Science Friday Fun

Juliane throwing hot water into the icy air of Antarctica.

Our main objective being here in the deep field is to search and recover ALL…THE…METEORITES. And it is the best thing ever!! However, sometimes we also find a few minutes to do fun little experiments. There are 3 science experiments in particular that I want to tell you about. The first one is producing supercooled liquid and watching the liquid water instantly freeze to ice when disturbed. So fun. I wrote about our first experience with super cooled liquid in a blog earlier in the season. At this point we basically are experts in producing supercooled liquids and do this every morning after we wake up since it is below freezing inside the tent. If the water was undisturbed during the night it usually turned into super cooled liquid and we can watch it turn to ice instantly. Awesome! If the water was disturbed, or already had tiny ice crystals in it when we went to bed, the water would simply be a solid frozen block in the morning. Bummer!

The second little experiment I wanted to do since I was 10 years old. At that time I saw on a TV kids science show how soap bubbles, when blown into very cold air, will freeze to very thin “crystal balls”. Ever since then I wanted to try this, but the part of Germany where I grew up simply never got very cold. So now in Antarctica I finally had the chance to fulfill my childhood science experiment dream. I bought German soap bubbles (“Pustefix”), brought it all the way out here, and managed to keep it from freezing. Most of the days here are 20+ knot winds though, and the soap bubbles were instantly carried away when blown. On the very few days where it was calm we usually went out searching and recovering meteorites for long long hours and coming back I was cold, too tired, and so hungry to even bother thinking about soap bubbles. But I finally managed to carry out the experiment and blow a few bubbles inside our tent (which was below freezing). And they really do fre eze. The soap bubble “skin” will crystallize into beautiful radial crystals but eventually the bubble will pop before it completely freezes over. I only managed to completely freeze one small bubble. And it didn’t look as sparkly as I remembered on TV from when I was 10. Nevertheless, watching the soap bubbles starting to freeze and building these crystals was amazing in itself and I was still as excited about this experiment as I was at 10 years old.

The third science experiment was inspired by my sisters Katherina and Annika. They had seen a picture of someone throw hot water in the air in Antarctica and wanted to know if the effect seen on the picture was real. So you guys, there it is: Again, lots of wind but this time it didn’t matter. So after chipping ice and snow, melting it into liquid water, bringing it to a boil, I carried it in my thermos cup outside to throw it. The effect is absolutely stunning. The hot water instantly turn to steam when it comes into contact with the icy air, spreads, and produces a gorgeous arc. Barb and I had so much fun with this particular experiment that we didn’t care about the biting winds and repeated the experiment multiple times with different quantities of hot water. We use up all our carefully stocked water-reserves for this. But it was totally worth it. In addition to these three science experiments, we have done a lot of food experiments and other fun experimental stuff, too many to count them all. As you can see, science is amazing and so much fun!! And we hope you liked our Science Friday Fun!

Juliane, Mt. Cecily, Antarctica, Jan. 12th, 5pm.

Editor’s note.  There was supposed to be a second image accompanying this post, but it didn’t make it through the Iridium system.  The caption is/was “Soap bubble starting to freeze on the right side”.   If I get the image somehow I will amend the post.