Does Hot or Cold Water Freeze Faster?

Does Hot or Cold Water Freeze Faster?

As a young boy, I learned not to try to solve family arguments between my elders. My father told my aunt (his sister) that he had heard that hot water freezes faster than cold water. She said that could not be true, and that led to a heated argument between them. I thought this was not something worth arguing about, and I suggested that we test the theory by the scientific method. Does hot or cold water freeze faster?

Thinking I could settle the argument, I suggested we fill one ice-cube tray with hot water and one with cold water, put them both in the freezer and see what happens. This suggestion from a young “whippersnapper” brought down the wrath of both sides. I realized that they didn’t want to know the truth. They just wanted to argue. Perhaps they were both afraid they might be proven wrong. I have since learned that believers and skeptics often fear looking at evidence for that very reason.

So, does hot or cold water freeze faster? The short answer is that it depends. Some famous thinkers, including Aristotle, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes, noticed that hot water sometimes froze faster than cold water. But it took a Tanzanian secondary student making ice cream in 1963 to finally bring this question into scientific focus.

Young Eraso Mpemba, along with fellow students at Magamba Secondary School, was making ice cream to earn some money. He was in a hurry, so rather than letting it cool, he put the hot ice cream mix into his freezer. He was surprised that his ice cream froze faster than the colder mix of his fellow students. Mpemba’s teacher and classmates laughed at his claim that the hot mix froze faster.

Later, a noted British physicist named Denis Osborne came to the African school, and Mpemba asked him to explain why hot water freezes faster than cold. Not only did his teacher and classmates think Mpemba’s suggestion was absurd, but the physicist was also skeptical. However, Dr. Osborne was open-minded enough to test it experimentally. (Like I suggested to my father and aunt.) In 1969, when Mpemba was in college, he and Osborne published a paper on the phenomenon, which came to be called the Mpemba effect.

So some people, when asked, “Does hot or cold water freeze faster?” were no longer laughing at the “foolish question.” However, nobody knew how hot water could freeze faster. After all, if the water is already closer to freezing temperature, it should freeze in less time. Shouldn’t it? The truth is that the question does not have a simple answer. In 2013, scientists in Singapore proposed a solution. Tomorrow, we will look at their explanation.

— Roland Earnst © 2023


Water Stewardship Past and Present

Water Stewardship

One of the major issues facing us today is how we get enough water to the right places to meet human needs. Between climate change and the growing human population, water availability is a huge concern in countries worldwide. We either have too much water resulting in floods or droughts that threaten food shortages. The fact is that God has equipped planet Earth with plenty of water. The problem is human water stewardship is not what it should be.

In the year 330, Roman Emperor Constantine took an ancient Greek city known as Byzantium and renamed it New Rome to become the new center of the Roman Empire. As the city grew, it became known as Constantine’s City or Constantinople. Three decades later, a court orator named Themistius wrote that “the city thirsts.” The city was surrounded by the sea on three sides, but it needed fresh water for its growing population. So, in 340, Constantius II began a major aqueduct construction project completed under Roman Emperor Valens In 373. The enormous project required an amount of stone equivalent to the Great Pyramid of Giza and enough mortar to fill 500 Olympic-size swimming pools. With the aqueducts, reservoirs, and a system of cisterns, Constantinople could truly become the new Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

Many areas today face a shortage of water. Six states, including 40 million people in the American West, receive water from the Colorado River. The states are Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and California. In 1922, the states made a compact giving California the largest share of the water. Unfortunately, the Colorado River has been shrinking in recent years while the human population has grown. The pact made in 1922 is not working well, especially for Arizona, and the situation requires better water stewardship.

Could we build a water system today analogous to what the Romans did almost 1,700 years ago? Can you imagine the benefit to all Americans if we had such a water distribution system in the western US? Droughts and flooding occur, but the effect is made worse by poor stewardship of the water resources God has given us. People in Africa, and other areas, need wells to provide safe water, and Christian organizations are working to meet that need. We can and must do more, and Christians should be the first to realize the importance of water stewardship because we honor the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (See James 1:17 and Mark 9:41.)

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2023

References: “The City Thirsts” by James Crow in Current World Archaeology magazine # 117 for February/March 2023, and “The Colorado River war and the growing problem of less water” on 

Do We Have Enough Water?

Do We Have Enough Water?

Parade Magazine published a question to Marilyn Vos Savant in which the writer asked, “If you had a cubic mile of water in a tank, and you start pumping it at 1000 gallons per minute, how long would it take to empty the tank?” Her answer was it would take over 2,000 years. There are many places on Earth where we have more than a cubic mile of water. The essential question is, “Do we have enough water?” The answer is that if we used what God has given us wisely, we would not have a water problem.

If we have enough water, why is there a water shortage as lakes dry up in California and Arizona? Also, why are people facing water shortages in drought conditions worldwide? God has given us enough water, but we are not doing a good job of distributing it. We can take the minerals from seawater to make fresh water. The energy cost to do that is high, but technology has greatly reduced it from what it used to be.

We have pipelines that carry liquid fossil fuels to enormous distances. If you think that building a water pipeline from the ocean to a destination hundreds of miles away is too expensive, consider how much money humans spend on war and weapons to harm others. It is disappointing to hear and read skeptics blaming God for the suffering involved in water shortages when they result from human ignorance, greed, and politics.

Genesis 2:6 tells us that a mist from the ground watered the planet in the creation process. Verses 10-14 describe four rivers coming from a source that flowed out of Eden. The area of the world where those rivers flow is part of the Fertile Crescent, which has a history of producing vast volumes of grain to provide food for humans and animals.

Do we have enough water?
The answer is yes. Anywhere on Earth can be an Eden if we merely take care of our planet’s God-given water supplies.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Parade Magazine May 22-29, 2022

Water Affects Earth’s Climate

Water Affects Earth’s Climate - Lofoten, Norway
Lofoten, Norway

One of the factors that put planet Earth in the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” of our solar system is that it is the correct distance from the Sun for liquid water to exist. Life is not possible without liquid water. Another factor we sometimes overlook is how water affects Earth’s climate.

We are approaching the end of winter with spring on our doorstep in the Northern Hemisphere. One of the familiar features of our cold winter months is ice and snow. Although we grow tired of the cold and the frozen water, the spring melting of snow and ice from mountains supplies essential water for many parts of the world. The changing seasons caused by the tilt of our planet on its axis and the way water affects Earth’s climate are factors of design allowing humans to live over most of the globe.

The Lofoten Islands in Norway are 105 miles (169 km) north of the Arctic Circle. The area is home to more than 24,000 people and has attracted millions of tourists because of its beauty. Even though it is only 1500 miles (2,420 km) from the North Pole, the area enjoys relatively mild temperatures. The warmest temperature ever recorded at the Skrova lighthouse on one of the islands was 86.7 degrees F (30.4 degrees C) in June 1972. The coldest was 4.8 degrees F (-15.1 degrees C) in February 1966. Skrova has what Norwegians call “tropical nights” when the temperature does not fall below 68 degrees F (20 degrees C).

On the other hand, the city of Yakutsk, Siberia, has a population of 336,200 people, and it holds the title of being the coldest city in the world. Some reports say the temperature has dropped to as low as -76 degrees F (-60 degrees C). The surprising thing is that Yakutsk is 280 miles (450 km) SOUTH of the Arctic Circle. That’s 385 miles south of Skrova in the Lofoten Islands. So what makes the difference?

Water largely explains the difference. The North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current bring warmer water to the Lofoten Islands. Also, mild low-pressure air from the Atlantic has an open path to blow northward in the winter. By contrast, Yakutsk is landlocked and located in a valley surrounded by mountains. As a result, the cold air settles into the low area and keeps Yakutsk in the freezer.

The highest and lowest temperatures on Earth tend to be in the interior of continents. This is because landmasses heat and cool much more quickly than large bodies of water. Also, landmasses covered by snow and ice reflect the warming radiation from the Sun back into space rather than warming the land.

As we have said before, water makes life possible in many ways. It is also true that water affects Earth’s climate in significant ways. Water shows design precision at the atomic and molecular levels to give it the qualities that life requires. Furthermore, water is abundant on this planet to supply our needs if we use it wisely. We think water is strong evidence of God’s design wisdom and care for His creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

No Life Without Water

No Life Without Water

Without water, life would not be possible. For that reason, astronomers are constantly looking for other locations in the universe where liquid water might exist. Only in such places could there be any hope of finding life. Whether life exists anywhere in the universe outside of planet Earth is a question people have asked for hundreds of years. Scientists still don’t know the answer, but everyone agrees that there could be no life without water.

The water molecule seems very simple. It is H2O–one oxygen atom combined with two hydrogen atoms. However, instead of bonding in a straight line (H-O-H), the two hydrogen atoms are on one side of the water molecule at a 104.5-degree angle from each other. That alignment gives the hydrogen side of the water molecule a partial positive charge, while the other side has a partial negative charge. Because of that, the positive and negative sides of water molecules attract one another and form hydrogen bonds resulting in a network of water molecules.

When water is in the gaseous state, the interaction between molecules is negligible. However, when it is in the solid form of ice, each water molecule forms a bond with four others, creating a lattice that causes ice to be lighter than liquid water. For most substances, the solid state is heavier than the liquid state. This unique property of water causes ice to float. Additionally, the low thermal conductivity of ice prevents the water below from freezing. If lakes and oceans froze from the bottom up, it would kill all marine life and ultimately all life on Earth.

If water molecules did not form hydrogen bonds, instead of boiling at 100 degrees C, water would boil at -100 degrees C. That would prevent life processes. Furthermore, because there is a 100 degree C difference between water’s melting and boiling points, life is possible in Earth’s wide range of environments. Water has the highest heat of evaporation of any known substance so that it remains liquid up to and even at its boiling point. It also has the second-highest heat capacity of any known substance, allowing its temperature to remain stable during heat fluctuations in the environment. Those qualities of water are also critical for life, meaning that there could be no life without water.

Water’s ability as a solvent makes it essential for the life processes of living cells. Likewise, water’s inability to dissolve oily substances is vital to create a strong “hydophobic effect.” Cell membranes, DNA, RNA, and proteins all contain oil-like regions. If the water in the cells could dissolve them, life would not be possible. In addition, the water molecule can participate in and enable chemical processes such as hydrolysis, reduction, oxidation, and others that are essential in living cells.

The bottom line is that there is no life without water and the fine-tuning of the hydrogen bonding in water molecules. With new scientific discoveries, we see fine-tuning for life in the cosmos and even in the cells of our bodies. Without that fine-tuning, life would not exist, and we would not be here. Accidental coincidences do not explain such incredible precision of design. We think the explanation goes beyond science and points to an intelligent Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

For much more on this, read chapter three, “The Chemical Anthropic Principle,” in Fazale Rana’s book Fit for a Purpose.

Water for Living and Living Water

Water for Living and Living Water

We all know that getting dehydrated is not good for our health. What we may not realize is how much water is designed to be part of our human makeup. Even the sound of water has a positive effect on our emotions and health. More important than that, our bodies depend on water. We need both water for living and living water.

Yesterday, we talked about our ability to cool our bodies through sweating. Eccrine glands work inside our cells to produce sweat, and humans have more of those glands than any other animal. When we lose significant amounts of water by sweating, a complex network of hormones and the electrical system that controls our kidneys work together to concentrate our urine.

The necessity of water for living means that we must constantly add water to our bodies, and to do this, we have great flexibility in our diets. In the United States, about 20% of the water we take into our bodies comes from the food we eat. In Japan, that number is around 50%. People get water by eating fruits and drinking milk, which is 87% water.

Humans are more locked into water than we may realize. We all travel by using water as the marker for where we stop. In our culture, it is often rest areas along the highway. In others, it may be desert springs or finding jungle plants that hold water. We spend large amounts of money on the construction of devices to bring water to us. Two thousand years ago, the Romans built a series of aqueducts to move water 16 kilometers to supply 50,000 people in the city of Caesarea. In today’s world, we build enormous pipelines to supply water to places where there are shortages.

When Jesus began to teach, He referred to His message as “living water” (John 4:10). In reality, the only thing more important than the water that sustains our physical lives is the living water that takes us to eternity. Revelation 22 pictures heaven with “..a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the lamb.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Scientific American, July 2021, pages 40-44.

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

We don’t ordinarily think of donkeys as diggers, especially not as vital to the desert environment. A researcher from Aarhus University in Denmark has made a discovery that shows a special provision God made to use donkeys to provide water for other life forms. Erick Lundgren has documented donkeys digging wells in the desert. In 2014 Lundgren studied feral horses and donkeys and noticed them digging holes deep enough to reach groundwater.

From 2014 to 2018, Lundgren mapped groundwater in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and found that holes dug by donkeys provided 74% of available water for all forms of life in the area. The donkeys seemed to know where to find water, and 57 vertebrate species from migratory songbirds to mountain lions and even a bear came to the donkey wells to drink.

It is fascinating that this is not a local anomaly. Researchers have documented donkeys digging wells in Central Asia, so this action is built into the donkey’s genome. Attempting to make a case for accidental donkey well-digging fails when isolated populations have the same instinctive drive. They use it not only to survive themselves but to benefit an entire ecosystem.

Research into donkeys digging wells shows that the donkeys know where to dig because the digging is not random. The wells dug by donkeys decreased the distance between water sources to an average of 843 meters, making essential water available to more animals with less tension. We suggest this is a beautiful example of God’s design allowing animals to live in environments that would seem unlikely to support life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, June 5, 2021, page 14.

Why Do We Need Mountains?

Why Do We Need Mountains?

A skeptic recently complained that mountains are a mistake. “They block travel, cause avalanches, create deserts, and are just a general nuisance. If God were the creator, He wouldn’t have made these huge obstacles to human well-being.” In response to this skeptic, we consider, “Why do we need mountains?” For one thing, mountains are a very practical solution to one of humanity’s greatest needs–water.

In a basic geography or meteorology class, we learn about orographic uplift and rain shadows. As air comes across a flat area, it picks up moisture. But to make rain, there must be more than just water. Condensation requires a cool enough temperature and nuclei on which the water vapor can condense. Mountains provide both the cooler temperatures and the condensation nuclei.

As air pushes up the side of a mountain, it cools, and stirred-up dust provides condensation nuclei. For that reason, it is frequently very rainy on the windward side of the mountain. On the other side, the air is dry because all of the moisture has been removed.

Mountains can also capture and store water as ice and snow. Scientific American (January 2021) published an article with data on how many people get their water from the mountains. There are 78 regional mountain chains or “water towers” that deliver water to almost two billion people and surrounding ecosystems. Without mountains, the amount of land that would be hospitable to humans would be much more limited.

In addition to mountains capturing and storing water, they have also created underground aquifers. Glaciers generated in mountain areas have carved out huge valleys, depositing sand and gravel in permeable layers that allow massive amounts of water to seep into the ground. Here in southern Michigan, continental glaciers produced aquifers that supply us with water. In a large area of the Midwest United States, an underground aquifer called the Teays River has supplied adequate water for agriculture.

God has provided a massive and effective water system for nearly all continents, primarily because of mountains. Why do we need mountains? We need them for the water that allows irrigation as well as drinking and other uses. Mountains are beautiful, they provide recreational activities for humans, and they literally water the world for human survival.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

How a Fish Drinks Water

How a Fish Drinks Water
Salmon in Freshwater

Have you ever wondered how a fish drinks water? Your first reaction is probably something like, “It opens its mouth.” Like most things in life, it isn’t that simple.

All living things necessarily have some saltwater content in their bodies to keep chemical balance allowing life to exist. The fluids inside an ocean-dwelling fish are only about a third as salty as the ocean itself. The water inside the fish’s body tends to leave by osmotic pressure, which is the tendency of fluids to move through membranes toward higher concentrations. To avoid this loss of water, the fish does simply open its mouth and drink seawater. But that brings large amounts of salt into the fish’s body. The salt concentration would be more than the fish’s kidneys could handle. To aid the kidneys, the gills of ocean fish are designed to expel salt, so the fish isn’t pickled by it.

In freshwater fish, the osmotic pressure is reversed, so the fluids inside the fish are saltier than the water outside. The skin of a freshwater fish is designed so that water seeps in through its skin and gills. Therefore, the fish doesn’t have to drink at all. When a salmon leaves the ocean and enters a freshwater stream, it merely stops drinking. Like freshwater fish, it depends on its skin to bring in its water needs.

Now that you know how a fish drinks water, the next question would be about other creatures that spend their time in the sea. Birds like albatrosses and petrels can spend more than a year at sea, and whales and seals live in the ocean 24/7/365. How can they avoid being poisoned by the salt? We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

God’s design of life includes fitting living things with specialized equipment to survive in every environment. Fish are remarkable creatures specially equipped for the waterworld in which they live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from National Wildlife magazine June/July 1995, pages 30-34.

Water Cycle and Life

Water Cycle and Life

Many passages in the Bible seem to be of little significance, yet they are incredibly important. Here is one of them about the water cycle.

“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7.

It is believed that Solomon wrote those words in 977 BC. What did people understand about the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, at that time? The answer, of course, is “very little.” Meteorologist Dr. Joseph Scott Greeson says about this passage, “Without using modern words – like ‘evaporation,’ ‘condensation,’ and ‘precipitation,’ this passage describes the results of those processes in these words… My twentieth-century scientific mind recognized that the writer of that passage must have had quite an understanding of the interaction between water on earth and water in the sky.”

There is a delicate balance of processes in the hydrologic cycle that allow us to have water even far from a lake or ocean. Many years ago, I had a friend who was involved in seeding clouds with silver iodide to stimulate them to produce rain. I knew that he was involved in this project and that he had many stories about how the seeding of clouds worked. I also knew he got out of that business, and I asked him why? His response was, “We were doing okay in getting rain started, but we were doing very poorly in knowing how to stop it.”

Global warming is bringing water to places that previously were deserts. We know that temperature controls how much water is lifted into the air by evaporation. A one-inch rainfall over a square mile of land involves the lifting of 72,483.84 tons of water. (Do the math. Water is 62.4 lbs per cubic foot. An inch is 1/12th of a foot, so the volume of water in a square mile of land would be 5280 feet/mile x 5280 x 1/12th or 2,323,200 cubic feet.) How many square miles of land receive an inch of rain in a typical spring storm? This is the start of the water cycle.

As the water flows into streams and rivers, it nourishes everything in its path, ultimately returning to the sea from which it evaporated. The system that powers the hydrologic cycle is massive, and all of life depends on it. God used the water cycle to impress upon Job that he “darkens counsel with words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). After talking about the creation, God takes the hydrologic cycle as the first evidence of His knowledge, design, and power. “Who provides a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the storm to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass. Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew…” (See verses 22-30).

Be thankful for the rain that brings life to us and for the water cycle that God designed so that, if properly managed, we all have enough to drink and to grow our food.

— John N. Clayton ©

Greeson quote from Scientists Who Believe page 64, Moody Press ISBN 0-8024-7634-1.