Retired senior lecturer in the Department of Meteorology at Penn State, where he was lead faculty for PSU's online certificate in forecasting.
By: Lee Grenci , 7:19 PM GMT on December 21, 2012
Beell asked me to follow up on my tuna-can experiment using RO water (reverse osmosis). As I mentioned, my wife put a hold on Lee's experiments until after Christmas.
If the truth be told, she probably remembers my last freezer experiment when, after a hailstorm after dark, I took a flashlight and crawled around on my hands and knees in the front yard looking for hailstones with an insect entombed at its core (updrafts in strong thunderstorms can sweep insects to high altitudes, where water deposits onto bugs and freezes). Needless to say, she was not very enthusiastic about frozen insects being stored in her freezer (she said it "bugged" her). :-) The bottom line is that my freezer experiments are not very popular in the Grenci household.
As you might have read in the comments section below my tuna-can blog, I told beell that I'm expecting more drops to remain unfrozen after several tens of minutes in my freezer. I'll let you know what happens.
Beell's interest in my experiments reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, Jearl Walker's The Flying Circus of Physics. I just love this book!
One of Walker's experiments has always intrigued me. I bought his book at least 20 years ago, but, alas, I confess that I've never had the time or drive to try the experiment. To my credit, I've always had it on my list of fun things to do (at 65, I better get my rear in gear). My procrastination aside, Walker's experiment goes something like this...
Grab two identical containers (cups, etc.). By identical, I mean they both must have exactly the same thermal characteristics. Fill one with cool water (I think the temperature matters here, but I'll have to look this up) and the other with boiling water. Great care must be taken to insure that both containers have exactly the same amount of water, so measure, measure, measure! Now place both containers outside on your porch on a cold winter night. You must pay close attention because you want to determine the time it takes for the water in one of the containers to freeze. So you just can't walk away and watch a movie or order a pizza. In other words, you must check your experiment frequently.
Which container freezes first? You might be surprised to learn that the boiling water should freeze first. Can anybody explain why?
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