With a Siberian cold mass descending upon the upper Midwest tonight, I thought it’d be good to take some time to remind everyone of a particularly favorite experiment that is only possible to fully enjoy when the temperatures dip below zero degrees (Fahrenheit).
Most of you probably remember this experiment from when I posted about it last year when the temperatures in the Brainerd area were -30°F, but for those who don’t, here goes:
Take a pot, fill with water, and place on the stove. Make sure to bring the water to a boil. After the water is boiling, it is simply amazing to bring the water outside to see what happens when a 212°F liquid is exposed to -10°F (or so) air. You can throw the water up into the air or dump it on the ground; no matter what you do, the result will be the same: the water will immediately form a huge cloud of vapor that can linger around for up to a minute.
So, what are you waiting for, why don’t you go outside and see what happens to boiling water in subzero temperatures for yourself; actually seeing this experiment done is much more impressive than reading about it.
One disclaimer for anyone planning to do this experiment: I highly recommend wearing gloves when going outside to throw the pot pf boiling water up in the air. Until the water has gone from a liquid state to a vapor, it still is around 212°F, and getting burned or scalded is very easy to do. Also be sure to stay safe when around the hot stove!
Here’s a crude video I made earlier this evening (the time on the camcorder is not correct) to show what this experiment looks like. I dumped the water in an enclosed area – a porch – meaning that the vapor cloud lingered around a bit longer than it ordinarily may have. Although I poured the water on the ground, very little ice formed, since the boiling water was not able to remain in a liquid state for very long.