Ice Geekery

ice-cubes
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OK, there is no single substance on Earth that more perfectly unites the cocktail geek and the science geek than ice. The deeper you get into cocktailia, the more obsessed you get with ice. Ice is both a tool and an ingredient for cocktails, so if you want to bring your A Game, you better have good ice in your kit. I would suggest to the ladies that discussing your fool-proof method for creating huge clear ice cubes at Tales of the Cocktail will attract swooning would-be boyfriends at the same rate as alluding to your Slave Leia metal bikini would at a Star Wars convention. (Guys over a certain age, that’s a good link.)
The cocktailosphere abounds with cool inks about ice, from Darcy’s classic series of posts, to Camper’s long running series on the search for clear ice, to Frederic’s recent examination of ice tools. But in a recent bout of web surfing brought about by an intense desire to procrastinate while up against a deadline, I’ve run into a bunch of cool examples of ice geekery out there in the world of science nerd-dom.
I’ll start with this video that most closely aligns with cocktailia, via Neatorama. Liquid Nitrogen is cold enough to actually freeze alcohol itself, and chef Ferran Adria whips up a batch of Caipirinha sorbet. He gets extra credit for the cool serving container, and the New York Public Library gets demerits for the crappy sound.

That Neatorama post has other cool videos about super cold things like a rocket engine that forms icicles while firing, how liquid oxygen makes charcoal lighter fluid look like a fire extinguisher, and how Antarctica has more ice than you really want.
Much more ice and super-cold geekery under the fold.
A really cold day, and a pot pf boiling water can make for some great fun. A flick of the wrist, and you have snow.

That video is from Wired, who brings up as an aside an interesting controversy about whether hot water can freeze solid faster than cold.
This is one of those science thingies that should serve to remind you that just because logic, or reason, or every scientist you hear says that something is so, doesn’t mean it is so. There is no way this can be true, but in some conditions, a container of 90 degree water will freeze solid faster than a container of 4 degree water. It’s called “The Mpemba Effect”, after the African student who was the first modern scientist to believe his data, instead of his knowledge of “what had to be true.” As to what those conditions are that let the Mpemba Effect take place, here’s a readable synopsis of the limited research out there.
Neatorama has a few more words about Mpemba in a post that includes a video to make ice geeks swoon. I’ve known for a long time that heating water in a smooth container in a microwave is dangerous. The water may heat up way past the boiling point without actually boiling, because there are no rough spots, called nucleation points, which bubbles need to form. It’s dangerous, because if so much as one bubble forms while you are taking it out, the entire container of water will instantly boil, exploding in steam and scalding water spray. What I did not know is that water needs nucleation points to freeze too….

(There is more water coolness at that link)
I’ll wrap up with a bit of a cheat, and talk about the cocktailian’s guilty pleasure, dry ice. Readers of this blog know that I don’t need much more excuse than a visit to the ice cream store to indulge in my favorite garnish.
This video, with accompanying experiments, comes via Steve Spangler Science. It points out what happens if you have detergent in whatever liquid you are dry ice bombing.

They only allude to it briefly in that video, but another effect I had kind of noticed about garnishing your cocktail with dry ice is that it will add a slight carbonation to the equation! I think you could use this to play with fixing the one thing I find lacking in Jeffrey Morganthaler’s method for home made ginger beer, insufficient carbonation. But beware, trying to carbonate beer or ginger beer with dry ice and getting it wrong is a good way to get hurt much worse than boiling water in the microwave. Here’s a less dangerous, though more ephemeral, method of carbonating with dry ice.

I’ll end with one more link to Neatorama: Top 10 Mad Science-Worthy Chemistry Experiments. Number 7 is about dry ice, but the videos worth watching are #2, #8, and especially #5. You may think you’ve seen the experiment shown in #5, but you need to watch the whole video to the end to see the effect taken to eleventy.


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  1. brian12566

    9 November

    Thank you for that link!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Doug

    9 November

    I’d ask which link out of twenty you mean, but SiteMeter knows all, and one in particular seems to be getting a LOT more clicks than the others…..
    Meanwhile, what do you give me in return for that viewing pleasure?
    This.
    Really?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. brian12566

    9 November

    Yeah sorry about that. In keeping with the Star Wars theme check this out:

    http://oshea12566.wordpress.com/files/2009/11/27478_8_468.jpg

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. brian12566

    9 November

    much more betterer.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. Doug

    9 November

    Much better.
    May The Force be with you!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. michael

    12 November

    did you take that picture of the ice? or was it lifted from somewhere? whoever did it, good job.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Doug

    12 November

    Alas, that is not mine. You can tell mine by the amateurish quality. The photographer and the retoucher did a great job on that ice.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  8. 5chw4r7z

    16 November

    I just read a story about how some frogs survive winter by super cooling, their body temperature falls below freezing but never freezes.
    If you were to touch them, the compression could span an ice crystal, the frog would freeze instantly, crushing cells and killing it.
    Ice is a very complex subject indeed.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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