Monday, January 21, 2008

supercooled water (geeky guest post)

I witnessed some really strange sience this morning:
I left 4 bottles of water in the car when we went to VT this weekend, and before we got in the car to return home, I went out to get a couple bottles to bring inside, to let them thaw before our trip. It was around 10-15 degrees - maybe 20-25 degrees in the car that morning. All the bottles were next to each other in the backseat, and 3 of them were clearly entirely frozen: that whitish color ice filled the bottles. One of the bottles, though, was NOT frozen! It looked clear, like a bottle of water ... so I figured I'd bring that one inside. Unless I was hallucinating, when I picked up the bottle, it froze - right there in my hand. I saw the ice extend from the top of the bottle, right across to the bottom, taking a little under a second to do so. It sounds impossible, like I couldn't have seen that ... but then I remembered something which might have been from highschool science class: I think water can exist in a liquid state below 32 degrees, if it's very still and undisturbed ... and then when it gets disturbed, it will form an ice crystal, which will cause a chain-reaction forming most of the rest of the water into ice. I think this is what happened ... expecially because there was still some unfrozen water in the bottle, while the other bottles were completely frozen through. I think that makes sense because when water turns to ice, it releases heat (I think), and so as a bottle of 25 degree water, it wasn't cold enough to freeze the whole bottle through. Strange, no? Possible?
-JS

6 comments:

js said...

After I wrote this story, I googled supercooled water, and sure enough, it does exist, and happens just as I believed I experienced it. These days, it's so easy to doubt yourself until you get a google confirmation ... so I'm proud to have believed in the nearly unbelievable, and written the post before checking google.

frank said...

I was thinking of Bill Nye, the science guy....

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