Dear Sirs and Madams,
I’m sure I don’t need to convince you how huge is the role of water in our lives. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that water is its source. But for artists, it also a wonderwall and a source of inspiration. Seas, rivers, and lakes were an important motif in the oeuvre of many painters. In her poem, Water, a prominent Polish poet and Nobel Prize laureate, Wisława Szymborska, writes:
“…Someone was drowning; someone dying
called out for you. That was long ago and yesterday.
You extinguished houses; you carried them off
like trees, forests like cities.
You were in baptismal fonts and in the bathtubs of courtesans,
in kisses, in shrouds.
Eating away at stones, fuelling rainbows.
In the sweat and dew of pyramids and lilacs.
How light all this is in the raindrop.
How delicately the world touches me.
Whenever wherever whatever has happened
is written on the water of Babel.
(Translated by Joanna Trzeciak)
Water is an extraordinary substance. Its exceptional qualities give it a very special part to play. But it also full o mysteries! Let's mention a few.
Just the fact that water on Earth can occur in three physical states – gas, liquid, and solid – makes it unique. The melting and boiling temperatures of water are much higher than those of other substances of similar structure. The warmth of vaporisation and high conductivity allow to even out and keep a constant temperature in our organisms. High surface tension of water – thanks to the forces of cohesion and adhesion – allows light insects to roam around on its surface. Meanwhile, the low density of ice allows it to stay afloat, and in turn, many aquatic organisms get to survive harsh winters. The motion of water flowing in rivers or seas is turbulent. And here, we enter a fascinating area of research and unknown, as turbulence still remains one of the biggest mysteries in physics!
Water is essential for us to live. When a doctor talks about dehydration (i.e. a situation in which the organism loses more water and electrolytes, than it absorbs), it means that our health, or even life, are at risk. Thinking about water on Earth, we worry, that there isn't enough of it, or that it's polluted. When access to clean water is jeopardised, whole societies are facing danger. But when there's too much of it, we also tremble. Heavy rains, inundations, floods – they still wreak havoc and awaken dread. You can sometimes hear that water is “the oil of the 21st century” and, without a doubt, the biggest conflicts of the future will take place because of water.
Issues related to water are the object of countless scientific researches all around the globe. They touch upon many areas of knowledge – from philosophy, sociology or history, through geophysics, hydrology, physics, mathematical modelling, geography, botanics, and agricultural or engineering studies, all the way to medicine, and even astrophysics.
An average bread eater might not even be aware that in order for bread to exist, water is necessary. One loaf of bread creates a footprint of 450 litres of water... It's worthwhile to learn more about water, its qualities, and all the fascinating phenomena connected with it. Which is why I am happy that it will be the protagonist of the 25th Science Picnic organise by Polish Radio and Copernicus Science Centre. I hope that you will present your research to the Picnic's guests, intrigue or surprise them, and maybe even inspire to reflect on their own.
See you at the Picnic!