Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Every Pot Of Coffee You Make Is Dinosaur Pee

I wouldn't have come up with a post title that weird...

but I quote from Charles Fishman's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Mr Fishman is the author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water and he reminds us about the origin, nature and the journey of water on earth -

Mr. FISHMAN: And all the water on Earth was actually formed in space, in interstellar gas clouds. And it was delivered here when the Earth was formed, or shortly thereafter, in exactly the form it's in.

So all the water on Earth - the water in your Evian bottle, the water in your glass of water, the water you use to boil a pot of spaghetti - all that water is 4.3 or 4.4 billion years old. No water's being created on Earth. No water's being destroyed on Earth. And what that means is the whole debate about reusing wastewater is kind of silly, because all the water we've got right now has been used over and over again. Every drink of water you take, every pot of coffee you make is dinosaur pee, because it's all been through the kidneys of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or an Apatosaurus many, many times, because all the water we have is all the water we have ever had.

And to me, that's actually good news. Water is incredibly resilient. It's unlike fuel or other natural resources. It can be used over and over and over again, and it emerges - except for needing to be cleaned, ready to use again - exactly as water.

That's thinking of recycling well beyond the usual discussions of wash-basin to your lawn. He talks about that too and a lot more in a quite informative talk.

Did you know why the launch pad of the space shuttle is covered in a cascade of water during launch?

And you would naturally think that that has something to do with the heat and the flame. In fact, the water on the launch pad of a space shuttle launch is a sound-dampening mechanism for the space shuttle. The space shuttle is so loud that the sound would ricochet off the concrete and metal launch pad and tear the space shuttle apart, literally destroy it, before it cleared the pad without the water.

Listen / Transcript.


  1. Nice post. I always think about the air being recycled for billions of years, but not the water. Very cool!

    It's more fun to think that I'm drinking water that once traveled through the veins of a T-Rex.

  2. thanks for visiting Tom.. you have an interesting blog.. !

  3. Interesting that Fishman uses the less putrid outlet of wastewater.

  4. perhaps a little more palatable Malcolm V L ?.. :)