Monday, April 21, 2014

Episode 210 (4-21-14): In "Woman Named Whiskey" by The Floorboards, What's the Solution?

Click to listen to episode (3:29)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 21, 2014.

This week, we feature a Roanoke, Va., band with a tune about a man lost to alcohol, whose plight and plea for redemption both involve one of water’s most important properties—its capacity to form solutions.  Have a listen for about a minute and see how many examples you recognize.


You’ve been listening to part of “Woman Named Whiskey,” by The Floorboards on their self-titled CD released in 2012.  Water is referred to as the “universal solvent,” because its chemical structure makes it more capable than any other liquid of dissolving substances to form solutions.  The music you heard had four examples: whiskey is a solution of alcohol and water; rust formation involves water as a solvent; dirt gets removed by solutions of water and cleaning agents; and a person dipped in water has to come up for air because humans, unlike fish and other aquatic organisms, are NOT able to breathe oxygen dissolved in water.  Our awareness—unconsciously, perhaps—of water’s work as the “universal solvent” helps give it power as a symbol for solutions in human affairs, like the kind sought by the woeful man in this week’s music.  Thanks to The Floorboards for permission to use that music, and let’s end with another 15 seconds of “Woman Named Whiskey.


For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 4/21/14]

Just like solutions in human affairs, solutions in water are sometimes obvious and sometimes not.  From left to right: soft drink with many dissolved ingredients, including carbon dioxide that bubbles when it comes out of solution; sports drink, also with many dissolved ingredients; isopropyl alcohol in water; and tap water in Blacksburg, Va., which typically also contains low levels (below Safe Drinking Water Act standards) of various dissolved materials.

Acknowledgments: “Woman Named Whiskey” is copyright 2012 by The Floorboards, used with permission.  More information about The Floorboards is available online at

Here’s a quiz for good listeners
: The music excerpt actually mentioned five, not only four, examples of water-based solutions.  Can you recognize the fifth?  Here’s a hint: It’s said that when milk is spilled, shedding these is no solution, but in fact they are a very complex solution!


“Water, the Universal Solvent,” on the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Water Science School” Web site, at

Chapter 12 of General Chemistry, by Linus Pauling, New York: Dover Publications, 1970.

“General Chemistry Help,” Purdue University Department of Chemistry/Bodner Research Web, online at

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