Friday, February 23, 2007

Bubble Ships -- Banging Water

When I was in high school in Poosah City many, many years ago, I tutored a fellow in chemistry one summer.

He was a good old boy and a friend, but his mind could simply not wrap around the concept of valens, that is the number of electrons an atom needs to "borrow" or "loan" in order to have a complete "shell.

But then, I hit upon the idea of replacing the idea of valens with sexual organs. My friend easily comprehend that an atom could have one, two or more "dicks" or a number of "cunts". From there, he only had to memorise how many of what sort each element had.

The thing with Carbon, is that, to continue with the image, it is sort of a hermaphrodite -- it's AC/DC and can go both ways. That is why Carbon can form long chains, rings, even spheres with itself. If it didn't do that, there would be no proteins, no DNA and no life.

But it was water I had planned to entertain you with today with my surplus of semi-ignorance.

Water is a most unusual substance.

First of all, it's boiling point at what we know as atmospheric pressure is extremely high. Secondly, its normal solid form, ice, is lighter than the liquid. Third, it has an extremely high coefficient of heat -- that is, it takes a lot of energy to heat it up or cool it down. Forth, it can exist in three states, gas, liquid and solid at temperatures we consider to be normal. Fifth, water is pretty much a universal solvent -- one of the first things you want to know about a chemical compound is how soluble it is in water.

The point is, that all of these characteristics of water are crucial to life forms, at least as we know them. True, there are speculations that life could be based on silicon -- but, outside of science fiction scenarios and nightmares, that seem unlikely.

But why does water have such a unique chemistry? There are a number of factors, but the main one is what is known as "hydrogen bonding".

Oxygen, is rather greedy and. when it loans the electrons from two Hydrogen atoms, it keeps them pretty much to itself. The result is that a water molecule is "bipolar". That is to say, it has negative and positive ends. But unlike a magnet, where the north and south poles are on a straight line, with water there are two posive "poles" at an angle of approximately 105 degrees.

Two make a long and rather complicated story short, this in that main reason that water exhibits all the qualities mentioned above -- and many more.

The point of all this, at least why I mention them here, is to point out that a planet like our Mother Earth should form and orbit around a star like our sun in a galaxy like our Milky Way is implicit in the Singularity the immediate consequence of which was what we know as the Big Bang.

Furthermore, the particular chemistry of Carbon and Water along with the chemistry of all the other elements not only make it possible for life, but make it probable, likely, in fact nearly inevitable on, not only our dear Blue Mother, but many, many other planets in the manifest Universe.

Tomorrow, I hope to bring "Bubble Ships" full circle and fulminate about the anti-intellectual bullshit known as "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism".

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