Have you ever wondered how to test the strength and mobility of water? There are several methods of employing simple techniques to investigate the amazing qualities of this life sustaining liquid that we sometimes take for granted.
Water’s climbing ability
You can test the properties of water which allow it to climb in movement known as “capillary action.” Put a sugar cube on a spoon, and slowly lower the spoon into any colored water such as tea or coffee. When the liquid hits the sugar, hold the spoon in place. Watch how the water rises or “climbs” further up the sugar cube. You can also place a transparent straw into a glass of water. Looking through the straw, you can see that the water has flowed upwards. In the sugar cube experiment, the water rises higher because the grains of sugar are smaller than the inside components of the straw.
The strength of water
Make a little boat by getting a razor blade or needle and placing it on a square of facial tissue. Watch the tissue sink while the water holds the metal object up. The surface tension of the water has formed a film on the water, thus making it able to support an object heavier than itself. If you add something else that’s wet, such as dish soap, the object will sink because the surface tension of the water has been disturbed.
Water’s ability to conduct electricity
Place a small, bare wire at each end of a flashlight battery. Bend the wires so they are not touching but still close to each other. Put the wires into water. Soon, you will see bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen gases forming on the wires. This is because some of the water molecules have been split by electricity.
Separating oil and water
You can see how water and oil do not mix when you stir vinegar, which is for the most part water, with olive oil. The olive oil will rise to the top of the mixture. Thus, waterfowl can land on the surface of the water without quickly submerging — they have a natural water-repelling substance released by their oil glands. You see them preening in order to distribute this substance evenly over their bodies.
Water is a much more powerful substance, with behavior that’s different from any other. Why not try these experiments with your children and show them just how truly amazing it is?
Joy of Nature, p. Reader’s Digest 1977