Fun With Fourier’s Law in the Cold Weather

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Where I live, temperatures have been jumping back & forth across the zero mark all week. As a result, we’ve been spending almost all of our time indoors, trying to stay warm and busy. But cabin fever got the better of us this morning and we decided to put an experiment involving the law of heat conduction, also known as Fourier’s Law to the test. GeekMom Kathy Ceceri wrote about this phenomenon last winter and we had to give it a try ourselves. So, I fired up the teapot, brought some water to a rolling boil and filled three cups for my children. You can see our results in the video.

In a nutshell, because boiling water is so close to becoming vapor, when it is tossed into the air, it breaks into little droplets that – because of their larger surface area – are instantly frozen by the bitterly cold winter air. Our experiment, above, isn’t as impressive as others, but it’s still a good lesson and a fun trick. Judging from my kids’ throws, getting the water high enough in the air is important. Tossing it on the ground simply results in more ice that has to be scraped from the driveway. Not that I’m tired of shoveling snow and scraping ice. Oh, no. Anyway, give it a try if you’re someplace cold!

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