What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

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Kow
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What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Kow » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:26 am UTC

If earth had only heavy water instead of normal H2O, how would that affect life on earth?

One possible extreme might be that the earth would just remain a water and rock planet. Since D2O doesn't separate into deuterium and oxygen as easily as regular water, the original chemicals essential for life wouldn't have formed.

I'm not too sure how large the difference is between the two regarding the strength of the bonds, so perhaps it wouldn't really affect anything at all.
Last edited by Kow on Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:27 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of D2o?

Postby Josephine » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:33 am UTC

Heavy water ice sinks. That's a bit of a problem for life.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of D2o?

Postby Soralin » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:16 am UTC

Heavy water ice sinks in normal water, it would still float on liquid heavy water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_water has some information of the differences. It seems current eukaryote life tends to die off in pure heavy water. Although prokaryotes can survive, and could likely still develop from there, it'd just have to be slightly different to take that into account.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of D2o?

Postby BlackSails » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:19 am UTC

MRI wouldnt work on people (since deuterium doesnt have the right nuclear spin)

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of D2o?

Postby Kow » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:37 am UTC

Soralin wrote: Although prokaryotes can survive, and could likely still develop from there, it'd just have to be slightly different to take that into account.

What about the conditions for creating the first "building blocks" of life? In electrolysis, heavy water doesn't really separate into H and O as easily as regular water (you can actually distill, if you will, d2o from water if you zap it long enough), and it's likely electrical charges that were splitting molecules at random that put the parts together, right? That might prevent the first reproducing objects from starting up.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of D2o?

Postby skeptical scientist » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:06 am UTC

Soralin wrote:Heavy water ice sinks in normal water, it would still float on liquid heavy water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_water has some information of the differences. It seems current eukaryote life tends to die off in pure heavy water. Although prokaryotes can survive, and could likely still develop from there, it'd just have to be slightly different to take that into account.

That is likely because we evolved in an environment where water was mostly light water, so we evolved to make use of the chemical properties of protium. When we are given heavy water and our bodies are confronted with the slightly different chemical properties of deuterium, we can't cope. However, there is no reason to believe that multicellular life similar to us couldn't have evolved in a different chemical environment where most hydrogen is deuterium—such life would have evolved with a slightly different chemistry, and might have similar problems with light water as we have with heavy water.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Carnildo » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:03 pm UTC

Kow wrote:If earth had only heavy water instead of normal H2O, how would that affect life on earth?
<snip>
I'm not too sure how large the difference is between the two regarding the strength of the bonds, so perhaps it wouldn't really affect anything at all.

The difference is fairly trivial. The only reason that current life-forms can't live on pure D20 is that some bits of biochemistry are very finely tuned to work with the bond strengths of protium. If life evolved in a heavy-water environment, it would be tuned to work with deuterium instead, and would be poisoned by ordinary water.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Minchandre » Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:23 am UTC

The important part - and the reason why I'm skeptical that complex life could exist in Heavy Water World (for values of complex) - is that a lot (I might even go so far as to say most) of the chemical reactions needed to be alive involve very fast swapping around of protons. Deuterium nuclei don't swap around nearly as fast at the same temperature, which is actually why heavy water is mildly poisonous. It seems theoretically possible that if life started from the beginning with heavy water, it would be okay living in such an environment, but I'm not certain that the same biochemical pathways would be capable of forming well due to the extremely reduced kinetics.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Coffee » Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:52 pm UTC

Carnildo wrote:The difference is fairly trivial. The only reason that current life-forms can't live on pure D20 is that some bits of biochemistry are very finely tuned to work with the bond strengths of protium. If life evolved in a heavy-water environment, it would be tuned to work with deuterium instead, and would be poisoned by ordinary water.


Indeed a D20 would not be enough; also need a D4, a few D6, a D8, and a D10.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby rhetorical » Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

Coffee wrote:
Carnildo wrote:The difference is fairly trivial. The only reason that current life-forms can't live on pure D20 is that some bits of biochemistry are very finely tuned to work with the bond strengths of protium. If life evolved in a heavy-water environment, it would be tuned to work with deuterium instead, and would be poisoned by ordinary water.


Indeed a D20 would not be enough; also need a D4, a few D6, a D8, and a D10.


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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Pastinator » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:59 am UTC

If in this environment we allow the similar proportion of DiHydrogen-3 oxide (tritium) as we allow d20 in normal water, that is assume a D2O rich, but not entirely D2O environment, then there is no reason that MRI would not work, just in the same way that C-13 NMR can be used, so would MRI be able to be used.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Bobber » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:12 pm UTC

Well, microwave ovens would need to operate at a different frequency, I believe.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby BlackSails » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:17 pm UTC

Pastinator wrote:If in this environment we allow the similar proportion of DiHydrogen-3 oxide (tritium) as we allow d20 in normal water, that is assume a D2O rich, but not entirely D2O environment, then there is no reason that MRI would not work, just in the same way that C-13 NMR can be used, so would MRI be able to be used.


The signal from C13 is much harder to measure. I dont expect you could get clinically meaningful data from C13 MRI of a person.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby ikrase » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:50 am UTC

To me the fact that you can replace a fair amount of your body water with D2O and live suggests that life should be perfectly able to evolve in it.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Dvandemon » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:17 pm UTC

My question is what that life would be like
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Minchandre » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:32 pm UTC

Dvandemon wrote:My question is what that life would be like


If it worked - which I have aforementioned doubts towards - it would probably be much the same, but not quite as complex. There will be a slightly smaller emphasis on acid/base-type reaction pathways because of the new kinetics involved.

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Xanthir » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:41 pm UTC

Also it would have green skin and an extra finger on each hand.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby meat.paste » Thu Jun 24, 2010 10:16 pm UTC

Coffee wrote:
Carnildo wrote:The difference is fairly trivial. The only reason that current life-forms can't live on pure D20 is that some bits of biochemistry are very finely tuned to work with the bond strengths of protium. If life evolved in a heavy-water environment, it would be tuned to work with deuterium instead, and would be poisoned by ordinary water.


Indeed a D20 would not be enough; also need a D4, a few D6, a D8, and a D10.


Oh thank you for that. I needed a laugh (although the D20 can substitute for the D10)
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Alx_xlA » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:45 am UTC

Bit of a tangent here, but I just thought of something... Does the bottom of the ocean have more deuterium than surface water?
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Bobber » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:50 am UTC

meat.paste wrote:
Coffee wrote:
Carnildo wrote:The difference is fairly trivial. The only reason that current life-forms can't live on pure D20 is that some bits of biochemistry are very finely tuned to work with the bond strengths of protium. If life evolved in a heavy-water environment, it would be tuned to work with deuterium instead, and would be poisoned by ordinary water.


Indeed a D20 would not be enough; also need a D4, a few D6, a D8, and a D10.


Oh thank you for that. I needed a laugh (although the D20 can substitute for the D10)
A D20 can also substitute for a D4: 1-5 is 1, 6-10 is 2, 11-15 is 3 and 16-20 is 4. Or some other combination. :D
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Hueschel » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:10 pm UTC

Well... if there was only D2O, at least there were much more happy NMR spectroscopists

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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Thesh » Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:07 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Also it would have green skin and an extra finger on each hand.


Uhh? Are you serious? Surely it would have one less finger on each hand.
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Re: What if earth had D2o instead of H2o?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Crap, you're right. I didn't carry the one.
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