You heard that the Sun is “stranger than astrophysicists imagined.” Swell, water is weird too. Researchers in Japan tried to find out why water behaves in the (life-friendly) way it does:
The researchers, with the benefit of supercomputers, were able to tweak and untune a computational model of water, making it behave like other liquids. “With this procedure,” Russo said, “we have found that what makes water behave anomalously is the presence of a particular arrangement of the water’s molecules, such as the tetrahedral arrangement, where a water molecule is hydrogen-bonded to four molecules located on the vertices of a tetrahedron,” a shape of four triangular planes. “Four of such tetrahedral arrangements can organize themselves in such a way that they share a common water molecule at the center without overlapping,” Russo said. As a result, when water freezes, it creates an open structure, mostly empty space and less dense than the disordered structure of liquid water, which is why water props ice up. Both highly ordered and disordered tetrahedral arrangements give water its “peculiar properties.” The paper’s title spells this out: “Water-like anomalies as a function of tetrahedrality.”Brian Gallagher, “Why Water Is Weird” at Nautilus
Paper. (open access)
Nautilus pursues the matter further with chemist Richard Saykally.
See also: Experiment Makes Fundamental Asymmetry Of Water “Glaringly Clear”
Water can exist in two different liquid phases
A new piece found in the puzzle of water’s strange, life-enabling behavior
Michael Denton: Does water’s remarkable fitness for life point to design?
At Quanta: Sun “stranger than astrophysicists imagined” Naturally, they’re hoping for some new physics to come out of these surprises. Just think, if new physics comes out of this, it will be real physics too, not rubbish about the multiverse or how we are all living in some space alien’s giant sim world.
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