Is water wet? This question no doubt brought a spontaneous answer to your mind. What was it?
This perplexing question has been making the rounds in schools and academic circles and has sparked a heated global debate. It has resulted in multiple viewpoints from people who feel extremely passionate about their answers.
So far, the question has divided people into three categories—those who adamantly push that water is most definitely wet, those who insist the first group is wrong with their arguments that water is not wet, and the third category of people who couldn’t care less about all this mayhem.
So, which group has it all figured out?
What Is Water?
Before you dive into the depths to find out whether water is wet or not, you need to understand water.
Water is found in abundance all over the planet. It is an essential aspect of all life forms. A glass of water contains billions of molecules. A single water molecule is a combination of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. Strong covalent bones act upon these atoms to hold them together.
Water takes on three forms depending on the temperature—gaseous, solid, and liquid.
Did you know that as an adult, your body is mostly water? The water composition in the human body is up to 60%.
What Is Wetness?
Scientifically, wetness is defined as the ability of a liquid or water to cover or adhere to something solid. It is a quality that is measurable.
You can measure how wet an object is based on how much liquid sticks to its surface.
What determines if something gets wet or stays dry? It depends upon two types of forces—cohesive and adhesive.
The mutual attraction between molecules of a liquid is a cohesive force. It directly relates to surface tension. The higher the cohesive force of a liquid, the more surface tension it will have. This means that the liquid will hold its form by sticking together.
Liquids such as water prefer to stick together. However, in certain cases, they tend to stick to other molecules. This is the result of adhesive force. In adhesive force, there is an attraction between the molecules of the liquid and the object or surface. With strong adhesive forces, the liquid will disperse over the surface.
The Process of Wetness
How is the wetness of a surface determined then? It is all about balance. If the cohesive force is stronger than the adhesive force, the liquid will not spread across the surface and remain stuck together. It will form a droplet. The minimal contact of the liquid on the surface of the object means the object is dry.
On the other hand, if the adhesive force is stronger than the liquid’s cohesive force, the liquid will disperse, making maximum contact with the object. This will result in the object becoming wet.
In conclusion, if an object is to be considered wet, the adhesive forces between the object and the liquid must be higher than the cohesive forces between the molecules of the liquid.
The hydrogen bonding in water results in strong cohesive forces compared to liquids such as acetone or oil. This means that water is not as effective in wetting the surface of an object in comparison to oil. However, it is capable of wetting certain surfaces.
Is Water Wet?
Now that you have understood what is considered wet, do you have your answer to ‘Is water wet?’
To get to the bottom of this perplexing question, you must consider the definition of wetness.
Yes or No?
The people that take into account the dictionary’s definition of what is wet consider water to be wet.
Their argument relies on the viewpoint that water is made up of individual atoms and molecules. These atoms and molecules are surrounded by other similar molecules. Since water is surrounded by more water, it fits the dictionary definition of what is wet!
Their argument stands on the leg that water is a liquid. For something to be wet, it does not have to be covered or saturated with another liquid. It can be a homogenous liquid like water itself. In this view, it makes all liquids wet because they are covered in themselves. They are all liquids.
They have another standpoint. For a substance to possess the ability to alter another object, it must possess the same quality that it is being altered. For example, you must use a red object to turn a white sheet into red. Using that logic, since water is capable of making other substances wet, it must be wet itself.
However, not everyone goes by this definition. Some consider the concept of wetness to be a perception. It is how we perceive water when we come in contact with it. When our skin comes in contact with water, we perceive the sensation of wetness. By that definition, water is wet.
On the flip side, if wetness is the measure of a liquid covering or saturating a solid surface, then water is not wet. This definition of wetness involves both a solid and a liquid. Water does not fulfill this condition of wetness. Therefore, it cannot be considered wet, at least not by itself.
This argument is presented with an analogy of a fire and a piece of wood. If fire touches wood, it burns it. Similarly, if water touches wood, it makes it wet. If water is to be wet, is fire to be burnt?
This argumentative question has brought down houses and split up friendships. While there is no seemingly conclusive answer to this confounding question, because scientists are yet to enter the debate field, we strongly hold the opinion that water is, in fact, not wet.
Disregard all other definitions of ‘wet’ and stick with the scientific one. On the basis of that, one can come to a definite and logical answer—water is not wet. Water only makes other substances wet.
There should be no more debate; the answer is right in front of you! What do you think?