The Sideshow

Because science! Cool stuff that only happens in the freezing cold

The Sideshow

Cold weather can be a drag. But it can also be an opportunity to do wacky science things that won't work in August. Around much of the country where freezing temperatures have kept folks inside and bundled up, some are braving the weather to conduct a few experiments.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus took it upon himself to test the theory that boiling water turns instantly into snow if the air is cold enough. Holthaus tossed a pot of boiling water into the minus 21°F air and — voila! — instant snow flurries.

Holthaus told Storyful: “Today was the coldest weather I’ve ever personally experienced, and the first time I’ve tried this trick. Sure enough, it works!”

Holthaus wasn't the only one to have a little fun with the bitter cold. Ontario resident Chris Gillett poured boiling water into a pressurized water gun and then went outside to see how the water stream would react. See the fire extinguisher-like effect below.

Why use boiling water? For reasons that remain a mystery — even to scientists — boiling water can freeze faster than cold water in some circumstances.

The phenomenon is known as the Mpemba effect and is named after Ernesto Mpemba, a student from Tanzania who found that he could make ice cream faster if he used milk that had been heated up. His claims were mocked by some, but Mpemba asked around and found that local ice cream merchants were already using his technique. Today it's widely accepted, if not exactly widely understood.

And the hits keep coming. Below, Iowa man Tom Rauen took a wet T-shirt outdoors to show how quickly the shirt would freeze in place. (Answer: about a minute.)

Finally, Chicago's Alex Levine recorded video of steam rising off a river in downtown Chicago. The effect is a bit like dry ice only on an enormous scale.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter at @mikekrumboltz.

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