Koch, Peter A. Timmins, Roland P.
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May, Dmitri I. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Higher Education Skip to main content. Search Start Search. Submitting a Proposal Your Contacts. A panoramic view of life on Earth. Without exception.
And when we aim our spectroscopes out at the universe, water is one of the most common molecules we find. That alone might be enough to explain why we depend on it so much. But its abundance is only one reason why life depends on it so much. For one, water is a liquid across a wide range of temperatures on Earth.
About the book
A liquid is a much better transport medium for nutrients and other life-necessary compounds than a solid. It just happens that most of the water on Earth can exist in its liquid form. Water is also a great solvent. It has been called the universal solvent because so many different kinds of substances can be dissolved in water. All life needs to take in substances to generate energy and flush out waste products and toxins. Water is so good at being a solvent because of its polarity.
This means the water molecule has two poles of opposite electric charge.
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Since each water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen, the hydrogen atoms contribute a positive charge while the oxygen contributes a negative charge, giving the molecule both positive and negative poles. This makes the water molecule not only strongly attractive to other water molecules, it will attract other polar molecules as well.
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This why so many substances can dissolve in water. The molecules are attracted to one another.
Surface tension is the tendency of water molecules to adhere to one another in such way as to make its surface act as a membrane. You see surface tension at work whenever you see an insect walking on water or whenever water beads up on a surface.
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This is important to life because it means water is sticky. It tends to clump together. This allows it to be sucked up as continuous stream through the roots of plants or circulated through our blood vessels against the force of gravity. Water is the only natural substance that can be a liquid, solid, and a gas within the tight temperatures ranges of Earth.
That means we get the benefits of all three phases of water. Because water can evaporate here on Earth, it can be distributed all over the planet. Sunlight will cause water to turn into its gaseous form.
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Because it is less dense, the water vapor will float up into the atmosphere. Water basically hitches a ride on these particles as they are blown across the planet — to be deposited far and wide in the form of rain. Royal Society.
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