rivers and streams that invite recreation and renew our spirits. After the BP oil spill in the gulf, there is an even deeper feeling of gratitude for this abundant and life-supporting gift.

But what is this stuff we call water and know from grade-school science as H2O?  It turns out that even scientists don't know everything about this most basic substance and it has some very strange properties. states:

  • The solid form floats on the liquid form. This property also explains why water pipes will burst when they freeze - something opposite of nearly every other simple substance. Mercury thermometers, for instance, do not explode when the temperature drops below the freezing point of mercury.
  • The temperatures at which water boils and freezes are both higher than other molecules of similar size.
  • Water has a large heat capacity; it can take in a lot of heat without its temperature increasing very much. This makes it an especially good coolant for a car radiator, and it's the main reason temperatures are moderate for coastal communities - as the ocean is slow to cool down or warm up.
  • The high surface tension of water - its tendency to fight being pulled apart - explains why it forms droplets and why it climbs up the sides of a straw. It may also play a part in how the water strider walks on water.
Perhaps even stranger, there is a widely-held belief that water holds memory.  While not completely accepted by the scientific community, it is creating a lot of conversation and controversy.  Below is an interesting video telling the story of this thinking (this is just the first part of a multi-part series).  In the meantime, it's probably enough to marvel at this mysterious substance that forms most of our world and our own bodies ... and be grateful for it ... whatever it is.


  1. I am grateful for your thoughts and sharing! I too am grateful for water -- and I thank you for holding this space where I too can express my gratitude.


  2. A recent article in the Post on garden watering indicated that rain water has properties that the water we drink does not and so is far better for our plants.

    The concept of water holding memory is fascinating. I think of how much of our body is made up of water, of how we are held in the womb following our conception, how at birth the water "breaks", how holy water is used in our baptism, etc.

    Great post.