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Water in the Universe

This is a series of articles loosely based on water which is appropriate for this website whose focus is water.  However, unlike the rest of this website which addresses specific practical issues of drinking water quality and treatment,  these articles are much more general and, hopefully, more entertaining.  The series begins with a discussion of the universal abundance of water and then progresses into water in the Solar System with considerable discussion of the role of water in planetary origins, geology, history, and atmospheres.  From this perspective it should become easier to understand how water operates on the Earth and its importance to us in ways little appreciated.  Later articles more specifically address the operation of water on/in Earth, gradually moving from the global and geologic history of water to more current, regional/local, and people-oriented stories of water.  

While the base theme of the articles is water, It is often the case that, in order to talk about some aspect of water, it is necessary to discuss related topics.  For example, in order to understand how water has shaped the Earth of today, there needs to be some discussion of the geologic history of the Earth including the formation of our moon and plate tectonics.  A full story of plate tectonics is beyond the scope of this series but enough must be covered in order to understand the part water plays in such an important activity including why the Earth has plate tectonics and Venus and Mars don’t.  

It should become quickly apparent that these water-related articles are only a small part of a much larger story, that many other interesting themes are only briefly touched upon.  Even a fleeting glimpse of some new idea can be valuable.  One big question in education today is when anyone can look up anything on the net, what, then, should a teacher teach?  One answer is that you can’t look up something that you don’t know exists.    One example is the Nile River.  Most people probably know that the Nile has two main sources: the Blue Nile which originates in Lake Tana in Ethiopia and the White Nile that begins in the vicinity of Lake Victoria.  There is also a Red/Black Nile and a Yellow Nile.  

A teacher should provide some sort of framework, an outline, a basic understanding from which a student can expand his/her picture of why things are the way they are and how the world operates.  Perhaps this series of articles may inspire some to more fully explore these and other topics.  Or, just simply enjoy the stories in this series.  Some of them do illustrate specific drinking water problems but on a much larger scale.  Do you have a problem with iron precipitating from your well water once the oxygen in the air gets to the water?  Several billion years ago all of the Earth’s oceans had a very similar problem with some very interesting and important consequences.  Is calcium carbonate (scale) precipitating out of your water?  Less than a billion years ago that started happening in Earth’s oceans, greatly affecting Earth’s atmosphere and global climate. 

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