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So, last week I got some traffic from Naturalis Historia. This writer had found my science experiment on ice. Just so the writer can get a trackback and let him know I’m writing about what he wrote about me, I’m linking you guys to his article.

I’m going to meet some of this guy’s arguments and explain myself.

My WordPress tag browser led me to a short blog post several months ago, which I will review below, that made me scratch my head a bit. Was this a creation science parody blog or was the author of this site really serious? I have better things to do with my time but I had seen this blog (Already Answered) referenced on several other creation science blogs and sites and curiosity got the better of me and so I had to dig a little deeper.  What I discovered is that the author of the blog is serious in his evangelical fervor for promoting creation science.  Unfortunately that fervor doesn’t translate into a particularly accurate accounting  or reliable interpretation of evidence.

Yes, I was serious. I would love to see the “several other creation science blogs and sites”. I only know of one that supports me, Creation Science 4 Kids. After quoting my article, he continued to say:

I understand that the author is writing to a lay audience and so he is simplifying  the matter but I can’t help but get the feeling he doesn’t fully understand the basic chemistry himself.

Yes, my audience for this specific article was for younger kids. I do understand the chemistry behind the deal. As the surrounding temperature of the water molecule cools down the water molecule’s charge gets stronger and something called hydrogen bonding occurs between two or more water molecules. After quoting the article again he said:

This seems logical on the face of it.  If thawing of ice results in the water molecules moving away from each other than it would follow that water must expand when ice melts.    As an aside, the atoms aren’t “splitting apart” that would be a nuclear fission reaction, rather the water molecules (H2O) are disconnecting because the hydrogen bonding of the individual molecules is not holding them together.

Remember the lay audience part?

I wonder if you are thinking what I’m thinking!  Has this person actually performed this experiment?  Is the lesson to be learned really that when ice thaws it actually expands? I had to ask myself several times, do I just not remember my high school chemistry at all or is something very very wrong here?   I was even more confused because the title of the post was  “Ice Expansion” which suggested to me the opposite of what he concludes.  The problem isn’t just that his lesson to be learned is exactly OPPOSITE what happens to ice when it melts but the entire experiment is flawed.

Yes, I have performed the experiment numerous times. I’m glad that the guy asked himself questions and made sure he knew what I was talking about and whether or not he has ever heard of what I said.

Just think for a moment about the directions.   If water is placed in a bottle and capped and frozen then if he is right the water should shrink when frozen (if it expands when it melts it must have shrunk when it froze, at least that is what I would reason).    So, if it shrinks when it freezes then when it melts it should just expand back into the space it occupied before it shrank.   Why then would the bottle spray water when opened if the same amount of water is there in the same volume as when it started?  In fact, if it is only partially thawed, shouldn’t the bottle have less volume rather than more in which case when the cap is removed air should  be pulled into the bottle?

I had wondered the same thing. I think neither of us have the answer to that one.

Strangely, the outcome that he predicts for this experience is actually what will happen!

I think that proves I have done the experiment. Also, I’m glad that he took the time to perform it himself.

Yes, water will actually squirt out to the bottle but NOT for the reason he says.  Here is what will happen that will lead to exactly the result that he predicts. If ice in fact expands when it freezes,  which is what I believe happens and every chemist I know believes happens, then the water in the bottle will expand pushing out on the bottle walls (especially since he says to use a plastic bottle) .  If a person only thaws the ice partially that pressure will still exist and so when someone opens the bottle water will spray out but NOT because the ice expands when it becomes liquid water but for the very opposite reason: the ice in the bottle expanded when it froze.   Interestingly, a person could come to the conclusion that it was the water expanding as it melted that caused the pressure in the bottle.

That is very interesting. Are you saying that, when the molecules formed the hydrogen bond they actually made the water, which was freezing, expand? So, like the water molecules that bonded actually created less space for the atoms to move around and, thus, expanding while freezing? I can see why that would happen.

When water is not freezing or approaching freezing, the water molecules can move about freely and can cluster together easily without bonding, since their charge is not very powerful. However, when it starts to bond it gives the water molecules less room to cluster or bunch together without bonding, and thus, it expands. Is this what you are trying to get at?

Is there any lesson to be learned from this?

I think there is.  After getting over my initial shocked reaction after reading this article, I started to realize that the experiment the author describes actually illustrates some interesting aspects of the scientific method.   I may use this experiment as a thought exercise in my introductory biology class in the future asking them to critique the hypotheses, conclusions and predictions of the experiment.  I might ask them to suggest how they could make the experiment better or devise a second experiment to test the results of the first.   The author clearly doesn’t have a lot of experience actually doing science and he certainly should have learned about water and ice many times in high school and college if he has such training.    His inability to remember the basic chemistry of water molecules though is not that shocking and he applied a certain logic in this experiment which was not altogether flawed.   As I said before, if you actually performed this experiment you might draw the same conclusion he did: ice expands when it melts.  But to do so you would have to ignore a lot of observations/evidence and be fixated on only one observation (water spraying out of the bottle).

I’m glad my mistake is going to be useful.

The problem is that this one experiment is not the end of the story.   One needs to examine more variables with more tests before drawing this conclusion.  What if someone didn’t let the bottle partially thaw but let it thaw all the way, would they conclude that ice expands?  Not at all, because the bottle would not spray water when opened.   I wonder, with closer observation would the author have noticed that the frozen bottle was actually larger than that the non-frozen bottle?  His conclusion leads one to the correlate that freezing water contracts (takes up less volume) and thus a prediction of his hypothesis should have been that the bottle would shrink when frozen. Only by ignoring all the other data available to the observer could he really expect that the lesson to learn was the expansion of melting ice.

I must admit. I am partially guilty. I did notice that the frozen water was bigger than when I first filled it but, I figured, since it was the same size and had liquid pressure, that the ice had expanded.

Sometimes a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  This author probably remembered doing an experiment with water and bottles in a class and then applied some ideas of chemistry that he remembered but completely confused the meaning of the results.   He probably remembers the general rule that molecules in motion take up more space than molecules that have slower motion.  Think of a hot air balloon, hot air pushes out and takes more space than cold air which shrinks in volume.  He is just transporting those basic gas laws and applying them to water.  However, water is one of the exceptions, we know this because of lots of experimentation including experiments just like the one he describes. In fact he probably did this experiment when he was young as a demonstration that water does expand when it freezes.

No, I hadn’t done the experiment for school but I did figure air molecules would have some kind of similar properties to water.

What happens is water molecules do contract slighting as they get colder in a liquid state but when they freeze they form a crystal lattice structure that has more space between molecules of water than when they were in the liquid state and thus the ice crystals formed take up more space (volume) than the equivalent number of water molecules in a liquid state.   This is why ice floats on liquid water – it is less dense.  Water in gas state and liquid state do behave as expected – water liquid takes up much less volume than the same number of molecules in gaseous state.   So general rules are important to know but experimentation is important to test how those rules apply in particular circumstances.

For useful information, I’ll be sure to use it. It does make a lot of sense, and, since I did such in-depth research into that structure you’d figure I would had picked that out.

The broader context

I didn’t originally intend to write about this on my blog.  I realize that blogs can be one of least trustworthy sources of information because anyone can pretend to be an expert.  It wasn’t until I saw several other creation science blogs reference this blog that I thought it would only be fair to point out that not all sources of information are created equal.   Still, I planned to simply write the author of this blog and let him know about his mistake on this particular post but there is no comment section and no ability to get feedback to the author that I can tell.   Hopefully he gets a trackback notification from this post and removes this particularly unfortunate post.

I’d like to see those other blogs if you have them available. Sorry about the contact thing. I’m not going to remove the post but I will be sure to change the information and alert everyone else who didn’t have time to read this long post and get to this part.

I recognize this post is the result of an innocent mistake in understanding but the whole site is full of similar misconceptions about science and misinterpretations of data.

This is quite a claim and I would like to know where any other mistakes or misconceptions are.

In general it appears to me that he has taken bad information from Answers in Genesis  (his professed favorite web site) and conflated that with his own misconceptions about science to produce an even worse product.

Unfortunately, I haven’t used Answers in Genesis much lately for information. I mainly use secular sources. Does this product refer to my whole website? Because, I can show you almost every single post I have written that is based off the latest research and very factual.

His blog very confidently proclaims the truths of how science confirms the Biblical creation.   I don’t believe his confidence is necessarily placed in his own abilities to interpret the data but rather his boldness in proclaiming the truths of science and the Bible are found in his belief that Answers in Genesis materials and their bold proclamations have provided him with the answers.

For the first sentence: thank you! But, I believe that the Bible confirms science, not the other way around. Like I said earlier, I get a lot of my information from secular sources and not Answers in Genesis. I wholly believe in the Bible and what it says, and I am more cautious about what man says.

As an aside, the name of the blog is interesting: Already Answered.  The implication is that the Bible already has the answers we just need to find them there.   But the Bible doesn’t seem to have helped him with his understanding of water ice.   The Bible doesn’t comment on the density of ice and water and whether it expands or contracts.  However, we can explore God’s creation via the creative and reasoning capacities that God has endowed us with, allowing us to investigate his world and discover how it works.

No, this writer obviously did not view my information on our motto. This motto says that every question has already been answered. I did not say that the Bible answers every question. I know that isn’t the case. However, I do know that God knows the answer to every question. If you would like to read more about the motto see my (very visible on every page) page on Questions Already Answered. I wish this writer had looked at this page before making assumptions to what I believe.

Now, I don’t know if this writer is a Christian or not and it seems, from other articles, that he does believe in theistic evolution. When he reads this, hopefully, I want to let him know I’m praying for him and I am very thankful for the revelation about water molecules that he has given me. Thanks and I hope you continue to check out this website.

One last note: I found that Eye on ICR (as can be imagined, this blog critiques what ICR says) liked Historia’s critique of my article. It is sort of interesting to see how everything connects around here. As for the claims against my beliefs I praise God for the persecution and that He sees me worthy enough to be corrected and attacked in this way.