The Fascinating Kitchen Physics of Boiling Water

Chemistry, Physics
[caption id="attachment_23534" align="alignright" width="480"] Image by Jeshoots[/caption] Cutting-edge science is fascinating. Yet the science of everyday life is anything but boring. Consider the simple act of boiling water on the kitchen stove. There are many factors that come into play leading to the production of steam. Let's take a close look at water as an individual molecule and as a cluster of interacting molecules. Water at the Molecular Level Water consists of one oxygen atom plus two hydrogen atoms. An atom of oxygen is much larger than one of hydrogen. Most hydrogen atoms consist of a lone electron in orbit about a single proton nucleus. Oxygen atoms have a much larger nucleus orbited by 8 electrons. Oxygen has a strong affinity for electrons. So it is an electronegative element. On…
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Capillary Action from the Forces of Adhesion and Cohesion

Chemistry, Plants
What is capillary action? The easiest way to define it is to give the simplest example of it at work. A capillary is a tube with a fine bore, typically less than a millimeter. For the purpose of our discussion, we will use a scientist's glass capillary tube, which is both straight and clear. The liquids we will discuss as examples are water and mercury. Not All Liquids Exhibit Capillary Action Take note of Figure 1. Two capillary tubes (not drawn to scale) are immersed in liquid – the left tube in water, the right in mercury. The water rises up its tube and forms a concave meniscus at top. The mercury does not rise up its tube. It forms what looks like the upper portion of a sphere –…
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The Dipolar Molecule Water – Mickey the Dipole

[caption id="attachment_16242" align="alignright" width="440"] The bent water molecule manifests uneven charge distribution. Image by Qwerter CC-by-SA 3.0.[/caption] Mickey the Dipole? Everyone knows H₂O is the chemical formula for water. H stands for hydrogen. O stands for oxygen. The water molecule is made from two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Hydrogen atoms have one proton and one electron. Ordinary oxygen atoms have eight protons and eight neutrons and eight electrons. For the purposes of this discussion, we can forget the protons and the neutrons. Oxygen has a thirst for electrons. Hydrogen is "happy" to give up its electron. The reaction of hydrogen with oxygen (each of which exist as a pair) is, 2 H2 + O2 → 2 H2O The hydrogen parts are positive (H⁺). The oxygen part…
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