It has not been so obvious, but the stability of the Earth's tilt happens to be produced by the Moon. That same tilt is responsible for the effective temperature range that allows all of the Earth to be generally accessible to human access.
Even better the induced crustal shift of 12900 BP caused the Holocene to be ushered in producing global agriculture for prospectively almost all land outside the Arctic and Antarctic circles. The present global temperature range is now +/- one degree and has been for ten thousand years and will now continue as such for millions of years. Yes folks, that means no more ICE Ages!
From that perspective, the moon is integral to the Earth's stability for the next millions of years while we also Terraform Venus the same way.
That it was all deliberate and the moon itself is hollow no longer appears to be much of an issue when compared to a wall of natural impossibilities.
The plot of the film starts millions of years ago when our ancestors were still apelike creatures without speech or tools. There is a visitation from some undisclosed power in the form of a jet-black and perfectly finished rectangular monolith that stands upright. When touched by the probing fingers of the gang of primates at dawn the monolith somehow remaps their brains to begin a process that will take these protohumans on the evolutionary road to intellectual development. As the camera pans up the length of the monolith the Sun and the Moon appear directly overhead as though an eclipse is about to occur. The scene then leaps forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century when a powerful magnetic anomaly is discovered just below the surface of the Moon in the Tycho crater and excavations are carried out to discover what is causing the effect. A black monolith, some four metres tall is uncovered and a team of experts sets out from Earth to investigate the clearly artificial phenomenon.
[ now we clearly understand the inspiration behind it all. No one truly understood the anomalous nature of the moon in the sixties and it is only recently that i have been brought up short over the real impossibility of it all as a natural event. As posted before, i was certainly going there and this work represents a serious shortcut. - arclein ]
The team travel to the Tycho crater as the Sun rises and wearing spacesuits they walk down a ramp into the pit where the monolith stands just a few metres below the surface. Like the man-apes millions of years earlier the team leader, Dr Floyd, is mesmerized by this alien structure and he touches it with his gloved hand. A moment later a ray of sunlight comes over the edge of the pit and strikes the monolith, signalling the end of the dark lunar night that lasts for two Earth weeks. This time, as we look up the monolith we see the Sun and Earth hovering directly above and almost touching. Then suddenly, the object transmits a signal in the direction of one of the moons of Jupiter (in Clarke’s novel version this was changed to Iapetus, one of Saturn’s moons).
The ingenious idea that Clarke put forward here was astonishingly close to the real-world discovery of the lunar mascons that had been made around the time he was writing. The similarity between Clarke’s magnetic anomaly and the gravitational anomalies are obvious. We wonder whether Clarke was aware of the newly discovered mascons and whether that gave him the idea of a kind of trip switch placed on the Moon in the extreme past by some alien intelligence to trigger a signal that told them that creatures from the Earth had become smart enough to reach the Moon and spot a serious abnormality.
What a brilliant concept!
If an alien intelligence had indeed been responsible for the evolution of humans from ape to technologist, then what better way would there be of setting up an alarm system to confirm our intellectual ‘arrival’.
At the time that Clarke and Kubrick’s film was first capturing the imagination of a generation, no human had yet reached the Moon. But the following year, with less than six months to go to the late President Kennedy’s deadline, Commander Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the Moon on July 20th 1969 with his famous but slightly misdelivered line:
‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’
At this point we must mention that there are some people who seriously believe that NASA faked the Moon landings on a film set just like the one used by Stanley Kubrick. The evidence they produce looks reasonable at a casual glance; assuming you know nothing at all about photography or the facts relating to lunar conditions. These ideas suddenly leaped into the public imagination on February 15th 2001 when Fox television in the USA broadcast a programme called Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? The thrust of the show was that NASA technology in the 1960s was simply too primitive to have taken men to the Moon, and because they were so close to President Kennedy’s politically important deadline they fabricated the entire mission in a movie studio.
To them the fraud was obvious. They point out that shots of the astronauts on the lunar surface show a completely black sky without any stars. Had this proved too difficult for the set constructors to fake they ask? The answer is actually very simple. As any proficient photographer knows, it is difficult to capture something extremely bright and something else extremely dim in the same shot. This means that for the stars to be visible, the lunar surface and the astronauts would have been burned out into a white blaze; the emulsion on a piece of film does not have enough dynamic range to capture both ends of the brightness scale simultaneously.
Amongst the other pieces of ‘evidence’ was the issue of the flapping flag. The NASA set designers were apparently so dumb that they allowed a stiff breeze to waft through the studio causing the flag that the astronauts planted to wave about. As the Moon has no atmosphere this is said to prove that it was filmed on Earth.
The fact is, the flag waved about so much precisely because there was no atmosphere. When astronauts planted the flagpole they rotated it back and forth to ensure that it penetrated the lunar surface causing the flag to wobble from side to side on its supporting frame. On Earth the presence of an atmosphere quickly dampens this motion as the surrounding air absorbs the energy from the moving flag, whereas in an airless environment the flag has nothing to dampen its motion. It could therefore keep going for many hours before the energy finally dissipated.
So anyone who has seriously looked into the case for and against the actuality of the Moon landings cannot fail to reject every one of the strands of evidence put forward by the conspiracy theorists. We do believe that conspiracies happen, because people will conspire together for all kinds of reasons – but the Apollo 11 mission was certainly not one of them.
We can be certain that twelve astronauts walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972 and that they brought back 842 pounds of the Moon in the form of rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and fine dust from six different exploration sites.
The last human being to walk on the Moon was Eugene Cernan in December 1972 and the information gathered over those three years, and later by Russian unmanned craft, has greatly increased our knowledge of the Moon. But it has also posed as many questions as it has answered.
It was expected that the samples of Moon rock would prove one of the existing theories about the Earth–Moon system. If the rock from the samples had been substantially different from rocks on Earth, then it was likely that the Moon had originated in some other part of the solar system and had been captured by the young Earth. If the Moon was identical in every way to the Earth, then it was likely they had both come into existence together and at the same time. However, it soon became apparent that both theories had to be wrong and no logical explanation for the Moon, being what it is and where it is, exists even now.
The convoluted ‘Left hand/right hand double big whack’ theory tends to crudely fill the void, to prevent us worrying too much about this hole in our knowledge of our planet and its neighbour. Whilst most people believe this rather unlikelyhypothesis to be true, the people involved with developing it acknowledge that it is improbable. All existing theories of the Moon’s origin have problems and the University of Wisconsin has pointed out that those for the Big Whack include:
1. It requires that the entire Moon be initially molten and accreted from devolatilized material i.e. it does not account for the Moon’s lower mantle’s apparently largely undifferentiated composition.
2. It requires that the impactor be accreted from the same oxygen reservoir as the Earth (a previous moon of Earth?).
3. It does not account for a necessary density reversal below the upper mantle.
4. It requires that differentiation of the Earth and the impactor, and their impact, occur within the 5HF/W 55 million - year model age for the lunar magma ocean.
5. It does not account for the cumulative effect of many large impactors on the Moon’s non-parallel rotational axis.
6. It does not account for the necessary chronology of tidal separation of the Earth and moon origin of the Moon. There is also another major problem with this scenario revealed by the issue of the ongoing slowing down of Earth.
Very precise astronomical measurements, some of them dating back to the observation of eclipses 2,500 years ago, indicate that the day is increasing in length by about one or two thousandths of a second per day per century. It has been thought that this tiny lengthening of the day was entirely due to the friction of the tides caused by the Sun and the Moon. But when attempts were made to predict changes in the apparent position of the Moon on the basis of this effect alone, it was found that the calculations did not agree with the observations at all. Another factor must be at work as well. That factor was that iron is sinking to the core of the Earth, changing the moment of inertia and thereby the length of the day. When this was taken into consideration and calculations were made on the basis of both the tides and the changing moment of inertia due to sinking iron, the sums did agree with the observations. But in order to make the calculations agree, it was necessary to postulate a flow of 50,000 tonnes of iron from the mantle to the core of the earth every second!
Staggering though this volume of flow is, it would still take 500 million years to form the metallic core of the Earth and some calculations indicate that it may have taken as long as two billion years. If this reasoning is correct, which it appears to be, the Earth was made initially with large amounts of iron in its exterior parts. As the Moon was formed at a very early stage in the Earth’s existence (and possibly before), any material knocked off the surface by a major impact would contain large amounts of iron – which it does not.
The Big Whack theories are simply the best of all the impossible explanations for the existence of the Moon.
It is widely accepted that despite the intense investigation that has gone into understanding the Moon, and for all we know about its surface and the composition of its rocks, we are as much in the dark concerning its origins as we were before the first projectile left the Earth’s atmosphere.
As we have discussed, the oxygen isotope investigation proved that both Moon rocks and Earth rocks must have developed at exactly the same distance rom the Sun, so the Moon definitely wasn’t a captured asteroid. The Moon has its fair share of the elements found on Earth but not in the same proportion. The Moon is substantially lacking in heavy metals when compared with the Earth, which accounts for its large size but small mass.
But it was the Apollo missions that identified something else that was weird about the Moon.
‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’
The first two Apollo crews had landed out on the smooth lunar mare, the lava seas that are relatively young by lunar standards, and now NASA wanted to visit a site where they could study the older parts of the Moon, which meant the rugged highlands. Although NASA was not ready to commit a lunar module (LM) to a landing in highly rocky terrain, the site selection committee was very interested in a place called the Fra Mauro Hills in the middle of the Ocean of Storms,which seemed like a fairly smooth section of the highlands.
Commander Jim Lovell along with Jack Swigert and Fred Haise were chosen for the Fra Mauro mission as the crew of Apollo 13. The launch, on April 11th 1970, went well, allaying the worst fears of those who were concerned about a mission with the unlucky number thirteen.
Then, fifty-five hours and fifty-five minutes into the mission (and on the thirteenth day of the month) all three astronauts heard and felt what they described as a ‘pretty large bang’ on board the spacecraft. The crew and the ground controllers made a rapid assessment of the health of the spacecraft and it was obvious that two of the three fuel cells in the service module were dead. No one knew exactly what had gone wrong but there was no doubt that the crew were in serious danger.
To survive they needed enough power, oxygen, and water for a four-day trip around the Moon and back to Earth, and it now looked as if these commodities were going to be in very short supply. Oxygen and hydrogen were normally combined in the fuel cells to produce electricity and water and both oxygen tanks were rapidly losing pressure so even the remaining fuel cell wouldn’t last long. In addition to short supplies of these basic commodities, without power in the command module, they would have to rely on the LM environmental control system to remove excess carbon dioxide from the cabin. And to add to their many woes, the main engine now had no power supply.
However, the flight crew and ground personnel all realized just how lucky they had been. As desperate as the situation was, the accident had come early in the mission and they still had their fully stocked lunar module as a resource. The LM had an engine that could be used to put the crew back on a homeward path, and it carried just enough water, oxygen, and power for the four days they need to fly around the Moon and head home.
As the stricken spacecraft swung behind the Moon, 164 miles above the surface, contact with the Earth was lost until it emerged on the other side and was again picked up by tracking stations. The following words were heard: ‘The view out there is fantastic... You can see where we’re zooming off.’
At 8:09 pm EST on April 14th , Apollo 13 turned for home and the third stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle, weighing fifteen tonnes, was sent crashing into the Moon. As planned it struck the Moon with a force equivalent to 111/2 tonnes of TNT. The impact point was eighty-five miles west-northwest of the site where the Apollo 12 astronauts had set up a seismometer.
NASA reports demonstrate the reaction of scientists on Earth as the Saturn V hit the lunar surface – ‘The Moon rang like a bell.’
In November 1969 the Apollo 12 crew had sent their lunar module crashing into the Moon following their return to the command craft after their lunar landing mission. That lunar module had struck with a force of one tonne of TNT causing the shock waves to build up to a peak in eight minutes and then continue for nearly an hour. The seismic signals produced by the impact from Apollo 13 were twenty to thirty times greater and lasted four times longer than those resulting from the earlier LM crash. This time, peak intensity occurred after seven minutes and the reverberations lasted for three hours and twenty minutes, travelling to a depth of twenty-five miles, leading to the conclusion that the Moon has an unusually light core or possibly no core at all.
At the time Houston remarked to the Apollo 13 crew: ‘By the way, Aquarius, we see the results now from 12’s seismometer. Looks like your booster just hit the Moon, and it’s rocking a little bit.’
NASA reports how the information from these two artificial moonquakes led to a reconsideration of theories proposed about the lunar interior. Among the puzzling features, they say, are the rapid build-up to the peak and the prolonged reverberations, because nothing comparable happens when objects strike Earth.
When Chris was in Seattle a few years ago he had a meeting with Ken Johnston who had worked for Brown-Root and Northrop, which was a consortium between the Brown-Root Corporation and the Northrop Corporation at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. The company was one of the prime contractors for NASA at the time of the Apollo missions and Ken was supervisor of the data and photo control department. Ken told Chris that at the time of the impact created by the Apollo 13 launch vehicle the scientists were not only saying that ‘the Moon rang like a bell’, they also described how the whole structure of the Moon ‘wobbled’ in a precise way, ‘almost as though it had gigantic hydraulic damper struts inside it.’
This ringing effect caused many people to pick up on speculation that had been going on for years that the Earth’s Moon could be hollow. Back in 1962 Dr Gordon McDonald, a leading scientist at NASA, published a report in the Astronautics Magazine where he stated that analysis of the Moon’s motion indicated that the Moon is hollow.
Dr Sean C Solomon, who was Professor of Geophysics at MIT and is the Director of the Terrestrial Magnetism Department, Carnegie Institution of Washington as well as the Principal Investigator for Carnegie’s research as part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, has said: ‘The lunar orbiter experiments vastly improved our knowledge of the moon’s gravitational field...indicating the frightening possibility that the moon may be hollow.’
Why should this be frightening?
Carl Sagan, Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University hinted at the answer when he said, whilst discussing the moons of Mars, that ‘It is well understood that a natural satellite cannot be a hollow object.’14
The problem therefore is simple – if the Moon is hollow, someone or something manufactured it.
But the debate continues. A team from the University of Arizona in Tucson has detailed the results of their interpretation of data from the Lunar Prospector magnetometer where they estimate that the moon does have a tiny metal core that is roughly 420 miles (680km) across, plus or minus 112 miles (180km). Their team leader, was Lon Hood. ‘We knew that the Moon’s core was small, but we didn’t know it was this small,’ Hood said. ‘This really does add weight to the idea that the Moon’s origin is unique, unlike any other terrestrial body – Earth, Venus, Mars or Mercury.’15
So, it is possible that the Moon is hollow at its centre or has a very small core. There is also the possibility that it has voids in its make-up just as it has The super-dense zones we call mascons. But it seems that the structure is unusual whatever the case turns out to be.
The main argument against the idea of a hollow Moon that we found repeated time and again, was that there was no theory of the Moon’s origin that could explain such a circumstance. The argument goes: ‘Because we can’t explain how a natural satellite can form with a hollow centre – it cannot have one QED.’
This standpoint is fair enough – if you accept its founding premise, that the Moon is natural. And who would not make such an assumption?
But as we put aside all of our preconceptions about what can and cannot be, we have to accept that solid objects do not ring like a bell – but hollow ones do.
Hollow or not, we decided to look more closely at the mechanics of the Moon.
We had seen just how peculiar the Moon is, in so many ways. Our next step was to look into how our next-door neighbour in the cosmos actually affects life on Earth.
First of all we could not ignore the myth that the full Moon brings out madness and other evils in the form of more violence, more suicides, more accidents and more aggression – ideas that are possibly as old as history itself. The belief that the full Moon causes mental disorders and strange behaviour was particularly widespread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.
But is there any scientific evidence to support these beliefs?
There have been many investigations into the subject and some have produced surprising results.
Research carried out by a medical team at a hospital in Bradford, England, set out to test the hypothesis that the incidence of animal bites increases at the time of a full Moon. Using retrospective observational analysis at their accident and emergency department they investigated the pattern of patients who attended from 1997 to 1999 after being bitten by an animal.
The number of bites in each day was compared with the lunar phase in each month and they found that the incidence of animal bites rose significantly at the time of a full Moon. With the period of the full Moon as the reference point, the incidence rate ratio of the bites for all other periods of the lunar cycle was significantly lower. They concluded that the full Moon is associated with a significant increase in animal bites to humans.16
Of course, we must remember that correlation does not equate to causation. The pattern they found may be a strange statistical blip or, even if it is real, it could be entirely coincidental with the phases of the Moon. Without any suggestion of how the Moon could cause an increase in animal aggression towards humans, it is not possible to consider any connection as proven.
Another study looked into human aggression and the lunar synodic cycle occurring in Dade County, Florida. Data on five aggressive and/or violent human behaviours were examined to determine whether a relationship existed between the two. These included looking at the pattern of homicides, suicides, fatal traffic accidents, aggravated assaults and psychiatric emergency room visits.
The team concluded that homicides and aggravated assaults demonstrated a statistically significant clustering of cases around the full Moon. Psychiatric emergency room visits clustered around the first quarter and showed a significantly decreased frequency around new and full Moon.
The suicide curve showed correlations with both aggravated assaults and fatal traffic accidents suggesting, they say, a self-destructive component for each of these behaviours. The existence of a biological rhythm of human aggression, which resonates with the lunar synodic cycle was postulated.17
Whilst these investigations were carried out carefully and scientifically it is important to remember that there are dozens of other studies that have failed to identify similar correlations. If there is some substance behind lunar myth it is yet to be proven. However, we feel that such a relationship is not beyond reason as the Moon exerts considerable gravitational effects on the Earth creating the tidal movements of the waters of our oceans, and humans are made up of nearly eighty per cent water. Whether or not lunar cycles affect our lives; solar ones certainly do.
The Four Seasons
At the time of writing these words the leaves on the trees here in Britain are beginning to be tinged with brown. The days are growing shorter and the nights are getting longer. As this happens, the average temperature each day begins to fall and much of our flora and fauna goes into a dormant state.
Of course, the same seasonal change is happening all across the northern hemisphere at latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle. Meanwhile, countries in the southern hemisphere are entering spring and new growth is beginning to stir as the days lengthen and the average daily temperature increases. All of us who do not live on or near to the equator are familiar with the pattern of the changing seasons and the effect that these cycles have on the way we live our lives. To our ancestors in northern parts of Europe, Asia and America, the onset of winter must have been a time of fear and doubt, whilst the first buds of spring would have been a merciful relief with the signal that there would soon be fresh food to eat.
What most of us don’t stop to think about is why seasons happen at all. It is a common misunderstanding to imagine it has something to do with how close the Earth is to the Sun. It is not – it is due to the angle of the planet in relation to the Sun, which is about 22.5 degrees from what might be described as a vertical position. The diagram below shows how the Earth would look if it was standing upright as it goes around the Sun, which would mean that the equator of the Earth would always point straight at the equator of the Sun.
If our planet really did stand in this position, the bulge of the Sun’s equator and that of the Earth would be closer together than the Sun’s poles and the Earth’s poles. The result of this would be a super-hot equatorial temperature on the Earth, whilst the polar regions of the Earth would be much colder than they presently are. Strangely enough it’s not so much a case of the difference in distance between the Earth and the Sun that matters; it is more to do with the thickness of the atmosphere above any given part of the Earth in relationship to the direction of the Sun. In the imaginary situation above, sunlight has to travel through far more atmosphere to get to the poles of the Earth than it does to reach the equator, thus greatly reducing the heat.
Another important factor that reduces the heat at the poles is diminished power density, where the Sun’s energy is dissipated across a greater area as the Earth curves away from an upright position. For example, a circle of sunlight with a one-kilometre diameter will hit the Earth’s surface as a near perfect circle at the equator, but in extreme northern or southern latitudes it will be distorted into a long oval due to the curvature of the planet. This means that the heat of the sunlight at the poles will be spread over several times the area and therefore be several times weaker.
The planet Mercury is an excellent example of a world that is standing virtually upright, in relation to its orbit around the Sun. Apart from the fact that little Mercury is so close to the Sun, its angle of inclination, or ‘obliquity’ as it is more properly called, would make it a very uncomfortable place for humans. If it were possible to stand on Mercury during one of its very short eighty-eight-day years, the Sun would rise due east every day (which is equal to fifty-eight Earth days) at the equator and set due west. Mercury has equatorial temperatures that would keep lead boiling, yet probes sent from Earth have shown that the polar regions of Mercury are constantly covered in ice.
So, if the Earth were in this upright mode, life would be almost impossible across much of the planet, with extremes of temperature providing only a narrow band suitable for mammals such as humans to survive. Even then, the sea and aircurrents would move wildly between the hot and cold zones causing catastrophic weather conditions with regions of permanent rainfall and others with none at all. Hurricanes and tornadoes would ravage many areas and overall it seems extremely unlikely that higher life forms would ever develop on such a planet.
Now consider another imaginary scenario in which the Earth is tilted on its axis a full 90 degrees relative to its orbit around the Sun so that one pole faces the Sun at all times.
One of the poles, say the South Pole, would be permanently in daylight – stuck for ever in a position equivalent to noon on midsummer’s day in central Africa. The Sun would blaze down from directly overhead every minute of every day! The North Pole on the other hand, would be in a state of constant midnight. Indeed, all of the northern hemisphere would be in constant night and the southern in constant day.
The dark side of the planet would never warm up and it would be frozen solid with temperatures far below anything we actually experience. The region that is currently between our equator and the Tropic of Capricorn would see the Sun circling right around, low on the horizon once each day. Because of the angle of the sunlight through the atmosphere, there would be very little warmth getting through and the entire region would be covered in glaciers and swept with snowstorms driving down from the dark northern hemisphere.
Antarctica would be utterly uninhabitable, being far hotter than anywhere on our planet as we know it today. Only the southern tip of South America, Tasmania, New Zealand and maybe the southern section of Australia would have temperatures that were within a tolerable range. But it is hard to imagine what kinds of terrible weather anyone living there would have to endure, with freezing ocean currents moving from the north and very hot ones arriving from the south. A state of permanent fog seems certain; which would in turn block out the Sun.
If the Earth orbited the Sun in either of the two modes we have just described, there would be no seasons at all – and almost certainly no higher life forms.
Thankfully we do have seasons, courtesy of the fact that the Earth is actually at an angle of around 22.5 degrees relative to the equator of the Sun. And that angle is maintained by the Moon, which acts as a gigantic planetary stabilizer.
Because of this tilt, the northern hemisphere experiences summer when the Earth is on that part of its orbit that angles it more towards, the Sun. Therefore the Sun rises higher in the sky and is above the horizon longer, and the rays of the Sun strike the ground more directly. Conversely, when the northern hemisphere is oriented away from the Sun, the Sun only rises low in the sky, is above the horizon for a shorter period, and the rays of the Sun strike the ground more obliquely.
Whilst it is true that the extreme polar regions of the Earth are frozen throughout the year, the tilt angle of 22.5 degrees ensures that most parts of the Earth’s surface get a fair share of warmth throughout each year. This in turn means that by far the vast majority of water on the surface of the planet remains in a liquid state. All of life is utterly dependent on water and cannot exist without it. The band of temperatures at which water is liquid is really very narrow. The oceans of the Earth would freeze at around 1.91°C, with boiling point occurring at 100°C.
The Earth is therefore extremely well balanced. The coldest temperature ever recorded was -89.2°C (-128.6°F) at the Vostok Station in Antarctica and the highest was 58°C (136°F) at El Azizia in Libya. That is a range of absolute extremes of less than 148°C, which is very little indeed in terms of the entire spectrum. The coldest anything can get is known as ‘absolute zero’ when all molecular motion stops. This occurs at a rather chilly -273.15°C (-459.67°F).
On the other hand there is no known upper limit for temperature but the hottest temperature in our solar system is the Sun’s core, which comes in at an impressive 15,000,000°C (27,000,000°F).
The normal temperature range on Earth is such that there are very few parts of the globe that cannot support human life. We have a normal range of body temperature between 36.1 to 37.8°C (97 to 100°F) and yet the Inuit people live happily within the Arctic Circle and the Bedouin travel the deserts of North Africa.
The world’s average temperature fluctuates slightly around the 14.5°C (58°F) mark, which is comfortable for physical work. Of course, some people will say that the world ‘is’ that temperature and that we would not have evolved as we have if it were any different – but this is flawed logic. We could just as well have evolved in a world where only small sections of the planet were available to us to inhabit. No other known planet has such a narrow temperature band – and a range of temperature that permits water to be liquid most of the time.
In fact water is a very curious substance altogether. On Earth we can see it at the same time in its three states – as solid ice, as liquid water and as a gas in clouds. Each water molecule is composed of just two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen and yet it acts as a universal solvent with a high surface tension. Perhaps most surprising of all is how its density changes. Water has its maximum density at 4°C which means that it not only gets lighter as it warms from that point – it also gets lighter as it cools. As everyone knows, warm water rises as convection currents but it is also true that ice floats. Other planets in our solar system may have ice or steam but only the Earth is awash with life-giving liquid water.
Liquid water has been absolutely crucial in creating the world we know today and, as far as is known, life cannot exist without it. As surely as plate tectonics and the Earth’s hot core constantly create new mountain ranges, via volcanoes and the pushing up of mountains as land masses meet, so water is mainly responsible for flattening them again. Constant weathering crumbles away the rocks as mountains age and water, in the form of rain, ice and snow, is primarily responsible. Liquid water, as streams and rivers, also disperses the weathered rock, carrying it down to the plains where it is distributed across flatter land, bringing much needed nutrients to nourish life. Even more nutrients are carried by the rivers to the oceans where they offer the necessary food for aquatic plants that stand at the bottom of the oceanic food chain.