At the 2013 Natural Philosophy Alliance conference, University of Washington Professor Gerald Pollack presented an amazingly complex and surprising tour of what might seem to be among the simplest substances known: water! This small molecule, accounting for some 70% of our bodies by weight, and over 99%, by molecular count, exhibits many characteristics that the standard model of physics cannot explain. The most striking and most studied example, is what he calls the "Exclusion Zone" (EZ) -- a different state of water found in the vicinity of certain materials, such as gels, proteins, and polymers. With a series of experiments, Pollack supports his hypothesis that EZ water is a fourth phase of water, sharing some aspects of liquid water and ice, but displaying its own remarkable characteristics, such as actively developing a standing electric potential difference, and inducing motion in an otherwise still body of water.
How does this fourth phase of water behave in life? Can it help to explain why our cells, and indeed our entire bodies, develop negative charges? What insights can it bring to the mysterious world of anesthetics, pathology, or the functioning of nerve cells?
While these questions are not fully answered, Pollack's work indicates there are new discoveries waiting to be made which could revolutionize our understanding of phenomena ranging from the biology of a single cell to the weather of the entire planet. As Pollack demonstrates, these discoveries will not be made by mathematical extrapolations from current physical laws in textbooks, but from open scientific experimentation.
Pollack's new book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor expands on the content of this presentation.