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Super Cool

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 01:19 PM

(Photo Credit: Jeffer Sandstrom)

What do frozen horses and a scorching universe have in common? That's what we wanted to know.

When we started reporting a fantastic, surreal story about one very cold night, more than 70 years ago, in northern Russia, we had no idea we'd end up thinking about cosmology. Or dropping toy horses in test tubes of water. Or talking about bacteria. Or arguing, for a year. Walter Murch (aka, the Godfather of The Godfather), joined by a team of scientists, leads us on what felt like the magical mystery tour of super cool science. Are you ready? We're not sure we've recovered.

Our supercooling demonstration (with a tiny horse):


For more video of our trip to the lab, check out:

Jad grows ice, with one finger (sorta)

A flash freezing, in high-def

And it turns out, our podcast has something to do with some pret-ty big new physics announcements, about possibly one of the earliest supercooling events in the universe, moments after the Big Bang.

Special thanks to: Aatish Bhatia, Marine Boudeau, Heli David, Jeanne Garbarino, Mark Martin, Jeffer Sandström, Inger Sjøberg, Martin Truffer, Mark Tuckerman, Jason Wexler, and all the Russian and Finnish translators who helped us via Facebook & Twitter.

Correction: In this short Hubert Reeves is referred to as 'the French Carl Sagan', Reeves lives in France but he was born in Quebec, Canada and is French-Canadian. Additional audio has been added to reflect this fact. 



Janna Levin, Walter Murch, Alexander Petroff, Erin Pettit and Virginia Walker


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Comments [83]

S.K.T from Michigan

This is all very interesting... but one thing I noticed during this was the background music. Did you guys use the dinner scene background music from the movie Coraline?

Oct. 06 2016 07:33 AM
Michael Cowden from Cape Canaveral, FL

You mean Hoyle was almost right and matter is forming out of the dark energy as it goes from a super-cooled state to an equilibrium of sorts? As I recalled he had this nutty notion of matter forming between the galaxies e.g. the steady state theory, well not quite the same as that bit similar. As a thermal engineer this is a mind blown. Could the dark energy be consumed fast enough, forming matter faster or dark matter for that, well, matter, then to lead to the big crunch instead of by heat death of a cold universe. It just needs nucleation sites in the right places. Just wild hypothesis on my part, I'm sure a smart physicist might be able to shoot it down.

Dec. 20 2015 01:26 PM
William Maynard from Phoenix Arizona

I think that it was caused by barometric pressure... Along with the horses entering the lake... Put a bottle of water in the freezer bring it down to freezing. Then crack the top and release the pressure it will freeze almost immediately... The firestorm would have created wind which change the barometric pressure along with the horses entering the lake and stirring it up... riddle solved

Oct. 14 2015 08:06 PM
Sophie from Winnipeg

I'm pretty sure I heard this horse story before here in winnipeg. I'm not sure if its a fact but they made a documentary about how winnipeg used to be and the frozen horses story is in it. May be that's your follow up on the story!
The name of the documentary is «My Winnipeg Scene (The Cold Winter of 1926)»

Apr. 21 2015 12:44 PM
Sherlock T. Dickinson from United States

Well that was weird. The initial topic was cosmology. Then it jumped to the horses and super cooling. For the lake, I'm not sure it's possible. But super cooling, as they said, is highly possible. Many videos show the process using beer and a sudden jolt. How this relates to the ideas behind the Big Bang and ideas of cosmology is slightly drawn out. It's a lot to grasp that our universe may have been created by repeated, violent super cooling. But stranger things have happened.

Mar. 30 2015 04:03 PM

I have heard this story before. Everything is a metaphor in the design structure of the Hologram, which is our particular construct, emotion driven, psyche controlled. Say Yes to every idea/concept/ethically balanced piece of information, and we get closer to how to see ourselves and, the ultimate, as far as we can, in this body/mind/soul aggregate.
Meditation means feeling the magic of our subquantum aspect without dying.

Nov. 22 2014 09:07 AM
Katniss B. Sinclair from Florida

This was very very very interesting hearing about! Its amazing what we are able to test nowadays. Especially the fact that they combined modern science to test an old Folktale. This took the term "Super Cool" to a whole new level. I also learned a fin fact that water needs a nucleator, which acts as a sort of seed, to make ice.

Nov. 10 2014 10:11 PM
Elinor L. Rousseau from USA

What an interesting story. I especially liked the way they tied in the knowledge of modern science with proving an old fold tale. It really had a deeper metaphor that what I thought it would be. Great podcast!

Nov. 02 2014 07:25 PM
Gandalf G. Bond from Florida

This story is very interesting to me and I never would have thought something like this would even be possible. I didn't know that water needed a nucleator to become ice, I thought that it just froze when it got below freezing temperature. It's crazy to think that it might actually have been possible for an entire lake to freeze instantly just because a bunch of horses ran into it.

Oct. 27 2014 10:39 PM
Gertrude C. Goethe from me handy dandy desk

Hold your horses... Wonderful pun, by the way. The story of these mysterious horses suddenly freezing solid was a very interesting way to introduce the metaphor. The whole story reminded my of an age old tale passed down for generations, meant to be told by campfire; which if i'm not mistaken, it was that kind of tale. It's amazing how modern science can explain these things that seem like miracles and still give them a certain ring of beauty. Even if the story was completely false, it fit the mood with the whole snowflake universe metaphor.

Oct. 27 2014 10:33 PM
Oscar Rosseau from Florida

This story was very interesting, if strange. The story from WWII was interesting, even if decried by the scientists. The metaphor with the creation of the universe is pretty cool. The idea about bacteria being in snowflakes is an unusual idea.

Oct. 27 2014 10:09 PM
Agatha B. Silverstein from Florida

I think it's very interesting the newspaper writer created the story of the super freezing water caused by the stampede of horses as a metaphor of the creation of the universe. Since a seed is needed to create ice it is also needed to cause the expansion of our universe and to cool very quickly after it's expansion process. I also think it's interesting that snow flakes are actually bacteria whhich had previously used the insides of plants to fuel themseleves for transportation and become snowflakes.

Oct. 27 2014 10:03 PM
Hermione Grisham from Oslo Norway

I thought that, that was very interesting and kept me wanting to hear more. The beginning story was somewhat bizarre, It was hard to believe that a whole entire lake froze instantaneously and I want to found out how the horses did end up caught in the lake with the waves mid swing. Then the snow flake thing where bacteria particles form into a ice shape in order to bring themselves down was interesting and makes me not want to eat any snowflakes anymore. One thing I thought of more at the beginning of the podcast was when people freeze heads to "bring them back" is that somehow related to the horses being frozen in the lake?

Oct. 25 2014 11:26 AM
Elizabeth M. King from Florida

This was honestly so strange, but it kept me wanting to hear more. I've heard about weird cases of freezing overnight, but to have an entire lake instantly freeze in the blink of an eye, that's interesting. The experiment hat explains what happened seems amazing. How our Earth does these things is amazing. I would love do his experiment at home if I got the chance.

Oct. 20 2014 11:09 PM
Melody from Madison, WI

It seems more likely to me that the actual metaphor at work here in Malaparte's mind linked to Dante's Divina Commedia (which Malaparte would have known intimately). At the very bottom of hell Dante and Virgil find a frozen pond, in which the truly most heinous criminals will spend eternity. It is one of the most striking and memorable moments of the Divine Comedy-- that after all the fire and brimstone at the very end there is cold, hard, silence. See Cantos XXXII and XXXIII of Inferno.

Sep. 24 2014 02:34 PM
alejandra from colombia

it reminds me of this documentary fiction called "My winnipeg"

Aug. 11 2014 11:01 AM
someGuy from California

Note to self... Don't eat the falling snow.

Jul. 15 2014 06:10 PM
bryan from Detroit

Did anyone else think of Monty Pythin?

"What else floats in water?" at about the 12:45 mark? Made me laugh.

Jul. 07 2014 09:52 PM
Snow from Massachusetts

I'm not sure which one of these links will work, but here's the pic of the frozen horses.

 photo LakeFreeze.jpg

Jul. 03 2014 03:02 PM
Carl from Dallas

scroll this a photo of the frozen horses? Very creepy photos besides

Jun. 02 2014 05:47 PM
Tim Hatten from Moscow, ID

This is a remarkable story, both engaging and fascinating. Well done!

May. 19 2014 01:15 PM
above is a link to a party favor trick with super cooled soda. liquid in bottle turns to slushie instantly. Made me think of this episode.

May. 18 2014 11:35 AM

Check the 10th picture down out. Frozen horses?

May. 14 2014 05:18 PM
Emma from England from California

Oh.My.God. This is too cool (pun intended!) I'll be letting my friends who are calving and cussing in snowy Wyoming know about the symbiotic relationship between friendly plant bacteria and snowflakes. I'm so excited I can't sleep. I LOVE learning about ecosystem processes. Thank you for educating and entertaining me. I LOVE the laughter and playfulness in this program too.

May. 09 2014 02:10 AM
Chaya Hoffman from Pennsylvania

Well, the von Trapps were from Austria, as was Hitler. :)

May. 08 2014 09:13 PM
Richard from Salt Lake City

What a great episode! But how on earth could you do this episode without mentioning Ice-Nine from what has to be at least one of Kurt Vonnegut's greatest novels, 'Cat's Cradle?" You were dancing all around it, but never once mentioned it.

May. 08 2014 02:51 PM
Rochelle Gaertner from Florida

Poor horse! She didn't stand a chance against -20 degrees Celsius pure water. It's ironic how the horses were running away from fire to save their life and end up being killed by fires opposite, ice!!

The bacteria are like mini UFO's, only they hitch a ride on little flakes of art.

So freezing horses, is a metaphor for a super-hot grapefruit(aka the beginning of our universe) Okay guys, okay, whatever you say!

May. 07 2014 12:40 AM
Joe, the xray guy from Omaha

I think the "instant freeze" horses on the lake is a little romanticized. I wonder if the horses, fleeing the fire, ran into the lake, which is partially frozen, were exhausted, got ice build up on their legs, hooves, couldnt run anymore, collapsed and the ice froze around them, quickly, but not "instantly".

May. 05 2014 01:54 PM
Vanilla Ice from Word to your mother

I think it's really interesting that the lake apparently froze instantly. That's pretty cool! Who would've guessed horses fleeing a fire from bombardment would've ended up instantly freezing! Listening to this actually gave me something interesting for homework.

May. 04 2014 10:33 PM

I really liked this one. Probably one of the best ones on here.

Apr. 25 2014 02:19 PM
Dubya from Canada

I was working as a pilot in the arctic, I left a 500 ml bottle of water in the airplane overnight and was surprised to find it still liquid in the morning although the outside temperature was -20C. When I picked the bottle up ice crystals initiated under my fingertips and filled the bottle in about 3 seconds, just long enough for the other pilot to see it finish.

Apr. 24 2014 09:15 PM

A lake freezes over instantly??? This blew my mind. The science and theories behind it were interesting as well.

Apr. 23 2014 04:33 PM

This podcast definitely drew me in. I found it strange that an entire lake instantly froze. In the experiment the water actually froze instantly after they dropped the plastic horse into the tube. All of the guest scientists on the podcast had different ideas on how the water could have frozen. Some of the ways are ice itself or bacteria like protein. Overall I found this to be very interesting.

Apr. 18 2014 11:10 PM

It’s strange to think water isn’t naturally adept at making ice but rather requires help from nucleators. Are there other examples of these type of flash freezes that Malaparte witnessed?

Apr. 18 2014 12:53 AM

This was a very intriguing podcast. It is mind boggling to imagine a lake instantly freezing. The different views and opinions of multiple scientists show the differentiating theories each scientist has about how this happens. Some believe it may be bacteria while others think it may be proteins. Either way, it is a very interesting idea to think about!

Apr. 17 2014 11:21 PM

This podcast just blew my mind. I really like science and the thought behind it so I found this very interesting and wanting to know more. This podcast was extraordinary and tried to prove in a way how water condenses, or freezes, that fast. I found it quite amazing how they actually experimented with pure water and a toy horse. I couldn't believe that it actually froze instantaneously. The thought process and science behind this was very interesting. Although they found research and theories upon this situation, all of the scientists have different theories about it. Some think that bacteria and dust have something to do with the instantaneous freezing and others think it has something to do with the molecules. Even if all the scientists had different theories on how this happened, it was very interesting.

Apr. 17 2014 09:26 PM

Nazi's bombarded Russia during the war. There was fire everywhere. At the same time, a bunch of horses got free, running into the forest, then right into the lake. The story goes that the water goes from liquid to frozen ice instantaneously. This tale is extremely intriguing. It's very interesting and was entertaining to listen to. The NPR was asking the question, could this be true? The NPR reporters went to scientists to find out if water could freeze like the story goes. In the experiment, the water freezes around the plastic horse instantly, which is incredible. It sounds almost too unbelievable. However, I have heard of people during really horrible winter storms dumping their water bottles out and having the liquid water changing midair to ice. I think it could be possible, but I'm sure the story has been changed many times.

Apr. 17 2014 04:38 PM
Pablo Yanez from Williamsburg, VA

As usual a great story -- love the way you guys "swirl" your stories, make everyone think that something is a given, then break that theory down, only to maybe go back to it upon further reflection.

BUT IN THIS CASE... as far as the freezing of the horses in Lake Ladoga goes, I think you stopped one swirl too soon...

No I do not think that the entire lake flash froze like your supercooled experiment, but I think it could have frozen shockingly fast (2 scenarios) based on the following facts:

1. Lake Ladoga is very shallow given it surface area (large portions are less than 20 feet deep.
2. Large forest fires can create an huge convection cells with cold nrushing wind (in this case over the lake) with reported speeds greater than 100mph.
3. Convection cells could eventually dump a lot of cold soot (nucleator) on top of the lake.

SCENARIO 1 - Lake water is hovering barely above freezing, fire starts, wind kicks up quickly and immediately cools water below freezing (very likely air temps in this area could be well below freezing, say -20C). The chop on the lake would prevent the formation of a nice insulating sheet of ice, but rather a slurry of frazil ice could quickly form, and again due to the turbulence (increased by thrashing horses?) ice with temp well below freezing could be pushed down into deeper water barely above freezing... and so on. Very quickly large areas of the lake could be a supercooled slush of ice that could then quickly lock in the panicked horses. Voila horsecicles.

Scenario 2 - And thanks Radiolab I found this because I evangelized the show to a friend that pointed me to this bizare phenomenon. Some general scenario as previous, but instead of only forming a quickly-freezing slush in the lake, the wind can drive this ice on to shore.

See: or

The horses would have to choose between a wall of fire behind an a slow moving wall of grainy ice in front (what a nightmare), I could see them running on the not-firm ice and becoming trapped in the ice.

I think either case is very plausible, not instantaneous, but certainly very fast. Also as far as the cosmic connection goes, I wonder if this might not also be a good analog since (and I'm talking out of my you know what here) was there not a lot a heterogeneity in post big bang that could be seen as similar to a rapidly freezing "slush"?

Great episode regardless -- if nothing else looking at the comments it got a lot of people thinking and challenging your hypothesis, voila science :-)

Apr. 17 2014 01:00 AM

It’s strange to think water isn’t naturally adept at making ice but rather requires help from nucleators. Are there other examples of these type of flash freezes that Malaparte witnessed?

Apr. 16 2014 06:02 AM
JohnnyTuomi from Canada

I'm not sure why the guy would make up the story about freezing horses? A quick google search will tell you that flash freezing in lakes is possible and does happen. I love Radio Labs but give the Super Cool episode a fail. Seems to be an example of a scientist who is too close minded to explore the realm of possibility. Blind religion had an enlightenment, perhaps science needs it's own enlightenment as well.

Apr. 15 2014 11:22 PM
Richard from England

Interesting episode, and it reminded me of something. I'd found this in a 'creepy old pictures' imgur collection, with no context:

Apr. 12 2014 02:15 AM

It's such an interesting concept. With the obvious mythical storytelling. To a serious discussion about matter and the big bang theory. The face that these horses have enough power and persuasion to make people believe what they are hearing. Very interesting concept with this modern science discussion.

Apr. 10 2014 10:05 PM
Hajnalka from North Carolina, USA

This story continues to fascinate me. Maybe the lake didn't freeze instantaneously, and maybe there weren't "hundreds of horses" ... but hinging the whole proof of the story on the science of supercooling H20 misses many factors, I think. Maybe you could have talked to some meteorologists or experts in veterinary science as well? Recent photos from Scandinavia (fox, moose, school of fish frozen in ice) seem legit. Why not a herd of horses? I grew up near Lake Superior and heard of groups of fish or ducks freezing near shore after storms with very strong winds. If the horses were already panicked and exhausted after escaping a fire, possibly swimming into a headwind, and the lake was in the process of freezing, I don't understand why this is so inconceivable. Maybe this (greatly exaggerated, fantastical) story has a kernel of truth. Weather phenomenon are still poorly understood, especially in the extreme North.

Apr. 10 2014 08:06 PM

It's interesting how the story transitioned from a mythbuster situation into an in-depth chemistry discussion. I never thought a horse would be a strong enough catalyst to cause water molecules to react so strongly into a deep freeze. I noticed how it contains ethos in the middle when it introduces Virginia Walker from the Department of Biology to discuss how this can all take place, giving the podcast its credibility. Based off this, it's also clear logos is put forth with all the science and chem facts and theories about water molecules as their logic to back up their claim. And they managed to actually test the myth and prove it's credibility as well, making the story even more intriguing

Apr. 10 2014 06:14 PM

This podcast was very interesting to me. I always pictured lakes freezing at a very low speed. It was crazy for me to hear that it took a lake to instantaneously freeze in a matter of seconds. I can only picture something like this happening in a movie. It was also interesting to me to hear that horses froze instantaneously with the water in the lake. This just seemed unreal and hard to grasp.

Apr. 09 2014 10:30 PM

It is interesting to know, with all of the things that I've heard about the sun and the theories of when it will "burn out", that the whole universe is still cooling down from that initial bang. It did sound extremely far fetched when they brought up the idea that horses were instantly frozen in a lake. I had no idea that extremely purified water could almost "forget" how to freeze, but still, it does not seem like an entire lake could, not only, maintain these purified properties, or that this "flash freezing" could occur on such a large scale.

Apr. 05 2014 04:21 PM

That was rather mind-boggling. The concept of super-cooling is very interesting and seems counter-intuitive. I was lead to believe that purer water froze faster then water with impurities, mainly because of knowledge that glaciers consist of fresh water, etc, and to learn otherwise is quite interesting and awesome indeed. The surreal story of the frozen horses, while impossible, does act nicely as a metaphor for the universe and I look forward to new information regarding the phase-changes in the young universe.

Apr. 04 2014 06:46 PM

Hearing about a lake freeze instantaneously is unreal, but the demonstration is proof but seems almost surreal anyways. I'm left speechless by what happened and cannot fathom a full lake freezing instantly. I wouldn't even be able to imagine the horses being trapped in the lake entombed by the ice.

Apr. 04 2014 03:56 PM
Maria A

Overall I found this to be very interesting. I enjoyed learning about the lake freezing in an instant, being from the north you see frozen lakes all the time but it is a slow process. So hearing of a lake that froze in an instant is remarkable and really gets you thinking. As a side note, I remember as a kid, putting soda pop in the freezer so that way it would eventually turn to slush. A similar concept but the goal isn't for the entire pop to freeze.

Apr. 03 2014 05:30 PM
L.Darling from Brooklyn

Sorry could not select just the "vintage" photo from this site so had to provide the entire link. It is the third photo in the group and is an image of horses frozen in a lake...
There are some creepy Halloween type vintage photo's as well but the one of the horses might possibly been staged? What do you all think?
A coincidence to have received this
So soon after listening to this short.
Saw your "Apocalyptico" here in NYC, It was terrific.

Apr. 01 2014 05:49 PM
Alfred Werner

You guys are the best thing on earth. Cheers.

Mar. 28 2014 06:26 AM
Amanda C

This may have been said already but I do this with soda all the time which is a solution, not pure. Stick an unopened soda into the freezer until it's super cooled and when you open it the action of the carbonation sets off the reaction and it freezes instantly into slush. Pretty awesome.

Mar. 26 2014 03:35 PM
arbutus from Vancouver Island

Interesting show however water is an inorganic molecule. Pet peeve!! Saying the ice forms "organically" sounds silly. The modern, trendy usage of the term organic to mean "a process" or "natural" is annoying.

Mar. 25 2014 06:59 PM

More relevant today is the crash of Air France flight 447. Apparently super cooled water blocked the pitot tube which measures air speed and the A330's sophisticated fly by wire system was defeated because of improper data. Watch it on Nova:

Mar. 23 2014 11:03 PM

The photo with this story is very unnerving..

Mar. 23 2014 10:23 PM

There is supercooled water freezing in lakes and rivers. It sometimes form to block rivers and lakes. Think that may have been what happen to the horses. Here is a wiki link to it. It even have a video seeing it forms:

Mar. 20 2014 03:59 PM
James from Los Angeles

Here is a gif of some supercool water being poured out into a bowl and turning into ice.

I found it on this site of all kinds of awesome science gifs:

Check them out!

Mar. 20 2014 02:18 PM

Hearing this story, I can't help but think of that scene from Game of Thrones with the spiral of horse heads.

Mar. 20 2014 11:09 AM
Mel Keiser from il

I'm with alfredok! I can't believe Ice-nine is just a super charged version of what bacteria and dust already do. This episode combined two of my favorite things, Radiolab and Vonnegut. I wonder if the horse story inspired Vonnegut?

Mar. 19 2014 01:14 PM
Todd from New York

@ Sarah K
The number one google search on the photographers name leads to an explanation of the frozen fox from the photographer himself (along with some photos of other frozen animalas.)

Mar. 18 2014 07:11 PM
Christina Nordberg from Sweden

The fantastic story has inspired the Swedish artist André Prah to make the Icehorses getting life again... made by Wood from the Baltic sea. Look at his Facebook page -or his website.

Mar. 18 2014 05:14 PM

Just a quick note. Hubert Reeves is not French but Canadian.

Mar. 17 2014 12:32 AM
Matt from NYC

Great episode and explains something that I experienced first hand. On a business trip to NH I left a water bottle in the car overnight. The still water was crystal clear until I touched the bottle and disturbed the contents. I watched and felt the water freeze while holding the bottle.

I guess it's common

Mar. 16 2014 11:41 AM

I've made supersaturated solutions as well as supercooled ones during my career as an industrial chemist. I would have loved to have spoken to the "experts" who claim, universally, that it isn't possible to freeze an entire lake in a couple of minutes. I am no expert in crystallization/nucleation but sure don't accept off-the-cuff dismissal. There is one thing that might, just might hint that such things ARE possible: the horses didn't cause the freeze until they had gotten in pretty deep. Perhaps some recall the inversion of the lake (in central america, i think) back in the 80's/90's that killed the entire village due to the release of CO2. Global warming hypothetically might cause an inversion of different layers of water of different salinity. also. THese are real things. So, what is needed is to confirm that there is no possibility of a supercooled layer whose composition is not known but could contain a variety of gasses and solutes and another layer (also of unknown composition, but lets say of high salinity and density) on TOP of the supercooled layer. The horses come along and 'push' some of the denser top layer down and the whole lake does a flip-flop instantly (rapidly, more like it) freezing the now exposed bottom layer. I didn't express that as well as I might have, sorry. I admit, looking at the lake in question, that its so big that this seems far fetched, but lets posit a smaller lake or pond close to it. I bet if I had been there, no claims of impossibility would have been made. Scientists do not use the word impossible often, unless they are basing it on a large number of assumptions about conditions, which in this case - outside the highly controlled, well defined compositions in a lab - they don't have. I'm not saying it is possible, just that you'd need a biogeochemist familiar with all of the contaminants that might have been present, as well as a climatologist and hydologist to verify there are no extraordinary conditions which could allow this. Hard to disprove - I'd have to talk to the 'experts' and ascertain if the calculations showing that it isn't 'possible' have actually accounted for all of the possibilities. My bet is that they are guessing and can not back it up with peer reviewed science. Oh, as far as ice at 0 being less dense than water at 3°, that's easy to explain. HOH, water, forms hydrogen bonds with other water molecules. Ice is all about these bonds forming a lattice. A good analogy is soldiers in formation on the parade ground (an arms length apart). This is hydrogen bonded water. A crowd of the same soldiers can pack (randomly) together much closer, but they lose all order - thats liquid water. BTW, water can be a liquid down to almost -30°C at 1 atm pressure. Below that, the molecules are not bouncing around enough and eventually nucleation will take over and it will begin to arrange itself and freeze.

Mar. 16 2014 01:44 AM
Will from USA

Why does the water have to be pure? I'm not sure I agree.

I've done this with apple juice several times.

Mar. 15 2014 11:27 PM
alfredk from wsuf

Wow, I can neither believe that I am the first one to comment on, nor that this episode failed to mention the Vonnegut classic "Cat's Cradle." For those unfamiliar, a scientist, in this novel, created an ice seed of a particular shape that caused ice to freeze at about 114 degrees F so that marines would never have to trudge through the mud ever again forever. Spoiler alert, the whole world freezes solid at the end. In conclusion, Ice Nine frozeded the horsies. The end. Talk amongst yourselves.

Mar. 15 2014 10:57 PM
Martin Baker

Such a fantastic and funny episode. I laughed out loud in the street like an idiot when I heard the speeded up disclaimer "Please remember the horse was plastic, no animals were harmed in this experiment". Keep up the great work guys!

Mar. 14 2014 09:32 PM

You guys have seriously never seen a supercool bottled water suddenly freeze?

Mar. 14 2014 06:27 PM
Hajnalka from North Carolina

Fascinating podcast!
However, at one point someone said something like:
"So the water is getting colder and the molecules are getting closer together ..."
Chemistry class was years ago, but I remember the opposite being true. As zero C nears, the molecules are forced apart into a crystalline structure with more space in between than in liquid water. I think this was due to the polar nature of the molecule and the hydrogen bonds that form.
Hence ice floats, and has greater volume than water.
Anyway, I don't mean to be pedantic. If anyone has a link that explains this well, or can explain it better, I would love to read about it.

Mar. 14 2014 06:24 PM
Ben from Louisiana


Mar. 14 2014 06:12 PM
Mark Samuel Tuttle from Orinda, California

We did this experiment in engineering school, and filmed it.

We super cool the water and then drop a tiny particle of something in it and it freezes instantly.

The phenomenon was well understood in the 60's, and must have been well understood before.

-- Mark

Mar. 14 2014 05:53 PM
Lester R. from Westchester NY

So I went into my car one winter morning. I had a unopened bottle of water that was in the car all night I took it up and as I held it to remove the cap, the water froze!

What caused that??

Mar. 14 2014 02:25 PM
Lester R. from Westchester NY

So I went into my car one winter morning. I had a unopened bottle of water that was in the car all night I took it up and as I held it to remove the cap, the froze!

What caused that??

Mar. 14 2014 02:23 PM
Simon from Montreal

Hi guys,

Just to let you know that hubert reeves is actually a french Canadian.

Thank you and Bonne journee

Mar. 14 2014 02:05 PM
Sarah K from Alberta Canada

So is the photo of the fox at the top of this page real then? If that is possible why isn't it possible for a bunch of horses to freeze? I have been fascinated with this photo ever since I have seen it. So eerie!

Mar. 14 2014 12:42 PM
Liam from Boston, MA

The Malaparte story reminds me of a scene in Guy Maddin's fantastical film "My Winnipeg" that tells a very similar story of horses escaping a stable fire and ending up frozen in a lake with people coming to visit their frozen heads. The stories are so similar that Maddin must have read Malaparte.

Mar. 14 2014 10:10 AM

Great story! I've had that same vision of horses frozen in the river chasing me since seeing the amazing film "My Winnipeg" by Guy Maddin in 2007.

Mar. 14 2014 10:01 AM
John from Ireland

I recently read about a lake in Norway where a shoal of fish were frozen under the water. They almost look like they're still on motion. Is this an instance of the instant freeze phenomenon you (and malparte) described maybe?

Mar. 14 2014 09:47 AM
Neil Stafford

Great story. You guys always make me think. If there are bacteria that want to freeze creating nucleators, are there bacteria who don't want to who then make denucleators (or perhaps nucleation inhibitors)? I remember a middle school science display with lots of sodium acetate nucleation displays. Sodium acetate hand warmers are great and "rechargable". Make your own sodium acetate by mixing baking soda and vinegar. So if nucleation gives off heat... how far below zero does water have to be before the heat of nucleation raises the water above freezing. I seem to remember colas in the college dorm fridge that seemed liquid until you opened them.

Mar. 14 2014 08:48 AM
Erik Jensen from Canada

This is a great little experiment to do at home. Buy a case of bottled water (plastic bottles) and put them in your freezer for 8-10 hours. We had about half fail to freeze at -20C. Then gently take one out and give it a quick shake- instant freeze. Bottled waters are well filtered so have few nucleators, so as long as the bottle is fairly smooth inside it works well.

It is a quick calculation to show that you will get about 25% conversion into ice at -20C, but after shaking it is back to 0C. This is due to the latent heat release. It looks like more as the ice crystals are well dispersed throughout the entire volume- the water is slushy.

Mar. 14 2014 08:47 AM
Ty from Oregon

When I was stationed in the Mideast we used to have a floor freezer with mineral water bottles in it. Anyway, the coolest thing was that we'd pull the bottles of liquid water out and if we tapped the side or removed the cap an ice crystal would grow from that spot until the whole bottle filled with ice. It was astonishing at first. However it became annoying when you just wanted to drink some cold water when it was 120F outside.

Mar. 14 2014 03:16 AM
Mark O. Martin

I enjoyed your quick freezing horse...but I do recommend you check out this particular experiment I did with my students a few years ago.

Microbiology cool!

Mar. 14 2014 02:05 AM
charles from coastal australia

casa malaparte - my favourite post war house on the shores of the med. was built by him. Fascinating to hear of his journalistic work.

Mar. 13 2014 11:43 PM

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