Chapter 3

An Interesting Property of Water

The Formation Adventure of the Atom
The Signs of the Qur'an
The Structure Of The Atom
The Second Step On The Path To Matter: Molecules
An Interesting Property of Water
Power Of The Atom
Atoms That Come Alive
Feeding And Hunting

We all know that water boils at 100º C and freezes at 0º C. In fact, under normal circumstances, water should be boiling not at 100º C but at + 180º C. Why?

In the periodic table, the properties of elements in the same group vary in a progressive form from light elements towards heavy elements. This order is most evident in hydrogen compounds. The compounds of the elements sharing the same group with oxygen in the periodic table are called "hydrides". In fact, water is "oxygen hydride". Hydrides of other elements in this group have the same molecular structure as the water molecule.

The boiling points of these compounds vary in a progressive way from sulphur to heavier ones; however, the boiling point of water unexpectedly goes against this pattern. Water (oxygen hydride) boils at 80º C less than it is supposed to. Another surprising situation has to do with the freezing point of water. Again, according to the order in the periodic system, water is supposed to freeze at - 100º C. Yet, water breaks this rule and freezes at 0º C, 100º C above the temperature at which it is due. This brings to mind the question as to why no other hydride, but only water (oxygen hydride) disobeys the rules of the periodic system.

Molecules at the surface of a liquid feel a net force pulling inward. This is surface tension. It provides a cohesive force between the surface molecules, which is sufficient to prevent the legs of a ripple bug from breaking through. The high surface tension in water is vital to physiological processes. 1

The laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, and all the other things we name as rules are just attempts at explaining the extraordinary equilibrium in the universe, and the details of creation. All research conducted in the 20th century shows more than ever that all the physical balances in the universe are tailor-made for human life. Research reveals that all the laws of physics, chemistry and biology prevalent in the universe as well as the atmosphere, sun, atoms and molecules, etc., are all arranged just as they are needed in order to support human life. Water, like the other elements mentioned above, is fit for life to such a degree as not to be comparable to any other liquid, and a major portion of the earth is filled with water in just the right amounts required for life. It is obvious that all these cannot be coincidences and that there is perfect order and design prevalent in the universe.

The staggering physical and chemical properties of water reveal that this liquid has been created specially for human life. Allah gave life to people through water and by it has brought forth from the earth everything they need in order to live. Allah summons people to think about this subject in the Qur'an:

It is He Who sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and from the spathes of the date palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in that for people who believe.
(Surat al-An'am: 99)

The ProtectIve CeIlIng: Ozone

The air we breathe, that is, the lower atmosphere, is in the main composed of oxygen gas. By oxygen gas, we mean O2. That is to say that the oxygen molecules in the lower atmosphere are each comprised of two atoms. However, the oxygen molecule may sometimes be comprised of three atoms (O3). In this case, this molecule is no longer called oxygen, but "ozone", because these two gases are quite different from each other.

One point needs mention here: while oxygen is formed when two oxygen atoms combine, why is a different gas called ozone formed when three oxygen atoms combine? Eventually, isn't it the oxygen atom that combines, be it two or three atoms in a molecule? Why then do two different gases emerge? Before answering these questions, it would be better to see what differentiates these gasses from each other.

Oxygen (O2) is found in the lower atmosphere and gives life to all living beings through respiration. Ozone (O3) is a poisonous gas with a very bad smell. It is found in the highest strata of the atmosphere. If we had to breathe ozone instead of oxygen, none of us would survive.

The ozone is in the upper atmosphere, because there it serves a highly vital function for life. It forms a layer approximately 20 km above the atmosphere surrounding the earth like a belt. It absorbs the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun, preventing them from reaching the earth at full intensity. Since ultraviolet rays have very high energy, their direct contact with the earth would cause everything on the earth to burn up, never allowing life to form. For this reason, the ozone layer serves as a protective shield in the atmosphere.

In order for life to exist on the earth, all living beings must be able to breathe and be protected from harmful sunrays. The one who forms this system is Allah, Who rules over each atom, each molecule. Without Allah's permission, no power whatsoever could bring these atoms together in different proportions as oxygen and ozone gas molecules.

Molecules We Taste and Smell

The senses of taste and smell are perceptions making man's world more beautiful. The pleasure derived from these senses has been a matter of interest since ancient times and it has been discovered only recently that these are caused by molecular interactions.

"Taste" and "smell" are only perceptions that are created by different molecules in our sense organs. For instance, the smells of food, drinks, or various fruits and flowers we see around us all consist of volatile molecules. So, how does this happen?

Volatile molecules like aroma of vanilla and aroma of rose reach the receptors located on the vibrating hairs in the nasal region called the epithelium and interact with those receptors. This interaction is perceived as smell in our brains. So far, seven different types of receptors have been identified in our nasal cavity, which is lined by a smelling membrane of 2-3 cm2. Each one of these receptors corresponds to a basic smell. In the same way, there are four different types of chemical receptors in the front part of our tongue. These correspond to salty, sweet, sour and bitter tastes. Our brains perceive molecules arriving at the receptors of our sense organs as chemical signals.

It has been discovered how taste and smell are perceived and how they are formed, yet scientists have so far not been able to reach agreement as to why certain substances have a strong smell while some have less and why some taste good and some bad.

Piperine is the active component of white and
black pepper (the berries of the tropical vine
Piper nigrum). Black pepper is obtained by
allowing the unripe fruit to ferment and then
drying it. White pepper is obtained by
removing the skins and pulp of the ripe
berries and drying the seeds.2

The mixture of these two molecules produces a very pleasant aroma. Butanone is the molecule chiefly responsible for the smell of ripe raspberries. The
fresh new smell of the newly picked fruit is due partly to ionone, which is also responsible for the odours of sun-dried hay and violets. Ionone is the fragrant
component of oil of violets.3

This molecule is one of those responsible for the aroma of coffee. The stimulating action of coffee is due to caffeine. The colour of roasted coffee beans seen left is largely due to the browning reaction that occurs when organic substances containing nitrogen are heated. Temporarily trapped within the beans are the molecules responsible for flavour and stimulation.4
Silk, the common name of b-Keratin, is the solidified fluid excreted by a number of insects and spiders, the most valuable being the exudent of the silkworm, the caterpillar of the silk moth. It is a polypeptide made largely from glycine, alanine, and smaller amounts of other amino acids. b-Keratin molecules do not form a helix; instead they lie on top of each other to give ridged sheets of linked amino acids, with glycine appearing on only one side of the sheets. The sheets then stack one on top of the other. This planar structure is felt when you touch the smooth surface of silk.5

Think for a minute. We could be living in a world without any flavour or odour. Since we would have no idea about the concepts of taste and fragrance, it would not even occur to us to wish to possess these perceptions. However, it is not so. Out of the brown soil with a unique smell come hundreds of types of aromatic and delicious fruits, vegetables and flowers in thousands of colours, shapes and fragrances. Why then do these atoms, which, on one hand, come together in an extraordinary way to form matter, combine, on the other hand, to produce taste and smell? Although we often take them as granted and do not remember much what a great favour they are, they pleasantly contribute to our world as products of a magnificent artistry.

The picture on the right belongs to an evil-smelling molecule and the one on the left to an aromatic molecule. As we can see, what distinguishes bad odour from a pleasant odour is these small differences in a microcosm which is invisible to us.

As for other living beings, some eat only grass and some different foodstuffs. Certainly, none of these smell good, or have a great taste. Even if they do, this does not mean much for these living beings as they do not have any consciousness in the sense that human beings have. We, too, could be feeding on a single type of nutrition like them. Have you ever thought how ordinary and tasteless your would life be if you had to eat a single type of food all your life and drink only water? Therefore, taste and smell, like all other blessings, are beauties Allah, possessor of infinite grace and bounty, gave man in return for nothing. The absence of even these two senses alone would make human life quite dull. In return for all these blessings given to him, what falls to man is to try to become a person with whom Allah would be pleased. In compensation for this attitude, his Lord promises him an eternal life, which is unlimitedly furnished with blessings far superior to those that are presented to us on the earth as samples of delights to come in the hereafter. However, the recompense of a life spent ungratefully, heedlessly, and neglectful of Allah, will certainly be a just one:

And when your Lord announced: "If you are grateful, I will certainly give you increase, but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe."
(Surah Ibrahim: 7)

How Do We PerceIve Matter?

What we have told so far has revealed that what we call matter is not an entity having a specific colour, smell and form, as we believed it to be. What we imagine to be matter, that is our own body, our room, our home, and at large, the world and the whole universe, is in reality nothing but energy. What is it then that makes everything around us visible and touchable?

The reason why we perceive the things around us as matter is the collision of electrons in the orbital shells of atoms with photons, and the atoms' attracting and repelling each other.

You are not even touching the book that you think you hold in your hand right now… In truth, the atoms of your hand are repelling the atoms of the book and you feel a sense of touch depending on the intensity of this repulsion. As we mentioned while talking about the structure of atoms, they can come close to each other at most as much as the diameter of an atom. Besides, the only atoms that can come this close are those that react with each other. Therefore, when even atoms of the same substance can by no means touch each other, it is all the more impossible for us to touch the substance we hold, squeeze or lift with our hand. In fact, if we could come as close as possible to the object in our hand, we would be involved in a chemical reaction with that object. In this case, it would be impossible for a human being or another living being to survive even for a second. The living being would immediately react with the substance on which he stepped, sat or leaned, and be transformed into something else.

The final picture that emerges in this situation is extremely remarkable: we live in a world that is 99.95 % composed of a void filled with atoms consisting almost entirely of energy.6 We actually never touch the things we say, "we touch and we hold". So, to what extent do we perceive the matter we see, hear or smell? Are these substances really as we see or hear them? Absolutely not. We had addressed this point when we talked about electrons and molecules. Remember, it is literally impossible for us to see the matter we believe to exist and see, because the phenomenon we call seeing comprises certain images formed in our brain by photons coming from the sun, or from another light source, hitting the matter, which absorbs a certain portion of the incoming light, and gives out the rest, which therefore is re-emitted from the matter and strikes our eyes. That is to say that the matter we see only consists of the information carried by photons that are reflected to our eye. So, how much of the data related to matter is conveyed to us by this information? We have no proof that the original forms of the matters existing outside are fully reflected to us.

1. Martin Sherwood & Christine Sulton, The Physical World, Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 30
2. P.W. Atkins, Molecules, Scientific American Library, p. 115
3. P.W. Atkins, Molecules, Scientific American Library, p. 128
4. P.W. Atkins, Molecules, Scientific American Library, p. 130
5.P.W. Atkins, Molecules, Scientific American Library, p. 93
6.Taskin Tuna, Uzayin Otesi (Beyond Space), Bogazici Yayinlari, 1995, p. 166

Allah is Known Through Reason
The Creation of the Universe
Allah's Artistry in Colour
For Men of Understanding
The Design in Nature
The Miracle in the Ant
The Miracle in the Atom
The Miracle of the Immune System
The Miracle in the Spider
The Secrets of DNA
The Miracle of the Creation in Plants
The Existence of God
Tell Me About the Creation

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