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Polywater was a polymerized form of standard water, meaning it was a very long molecule of water consisting of repetitions of many similar molecular subunits. Under certain extreme gravimetric conditions (like those existing during the breakup of the planet Psi 2000, or the collapse of a red supergiant star into a white dwarf), polywater can form. When introduced into the systems of humanoids, polywater intoxication could occur if the polywater acquires carbon from the body, acting on the brain in ways similar to extreme alcohol intoxication. It had a similar effect on Data's positronic brain in 2364. Polywater infected blood also had the ability to melt itself from a frozen state, move along surfaces and jump for short distances to infect a host. (TOS: "The Naked Time"; TNG: "The Naked Now")
A graphic showing a polywater molecule was sometimes on display in the biomedical lab, (TNG: "Home Soil") on a monitor in a medical laboratory, (TNG: "Transfigurations") on a monitor in the cybernetics laboratory, (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II") and on a small monitor in sickbay aboard the USS Enterprise-D. (TNG: "Man of the People")