In our post for yesterday (July 7, 2018) we dealt with oxygen as a designed feature promoting life by allowing us to breathe. Another interesting design feature relates to the oxygen atom design and water. The oxygen molecule’s design allows water to have the properties that it has.
The oxygen atom has eight electrons in orbitals based on their energy with the electrons paired so that their magnetic polarities are balanced. Each electron is essentially a little magnet with a north and a south pole. When the electrons are together in a pair, one electron’s north pole matches up with the second electron’s south pole. In oxygen, the first two electrons are in what is called the S orbital. The next energy level out is also an S orbital with two electrons. The third energy level out from the nucleus is the P orbital. This orbital can hold six electrons, but oxygen has only four electrons left. Two of the electrons are paired, but the remaining two are unpaired. They orbit in a pattern at right angles to one another. These orbits are not spherical but in the shape of a dumbbell.
What is the importance of oxygen atom design and water? A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms attached to the oxygen atom in such a way that they pair up with the two unpaired electrons. That means the water molecule is polar in nature with the hydrogen atoms on one end of the molecule and the oxygen atom on the other. The bond angle of the hydrogen atoms would be 90 degrees except for the fact that they repel each other. The repulsion forces the angle out to 105 degrees. This design allows water to have its unique properties which allow life to exist on Earth.
When water freezes, the molecules spread out due to the polar nature of the water molecule. Because of that, ice is lighter than liquid water so lakes freeze on top instead of on the bottom. If lakes froze from the bottom up, life in the water would not be possible. Also because of the polar nature of the water molecule, water dissolves things like salt.
The unique properties of water are due to the design of the oxygen molecule. As a high school chemistry teacher I always enjoy teaching about the oxygen atom design and water. Students are enthralled at the design built into such a simple thing as an oxygen molecule. Almost every time I teach this unit I have some kid say something like, “Wow! Who thought this up?” But this is not the product of a human engineer. An Engineer far wiser than any human created the design of oxygen and built a world that can support life.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
The illustrations are from John N. Clayton’s book The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? The book goes into much more detail and is available HERE.