Water doesn’t follow the rules. It’s an anomaly. The one that walks to the beat of its own drum. Designed to break the mold, to forge new pathways, to boldly go where no molecule had gone before. (Isn’t it nice to know where that instinct to be yourself comes from?) If water followed the pattern of the other molecules in its family group (i.e. hydrogen sulfide, H2 S, hydrogen selenide, H2Se, hydrogen telluride, H2Te), then the boiling point of H2O would be -80°C (-112°F). Earth would likely be covered in water vapor, and we would have a better idea of what life on Venus is like. However, instead of H2O, we are blessed with a more complex creature, Water, whose boiling point is a robust 100°C or 212°F.
The anomalous behavior of water – and there are at least 67 anomalies according to Martin Chaplin of London’s South Bank University – is attributed to its shape, its geometry, its architecture. Water is asymmetric. The fat oxygen doesn’t hold the two hydrogen out at right angles, one on either side. It’s more like an adult holding hands with 2 children as they whirl in a circle. The angle between the hydrogen/children being most commonly in the range of 104° to 105°
I like this image of spinning, playful people because that is part of water’s nature: to spin, to spiral. You will never see water marching soldier-like down a stream or river bed. Always, there will be some twirling and whirling, even if it is minute. Water loves to play. It loves the spiral. It is the child within, yet a child whose organizing skills are “gi-normous”, to quote an 8-year-old friend.
This organizing capacity of water is also a result of its shape, its architecture, for water can maintain a crystalline form in its liquid state as well as in its solid form of ice. That wide, V-shaped, 104° bond creates a magnet-like molecule with the oxygen heavy end being positively charged and the double hydrogen end being negatively charged, creating attraction between molecules as well as within them. Not all liquid water is crystalline in nature, depending on its exposure to pollutants and other factors including temperature, but some researchers describe tetrahedral structures within liquid water, while others describe super clusters of 280-molecule interlocking icosahedra. In ancient times, the icosahedron was associated with the qualities of personal transformation, sexuality, and emotions – all qualities of the watery domain.
The crystalline nature of water in important for two reasons. One, it’s essential to water’s information holding capacity, most eloquently pictured in the work of Masaru Emoto. More intriguing, however, is its relevance to the blurry line forming on the scientific horizon around the question of what is “alive” and what is “dead”. In Secrets of the Cells, Sondra Barrett spoke eloquently of our cells as containers for life and for life energy. These cells are increasingly being described in terms of crystals, or, more specifically, as liquid crystals. Water is also a liquid crystal.
In the 1920’s, scientist Henry Coanda discovered that the center of every snowflake contained a tiny circulatory system with unfrozen, liquid water flowing through tubes much as sap flows in a plant or as blood flows in animals. The healthier and more energized the water from which the snowflake had formed, the longer this circulatory system operated. An increasing number of water researchers are noticing other self-organizing qualities in water that raise the question: Is water a living organism?
Given that we inhabit a quantum universe whose very fabric is intimately entwined with consciousness, it is clear to me that everything is alive – composed of some form or level of awareness, that is. The line between biological life and everything else seems to be drawn in water. This most precious and uncanny of substances.