Self Assessment Quiz
1. If water is clear, why is fog murky?
2. Why are some atoms part of living beings, and others (like Bromine) are not?
3. Why is water clear and transparent?
4. Why is snow white....but sometimes blue?
5. How can some bacteria live in a state of suspended life for millions of years?
6. Why is Selenium an important trace element, but Arsenic - which is its neighbor in the Periodic table - toxic?
Reveal the Answers
1. Fog is not just microscopic water droplets; it is a mixture of cooled water vapor molecules, air pockets, as well as microscopic droplets of water. See also: Are you breathing out a cloud and when is water white?
2. This has to do with the physical characteristics of the atom. Bromine may have a preference for one primary state at warm temperatures (say, 37 degrees C).. This does not give it the flexibility it needs to be part of living things. Of note, bromine can be taken up quite happily by organisms that live at ultra-cold temperatures. A discussion of how atoms become part of living creatures is forthcoming.
3. Water molecules have a dual character. In our microsecond -> second timeline, they are continuously connected in their liquid state. However, in the femtosecond timeline that hydrogen bonds live in, they are connecting and disconnecting to each other in a frenzied dance. Given their intermittent connectivity, there are nano-spaces that allow light photons to go through and come back to us uninterrupted. See related posts: The invisibility of water and why is water clear and transparent.
4. Deep compacted snow and ice are a brilliantly blue color because deep water absorbs red light (and when deep enough green light) appearing blue. Swimming pool blue and turquoise blue are other blue colors of water. Read about blue snow and blue water.
5. Suspended animation is a case of the power turned off. A common example of this is plants that produce seeds with a protective coating; those seeds can be stored for months and years. In the presence of water, dried out seeds can regenerate into plants and renew the cycle of life. Other examples include yeast and bacteria that can live in a preserved state as long as they are not exposed to water.
Even more interesting are reports of bacteria that can live for eons if they are desiccated. For example, there are reports of extracting and reviving Bacillus spores from salt crystals and from buried amber that are millions of years old.
6. Selenium, Molybdenum, and Iodine are essential for living creatures. Yet there does not seem to be an obvious reason for this, as these elements are surrounded by others that are toxic (Arsenic, Cadmium, and Tellurium, for example). Interestingly, Bromine may be an essential trace element. There could be a pattern that will explain which elements are invited to be part of living beings and which are not.
Such an explanation should also elucidate why some life forms are better able to metabolize toxic elements at higher temperatures. This will be the subject of future articles.
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