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Science...Without Pain

31st Dec 2017 in

Over New Year's it got really cold for the first time since we moved here. Minus 10º wind chill factor or thereabouts. Without a doubt the coldest weather I have ever experienced. Until today, but that's getting ahead of the story. 

Boiling water hits air in Antarctica

Ever since moving to Minnesota last summer, I've been anxious to try the trick where you boil water in a pan, take it outside in sub-zero weather and throw it up in the air, where the water vapor expands rapidly to ice and steam, aka icy fog: evaporation -> condensation -> freezing => ice fog. (Many sources say this creates snow, but that isn't true - it's mostly steam.) I figured a minus 10º wind chill factor was sufficient for the reaction to happen. I boiled the water, took it out, and threw it across the yard. A great billowing cloud of steam erupted into the chill nighttime air. 

"Awesome", says I, and I went back in and boiled another pot of water. This time my wife came out to witness the momentous event of science in action, so in the interest of drama, I threw the water just about straight up in the air. It turns out that a minus 10º wind chill isn't quite sufficient to produce fog from 100% of the water, and the angle of my throw was up and back just a bit, the end result being a lot of not-quite-boiling water landed back down on my face and neck. There may have been a fine cloud of steam as well, but I will never know that for certain. What is certain is that I had the equivalent of a sunburn on the right side of my face and neck, and now, two weeks later, it's just about stopped peeling. A bruised ego and utter disappointment in the experiment, but no other major trauma, and thankfully the whole episode was not captured by any type of recording device...I could just be telling a story here.

Today, it got REALLY cold for the first time since we've been here: minus 13º, with the wind chill bringing the feel down to near 30º below. For sure cold enough to try the experiment again, right? RIGHT! I dutifully boiled a pot of water, and set my camera on a tripod in the backyard, carefully setting exposure and aligning the frame. The camera, a Canon 70D, has really nice video capabilities, so I flipped the video switch to on, and got to work on Science. Below you can see the results.


I did not pay the crow anything for his audio appearance as I walk out on stage. He volunteered his services and they were much appreciated. Not sure if he was laughing at me, or if he was alerting his buddies that I was at it again, or if the cawing had nothing whatsoever to do with me. It certainly adds a touch of romance and drama though, doncha think?

For those on whom the credits might be somewhat lost, the moose biting my sister and the "no, really" are from the credits for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "The Monkey Hammer Song" is my own titular creation - watch 2001 A Space Odyssey. No really, watch it. The whole movie, not just the clip I've linked to.

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