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Real World Physics Problems Newsletter - Water Facts, Issue #15
January 27, 2015

Water Facts

water picture

Source: Wikimedia via José Manuel Suárez

Water is very abundant in the universe. Most of it is produced as a byproduct of star formation. During the birth of stars, strong shock waves are created, and if the elements oxygen and hydrogen are present inside of these shock waves water is produced as a result.

The means by which water arrived on earth is somewhat of a mystery. It is speculated that water could have been transported to earth by the bombardment of many comets and asteroids which themselves carried water.

Here are some quick facts about water.

• A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded with one oxygen atom.

• Water exists naturally in all three states on earth, as a solid (ice), liquid, and gas (vapor). The earth is at just the right distance from the sun to allow this.

• If it wasn't for the great abundance of water on earth and its ability to create high pressure steam under high temperature, for use in steam engines, the industrial revolution and the resulting technology we enjoy today likely would not have happened.

• Water is about 800 times denser than air.

• Flowing water, such as in a river, causes gradual erosion over millions of years and carves out landscapes as a result. If it were not for this ability of water to erode, we would not have much of the natural landscape present in the world today, such as the Grand Canyon.

• Water is a universal solvent and is essential for life. The bodies of all living things consist mostly of water.

• The density of water changes in a non-linear manner with its temperature. The maximum density of water occurs at 4 degrees Celsius.

• Water expands about 9% upon freezing. The expansion of large amounts of liquid water underground, during freezing, is what causes ice quakes to occur during winter.

• Water can store more heat energy than any other common substance.

• The atmosphere contains a great deal of water vapor, equal to a volume (in liquid) of 3000 cubic miles!

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