Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Is Water An Element?

~~Water Element by jadden

The Ancients believed water was an element. Today, we say that water is made up of two different elements: hydrogen and oxygen. We think that hydrogen and oxygen are two very seperate elements with very different properties. But what if this is not quite the case? Is it possible that hydrogen and oxygen are actually two halves of the same atom?

In 1899, Thomson states that "electrification essentially involves the splitting up of the atom, a part of the mass of the atom getting free and becoming detached from the original atom." In the electrolysis of water we divide it into its two components - hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen collects at the negative electrode (cathode) and oxygen at the positive electrode (anode). What if we're actually seeing is the element of water being split into two parts - a positive half and a negative half?

An atom is considered neutral because the negative and positive forces cancel each other out. Well, what if the electron (negative) is not tiny compared to the proton (positive), as we are taught today? It could be possible that the electron is somewhere around the same size as the proton. This would then start to give us a simple atomic structure - the dipolar vortices of a torus. (I'm tempted, it must be said, to help avoid confusion by changing the name of the electron to "electrion" in honour of its new size.) The dipolar vortices can then be pulled apart to give us two seperate vortices which behave in two very different ways.

It was Newton's contemporary, Stahl, who developed the doctrine of phlogiston in order to account for combustion. I think that phlogiston is carbon. I think that the electric fluid of the aether is made up with tiny neutron particles that have something to do with carbon. I think that when Priestley referred to "phlogisticated air", one such as nitrogen, he meant that it was saturated with the neutron particles of the aether. Which leads us onto Cavendish, a contemporary of Priestley, who in 1783 said that it was inflammable air (hydrogen), and not charcoal, that was pure phlogiston. Cavendish referred to hydrogen as "phlogisticated water" or "water united to phlogiston".

Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) was a phlogistonist. He seems to have fulfilled the role of an English eccentric, leading a silent and solitary life and forming no close personal relationships outside his family. By one account (because we all love a bit of gossip), Cavendish had a back staircase added to his house in order to avoid encountering his housekeeper because he was especially shy of women. Cavendish was well respected in some circles though, and is reknowned for impressive accuracy with experiments.

Oxygen, being called "dephlogisticated air", appears to have the phogiston depleted from it. Cavendish proposed that the dephlogisticated part of common air combined with inflammable air is then no longer air, but water. Essentially then, he is describing common air as something more akin to a water vapour. It also gives the impression that water is made up with two components - phogiston (the aether) and something else without phlogiston. Therefore hydrogen is air/water vapour saturated with phlogiston. I suspect oxygen and hydrogen are two halves of the same atom.

If hydrogen and oxygen are two halves of the same atom - why is it that 2 volumes of water vapour is made up with 1 volume of oxygen plus 2 volumes of hydrogen? One might expect that it would be 1 volume of each to make 2 volumes of water, but in the decomposition of water, hydrogen occupies a space twice that of oxygen. What makes hydrogen twice the size of its partner oxygen?

If hydrogen is air saturated with phlogiston - why is hydrogen 16 times lighter than the same volume of oxygen? One might expect that the body of hydrogen - apparently bloated to twice the size of oxygen - to be the one which weighs more. As it stands, the weight ratio of hydrogen to oxygen to make water is 1:8. Therefore, if we divide up water into its two equal components, we find oxygen weighs 8 times more than hydrogen. Why?

I bumped into a letter on the web. It's a guilty pleasure as it is not addressed to me. The author talks about phlogiston theory in that delightful manner of the day. I'm not sure if these letters are real, or what, but I'm going to include some bits here because I feel they raise some interesting points. You can find a copy here thanks to :

"The attachment to water being an element instead of a compound regardless of the evidence presented to the sceptics disheartens me. Although I find small comfort in the plurality of opinions, as diversity in views can often be our saving grace, I think that the water debate has reached a point where anymore denial of its composition thus its status as a compound is illustrative of a degree of dogmatism. I take no pleasure in using this adjective in conjunction with great men like Priestly, but it seems to me that being in exile in America has not made him reflect and reassess the truth of the matter as presented by the evidence and the new theories explanatory power."

Frankly, I've always been blissfully unaware about a scientific debate of whether water is an element having ever taken place. It was never mentioned in science class, or history class for that matter, and not even hinted at in those friendly chats with the local shopkeeper when I've popped in for a pint of milk. But nonetheless, it appears a serious debate had taken place in the 18th Century.

"Dr Kinahan states that when electricity is passed through the water, it is the phlogiston in the water which is carried by the electricity. Therefore, in brief, we see inflammable air produced around the negative electrode and phlogiston being removed from the water at the positive electrode."

Now here, I think that the author may have got something wrong. Hydrogen, or "inflammable air", is produced at the negative electrode, but remember, it was Cavendish who said that hydrogen was pure phlogiston. Therefore, the phlogiston is being removed from the water at the negative electrode, and not the positive electrode. Indeed, it appears that the positive electrode is removing something of the water that contains no phlogiston - the "dephlogisticated air". Unless of course, the author is aware of something I am not.

Is it possible I am not seeing something here? But the author states quite clearly that phlogiston is "being removed from the water at the positive electrode". It's saying that it is oxygen which is phlogiston. No biggy, perhaps. The phlogiston theory can get pretty confusing at times - maybe it's a simple slip-up.

Oxygen does not burn. We tend to think of oxygen as a flammable gas but it does not actually burn. Oxygen will support the burning of other substances, but essentially, in itself, oxygen is not a flammable gas. In other words, it is an inflammable gas.

I found someone else raised the question of oxygen's ability to burn on the "Ask A Scientist" forum. I've landed on this forum a number of times, and most of the time it's been really helpful. You can see some of the issues that the scientists try to resolve about oxygen's flammability here:

So this opens a can of worms, right? We have "inflammable air" on one hand and "inflammable gas" on the other, and somehow when the two are brought together, and combusted with spark or flame - they react violently. If both substances are basically inflammable - what is it that is burning? It can only be the phlogiston - the neutron particles of the aether.

I chanced upon an 1833 edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 5: "According to Cavendish, water consisted of phlogiston and dephlogisticated air; inflammable air of phlogiston and water; the action of dephlogisticated upon inflammable air when exploded with it was to unite with its phlogiston to form water, and consequently to set free the water of the inflammable air."

Normally, when I don't understand something, I write it down and then repeat it back to myself. If the words don't sink in, I write it down again. I get the feeling I could repeatedly write the above paragraph all day and I still wouldn't get it! One sometimes gets the feeling that phlogiston theory was designed by a masochist (and I'm only half-joking!)

The author of the letter clearly states that it is "phlogiston being removed from the water at the positive electrode". Maybe the author is not referring to oxygen. Maybe they are not referring to any material substance at all. Perhaps they speak of phlogiston as an imponderable fluid that is quite seperate from the hydrogen and oxygen.

If hydrogen and oxygen act as dipolar vortices of a water atom - then what happens when we seperate them? One half will still act as a cyclone, and the other an anticyclone. A good example of a cyclone is a tornado which sucks up the fluid of the air at ground level and expels it upwards. An anticyclone works in reverse, as air is replaced in the centre by a downward draft. These are the vertical winds displayed by weather systems. If these two work together then it is possible to generate a loop based purely on vertical winds; into the cyclone, up and out and down into the anticyclone, down and out and up into the cyclone...

I wonder how easy it might be to confirm which one - hydrogen or oxygen - was acting as the cyclone or anticyclone? I chanced upon a paper entitled "Cyclone and anticyclone formation in a rotating stratified fluid over a sloping bottom", and it seemed to offer a big clue. It was written by C. Cenedese and PF Linden from Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, The University of Cambridge:

"While cyclones present a somewhat smaller surface area (sometimes as small as one half the size of the equivalent anticyclone) at the level of the interface, the major difference is in the depth. In fact, cyclones are well represented by cones while anticyclones are better represented by paraboloids. "

I'm not saying this is startling evidence, but at least it gives me something to work from. Oxygen, taking up half the volume of hydrogen, could be insinuating that it is acting as a cyclone. The centre of a cyclone at ground level is a low pressure area. There is an in-rush from the surrounding fluid to restore equilibrium. Oxygen is found at the positive terminal, and therefore, could be sucking up the electric fluid of the aether. This would then confirm the opinion that it is "phlogiston being removed from the water at the positive terminal". Where does the phlogiston go from there?

Hydrogen on the other side of the circuit could be gulping down the aether at the negative terminal, before being passed on to the positive terminal. We have generated a loop. This loop of the aether is only possible through a conductor - common air acts as an insulator. If we were to posit this as a DC battery, it would mean inside the electrolyte that the electric fluid would flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal. If there was no conductor joining the two terminals - then equlibrium would be maintained - and no energy would flow.

If you were to take a piece of conducting wire and to place them across the terminals, you would then have a flow of electricity from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. You would have a loop. I guess this continues until there is no phlogiston left in the electrolyte, and you are left with a flat battery.

I'm at a bit of a loss to be honest. So vertical winds could help explain electricity - oh, and heat. Hydrogen and oxygen make up one water atom, that can be seperated and put to work as motors to induce electricity. In another post I'd like to try and apply this to a cathode ray tube and see what happens.

Also, I can't help but ask whatever became of the horizontal winds that pass between cyclones and anticyclones in weather systems. If we assess a weather system as a toroidal structure, then it appears the horizontal winds are the same vertical winds of the loop, but that the horizontal winds have been squashed against the ground. Horizontal winds move from high pressure areas (anticyclone) to low pressure areas (cyclone).

If vertical winds move up through the cyclone and pass down through the anticyclone, it makes sense that in order to complete the loop, the winds then have to pass from the anticyclone to the cyclone for the circle to be completed, and so the cycle may continue.

At the start of this post I wondered why it was that oxygen weighed 8 times more than hydrogen. I don't think it's because hydrogen is a high pressure area bloated by the aether. I think that the aether practically has no weight; I think it could be the amount of work that oxygen is doing which pretty much designates its weight.

Many thanks:

I would like to say thankyou to jadden (Miguel Rita?) for the great photo to be found at the top of the page. You can catch some more of jadden's work here:

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