Past Event

Colloquium: "An ominous deal between life and death: Hydration solids" with Dr. Ozgur Sahin

September 11, 2023
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
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Center for Theoretical Physics (Pupin Hall 8th Floor)

"An ominous deal between life and death: Hydration solids"

Half a billion years ago, life was desperate. It could not find a way to spread safely onto solid grounds. Seizing the moment, death made life an ominous offer: In exchange for safety on land, life had to flood the Earth with metabolically dead matter. Wood being the most abundant, a variety of metabolically dead, water-permeable solid matter flooded the Earth and helped terrestrial life thrive beyond the wildest dreams of its aquatic ancestors. They started a new era on Earth and transformed the planet for good. In this talk, I will argue that this epoch-making, planet-transforming matter is a fundamental class of solid matter based on its physics. Our theory and experiments indicate that these “hydration solids” derive their solidity and many equilibrium and non-equilibrium characteristics from the permeating water, via the hydration force. Besides the unexpected microscopic physics, this finding is a big surprise for many other reasons: potentially scores of unrelated biological materials get unified in their physics, well-known phenomena become different manifestations of a single principle, previously-unknown phenomena are identified, a complex problem (how biological matter gets its mechanical properties) is reduced to simple math for many types of biological matter, and a possible fundamental role of water that helped life thrive on land, rather than oceans, is uncovered.