The Inexplicable Nature of Water, and Why it Defies and Defines the Rules

Each and every contribution to the Mathematical Research Letters represents the culmination of potentially thousands of hours of intense discussions, debates, and reworked calculations that could potentially be considered irrelevant within a very few short years. Fortunately, these experiments are viewed by physicists as a whole as building blocks and stepping stones, or puzzle pieces that sometimes have to be removed and re-positioned or examined in order to better fit into the general consensus of just exactly how things work in our known universe.

Sometimes it's these thousands of hours that are required to explain even the simplest of phenomenon that affect the lives of absolutely every person on earth. Take the idea of slipping on a patch of ice. It is something that many people have experienced (with all sorts of consequences), but have no clue as to why this is even possible. Most people realize that if you grab an ice cube out of the freezer, it will stick to your hand until it melts. So, why would a patch of ice that has not been exposed to heat in any form suddenly become so slippery? The secret lies behind the incredibly unique property of water (and by unique, NO other molecular structure possesses this property) to expand when frozen.

Normally, (as anyone in middle school science has been taught), the molecules in a gas condense and grow closer together as the gas is cooled, and then liquefies. The molecules grow even closer and lose even more movement as they are further cooled into a solid state. Now while this applies to every other compound in the known world, water is the only molecular structure that actually expands as its temperature drops.

The reason behind water’s freakish nature is another story, but the theory behind slipping on ice goes something like this: Because water is backwards in the sense of normal physical properties, instead of turning into a solid when the molecules are forced closer together, it liquifies. When your foot hits the ice, the pressure forces the molecules of ice closer together, changing the top layer to a liquid: water. Then, just as you would slip on water on a tile floor, the water layer moves under your feet, and down you go!

This theory also backs the reasoning behind ice skates and narrow runners on sleds. The less surface area of an object to hit the ice, the less effect from pressure and the heat of friction.