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Subzero: soap bubble shot one of cold weather experiments

Alex Schutzkus 20 Elgspent about half-hour outside Monday's subzero temperatures blowing bubbles hoping get perfect phofrozen soap bubble. This shot

Alex Schutzkus, 20, of Elgin, spent about a half-hour outside in Monday's subzero temperatures blowing bubbles, hoping to get the perfect photo of a frozen soap bubble. This shot was the only successful one of the day, Schutzkus said. | Photo courtesy of Alex Schutzkus

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Science behind turning hot
water into snow

So why does hot water turn almost instantly to snow, or more accurately ice crystals, when tossed into subzero air? Here’s the explanation from the website

When the water is in the cup or other container, only a small surface is exposed to the cold air. On being tossed out of the container, the water droplets come into contact with the very cold air and freeze almost instantly. Also, boiling water is close to turning into water vapor. As it turns to vapor, it expands, and when a gas expands, it cools.

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Updated: January 9, 2014 9:44AM

ELGIN — Alex Schutzkus may have attained the holy grail of cold weather experiments on Monday.

The 20-year-old Elgin man saw a meme going around on social media during the cold snap — photos a mother took when she and her children froze, then photographed, soap bubbles during below-zero temperatures.

Schutzkus, like families all over the Fox Valley, decided to see what happened when he blew a few bubbles outdoors during Elgin’s near 20-below day. Unlike some of the others experimenting with the frozen bubble phenomenon, he also took photos of his results.

After a half-hour outdoors and many attempts, Schutzkus was able to take one perfect photo of the one perfect bubble that made it to the ground without deflating.

He wasn’t the only person trying to repeat results of that experiment — or others that were floating around the Internet as families across the Midwest stayed at home, waiting out the deep freeze conditions that covered a wide swath of the region.

All over Facebook, parents and children either took photos or video of the hot water trick — throwing a cup or pot of hot or boiling water into the subzero air and watching as the water turned to snow-like ice crystals once it hit the air.

Others attempted to create lawn art by filling balloons with colored water, waiting for them to freeze, then cutting away the balloon to create colored ice globes.

Or, coming late into the game, soaking a tee shirt with water, setting it outside, and setting a timer to see how long it would take for that shirt to freeze solid.

Descriptions of how to recreate all of those cold weather experiments abound on the Internet. Schutzkus, however, didn’t look online before he went outside with his bottle of child’s bubbles.

“I used standard blowing bubbles bubbles,” Schutzkus said.

“I had heard from several people that it was possible to freeze a bubble and I tried for a half hour to get anything. I finally got one that got close to the ground and landed — it was the only one I was able to get all day.”

Once he got the bubble to freeze, Schutzkus had to take off his gloves for a few moments to capture the photo — the hardest part of the entire experiment, he said.

He plans to attempt the photos again — and this time, with a different mix of the bubble liquid.

Several Internet sites recommend mixing corn syrup in with the water and dishwashing soap to get a heartier bubble that will last a little longer.

“Found out, afterwards, that the easiest way to do it is to not use regular bubbles,” he laughed.

A recreational photographer, Schutzkus plans to also video the hot water trick then slow the video down to see what exactly happens. He also is waiting to edit another set of footage he took Monday.

“I froze a GoPro sports camera. I set it in a bowl of water and took video with the camera in it,” Schutzkus said.

Basically, he took a video of the water freezing around the camera.

“It is a long video, I’ll need to speed it up and do a time lapse of the water freezing with the camera in it,” Schutzkus said.

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