Ask Giz: Is Water Wet?

Ask Giz: Is Water Wet?

Welcome back to Ask Giz, where we answer your burning, Gizmodo-adjacent questions.

If you have a question you’d like us to answer, you can send it through via the submissions page.

Today’s question comes from KM in Brisbane It’s slightly philosophical and goes into how we perceive reality.

“Is water wet?”

Thank you for the question, KM! The last time we received a question like this it was “Are there more wheels or doors?” and it almost drove me mad.

But I will happily be driven mad to give you an answer.

Is water wet?

As I rummage across the internet to find an answer to your question, it has been made abundantly clear that people are willing to call water wet simply because it’s a liquid. Liquids make things wet, so liquids must inherently be wet, right?

That’s not good enough for me. Wetness, a property that we normally apply to things that are not wet, is out of place when applied to a scenario that is constantly wet, like rain, the ocean or a swimming pool. It’s a similar brain teaser that we can get caught up with, thinking about fish: are fish wet?

However, if we remove objects from these scenarios, such as a fish, an umbrella or your swimmers, those are wet because they’re in a space that is not typically wet.

UCSB answers the question in two ways. Here’s answer one:

“Liquid water is not itself wet, but can make other solid materials wet. Wetness is the ability of a liquid to adhere to the surface of a solid, so when we say that something is wet, we mean that the liquid is sticking to the surface of a material.”

And here’s answer two:

“If we define “wet” as the condition of a liquid sticking to a solid surface, such as water wetting our skin, then we cannot say that water is wet by itself, because it takes a liquid and a solid to define the term ‘wet’. If we define ‘wet’ as a sensation that we get when a liquid comes in contact with us, then yes, water is wet to us. If we define ‘wet’ as ‘made of liquid or moisture’, then water is definitely wet because it is made of liquid.”

Despite these answers, Boston College Libraries has the most reasonable take on the question: it is “more of a definitional argument that has no answer”. This is a question that exists to be argued.

Water is (not) wet

That’s our take. Instead of twisting your brain over and over with this one, you can submit your own Ask Giz question on the official submissions page.

Ask Giz is a fortnightly series where we answer your questions, be it tech, science, gadget, health or gaming related. This is a reader-involved series where we rely on Gizmodo Australia’s audience to submit questions. If you have a question for Giz, you can submit it here. Or check out the answer to our last Ask Giz: If Humans Descended From Apes, Why Aren’t Apes Extinct?

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