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Is water still in many ways a mystery?


Apparently yes.

From Nautilus:

Five Things We Still Don’t Know About Water


There is something remarkable about the mist surrounding Niagara Falls: The individual droplets move as if they are negatively charged.

Together with his colleagues, David Chandler, of the University of California, Berkeley, used a theory capable of describing such rare events, called transition path sampling, to calculate the water evaporation coefficient. They arrived at a value near one. This corresponds fairly well to recent liquid microjet experiments that produce a value of 0.6 for both normal water and heavy water.

However, there are a couple of wrinkles. For one thing, it remains unclear why experiments performed under more atmospherically relevant conditions yield much lower values. Also, the transition path sampling simulations suggest that evaporation relies on an anomalously large capillary wave running along the liquid’s surface, which strains and weakens the hydrogen bonds holding on to an evaporating water molecule. The addition of salts to water raises the surface tension and suppresses the capillary wave amplitude, and so should reduce the evaporation rate. But experimental studies show little or no effect when salts are added. More.

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...there is a different flavor to a discussion about such emergent specificity as the properties of water (even the existence of water itself is emergent), as compared to the flatness of space-time or the values of the fine-structure constant. Those parameters must exist as soon as it is possible for them to do so. Water remains contingent, even in worlds where it is possible, at least in the form of lakes and oceans. Its information processing properties require more still to be true in any realization. All the essential auxiliary functions we have discussed that water performs at the four levels of coarse-graining remain completely latent until other molecular species arise to exploit them. This returns us to the central question of evolvability: the highest level of information processing that biology supports. Water waits for life to emerge and talk to itself through the subtle structure of the solvent, even exchanging information with it, but it also constitutes the environment in which life began. We have made very few inroads into a vast ignorance over the question of the origin of life, in spite of considerable efforts spent evaluating different molecular candidates. This discussion suggests that we might do better by looking for sources and conduits of software (information) rather than hardware (molecules) even at the level of origins.
Water and Life: The Unique Properties of H2O Mung
Hydrogen hydroxide. In the U.S., it's responsible for about 10 deaths per day, two of which are children under 14. The government should make it illegal. -Q Querius
What is water? Mung

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