24 February 2014

Dense Thoughts

Water has the very unusual physical property of expanding as it turns from liquid to solid. Most substances take up less volume as solids than as liquids, meaning they become denser when freezing. Frozen water, in contrast, is less dense and thus floats on liquid water.

If water behaved like most other chemicals in the universe, water that froze at Earth’s poles would sink to the bottom of the ocean, made up of the water that remained liquid. And most of that ice would remain frozen, out of reach of the Sun’s rays. Gradually more and more of the planet’s water would turn solid, building up on the ocean’s bottom and interfering with the processes of life. In other words, if water weren’t so weird, we wouldn’t exist.

I try to keep this thought in mind as I navigate around another result of water expanding as it freezes: potholes.

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