Father-in-Gay, Ipstenit, Mrs-In-Gay and I went skating on Monday while I was in Cleveland. We went to Thornton Rinks, which is where I learned to skate and where my brother did not. Thornton was, until recently, the home of Elysium Skating, which is the only way I know how to skate (laugh all you want).
Elysium Skating is cotillion on ice. Or at least it was when my gran was young. Today it’s a dying breed of skaters who like to skate to live music and in pairs. The style was popular in Detroit and Cleveland, but I don’t know of anywhere else. In point of fact, if you can skate Elysium and live in Chicago, email me and let’s hook up! It’s hard to find anyone who can couples skate that way except Ipstenit, and her foot is still iffy.
There was no Elysium Skating on Monday. Father-in-Gay and I had been too long from the ice, and as I mentioned in the excerpt, I had my ass handed to me. I fell once, hard, and I have a nice bruise where I landed on my keys. But I did skate for about 45 minutes without wanting to die. In fact, I wanted to get home to my own skates (and not crappy rentals) and get some time on the ice (which is at Millennium Park, now that Skate-On-State is gone).
But after skating, and the obligatory ‘I’m too old for this shit!’ kvetching (though I’m in better shape than Father-in-Gay), we watched the Zamboni cut the ice. Mrs-In-Gay is from Japan, so we had to explain what was happening. Father-in-Gay translated it into French for her, but I suspect there was much lost in the translation.
Then Father-in-Gay says “… and they use hot water. Boiling water. And Ipstenu, can you tell her why?”
I glance at Ipstenit, willing her to keep her mouth shut at this moment (she’s very smart, and hates when people talk about idiot science), but she says “No it doesn’t!” before I can reply. I silently plead and say ‘Hot water has faster molecules and freezes faster.” Which is the answer Father-in-Gay wanted.
This leads to a short argument about if this does or doesn’t work, and I whisper to Ipstenit to let it go and let my father be wrong. She grumbles, not one to like white-lying to family, but we walk off to return my crappy, dull, rental skates and look at the Hockey Foosball machine that’s been at Thornton since Mark Alexrod and I were kids and got the long licorice ropes. I explain that yes, I know she’s right, but perhaps a freezer and the ice at a rink are different, and that you’d have to use hot water anyway to smooth out the ice.
So now, as you know gentle readers, this brings us to research time.
Does hot water turn to ice faster?
First stop is Google, where I find a web page with Interesting thing of the Day, and April 15th’s page is about just this! While, yes, I found a lot of pages where people say hot water freezes faster, this site explains it all out in a pretty easy to understand way.
Logic tells me that the activity of the molecules, which is the general basis for the ‘Hot water freezes faster’ urban myth, can not overcome the heat of the water which needs to be cooled. Now, I will say that room temperature water should freeze faster than cold water, but that would be a very close race.
This fellow cites the Mpemba Effect, and explains that when applied, it can cause hot water to cool faster than cold. A googling on that name will give you a lot of points where it is true, however it’s an ‘effect’ and not a theory, which is important.
Theory: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; “theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses”; “true in fact and theory”
Effect: a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon
Not the same, as you can see.
The short answer is that hot water can freeze faster than cool water, but it doesn’t always.
Does this matter for the ice skating rink? Possibly. It appears that the method of conduction and evaporation in an ice skating rink is such that hot water will cool and freeze faster than cooler water. Perhaps more importantly, the ice on an ice skating rink is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Supercooling in action.
Still, the answer here is a great big maybe.