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water bottle physics

jfrachioni

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a few days ago, i put a plastic water bottle in the freezer, hoping that it would cool more rapidly than if i had put it in the fridge. accidentally, i ended up forgetting about it, and a few hours later when i opened the freezer, i witnessed an intriguing phenomenon. when i opened the fridge, i expected the water to be completely frozen, however to my surprise, it was still liquid. after taking the bottle out and placing it on the counter, something else completely unexpected happened; the water immediately began crystallizing. my mind was blown as i saw the wave of ice overcome that which was once liquid. in a matter of seconds, the transformation was complete. Why did this happen? through a little research, i soon found the answer. among much speculation, most sources seemed to agree that the delayed crystallization occurred because the water was too still to crystallize when its temperature dropped below freezing. apparently the crystallization process of any material needs some encouragement. what works most of the time is the ambient vibrations of the refrigerator, or other things, lightly tapping the molecules into their crystal structure. for whatever reason, those vibrations weren't enough to get my water bottle to crystallize, however what was enough was the slight tap on the counter as i removed it. the tap shook the molecules enough for a small group to fall into their crystal structure and freeze. with the presence of that small initial crystal, or what smart people like to call a seed crystal, the rest of the water molecules started falling into place around the starting point, the crystal growing to the size of the entire bottle. physics can be pretty mysterious.



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