Ebner & Sons, 2013, pbk, 357 pp
Reviewed by Marian McCain
This is a totally fascinating book on what one might, at first glance, have thought to be a boring subject. Water. I mean, we all know what water is, don’t we? We know how it behaves, whether in a glass or in a pond or in the ocean. We know it is a major component of our own bodies. We understand it at a macro level—the world’s great water cycles or evaporation and condensation, rain and snow, clouds and fog—and at a micro level as it moves from liquid towards vapour as it heats or towards ice as it cools. We know we need to drink lots of it for good health.
Do you know why you can walk on wet sand yet your feet sink into dry sand?
Do you know why waves soon peter out yet tsunamis can circle the globe?
Do you know why a jelly, made of 99.95% water doesn’t dribble away?
Do you know why an injured ankle swells?
Do you know why the bubbles in a fizzy drink get larger as you wait?
Do you know how a tree root, made mostly of water, can break through asphalt?
There is an awful lot we don’t know about water: a whole bunch of mysteries and anomalies that have never been explained. The research that Professor Pollack and his laboratory team at the University of Washington in Seattle have been working on is aimed at unravelling those mysteries. It is research that has far-reaching implications for health and healing, for renewable energy production, water filtration, desalination and a host of other things.
Water, as we all know, has three phases – gas, liquid, and solid. However, recent findings from Pollack’s laboratory imply the presence of a surprisingly extensive fourth phase that occurs at any interface where water meets a hydrophilic (‘water-loving’) surface. This is where water becomes what is known as EZ (for ‘exclusion zone’) water. EZ water, though it looks the same as ordinary water, is in fact very different and has various different properties. This is a key finding that may have unexpectedly profound implication for chemistry, physics and biology and it is this finding that the book describes and explains. It does so in a clear, step-by-step, easy to read way, accompanied by a wealth of wonderful and often quirky graphics, many hand-drawn especially for the book by the author’s artistically-gifted son Ethan.
The theories, like many others at the frontier of science, are controversial. And although Pollack is well-equipped to demonstrate the replicability of his experiments and to defend his theories against challenges from the conservative wing of his profession he is ready, as any true scientist should be, to remain forever open-minded.
Pollack, whether speaking to an audience or writing a book, is a master storyteller and teacher and this book, though solid with pure science throughout all of its 357 pages, is a delight to read—or rather to study, for there is a lot to take in and unless you are a scientist yourself you need to take it slowly (and probably to re-read it if you want a full understanding of this vast subject). It is certainly good exercise for the brain. And like all exercise, it has its own rewards.