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VIDEO: How to Have Fun With This Week's Cold Weather

How can you freeze boiling water in an instant?

I think I can now demonstrate to my friends from Austin, TX why Minneapolis is the cooler city—no pun intended. In Austin, you can't instantly freeze near-boiling water (or coffee, or soup, etc., etc.) when it gets inhumanly cold out. 

The National Weather Service predicts wind chill values will stay below zero through Wednesday night.

Conventional wisdom around here holds that this trick won't work well unless the temperature is really cold, in the minus 20's. Unfortunately, the temperature on Monday night in our part of Minneapolis was hovering in the negative single digits.

Searching for a way to get the same dramatic effect my coworker Mike Schoemer achieved on his back deck in St. Michael, MN (see video above), I thought I would be clever and use room temperature water alongside the boiling water. In theory, wouldn't it be easier to freeze, since it's colder?

As it turns out, both my plan and my friends' wisdom turned out to be nonsense. Even after our boiling water had cooled down to a measly 168 degrees during the short trip down from our apartment to the alley, it still made quite the cloud of frozen water vapor. The 67-degree room temperature water just made a nice splat as it hit the pavement. So did a glass of 38-degree ice water (with ice removed) we brought down with us, but didn't film.

The question is: why? It's too late at night to seek out a local physics teacher, but if anyone can explain the mechanism behind this in the comments section, you'd make this reporter real happy.

Even if you don't quite know what's going on either, share your videos of your attempts to freeze boiling water. Let's see who can create the biggest cloud of frozen water vapor!

James Sanna January 23, 2013 at 02:52 PM
From a Twitter follower: "I'd guess something about energy, hence more movement, in water molecules. Near-boiling molecules want to fly apart into gas...Energetic molecules do fly apart when released from container, then the smaller particles freeze immediately? That's my guess." Anyone have more specifics?

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