Why are properties of water so convenient?

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  • #1
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Hi,

I would like to apologize in advance if I violate any forum rules. I am interested in physics just for general knowledge, I have sometimes a few weird questions that I have no way to find an answer by myself. I hope you can help. Here is the question.

Water is quite convenient as a material. It is abundant, neutral, is essential for life form. We can drink and even use water to wash a lot of things. There are certainly many other properties and cool applications which can be done with water.

Is it a coincidence that water has its properties? What if it is not transparent or corrosive or unstable? Would life develop a different way?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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convenient compared to what? coincidence compared with what??

There are many elements and compounds...and some are common, some are "rare".....

we are here...so is all life on earth...... because of water../.water is one of many products of star formation....just about everything on earth is from star formation....especially heavier elements...nobody knows why we have the list we do....maybe other universes have different elements....

Try reading this....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water
 
  • #3
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convenient compared to what? coincidence compared with what??

There are many elements and compounds...and some are common, some are "rare".....
Can you imagine taking a bath with petroleum? Cooking a meal with acid? If not then water is convenient.

Water has decided to be transparent, neutral and abundant which results in multiple usages described in the Wikipedia link you suggested. That what I think a miraculous coincidence.

we are here...so is all life on earth...... because of water../.water is one of many products of star formation....just about everything on earth is from star formation....especially heavier elements...nobody knows why we have the list we do....maybe other universes have different elements...
It's not a reason to not asking questions. People was told the Earth is flat for a while. From time to time a few asked "why?". May be the question was too vague, let's me reformulate:

- Why is water transparent ?

- Why is water neutral (ph7) ?

- Among all possible gases that were created by the Universe, is water vapor among the most abundant?

Thanks for any help.
 
  • #4
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Is it a coincidence that water has its properties? What if it is not transparent or corrosive or unstable? Would life develop a different way?
Yes, if life did develop, it would develop a different way. Maybe liquid methane would take the place of water, and then somebody would be asking on a physics forum whether it is a coincidence that liquid methane has these properties, and what if it were corrosive or unstable. Or maybe life would not develop at all.
 
  • #5
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To answer a few of those:

-why is water neutral (ph7)?
Because of a definition.

-among all possible gases, is water vapor among most abundant?
Hydrogen is more abundant, found mostly as plasma
 
  • #6
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Hi,

I would like to apologize in advance if I violate any forum rules. I am interested in physics just for general knowledge, I have sometimes a few weird questions that I have no way to find an answer by myself. I hope you can help. Here is the question.

Water is quite convenient as a material. It is abundant, neutral, is essential for life form. We can drink and even use water to wash a lot of things. There are certainly many other properties and cool applications which can be done with water.

Is it a coincidence that water has its properties? What if it is not transparent or corrosive or unstable? Would life develop a different way?
Water is highly stable, and the only reason it does not decay, or jump out of your glass is because the proton is very stable. It might even be infinitely stable.
 
  • #7
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Water has decided to be transparent, neutral and abundant
Water decided to be these things? Given the range of all the elements and compounds out there, is it a surprise one ended up like this? Not really.

I don't know why you keep on about this abundance. There are many parts of the world which would disagree with you. Abundance so far as its existence on the earth goes, maybe. But abundance in so far as availability to life, not so much. It doesn't mean that much if you can't get to it.

The vast majority of surface water is lethal to humans (and many other animals). So again, its abundance in so far as its overground presence goes, is meaningless.
- Why is water neutral (ph7) ?
Because we decided it was.
- Among all possible gases that were created by the Universe, is water vapor among the most abundant?
Vapour isn't a gas.
 
  • #8
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It's not a reason to not asking questions. People was told the Earth is flat for a while. From time to time a few asked "why?". May be the question was too vague, let's me reformulate:

- Why is water transparent ?
This one at least is easy to explain.

Water is transparent because we have evolved to see in the range where water is transparent. Imagine two species, identical in every way except that one has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is transparent and the other has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is opaque. The opaque species will not even be able to see outside of its own eyeballs because of the vitreous humor, and will be at a competitive disadvantage.

So water is not transparent by coincidence, rather the evolution of the visible range was constrained by water's transparency.
 
  • #9
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This one at least is easy to explain.

Water is transparent because we have evolved to see in the range where water is transparent. Imagine two species, identical in every way except that one has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is transparent and the other has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is opaque. The opaque species will not even be able to see outside of its own eyeballs because of the vitreous humor, and will be at a competitive disadvantage.

So water is not transparent by coincidence, rather the evolution of the visible range was constrained by water's transparency.
Well there's my "something new" for today. Thank you for that DaleSpam, very informative.
 
  • #10
Rap
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This one at least is easy to explain.

Water is transparent because we have evolved to see in the range where water is transparent. Imagine two species, identical in every way except that one has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is transparent and the other has evolved cones and rods which are sensitive to a frequency range where water is opaque. The opaque species will not even be able to see outside of its own eyeballs because of the vitreous humor, and will be at a competitive disadvantage.

So water is not transparent by coincidence, rather the evolution of the visible range was constrained by water's transparency.
But also, the maximum radiation from the sun occurs in the visible frequency range, so I think the evolution of the visible range is also constrained by the frequency distribution of the sun's radiation. The fact that water is also transparent in this region is a convenient "coincidence". But then there is that "anthropic principle" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle). If this coincidence did not occur then life would have developed along different lines, making use of some other "coincidence" or else not develop at all, and we would not be around to ask the question.
 

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