01 October 2010



H, Hydrogen. The simplest of all atoms and one of the most fundamental building blocks of the universe. One of the most amazing feats of a scientist is his ability to see and hear through all the noise, all the racket, and gain that little morsel of fact. That one small bit of truth, on which everything must be based.

We are all made of water and water is made so incredible in large part due to hydrogen. Hydrogen's small size allows for a special type of bond, the aptly named hydrogen bond. Due to the bond angle in water and the high electronegativity of oxygen, water is polar. These two facts allow an amazing intermolecular attraction to exist in water in which the hydrogens from one molecule loosely bind (as in something like 10% of a covalent bond) to the oxygen of other water molecules. Each individual hydrogen bond may be relatively weak, but when compounded they create a substantial bond energy barrier. This unique bonding in water also contributes to the crystal shape solid water takes. We know that solid water is less dense than liquid. Think for a minute what would happen if ice was instead more dense than liquid water. Ice would sink. Icebergs would sink to the bottom of the ocean. The ocean would freeze over. The global climate would cool considerably and we would have a permanent ice age. So thank you hydrogen, thank you.

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