The mysteries of water: a journey of (almost) 100 years

Thursday 11th AprilThursday 11th April 2019

Speaker: Fausto Martelli, IBM Research

Date / Time: Thursday 11 April, 6pm – 7pm

Venue: School of Mathematics, University of Bristol (Room SM1)



The discovery of the Hydrogen bond can be dated back to the early 1920’s. This discovery opened the way to a new understanding of the Chemistry and Physics of materials. In the 1940’s Nobel Laureate chemist Linus Pauling observed that water, if it weren’t for the hydrogen bonds, should freeze at around -120 Celsius. As odd as Pauling’s conclusion may seem, it is one of the first scientific foot steps that, little by little, uncovered a profound truth: water hides many strange behaviors. Since then, scientists have discovered a plethora of anomalous behaviors in water that make it truly exceptional, and wildly unconventional. We now count more than 70 anomalies, i.e., behaviors that deviate from the theories taught in textbooks on Chemistry and Physics.

Without its peculiar behaviors, life on our planet would have never existed. For example, ice floats instead of sinking (as normally occurs in all other materials), and liquid water at 4 Celsius is denser than at other temperatures. As a result, the surface of water freezes during winter, while the bottom maintain a comfortable constant temperature of approximately 4 Celsius that allows life to advance. If water would have been a “normal” material, water would freeze from the bottom up, thereby killing all marine life.

In this talk, I will offer a journey on the history of scientific explorations that led to the discovery of many of the water anomalies. In doing so, I will present some of its most remarkable and unconventional behaviors—behaviors that directly affect our daily life without us even noticing it.

How to register

The talk is open to all University of Bristol staff and students as well as the general public. We ask that all attendees please register in advance of the event via Eventbrite.

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