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Dutchess_III's avatar

Where does water come from?

Asked by Dutchess_III (36244points) August 16th, 2013

With all this rain we’ve been having (it rains every single night! Sometimes it flat down pours for a couple of hours) I’m wondering where it all comes from. This takes me back to when the earth was just forming. Our atmosphere developed, then it rained for a million bazillion years and filled up the oceans.
Where did that first water come from? How was it created? Can water be destroyed, and can water be created? Could we ever run out of water?
Does the total amount of water running through the evaporation cycle remain the same?

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45 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

In a sense yo can say you create water when you burn things. When hydrocarbons, e.g., wood, oil, natural gas, etc., are burned the products of combustion are CO2 and water vapor. There are other products but they are much less than 5%.

By far the vast majority of the water remains the same and travels through the water cycle. Evaporation and condensation.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@LuckyGuy Didn’t they find some water on Mars? Where did that come from?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I wondered that too @Adirondackwannabe. When the earth was young and just forming, there was nothing to burn…wait. Yes. There were volcanoes. I’m betting there were volcanoes on Mars at one time.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Dutchess_III Interesting thought. Would that also have some oxygen in the emissions?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Um…well. Oxygen is a basic element,along with hydrogen and gold and nitrogen, etc. Oxygen just happens to be super unique to us and all other living animals. I assume all of the basic elements are created when stars super nova, and eventually found their way to earth.
Do super novas just create elements, or do they create molecules too? Can it create molecules of water? How were the first molecules o f water created? In volcanoes?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Comets are dirty snow balls. They can be a source of water too.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But where did the H2O first COME from?

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s a very interesting question. There’s lots of water on Earth. 75% of the planet’s surface is covered with it. The surface water gets evaporated into our atmosphere by solar radiation. As it cools in the upper atmosphere, it generally condenses out of the atmosphere to freeze on microscopic dust or even bacteria in the air. More and more ice then builds up, eventually getting so heavy it falls and, it it’s warm enough in the lower atmosphere, melts back into rain.

That leads to the question, where did all this Earthly water come from? Some would have been here from the planet’s beginning. Sometime back in the distant past, well over 4.5 billion years ago, a large star or stars exploded in a supernova leaving a massive cloud of dust and gasses. Gravitation pulled this debris field back together over time, and our sun came to life. The gravitational pull of the sun caused the rest of the dust and gasses to begin orbiting in an ever more disk-like form, and eventually bits gathered into ever larger chunks within that disk, forming planets and moons. Where there was not enough material to form a planet, we ended up with asteroid belts.

In our planet’s early life, and again later, something disturbed the equilibrium of the asteroid belts, causing a large number of comets and asteroids to crash into the Earth in what is called the Early and the Late Bombardment. Asteroids and comets also often contain water, so the two bombardments left us the beautiful, sapphire blue gem of a planet we now enjoy—at least when it doesn’t rain too much. :-)

Now others have mentioned that water originally comes from the combining of two highly reactive elements, hydrogen and oxygen. Those two have an enormous affinity for one another. Whenever they can, they get together, sometimes explosively so. The Big Bang, as its extreme heat cooled, created only hydrogen and helium from all the quarks, leptons and gluons that it gave birth to. For oxygen to come along, we had to wait till gravity brought enough of the first two gasses together to give birth to the first large stars, having at least 10 times the mass of our sun and sometimes thousands of solar masses. Such large stars begin to undergo gravitational collapse when they consume all their hydrogen through nuclear fusion. As they fall inward into their core, core temperatures rise astronomically till first helium fusion, then heavier element fusion begins. In their final death throes when all this fusion slows till its pressure can no longer resist the forces of gravitational collapse, it triggers a violent explosion known as a supernova. That blasts all the heavier elements occurring in nature, including precious oxygen, into space in the form of a gas and dust cloud know as a nebula.

And it is from such a cloud of ancient star dust that we, and the oxygen in our water, and the planet sustaining us and Sun warming us all came. So rain comes from stardust, and so do all of us.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know how the universe was formed, but I enjoyed reading it again. It blows my mind, more than any “miracle” ever could! We are all made of stardust!
But….how were the first elements created in the first place? Were they all some variation of Hydrogen?

flutherother's avatar

In the beginning was a hot soup of subatomic particles that cooled down to form atoms of hydrogen which burned up in stars to create all the atoms of the periodic table which combined together to make everything including you and I. It has taken 14 billion years.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So, there were forces that would rip the hydrogen atoms apart, tear the the proton and neutron away from the nucleus, and those same forces would smash them back together and sometimes multiple protons and neutrons would stay in orbit, and sometimes at different levels, around the nucleus and the other elements were born. Is that about i it?

Where did the original protons and neutrons come from? And the quarks and the anti matter? Are they all just forms of gravity and electricity?

(My son and I were trying to have this discussion on the deck. He had a friend with him and his friend kept interjecting “God. God. God,” like, “End of story.” My son turned to him and said, “Where did God come from?”)

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III My sentiments exactly. I’m always amazed by theists who insist that without God there would be no sense of wonder, not experience of the sublime. Just looking into the night sky away from city lights brings the 300 billion stars of our own Milky Way Galaxy into view. Recently, NASA scientists pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at a tiny, tiny spec of the night sky that seemed to be pure blankness. For eleven days, they kept Hubble focused on that one tiny spec, no bigger than the amount of sky blocked by a grain of sand held out at arms length. What originally appeared to be nothingness was actually this. In that tiny dot, now 47 billion light years away from us, are over 10,000 galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of individual stars. Shivers run up my back, and I tear up just contemplating it. That is all the sense of wonder I can take without exploding.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Me too. It’s mind boggling trying to even think about how and why. If the only answer is “God,” to me, it takes all of the wonder right out of it. End of story. Don’t even need to think about it any more.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I remember when I first learned our solar system is flung far out on the edge of one arm of our galaxy, like an accident. Being human, I always assumed we were at the center of our galaxy! Yeah. I guess hanging out with a massive black hole!

I love that video @ETpro. I wish I was still teaching…but I’ll save it for my grandkids.

bunnyslippers's avatar

Why can’t i just say God made it and be cool? I believe that, you don’t have to, and I’m cool with giving it a sciencey way God did it, but when it boils down that’s always going to be my answer.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ You can. It’s cool with me.

bunnyslippers's avatar

Ha water boils down, I didn’t’ even realize I made a funny.

I’m actually very easily amused.

bkcunningham's avatar

We are all made of stardust. LMAO Thanks for the smiles.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We are, @bkcunningham. Matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Every atom in our body, every atom in every thing everywhere originated in a massive nuclear explosion of a star.

flutherother's avatar

You can hold a glass of water up to the sunlight and say ‘God made that’ and no one can disagree. You can also ask how He did it and the answers you get are no less wonderful.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What is the answer to the question “How He did it?” Is it, “He just did?” That’s doesn’t strike me as wonderful.

bunnyslippers's avatar

I think @flutherother is trying to point out that God and science don’t have to be mutually exclusive beliefs. You can believe in both and find both fascinating. i could be wrong though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s fine @bunnyslippers, but I was just wondering what answers you get when you ask God where it came from and how are the answers wonderful? It was a literal question.

bkcunningham's avatar

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”

flutherother's avatar

@Dutchess_III It is the scientists who ask how the glass and the water and the sun came to be. I just meant you can be a scientist and still have a sense of wonder and believe in God. Take Einstein for example.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree. But I was still asking what, literally, the answers were, and what makes them wonderful? I mean, the scientific answers I’m getting here are so mind boggling and I find that wonderful. What would Christians say that God has to say that compares to these answers?

Einstein was an agnostic, btw. He said the existence of God or gods can’t be proven, but he doesn’t entirely discount the possibility of their existence.

ETpro's avatar

@bunnyslippers You can certainly just say God did it. But the tragedy of stopping there is that you never see the grandeur of HOW the water was made. That’s the danger of absolutism.

@flutherother Einstein thought there probably was a watchmaker god of the sort the deists of the Enlightenment believed in. He did use the word God to identify what he saw as universal law. But he was outraged when the press tried to twist his words into an endorsement of an interventionist God. Such a god struck his as utterly preposterous based on all he could observe about the Universe.

Here are some quotes. “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” Albert Einstein, in a letter March 24, 1954; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press,

“I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.” Albert Einstein, letter to a Baptist pastor in 1953; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 39.

“I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.” Albert Einstein, letter to a Baptist pastor in 1953; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 43.

bkcunningham's avatar

Where did the stars come from?

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham I answered that up here because you have to understnd that to understand where water came from. The tough question is where did the Big Bang come from. And just saying God did it isn’t a satisfying answer, because the obvious next question is, “Where did God come from?”.

flutherother's avatar

@ETpro That’s what I like about Einstein. No one worked harder than he did to figure out the laws that make the universe work but he wasn’t a reductionist. The man who deduced that E=MC^2 was in awe of the universe and had religious feelings. I like that. Einstein always said that he couldn’t believe in a personal God, he never said he couldn’t believe in God.

bkcunningham's avatar

So, there is no answer?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham There was the big bang. It scattered matter and energy all over the place. Each particle of matter has some sort of gravity. Your own body has a gravitational force that works against the earth’s gravity. It’s minute, but it’s there.
Over billions of years this scattered matter started “clumping” together. The more matter that started clumping, the higher the overall gravitational forces of the clump. The clump eventually started rotating, just like protons and electrons rotate around the nucleus of an atom…a proton has a positivist charge, an electron has a negative charges. The proton is trying to pull the electron in, the electron pushes back. Think of a couple of magnets when you try to hold opposing ends together. You know how it slips and slides?
As the clumps rotated they began to compress. If the clump was too big, it ended up starting a nuclear reaction at the center. That stopped contracting right there, so you wind up with a gaseous, nuclear fireball.
If the clumps were smaller, they compressed all the way into planets, like Earth.

Also, the “stars” you see in the sky are actually galaxies (which are rotating too) not actual, individual stars.

Those of you who are more well versed in this, please feel free to clarify or correct. I just try to keep it uber simple so I can understand it!

Also, @ETpro, just saying “God did it,” isn’t a satisfying answer for me, either. However, I’m will to respect those for whom it IS a satisfying answer.

bkcunningham's avatar

My point, @Dutchess_III, is it is a perpetual question. Where did the matter and energy come from?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. And scientists will continue to look for the answers. That’s what they do. They will never stop one day and say, “Well, it just is what it is! It’s a miracle!” and just give up and quit looking.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love the Whitman poem: Miracles

By Walt Whitman

1819–1892

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Pretty. What he is saying is that EVERYTHING is a miracle, including buildings and ships and cars. I feel that same way sometimes.

bkcunningham's avatar

I do too. I know of nothing else but miracles. I would hate to think someone wasted their life on this earth looking for the answers and they missed all the miracles that surround us.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They’re not exclusive @bkcunningham. There is wonder to be found in the Hubble space telescope!
What I would hate is if people never asked any questions, never looked for any answers, and we missed all the miracles we discovered because people were asking questions.

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham Thank you for whatever did or did not just happen. In a classic example of Bose-Einstein condensation, the entire matter seems to have never existed in my mental landscape.

flutherother's avatar

“The pursuit of science in itself, is never materialistic. It is a search for the principles of law and order in the universe, and as such an essentially religious endeavour.” Arthur Koestler

ETpro's avatar

@flutherother Koestler’s answer presupposes things we do not know. Doing that is the very antithesis of science.

flutherother's avatar

@ETpro I don’t follow you. What was Koestler presupposing?

ETpro's avatar

@flutherother That the laws and order of the Universe were written by a God.

flutherother's avatar

He was presupposing order in the universe perhaps but not that it was established by God.

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