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Hey Jim (ATS), check this out!

Posted by Wick on May 24th, 2000 04:04 PM

Sorry Jim, but I couldn't let this rest so check these articles out.

Hot Water Freezes Faster than Cold!

You put two pails of water outside on a freezing day. One has hot water (95 degrees C) and the other has an equal amount of
colder water (50 degrees C). Which freezes first? The hot water freezes first! Why?

It is commonly argued that the hot water will take some time to reach the initial temperature of the cold water, and then follow
the same cooling curve. So it seems at first glance difficult to believe that the hot water freezes first. The effect is definitely real
and some people claim to have duplicated it in their refrigerator.

This question is a favourite of popular science magazines where it is often referred to as the Mpemba effect after a Tanzanian
student who observed it while making ice cream and raised the question in 1969. However, the folklore on this matter may well
have started centuries ago when wooden pails were usual. Sir Francis Bacon, Descartes and even Aristotle are said to have
remarked on it.

Every "proof" that hot water can't freeze faster assumes that the state of the water can be described by a single number, the
temperature, but remember that temperature is a function of position. There are also other factors besides temperature, such as
motion of the water, gas content, etc. With these multiple parameters, any argument based on the hot water having to pass
through the initial state of the cold water before reaching the freezing point should be examined very carefully.

There are a number of factors which contribute to this effect. Each one of them may have greater or lesser significance
depending upon relative temperatures, air conditions, container dimensions and material etc. Here we describe five of the most
important factors. In any real situation a combination of these processes and possibly others may be at work. (David
Auerbach's article cited below should be consulted for more factors).

Although detailed research has been done on some specific cases where hot water freezes faster than cold, the classic
experiment with pails of water has probably not been studied in enough detail to establish the correct conditions for it to happen
and the most significant causes of the effect. The answers given here should not be considered definitive without further studies.
In principle it should not be difficult to devise the appropriate experiments to test the significance of the factors given, or even to
do a good quantitative analysis of each one. If anyone ever does, please send us the results!

First Factor: Evaporation

The cooling of pails without lids is partly Newtonian and partly by evaporation of the contents. The proportions depend on the
walls and on temperature. Evaporation is more important while the temperature is high and there is a large exposed surface
area. If equal masses of water are taken at two starting temperatures, more rapid evaporation from the hotter one may diminish
its mass enough to compensate for the greater temperature range it must cover to reach freezing. In one experiment, water
cooling from 100C lost 16% of its mass by 0C.

The cooling effect of evaporation is twofold. First, mass is carried off so that less needs to be cooled from then on. Also, the
temperature drops due to heat lost in causing the phase change from water to vapour (latent heat of evaporation).

Thus experiment and theory agree that hot water freezes faster than cold for sufficiently high starting temperatures, if the cooling
is by evaporation. Cooling in a wooden pail or barrel may often be predominantly by evaporation. In fact, a wooden bucket of
water starting at 100C would finish freezing in 90% of the time taken by an equal volume starting at room temperature.

Second Factor: Supercooling

When water cools below 0C it does not always freeze. In some conditions it can undergo supercooling, remaining liquid at
temperatures below its freezing point. Sometimes it may remain liquid at temperatures as low as -20C.

The reason is that ice crystals require nucleation points to start formation. Nucleation points may be gas bubbles, dust particles
or a rough surface. If these are not present in the liquid then supercooling will occur until the temperature goes so low that ice
crystals form spontaneously. Once they start to form in a supercooled liquid they will grow rapidly forming a slush which then
freezes further to solid ice.

Why is water in the hot bucket more likely to supercool? Firstly, heating the water will remove dissolved gases which would
otherwise have formed bubbles as the liquid cools, and which might have acted as nucleation points. In a bucket it is also
possible that nucleation will start on the inner bucket surface unless it is very clean and smooth. In the case of wooden buckets
the wood itself may retain sufficient heat from the initially hot water to delay nucleation at the sides.

Why does supercooling result in the hotter water freezing faster? First consider the water which started colder and which does
not get supercooled. In this case a thin layer of ice is likely to form quickly on the surface. This layer acts as insulation between
the water and the cold air and also prevents further evaporation. The rate of ice formation after this initial layer has formed is
considerably slower. In the case of the water which started out hot and which is subjected to supercooling, the supercooled
water no longer has this protective layer of ice. It loses heat at a much faster rate through its exposed surface. When the
supercooling ends and it finally does freeze much more heat will have been lost and more ice will form than in the other bucket.

A considerable amount of experimental support has been offered for the significance of supercooling and some experts now
believe that it is the most important factor in the cause of the Mpemba effect. However, most of these experiments have been
carried out in rather ideal experiments. For example, sealed glass containers filled with water are plunged into freezing cold
liquid. Such experiments are designed to produce supercooling and it is not clear how well they represent the classic case of
water in a bucket.

Third Factor: Convection

A peculiar property of water is that it is most dense at 4C. If you start with a bucket of water at 4C and place it outside at a
lower temperature, the water at the surface will cool rapidly. Because this water is less dense than the water below which
remains at 4C, it will stay at the surface forming a thin cold layer. Under such conditions a thin layer of ice will form on the
surface after only a short space of time, but this layer will then act as an insulator protecting the water below most of which is
still at 4C. Further freezing is then very slow assuming that the bucket itself is made of a good insulating material.

The situation with the hot bucket is rather different. The surface water cools even more rapidly due to evaporation and the large
temperature difference. However, the cooled water is now more dense than the hot water below. It sinks, pushing more hot
water to the surface. Significant convection currents are driven by the water cooling from the surface and sinking. This
circulation of water ensures that the temperature drops rapidly.

But why doesn't it reach a stable state with the water at 4C and then follow the same course as the colder water? This is a very
good question! To explain the Mpemba effect through convection alone it would be necessary to show that hot and cold water
currents are separated in the process and that convection can continue after the average temperature had dropped below 4C.

However, no experimental evidence has been found to support the hypothesis that cold and hot water are separated by
convection in this way. If convection plays any role at all, it is more likely to be in aiding the rapid cooling down to temperatures
of 4C.

Forth Factor: Dissolved Gasses

Water always contains dissolved gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. These impurities have the effect of lowering its
freezing point. When water is heated, much of these gases are driven out because their solubility in water is less at higher
temperatures. When the hot water cools it then has less dissolved gas than water which was not heated so it has a higher
freezing point and freezes first. This is often cited as a an important factor but no references to experimental evidence or
quantitative analysis have been given.

Fifth Factor: Conduction

This final mechanism is more relevant to the case where water is placed in a freezer in small containers. In such circumstances it
has been observed that the warmth of the hot water container can melt ice encrusting the surface on which it is placed. When
this refreezes it creates a good connection between the container and the surface which allows much better conduction of heat
than the frost on which the colder container rests. As a result, heat is drawn out of the warmer container more rapidly.

This factor can be easily tested by setting up the right conditions in a freezer.


"Hot water freezes faster than cold water. Why does it do so?", Jearl Walker in The Amateur Scientist, Scientific American,
Vol. 237, No. 3, pp 246-257; September, 1977.

"The Freezing of Hot and Cold Water", G.S. Kell in American Journal of Physics, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp 564-565; May, 1969.

"Supercooling and the Mpemba effect", David Auerbach, in American Journal of Physics, Vol. 63, No. 10, pp 882-885; Oct,

"The Mpemba effect: The freezing times of hot and cold water", Charles A. Knight, in American Journal of Physics, Vol. 64,
No. 5, p 524; May, 1996.

"The Final Word", New Scientist, 2nd December 1995. (see also a letter from Charles Knight in the 26th March 1996 issue)

Which freezes faster, hot water or cold water

Marilyn is Wrong Copyright 1996-1998 Herb Weiner. All rights reserved.

Ask Marilyn by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine, published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New
York, NY 10017, USA. According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of
Fame" for "Highest IQ."


Steven Horii, M.D. wrote:

I poked around your Web site looking for one error in physics that I am sure Marilyn made, but so far as I know, was not
followed up in print.

This was several years ago at least. Someone wrote in with a question about whether hot or cold water freezes faster. Marilyn
replied that it is logical that the cold water freezes faster since it has does not have to cool down as much to hit freezing. There
was a considerable debate about this in Scientific American Amateur Scientist an even longer time ago, because the correct
answer, that hot water (for equal masses of water) will freeze faster than cold water is certainly unexpected. The debate was not
about whether or not this was true, but why. The Boltzman fourth power law for cooling was invoked, but cooling due to
evaporation and mixing from a greater thermal differential were also included. Supposedly, folks who live in very cold climates
wash their cars with cold water rather than hot (or maybe rinse off the road salt) during winters.


I also remember seeing this column, but no longer have a copy. If you have this column, please send it to me.

Some Interesting Hypotheses

John Bailey wrote to suggest the following hypothesis:

Perhaps hot water provided a partial melt of the frost below the tray (in an older model refrigerator) which ultimately provided a
better heat sink to the water in the tray, allowing it to freeze faster.

Ed Foster wrote to suggest an alternative possibility:

Far more cooling is needed to freeze 32 degree water than cooling the water from even a high temperature down to 32 degrees
(heat of fusion and all that.) Perhaps enough of the hot water evaporates off while cooling to 32 degrees that the reduced
amount remaining freezes before the water that started out cold. The calculations to show how much of the original hot water
needs to evaporate should be easy to do and if I get inspired enough to do it I'll send the results. Doing an experiment and
weighing the resultant ice might also prove informative.

Eliot W. Collins wrote to suggest yet another possibility:

I believe that boiling water before attempting to freeze it, removes the air from the water and this allows the water to freeze
more quickly.

The Last Word

Sebastien Blondeel wrote to point out that many of the problems on the Marilyn is Wrong web
pages are discussed in the Frequently Asked Questions for the usenet (Internet) newsgroups, in particular alt.folklore.urban,
rec.puzzles, and sci.astro.

From the alt.folklore.urban FAQ, the answer is that under some conditions (e.g. in wooden buckets, where most of the cooling
is caused by evaporation), hot water freezes faster. However, since the cooling is caused by evaporation of a significant amount
of hot water, the hot water produces less ice.

Two references are cited:

"Hot water freezes faster than cold water. Why does it do so?", Jearl Walker in The Amateur Scientist, Scientific
American, Vol. 237, No. 3, pp 246-257; September, 1977.

"The Freezing of Hot and Cold Water", G.S. Kell in American Journal of Physics, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp 564-565; May,

Hot Water can also Freeze Faster in a Freezer

Thanks to Bert Koehler who wrote to point out that, according to New Scientist Magazine, hot water
can, under some conditions, freeze faster than cold water in a freezer.

One of the 350 questions discussed in their archive is Is it true that hot water placed in a freezer freezes faster than cold water?
And if so why does this happen?

Yet another reference

Jud McCranie recommended this online reference from the Usenet Physics FAQ: Hot
Water Freezes Faster than Cold!

And Some More

Jeff Kaylin recommends Scientific American: Ask the Experts: Physics.

Bo Briggs recommends How Things Work: Water, Steam, and Ice. (This is a comprehensive web page
that covers numerous questions.) last updated June 30, 1998 by


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