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RELIGION: The fascination of water

by Gene Linzey | April 26, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Water has fascinated me all my life. As a child in southern California, I always enjoyed the smell of the dirt after a gentle rain. It smelled so ... how should I say it ... so delicious. When I asked Dad if it was the rain or the dirt I was smelling, he said it probably was the dirt because we can't smell water.

That answer seemed acceptable until I remembered that we could always smell the ocean when we went to the beach. "That's because the ocean mist is salty and you're smelling salt water." Dad was right. But I think I can smell water.

Many years later, Carol and I were driving from New Mexico to Conway, Ark. We had never been here before. It hadn't rained for over a week and we were traveling at night with clouds blocking the moonlight. All I could see was what my headlights illuminated.

"Carol, I smell water."

"How can you smell water? It isn't even raining. The sign we just passed says that a town named London is up ahead. I'll look on the map and see if a lake is anywhere around here."

In a minute, the clouds parted and I saw moonlight being reflected off a body of water. At the same time, Carol exclaimed, "I found it – Lake Dardanelle. It's big! I guess you can smell water."

Yay! She believes me now. The books tell us water is odorless so if I can't smell water, I can, nevertheless, detect it with my nose.

Now, what about that good smell after rain?

After a dry spell, rain often produces a pleasant scent called "petrichor." It's a compound word -- petros, meaning stone, and ichor, referring to the pleasant scent of the mythological fluid that supposedly filled the veins of the mythological Greek gods.

When rain hits dry soil or porous rock, microorganisms called actinobacteria release an organic compound called geosmin into the air which produces the odor or scent. I read that we can smell geosmin in concentrations much lower than 0.4 parts per billion. My siblings and I love the aroma.

Did you know that the world's universal solvent is Dihydrogen Oxide (H2O)? Its common name is "water." The dictionary says, "A solvent is any substance, usually liquid, which is capable of dissolving one or more substances, thus creating a solution. One of the most common examples of solvents is water."

That's why in the oceans of the world, we find dissolved gold, silver, lead, aluminum and every other metal on earth, plus many minerals and gases. However, water cannot dissolve sand, stones, oil, flour and wax.

Water is the standard by which other liquids are measured and one gallon of uncontaminated water weighs 8.34 pounds. For comparison, one gallon of whole milk averages 8.6 pounds. (2% and 1% milk average 8.5 pounds per gallon, and skim milk comes in at 8.4 pounds per gallon.)

A typical bathtub holds about 42 gallons, which is 350 pounds. A 15x30 foot inground swimming pool holds approximately 20,000 gallons, about 84 tons. But you might be surprised to learn that one inch of rain on an acre of land will be about 27,154 gallons, which weighs about 113 tons. One square mile receiving an inch of rain is 17,378,560 gallons, which is 72,320 tons.

Water is heavy and can wash away houses, highways and hills.

Air can be compressed but water does not compress. When air or any gas (not gasoline) is compressed, it generates heat. But if air is compressed in an enclosed container and the heat is removed, the compressed air becomes liquid.

As you drive the car at 65 mph, you can stick your hand out the window and have fun. The air compresses a little as it pushes your hand but no damage is done. But if a stream of water the diameter of the palm of your hand hits your hand at 65 mph, it could do significant damage to your hand, arm and shoulder. Water pressure is nothing to fool with. We can cut metal and granite with high-pressured water.

I'm sure you've heard your weatherman tell you when heavy rainstorms are developing: "Turn around, don't drown." Six inches of moderately-moving water can push our feet out from under us and eighteen inches of fast-moving water can push a car off the road.

Let's use the common sense the Lord gave us and stay safe.

S. Eugene Linzey is author, speaker, and mentor. Send comments and questions to [email protected]. Visit his web site at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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