Weird Water Facts

Weird Water Facts

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Water is the most abundant molecule in your body. You probably know some facts about the compound, such as its freezing and boiling point or that its chemical formula is H2O. Here's a collection of weird water facts that might surprise you.

01of 11

You can make instant snow from boiling water

If you throw boiling hot water into cold air, it will instantly freeze into snow. Layne Kennedy / Getty Images

Everyone knows snowflakes can form when water is cold enough. Yet, if it's really cold outside, you can make snow form instantly by throwing boiling water into the air. It has to do with how close boiling water is to turning into water vapor. You can't get the same effect using cold water.

02of 11

Water can form ice spikes

Spring ice formations off the coast of Barrie Island, Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Ron Erwin / Getty Images

Icicles form when water freezes as it drips down from a surface, but water can also freeze to form upward-facing ice spikes. These occur in nature, plus you can also make them form in an ice cube tray in your home freezer.

03of 11

Water may have a 'memory'

Some research indicates water maintains its shape around molecules, even after they are removed. Miguel Navarro / Getty Images

Some research indicates water may retain a "memory" or imprint of the shapes of particles that were dissolved in it. If true, this could help explain the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies, in which the active component has been diluted to the point where not even a single molecule remains in the final preparation. Madeleine Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland, found homeopathic solutions of histamine behaved like histamine (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181). While more research needs to be performed, the implications of the effect, if true, would have a significant impact on medicine, chemistry, and physics.

04of 11

Water displays weird quantum effects

Water displays weird relativistic effects at the quantum level. oliver(at) / Getty Images

Ordinary water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, but a 1995 neutron scattering experiment "saw" 1.5 hydrogen atoms per oxygen atom. While a variable ratio is not unheard of in chemistry, this type of quantum effect in water was unexpected.

05of 11

Water can supercool to freeze instantly

Disturbing water chilled below its freezing point will make it instantly transition into ice. Momoko Takeda / Getty Images

Typically when you chill a substance to its freezing point, it changes from a liquid into a solid. Water is unusual because it can be cooled well below its freezing point, yet remain a liquid. If you disturb it, it instantly freezes into ice. Try it and see!

06of 11

Water has a glassy state

Water has a glassy state, where it flows yet has more order than a normal liquid. Indeed / Getty Images

Do you think water can only be found as a liquid, solid, or gas. There's a glassy phase, intermediate between the liquid and solid forms. If you supercool water, but don't disturb it to make it form ice, and bring the temperature down to -120 °C the water becomes an extremely viscous liquid. If you cool it all the way down to -135 °C, you get "glassy water," which is solid, yet not crystalline.

07of 11

Ice crystals aren't always six-sided

Snowflakes display hexagonal symmetry. Edward Kinsman / Getty Images

People are familiar with the six-sided or hexagonal shape of snowflakes, but there are at least 17 phases of water. Sixteen are crystal structures, plus there's also an amorphous solid state. The "weird" forms include cubic, rhombohedral, tetragonal, monoclinic, and orthorhombic crystals. While hexagonal crystals are the most common form on Earth, scientists have found this structure is very rare in the universe. The most common form of ice is amorphous ice. Hexagonal ice has been detected near extraterrestrial volcanoes.

08of 11

Hot water can freeze faster than cold water

The rate at which ice forms from water depends on its starting temperature, but sometimes hot water freezes more quickly than cold water. Erik Dreyer / Getty Images

It's called the Mpemba effect, after the student who verified this urban legend is actually true. If the cooling rate is just right, water that starts out hot can freeze into ice more quickly than cooler water. Although scientists aren't certainly exactly how it works, the effect is believed to involve the effect of impurities on water crystallization.

09of 11

Water is blue

Water and ice really are blue. Copyright Bogdan C. Ionescu / Getty Images

When you see a lot of snow, ice in a glacier, or a large body of water, it looks blue. This isn't a trick of the light or a reflection of the sky. While water, ice, and snow appear colorless in small quantities, the substance is actually blue.

10of 11

Water increases in volume as it freezes

Ice is less dense than water, so it floats. Paul Souders / Getty Images

Usually, when you freeze a substance, the atoms pack more closely together to form a lattice to make a solid. Water is unusual in that it becomes less dense as it freezes. The reason has to do with hydrogen bonding. While water molecules get pretty close and personal in the liquid state, the atoms keep each other at a distance to form ice. This has important implications for life on Earth, as it's the reason ice floats on top of water and why lakes and rivers freeze from the top rather than the bottom.

11of 11

You can bend a water stream using static

Static electricity can bend water. Teresa Short / Getty Images

Water is a polar molecule, which means each molecule has a side with a positive electrical charge and a side with a negative electrical charge. Also, if water carries dissolved ions, it tends to have a net charge. You can see the polarity in action if you place a static charge near a stream of water. A good way to test this for yourself is to build up a charge on a balloon or comb and hold it near a stream of water, like from a faucet.


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