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Physics/Water forming on Earth


QUESTION: What are the mechanics of forming water out of the elements, is it something easily done in a lab or kitchen?

ANSWER: You burn hydrogen to make water.  Hence the chemical formula H2O.  Burning anything with hydrogen will make water, like a match or a candle (or gasoline, etc).  If you take a candle and set it in a plate with some water in it, then put a glass over it, you can observe this in three ways.  First, the oxygen will get consumed and the flame will go out.  Second, water vapor (chill the glass for 30 seconds if you want, it works better, but not too much) will condense into water on the inside the glass.  Third, the condensing water vapor into liquid (shrinks about 800:1) will cause suction inside the glass, sucking the water up around the candle!  It's a neat demonstration for kids.

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QUESTION: What were the mechanics of getting all this water on the earth?  How long did it take?  How long after the Big Bang did it begin?

The Earth started forming about 4.5 billion years ago, or 10 by after the big bang.  Therefore, water basically formed around that same time.  Oxygen is really reactive with hydrogen, and the water would've formed in a very very short timescale compared to planetary formation.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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