Stories About Chemistry
19. The Icicle’s Secrets
Little children adore playing with icicles. They are such pretty, glistening things. But before you know it the child has got the icicle in its mouth. Is it so tasty? Try to take it from him and you’ll see! An amusing childish whim? No, it is far more serious than that.
The following experiment was performed on little chicks. One group was given ordinary water to drink, while the other was allowed to drink only snow melt water with pieces of ice floating in it.
The test could hardly have been simpler. But the results were surprising. The chicks drinking the ordinary water would do so serenely and without fuss. But the basin of melt water was always a virtual battlefield. The chicks swallowed the water as greedily as if it were something unusually tasty.
A month and a half later the experimental birds were weighed. Those brought up on melt water were much heavier, had gained more weight than the chicks which had been drinking ordinary water. In a word, snow melt water possesses certain wonderful properties. It is very beneficial to live organisms. Why is this so?
At first it was thought to be due to the higher deuterium content in the melt water. In small concentrations heavy water stimulates the development of living organisms. But this was only partly true. Now it is believed that the true reason lies elsewhere, in the very process of melting.
Ice has a crystalline structure. But, generally speaking, water is also a liquid crystal. Its molecules are not in complete disorder, but form a strict openwork skeleton. Of course, the structure of the latter differs from that of ice.
When ice melts its structure persists for a fairly long time. Outwardly melt water is a liquid, but the molecules in it remain in “ice formation”. For this reason the chemical activity of melt water appears higher than that of ordinary water. It participates readily in a multitude of biochemical processes. When taken up by an organism it combines with various substances more easily than ordinary water.
Scientists believe that the structure of water in an organism greatly resembles the structure of ice. When ordinary water is assimilated by an organism, its structure has to be rearranged. Melt water already has the right structure and so the organism does not have to spend any extra energy on rearranging its molecules.
Evidently, the role of melt water in life is very great.