Saturday, April 9, 2011

A cup of history

As I'm writing my blog entry today, I'm drinking a glass of water.  I'm thinking, where did this water come from.  Well, from the tap, of course.  But a glass of water is made up of molecules of water.  In fact, a 8 oz. glass of water contains about 7 million billion billion molecules of water.  Although all those molecules are sitting in my glass right now, they weren't always together.  Also, it's not like my tap magically created the water out of thin air.  Those molecules came from somewhere.
My water at my house comes from a well.  The water down in the well got there somehow.  Some of it has been sitting around down there for years and years and only now is being pumped up to the surface.  Some of it has filtered down from the surface to collect and mix with the water there.  Some of that water came from a cow urinating in the field down the way.  Some came from the leftover ice in a Wendy's cup that someone dumped out of their car as they were driving down the road.  Most of it got there from the rain and snow. 
The water molecules that got there as rain or snow were up in the clouds for some time.  They got there through evaporation from any number of places: the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific, any number of lakes and streams across the country, some sweaty guy in Iowa trying to fix his lawn mower, a teapot boiling Texas, lots of places.  Most of the water in the Gulf got there from rain and from rivers and streams that feed into the Gulf.  Some got there from a seasick passenger vomiting over the side of a cruise ship.  Some came from the blood of pirates killed in ancient sea battles.  Some of the water there has been circulating around the Gulf and the ocean for years.  It may have spent time in the cells of a giant squid or passed from organism to organism in the small food chain of a coral reef. 
Before some of that water rained into the Gulf, it was in clouds that came from evaporation of water from some other part of the world.  As we go back and back in time, we see that these molecules have traveled around the world over and over again.  Each molecule in my glass of water may have been part of countless different plants, animals, and other organisms from cats and dogs to dinosaurs to ancient bacteria.  It may have helped erode away mountains and flooded cities.  It may have been locked in a glacier for hundreds of years.  
In addition to the molecules that survived intact for their existence, some of the molecules were formed during the burning of some forest when the hydrogen atoms in the cells of the trees bound with oxygen in the air to give off heat and creating a water molecule that was released into the atmosphere.   Other water molecules formed inside living beings as part of their normal life processes.  Each of those hydrogen and oxygen atoms has their own history.
As we go back further in time to the early formation of the earth, some of the water molecules were part of the cloud of interstellar dust that coalesced to form the Earth.  Other molecules rained down on the Earth as parts of comets that pummeled the planet during its early history.  And for all of those molecules, the oxygen atoms in them were formed in the tremendous nuclear furnaces in the insides of stars.  They were flung into space when the stars exploded and later bound to hydrogen atoms they encountered.
So, as I drink my glass of water, I drink molecules that have participated in the vast history of our universe.   Soon, they will become part of me, and they will join with all the other atoms of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, and other elements that make up me.   Each of those atoms and molecules has its own unique history.  This combination of atoms and molecules that I call "me" is a piece of a universe that is vast and grand and amazing.  It builds worlds and brings forth life and produces each of us.  When I die, my atoms and molecules will be set free from this particular configuration to spread throughout the world to become part of countless future plants and animals (including us people) that will inhabit this planet.    And, sometime, centuries from now, someone will sit down to have a glass of water that contains a molecule of me.


michael dennis said...

well, that would have been even better as an animated mini-movie. even so, it will inspire me to see if I can get an anti-Dan component added to my Brita filter.

Elaine said...

Ok, that post clinched it for me. From now on, I will only drink filtered bottled water.

By the way, we used to have well water - then we found out that it contained nearly dangerous amounts of e-coli. Probably because there were cattle that did their business on the hill, it rained, the water went into the creek, the creed fed the well... you know... gross. Although it didn't make anyone sick, it was still in there. So, be sure to get your water tested regularly.
This has been a PSE from WVA.

Dan Kiskis said...

Just one point of clarification. I was writing about the actual molecules of water, not any contaminants. For those, I do recommend proper filtering and testing your well regularly, which we do.
So far, science has not been able to develop a successful anti-Dan filter. Sorry.