Brian Brushwood is super cool

By Phil Plait | January 11, 2012 10:55 am

… and I mean that literally. Here he is, supercooling a beer.

Supercooling is when a liquid is chilled to a temperature below its freezing point, but it remains a liquid. Water, for example, will crystallize when it freezes, but it needs a starting point for that to happen, like a particle of some impurity (a mineral, for example), or the rough wall of its container. If you freeze a container of (distilled) water without jostling it, it’s possible to supercool it. If you then carefully remove it from the freezer and shake it or pour it over ice, it’ll freeze instantly*.

This is similar to superheating, where a liquid can be heated beyond its boiling point but remain a liquid. This happens all the time for me when I boil water in my microwave using one particular Pyrex measuring cup. I have to be careful — I might say super careful — when removing it, because if jostled the water will erupt with steam and explode outwards. To call that dangerous is a massive understatement; water can carry a lot of heat and the resulting burns are no fun at all.

… which is how I discovered that particular measuring cup superheats the water. Ow.

Anyway, Brian Brushwood makes the great video series Scam School, and this video is for a book version he’s doing. I can’t wait to see that!


* I don’t suggest trying this without knowing what you’re doing; if the water does freeze inside the container it can rupture: ice has a larger volume than water.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (67)

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  1. Marcus

    Think i saw on Good Eats that you should put an ice cream stick or something in the water so it will boil and not explode.

  2. James

    So cool! Literally and figuratively

  3. DrummerGeek

    @Marcus, Yeah, Alton always recommends putting something like a pair of chop sticks into the water before heating in the microwave to prevent super heating

  4. serenity

    Supercooling is awesome. Superheating is scary.

  5. lewikee

    “…water can carry a lot of heat…”

    Heat is not something that can be carried. Heat is a transference of energy across system boundaries due to temperature differences.

  6. Charlie

    Unfortunately, that Corona is going to be pretty flat when it thaws…

  7. ragnar

    Not to mention that Corona was pretty nasty even before ….

  8. mike burkhart

    This is relly cool by the way I read that glass is a slow flowing supercool liquid, funny I always thought glass was a solid untill I read this. Maybe Phil could tell me wheather thats right ,I read in a poket science encylopedia .

  9. Fritriac

    We had a defective refrigerator where i was stationed at my army time. B*tch only knew two states: Warm or supercool. Too bad we had no beer in it, but that fridge was able to do the same thing with almost every drink.

    It’s not very nice when you come from sentry, thirsty as hell, and the coke you’re opening turns into ice instantly… :(

  10. That is a fairly common burn injury. Super heated water in the microwave.

  11. What surprises me is that beer is a pure enough liquid to supercool. I would have thought that the interesting flavor was due to impurities. :)

  12. steve m

    re Mike@7:

    No, glass is a non-crystalline solid, not a “slow flowing supercool liquid”.
    The story of old panes of glass thicker at the bottom is a myth. Old panes were originally formed without uniform thickness and simply assembled with the thicker part on the bottom. It is NOT due to the glass “flowing” over the centuries.

  13. timmy

    The only thing I look forward to on Winter mornings is shaking up the supercooled water bottles I left in my car.

    @ragnar you have no taste. Go back to your Miller High Life

  14. Dr.Sid

    Notice how the beer freezes totally different from water. It starts freezing on the bubbles !

  15. Wzrd1

    Jen, without a particulate contaminate (beer in most of the world is filtered), nucleation cannot occur. That means, there is nothing for a crystal to form around (or in the case of Phil’s beaker, a bubble to form around), the crystal or bubble cannot form.
    I’ve had that happen to me twice, fortunately, my skin is tolerant to a fair amount of abuse (probably from being outside so much during my Army career, where I’ve had needles bent when trying to take a blood test and not penetrate my skin).

  16. Kelli

    Mike, the ‘Glass as a super-cooled liquid’ theory has been disproven, or at least highly discredited: panes of glass that come from windows made over a thousand years ago show no evidence of flow. So, either glass does not flow, and is therefore not a liquid, or its flow characteristics are not measurable in time scales less than geologic in extent. Current understanding is that it is more properly considered an ‘amorphous solid’.

  17. @mike burkhart (#7), not quite. From an explanation I just googled: http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/physics.htm

    “The idea that glass is a fluid is a very widespread myth,” says Yvonne Stokes, a mathematician and spoilsport at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “I was told it as a fact by my adviser. And once, a class of schoolchildren came into the lab, and one of them told me the very same thing. If you want to talk microscopically, then you can call glass a fluid. But people understandably tend to think that if it’s a fluid, it flows. It’s that notion that’s false.”Stokes has recently proved with detailed calculations that old windows could not have flowed perceptibly.

    If the myth survives, it will be because it contains a kernel of truth – and because glass is a confusing kind of matter, quite unlike the three ordinary kinds. A gas is an anarchy of molecules going every which way; a liquid is a tighter but still disorderly society in which molecules constantly dissolve and reestablish weak bonds; a solid is a molecular army in rigid formation.But glass is … none of the above. It is rigid like a solid, but its molecules are not arranged in repeating crystals. It is amorphous like a liquid.

    In fact, structurally there is no sharp line between a liquid and a glass. You form glass by ‘super cooling” a liquid below its freezing point, then cooling it some more. If you cool it fast enough, the molecules can’t organize themselves into crystals. As the temperature drops, the liquid becomes more viscous and the molecules more sluggish. It’s like a game of molecular musical chairs in which the music never stops and the players never sit down; instead they seem to move through honey, then tar, until they are all but motionless, like bugs in amber.

    Or as another web page concludes: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/Glass/glass.html

    There is no clear answer to the question “Is glass solid or liquid?”. In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter that is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic. In terms of its material properties we can do little better. There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids. All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties. Nevertheless, from a more common sense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience. The use of the term “supercooled liquid” to describe glass still persists, but is considered by many to be an unfortunate misnomer that should be avoided. In any case, claims that glass panes in old windows have deformed due to glass flow have never been substantiated. Examples of Roman glassware and calculations based on measurements of glass visco-properties indicate that these claims cannot be true. The observed features are more easily explained as a result of the imperfect methods used to make glass window panes before the float glass process was invented.

  18. kevbo

    I suspect that the beer is only ‘almost’ super cooled.

    When he pops the cap and the CO2 is released, which further cools the beer down, probably past the tipping point.

    That, and the impurities and glass wall roughness is enough to get the freezing thing going.

    Am I wrong here? Trying to remember my PV=nRT without resorting to the googles…

  19. So how exactly do you know ahead of time that whatever you’re trying to supercool won’t simply freeze? Anyone who’s ever had to clean up a fridge full of frozen soda because they forgot that they stuck it in there to cool can tell you that this isn’t something you want to chance. For that matter, why doesn’t the beer bottle shatter?

    @14 Larian Laquelle: Interesting! I’ve heard (and believed) that bit about extremely old glass windows being thicker at the bottom due to “flow”.

  20. colbyg

    I’ve run into this a lot in the lab – liquids used for molecular biology reactions such as PCR, stored in microcentrifuge tubes at small volumes (like 1.5 ml and lower) supercool fairly often. Which is kind of annoying, because you pull out a tube and, seeing that it contains liquid and not ice, immediately try to pipette out the amount you need. But all of the liquid turns instantly into slush when the pipette tip touches it!

  21. jupiterisbig

    I suspect it was the bubbles of CO2 which provided the nucleation sites – as far S I recall beer doesn’t cool down appreciably after opening.
    Wit regard to glass it was shown that the old glass was, logically, installed with the thickest part at the bottom – the profile being due to manufacturing methods.

  22. alex

    You don’t need distilled water for this to happen. I’ve taken many Spring water bottles out of a freezer and watched the contents turn from liquid to ice in my hand a few seconds later (without opening it). It usually occurs as a wave from one side to the other.

  23. Chris

    Water can still be a liquid to about -40 C. In fact in really clean air, supercooled water droplets can exist in clouds.

  24. BCFD36

    When my oldest daughter (and first kid) was still very small, we switched her from breast milk to formula at one point. I don’t remember why. We would make the next day’s formula late at night. We were using the kind of bottles that were a plastic bag inside a hard plastic shell, with a nipple on the end. I would put the water in the bag, dump in the formula and then put it in the microwave. The stuff dissolved better when very hot. Then when I took it out, I would shake it to get it all dissolved and mixed in nicely. One time, for unknown reasons, on the first shake, the bag EXPLODED on the first shake, spraying hot formula all over the kitchen and me.

    Damn that hurt. It is a bad way to learn about super heating.

  25. Russell

    Ohhh! thats exactly what happened to my coffee this morning at the office. I microwaved it and when it was done it was just sitting there barely steaming. I took it over to the water cooler and added some hot water and BLAMO! Hot coffee all over the place! What a mess!

  26. David

    I once tried to hard boil an egg in a microwave by putting it in a bowl full of water and heating it. I took the egg out, removed the shell and stuck a knife in it to cut it open and BOOM! Egg all over my kitchen. Never tried that again.

  27. Malachi Constant

    @15 kevbo: You’re right, gas dissolves in liquids the best when it is at low temperature and high pressure. When he opens it up, the pressure is reduced and some CO2 will escape, taking some heat with it, but I don’t think that does much since it’s already past the “tipping point”, it’s already below it’s natural freezing point.

    Although he looks like he’s handling it rather casually, usually any minor shock will be enough to make a supercooled liquid freeze. Why? I dunno, maybe just ruining the stable arrangement of molecules is enough to form nucleation sites.

    I’m curious how many takes he had to do of that to get it to come out so perfectly.

  28. Blargh

    Jen Deland: it’s Corona. Not beer. ;)

    (Corona is the kind of beer that the “sex in a canoe” joke describes perfectly!)

  29. Mandy

    In me and my college friend’s “testing” (drunk testing), we found that Corona did this the easiest/cleanest out of all the cheap beers. This was probably the best thing to come out of our drunk science.

  30. At least it was Corona (and nothing of value was lost). As for me, I don’t always drink beer… but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

    Stay enthalpy, my friends.

  31. davem

    I see that the obvious beer joke has been made already…

    Re old windows – a lot of them were made with spun glass, which gets thicker/more opaque and distorted towards the centre. (think something like a thin galaxy shape). Cheap windows were made of the innermost sections, and thus have a thick and a thin section. It would seem logical to place them thick part down, for stability reasons. Thus the impression that the glass has flowed.

  32. Anthony

    The beer can’t be ‘almost’ super cooled; when ice crystallizes it releases heat, so you need a temperature low enough that your fluid won’t warm up and stop freezing before it’s hard. I suspect there’s something more going on here, though; at typical freezer temperatures you can’t freeze more than 20-25% before the rest warmed up too far to remain frozen. My best guess is that opening the bottle prompts the formation of CO2 bubbles, and the removal of dissolved CO2 (a) cools it down, (b) increases the freezing point, and (c) results in a frozen foam that can hold the liquid in place.

  33. Wzrd1

    Anthony, you forget a few things.
    1: Nothing to nucleate upon, hence no ability to build crystals (ice) when the bottle was in the freezer.
    2: Beer is pressurized, changing the characteristics of the compound, as you said, dissolved CO2 under pressure (think carbonic acid, as CO2 under pressure with water becomes that (I forget the exact pressures involved, but vaguely recall it wasn’t that great).
    3: Opening the bottle began minor nucleation (visible as a slight amount of crystal formation until the shockwave of his tapping the bottle smartly on the counter released MORE gas, which crystals promptly formed around.
    4: That’s about the only thing Corona is good for, this experiment. The only nastier beers I’ve had in my life was Buckhorn beer (tasted like it WAS made with buck horns) and Simpatico (A Mexican beer that gave me grave reservations on eating/drinking anything else that came from Mexico).

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    I’ll drink to this idea! ;-) 8)

    Reminds me of the Japanese space beer made using barley grown from seeds taken aboard the International Space Station.* :-)

    ————————–

    * Source : “Out of this world” news article, author unknown in ‘The Advertiser’ newspaper, page 55, 2009 Dec. 8th.

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    Off topic, sorry, but a trio of news items of possible interest to folks here :

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/technology/8401747/milky-way-teaming-with-planets

    &

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8401693

    &

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/12/22/3396756.htm

    Think that last one may interest Phil given the location of the team involved! Do you know Dr David Nesvorny at all, BA? :-)

  36. Dave from Toronto

    A number of years ago in mid-January I was visiting friends outside of Ottawa when I had this happen with a bottle of white wine.

    It was a large murder mystery diner and weekend so everyone brought a ton of food, beer, and wine. The fridges were full and several bottles were put on a shelf in the garage which could be accessed via a door inside the house. The weather was below freezing. I went to retrieve one of the bottles from the shelf and knocked the unopened bottled against the door frame. As I brought it inside, I saw it literally freeze in from one end to the other. One of the hosts had a strong background in Chemistry and referred to it as ‘flash crystallization’.

  37. Cpragman

    Having the beer under pressure will lower its freezing point. If it is pre cooled enough, then
    When the pressure is released, the freezing point rises as the pressure falls. (physicial chemistry)

  38. Cindy

    Phil,

    Your “close personal friend” tested this one on Mythbusters awhile ago.

  39. Autumn

    I’ve had a few beers freeze in my freezer (it gets progressively harder to remember they’re in there for some reason). I wish something this cool (HAH!) had happened instead.
    Oh, and the beer-hatred seems kind of snobby. I also like a nice, hoppy microbrew, but there are plenty of people who like American Standard Lager style. It’s also a style that can be fairly tasty (by ASL standards,) and very cheap.

  40. Bummer the dude “bangs” the bottle on the counter top as that is unnecessary.

    We did this in college almost 30 years ago … place the beer down, open the top, and (without banging it) watch it freeze from the top-down. I.e.the temperature of the beer is super-cooled and popping the top causes a pressure drop which then causes a temperature drop … which is enough to start the phase change … rather than banging the bottle.

    I’ve also done (accidentally) with champagne that has been left in the freezer to chill a bit too long.

  41. Steven

    Alton Brown’s show “Good Eat’s” talked about the super-heating side of things. He mentioned on his show that the way to prevent the water in your Pyrex measuring cup from doing this is to place a wood/bamboo skewer or chopstick in it. That will give the water a rough surface to start boiling yet not ‘pollute’ the water with flavor you don’t want.

  42. AutumnSylver

    I’ve had that happen a few times when I put a bottle of Coke in the freezer. It’s a pain in the butt when you want to pour some out.

  43. Michael Suttkus, II

    My first experience with supercooling was when I was very young. I heard on the news that the temperature was going to fall below freezing that night and I decided I had to see if this was true. (I live in Florida, this was an astounding occurrence for a six-year-old.) So, before I went to bed, I left a glass of water outside on the back porch. The next morning, I ran outside to see if it had really frozen, and was disappointed to see that it hadn’t frozen at all. It was still sitting in the glass entirely liquid. I picked up the glass to throw the water out, and it froze solid as I was watching.

    None of my family believed me!

    It wasn’t until college that I heard about super-cooling and instantly realized that was what I had experienced all those years before.

  44. Blondin

    Up here in Norther Canuckistan we are quite well aware of this phenomenon when we leave a case of beer in the trunk of the car a bit too long in the middle of February.

  45. Ganzy

    Wzrd1 #15

    “where I’ve had needles bent when trying to take a blood test and not penetrate my skin”

    Pull the other one Clarke it’s got bells on… :D

  46. KilroyofAus

    Glass Is a Liquid.
    I have very old glassed pictures, which show deformities.
    I might have been amenable to the ” old imperfect float glass” idea, save for one very significant measurement.
    In Every Picture Glass, In every Window-Frame, the glass is THICKER AT THE BOTTOM.
    Clearly the old time Framers and Glaziers were all in cahoots?
    Kilroy

  47. Christian Treczoks

    Superheated water from the microwave! At last someone who agrees it can be done!

    People laughed at me when I told them that I did that. And I was not eager to repeat it – I got some f*ing burns back then.

    All I did was to put some water in a cup and heat it in the microwave. When I then put the teabag into the cup, the water more or less exploded and burned my hand. There was not much water left in the cup.

  48. Grizzly

    Also in northern Canuckistan is the phenomenon of boiling water flash freezing. Try this at home if the temperature is below -30 Fahrenheit.

    Pour one cup of boiling water into a mug. Standing well away from the house and living things throw toss the water into the air in a single motion. As Emeril would say “BAM” You then get a cloud of ice crystals. Quite a stunning trick.

  49. Blargh

    @ KilroyofAus

    Clearly the old time Framers and Glaziers were all in cahoots?

    They were. In the sense that putting the glass in thickest side down gives a better balance than putting the glass in thickest side up.

    But since you won’t believe the science involved but only what you can see with your own eyes: look at ancient glass artifacts. If glass is so liquid that young glass no more than one or two hundred years old (from your description of “picture glass”, I’m assuming your examples are no older than the 19th century) has visibly drooped, then just imagine how deformed e.g. Roman or Phoenician glass, which is 10 times older, must be today! Only… it isn’t. Artifacts from that period look just like hand-made glass made today with similar technology.

  50. Renee Marie Jones

    This is not really supercooling. It is an example of how the freezing point changes when the pressure changes. The beer is ABOVE it’s freezing point when in the pressurized state and drops below it’s freezing point (and freezes) when the pressure is reduced.

  51. Anthony

    @Renee Marie Jones

    This is not really supercooling. It is an example of how the freezing point changes when the pressure changes.

    Uh, looking at a phase diagram of water, the ice point is pretty much flat over the range of about 0.01-10 atmospheres, which covers anything you’d see inside a beer bottle. If there’s a change in the freezing point due to opening the bottle, it’s because of something else, probably dissolved CO2 coming out of solution.

  52. Infinite123Lifer

    #8 “I read that glass is a slow flowing supercool liquid”

    #12 “No, glass is a non-crystalline solid, not a “slow flowing supercool liquid”.
    The story of old panes of glass thicker at the bottom is a myth. Old panes were originally formed without uniform thickness and simply assembled with the thicker part on the bottom. It is NOT due to the glass “flowing” over the centuries.”

    #16 “the ‘Glass as a super-cooled liquid’ theory has been disproven, or at least highly discredited: panes of glass that come from windows made over a thousand years ago show no evidence of flow. So, either glass does not flow, and is therefore not a liquid, or its flow characteristics are not measurable in time scales less than geologic in extent. Current understanding is that it is more properly considered an ‘amorphous solid’.”

    #17: (cut and chopped for fluidity ;) )

    “”The idea that glass is a fluid is a very widespread myth,””

    “If you want to talk microscopically, then you can call glass a fluid.”

    “But people understandably tend to think that if it’s a fluid, it flows. It’s that notion that’s false.”Stokes has recently proved with detailed calculations that old windows could not have flowed perceptibly.”

    ” glass is a confusing kind of matter, quite unlike the three ordinary kinds. A gas is an anarchy of molecules going every which way; a liquid is a tighter but still disorderly society in which molecules constantly dissolve and reestablish weak bonds; a solid is a molecular army in rigid formation.But glass is … none of the above. It is rigid like a solid, but its molecules are not arranged in repeating crystals. It is amorphous like a liquid.”

    “There is no clear answer to the question “Is glass solid or liquid?”. In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter that is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic”

    ” In terms of its material properties we can do little better. There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids. All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties. Nevertheless, from a more common sense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience.”

    #31 It would seem logical to place them thick part down, for stability reasons. Thus the impression that the glass has flowed.”

    #46
    “Glass Is a Liquid.
    I have very old glassed pictures, which show deformities.
    I might have been amenable to the ” old imperfect float glass” idea, save for one very significant measurement.
    In Every Picture Glass, In every Window-Frame, the glass is THICKER AT THE BOTTOM.
    Clearly the old time Framers and Glaziers were all in cahoots?
    Kilroy”

    #49 “@ KilroyofAus
    Clearly the old time Framers and Glaziers were all in cahoots?
    They were. In the sense that putting the glass in thickest side down gives a better balance than putting the glass in thickest side up.
    But since you won’t believe the science involved but only what you can see with your own eyes: look at ancient glass artifacts. If glass is so liquid that young glass no more than one or two hundred years old (from your description of “picture glass”, I’m assuming your examples are no older than the 19th century) has visibly drooped, then just imagine how deformed e.g. Roman or Phoenician glass, which is 10 times older, must be today! Only… it isn’t. Artifacts from that period look just like hand-made glass made today with similar technology.”

    Ok, this is all very interesting

    Namely, that obviously different materials act differently under different conditions. Glass preserved in an air tight cave should not behave as glass which is exposed to 12 hours of sunlight and 100% humidity, I am not saying that is always the case, but if we were to put every scrap of glass under observation for the next 200 years I am sure certain conditions could arise as to possibly observe a flowing glass structure of some type.

    Which hardly discredits the question of whether glass is a solid or not because that question is pretty much a loaded question. Now, to a 4 year old the states of matter carry a more simple meaning, ie I can shatter glass so it is a solid. Water and syrup are liquids, and gas is not like the gasoline but like the smell of gasoline, or what you breathe at the dentist or what comes out of the back of your. . . car
    But really, any substance can show many properties under many different conditions.

    I hope I am not confusing this, I am not saying that maybe the panes in question have “flowed over time to the naked eye” or that “being thicker at the bottom is proof”(seems to be basic engineering to make them thicker at the bottom).

    I am just thinking about the possibilities and how supercool the chemistry and physics is behind this, the quantum chemistry of a particular piece of glass seems fuzzy, maybe a bit out of focus, as is everything when deeply explored . . . which is an interesting and hopeful position, there is plenty left to fathom.

    The studies talked about in #14

    “”Stokes has recently proved with detailed calculations that old windows could not have flowed perceptibly.””


    to me indicate that perhaps the “old windows” were of a very particular sort. Without doing any research I am assuming there is some huge plate glass widow in a church somewhere which has probably started the debate, or perhaps all the famous “old windows” for that matter, but certainly not all glass in all the world.

    What has already been said is

    “If you want to talk microscopically, then you can call glass a fluid.”

    “There is no clear answer to the question “Is glass solid or liquid?”.”

    This to me says that the phases of matter are an exciting and conceptually striking amalgamation of scientific inquiry and in describing such physical realities I can only think of words used to describe such states as a type of poetry. Nature demonstrates little regard for how logical and beautiful the words and sentences and paragraphs and books and notes and papers and explanations have been put forth together by people in attempting to describe the laws of nature and by necessarily confining observations to the all mighty word .

    Mass, energy, collisions, the states of matter, when do solids behave like liquids, phase changes . . . its all super cool! I mean super awesome.

    At first something seems simple and so it is named. That name portends greater meaning and interest. Other names are used to describe the original name. The new describing names are then detailed further and further with new names and describers until, until, so much explanation has been accounted that some still debate over whether glass is a solid or a liquid or both or neither or almost or seemingly or or or or, doh!

    I just dropped my glass and it shattered into a bunch of little pieces.

    Ah well, the discussions about impact sites are as of definite intrigue as well when it comes to the states of matter. I am enjoying the comments pertaining to the phases of matter at high speeds in Peering down onto an Australian impact.

  53. Brian Too

    I believe the correct term for glass is a viscous fluid because the glass never undergoes a phase change as it cools. Phase changes are the hallmarks of a change in physical state.

    For those not familiar, a phase change is critical temperature at which a material is cooling (or heating) but the temperature of the material does not change. Heat is entering or leaving the system but the material does not change temperature because the heat differential is supplied by a physical reorganization of the material itself.

    The classic example is that of water freezing or boiling.

  54. Anthony

    The correct term for glass depends on who’s talking about it. The flow rate of glass at room temperature is not measurable on human time scales (or, likely, the age of the universe), a hundred million year old lump of obsidian (glass) looks just like a recent one unless it’s been subject to extensive weathering.

  55. Infinite123Lifer

    I am just feeling so frisky today:

    Is it incorrect to refer to solid, gas, liquid and plasma as “phases of matter”, or would “states of matter” be more appropriate”? Really on a quantum level I am thinking nothing is “in a static unmoving, state”, there is always underlying dynamics in motion at the molecular level and smaller (you could say all of nature is seriously hyper-active, matter never truly rests (does it), nothing at the quantum level rest for that matter ;)

    But I do recall the science of phase transitions has a pragmatic explanation for all of this.

    I suppose for a philosophical/contemplation point of view this builds another small bridge in my attempt at understanding even further just how matter and energy are related to one another. All matter can be thought of as a form of energy and vice versa and I am guessing when defining energy it could be thought of something which never rests (among other things)???

    Thus no matter can ever rest and utlimately despite our complex definitions for gas, liquid, solid, plasma and any other possible states of matter yet discovered can and should all fall under discretion for our definitions of such states depending on what is being referenced and at that particular time for that particular circumstance. (blatantly middle age description :) its the best I could comprehend).

    I would also point out that Energy as compared to matter in the understanding that “neither appear to ever be at rest, molecularly” you still have to multiply matter times the speed of light squared to catch up to the freedom/speed/phase of what pure energy is. Does energy warrant a phase?

    Is this to be said that Energy exists entirely independent of the phase of a substance.

    Would 1 kilogram of ice, one kilogram of water, one kilogram of steam would all contain the exact same amount of energy??? obviously right?

    Although I do understand for day to day clarification the definitions for gas, liquid, solid and plasma are generally reasonable and most definitely useful.

    “For those not familiar, a phase change is critical temperature at which a material is cooling (or heating) but the temperature of the material does not change. Heat is entering or leaving the system but the material does not change temperature because the heat differential is supplied by a physical reorganization of the material itself.
    The classic example is that of water freezing or boiling.”

    If I take water to its boiling point or to its freezing point, surely heat has entered and exited the system respectively and thus resulting in a temperature change in the water itself?. . .

    Although you say
    “the material does not change temperature because the heat differential is supplied by a physical reorganization of the material itself.”

    I would guess that the material must change temperature somewhat, proportianal to the redistribution of heat in regards to the materials ability to adapt and change or as you said physically reorganize itself resulting in possible phase or state changes.

    I think i might have a classic misunderstanding here pertaining to , or hopefully not a less-than classical misunderstanding of some simple high school chemistry.

    *facepalm*

    Does light have a phase, gas? Plasma, what would fusion be? A plasma?

    I am thinking in the movies how you see the “alien” or “godly” ancient treasure which contains endless energy. Does electricity have a state of matter? Surely electricity and light can be thought of as energy. Ok this all gets so complicated.

    I found this, not sure if the link came up, maybe I have to type some stuff before and after to enter it? symbols, computer code, which I am unaware of… at least thats a straightforward question i suppose.

    http://www.ccl.net/cca/documents/dyoung/topics-orig/states.html

  56. Infinite123Lifer

    #54(or, likely, the age of the universe),

    That is mind blowing.

    Continents change shape, stars are born and come to new beginnings, planets form, galaxies form and are changed and consumed, light/energy travels for billions years creating reference for times/ages long past and we can only guess what else but if you stick a particular piece of glass in a particular window in a particular location and hypothetically observe this ultimately controlled 10 billion year Life-span windowed room experiment that after 10 plus billion years (we will the say the most famous pane glass “flowing” debunked piece of wider at the bottom than top) the glass will not have succumbed to the Earths gravity or the suns rays or the basic human living conditions of said “relatively normal climate and weather? due to the structure of said glass’s ability to resist all natural phenomenon . . . for the Age of the Universe?!

    Ok, maybe a lot of things could survive in a controlled 10 billion year long room which is only subject to normal Earth conditions today. But then again, I would think that especially amorphous substances such as glass just might droop or flow over a billion years…but I am not sure how relevant all this is.

    Iam being moderated, should probably “chill” or super cool a corona or super heat some coffee for a bit, have a change of phase..i mean scenery :) So many questions, so many things that sometimes I am not sure how to even correctly phrase a question.

    Its tough to think out of the box when you don’t understand the instructions on how to get into the box in the first place. But the cat was alive last I checked :) not that it helps with your next guess :) or can it?

  57. Nigel Depledge

    Kilroy of Aus (46) said:

    In Every Picture Glass, In every Window-Frame, the glass is THICKER AT THE BOTTOM.
    Clearly the old time Framers and Glaziers were all in cahoots?

    Until you have detected glass actually flowing, your comment proves nothing. Unless a glazier is clinically thick, he/she will always install uneven glass with its thickest edge downward, for strength and stability. The thick edge of the piece of glass is more able to support its weight than is its thin edge.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Anthony (51) said:

    @Renee Marie Jones

    This is not really supercooling. It is an example of how the freezing point changes when the pressure changes.

    Uh, looking at a phase diagram of water, the ice point is pretty much flat over the range of about 0.01-10 atmospheres, which covers anything you’d see inside a beer bottle. If there’s a change in the freezing point due to opening the bottle, it’s because of something else, probably dissolved CO2 coming out of solution.

    Also, beer is not water. American (mass-produced) beer is typically at least 2% alcohol by volume, and may be as much as 3%. So, the ice point curve for water is not wholly applicable.

    Having said that, I agree that the change is most probably caused by CO2 coming out of solution causing a rise in freezing point. I also am not convinced that the phenomenon here is supercooling.

  59. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (52) said:

    if we were to put every scrap of glass under observation for the next 200 years I am sure certain conditions could arise as to possibly observe a flowing glass structure of some type.

    Given that the expert consensus seems to be that glass does not flow perceptibly over several hundred years, how do you arrive at this conclusion?

    to me indicate that perhaps the “old windows” were of a very particular sort. Without doing any research I am assuming there is some huge plate glass widow in a church somewhere which has probably started the debate, or perhaps all the famous “old windows” for that matter, but certainly not all glass in all the world.

    Mostly this would be stained-glass window panels from old churches. For example, some of the glass in the windows of York Minster is roughly 800 years old.

    Plate glass is only a recent invention.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    Brian Too (53) said:

    I believe the correct term for glass is a viscous fluid because the glass never undergoes a phase change as it cools. Phase changes are the hallmarks of a change in physical state.

    But, in case you missed some of the above, it is equally valid to call glass an amorphous solid.

    In any case, if you prefer to term it a liquid, you must acknowledge that it is so viscous that it does not perceptibly flow over even several hundred years. What is certainly a myth is the claim that old window glass is thicker at the bottom because it has flowed over time. Old window glass is thicker at the bottom because, when you cannot make flat glass, it only makes sense to install glass panes with their thick edge at the bottom.

    Phase changes are overrated.

    The membranes of living cells mainly comprise phospholipids, which mostly would be solid at temperatures in the range of 0 – 20 °C were it not for the presence of membrane sterols such as cholesterol, ergosterol, stigmasterol and sitosterol. The presence of these sterols smooths out the liquid-solid phase transition, to the extent that above a certain concentration (I cannot recall what the concentration is) the phase transition ceases to be detectable.

  61. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (55) said:
    Is it incorrect to refer to solid, gas, liquid and plasma as “phases of matter”, or would “states of matter” be more appropriate”?

    AFAICT it doesn’t really matter. (Heh, matter, geddit? I’ll get me coat . . .)

    Really on a quantum level I am thinking nothing is “in a static unmoving, state”, there is always underlying dynamics in motion at the molecular level and smaller . . .

    This is more or less true (I think it is not for a Bose-Einstein condensate, but that’s a fifth phase of matter), but I don’t think it’s anything particularly surprising. For example, electrical resistance in a wire arises through the thermal (random) motion (vibration) of atoms in the conductor.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (55) said:

    Would 1 kilogram of ice, one kilogram of water, one kilogram of steam would all contain the exact same amount of energy??? obviously right?

    No.

    First off, if you could annihilate the matter with an identical quantity of antimatter, you’d get the same amount of energy in each case (from E = mc^2), but the rest thermal energy of each is different, and then there’s the enrgy associated with the phase changes.

    Stream, BTW, is an ambiguous term, because what you can see coming off a boiling pan of water is water liquid condesing as small droplets in the air. This is commonly called steam but is a liquid form of water. “Steam” is also often used to refer to water vapour, i.e. water in its gaseous state.

    So, 1 kg of ice at 0°C has less energy than 1 kg of liquid water at the same temperature. There is energy associated with the phase change, because it takes eneryg to break the intermolecular bonds (in the case of water these are hydrogen bonds) that hold the molecules in place in the crystal lattice. The same applies for the liquid / gas phase change, but the intermolecular bonds in a liquid are not fixed, they are – well – fluid, constantly breaking and re-forming and certainly not forming any lasting or large-scale structure.

    For a substance such as glass, the molecules are very large and the intermolecular bonds are very weak, so the solid / liquid phase change is far less obvious than it is for something like water.

  63. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (55) said:

    If I take water to its boiling point or to its freezing point, surely heat has entered and exited the system respectively and thus resulting in a temperature change in the water itself?. . .

    If you cool water to its freezing point (0 °C), the water changes temperature i>until it gets to 0 °C. As you extract more heat from it, it freezes, but maintains the same temperature until it has frozen. Then it can cool down some more.

    The converse is true for heating it to its boiling point. You generally don’t get pure liquid water at one atmosphere of pressure above 100 °C. The water stays at 100 °C until it has turned into a vapour, then it can increase in temperature some more.

    The exceptions are supercooling and superheating.

  64. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite 123 Lifer (55) said:

    Does light have a phase, gas?

    No, light exists as bosons, the term “matter” only really applies to things that make up atoms (protons, neutrons, electrons, and maybe positrons and neutrinos too). Therefore, the phases of matter don’t apply to photons, W and Z particles, or gluons.

    Plasma, what would fusion be? A plasma?

    Fusion is a process, not a state. A Tokamak fusion reactor will contain a plasma when it is operating, and the core of a hydrogen-bomb explosion will be a mixture of plasma and radiation.

  65. Infinite123Lifer

    Thank you Nigel.

    Always more to explore :)

  66. Dariush Molavi

    Phil, I did this in my freezer (as can anyone) with an unopened bottle of bottled water: http://youtu.be/0CYQshOSq3Q

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