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11 April, 2003

Bitter Cold

After several days of being spoiled with warm temperatures (20 to 30 degrees F) and relatively no winds the weather has quickly changed, typical for this region.

Air temperatures are hovering just above single digits and the winds are blowing steadily at 15 mph and gusting up to 30 mph creating a wind chill of 5 to 10 degrees below 0 F.

The winds make a howling sound around the sides of the building like someone blowing across a bottle, carrying small crystals of snow and ice that sparkle like glitter in the sunlight. A snowstorm is expected by the weekend when the winds shift and begin blowing out of the south. Fortunately the pump is functioning well, water is flowing into the shack and data is being collected so there is no real need to work outside. Although Jim and I did venture out for about thirty minutes to check on the pump hose on the ice and even for that short amount of time the frigid air stung our faces.

The unexpected downtime has allowed me the opportunity to conduct two experiments that were sent with me by the first graders and fourth graders from my school. Both classes had questions and each asked me to perform a task and report back my observations. Since other students who e-mailed me have asked both of these questions I have decided to share the observations with everyone.

First grade question

Will bubbles freeze and break like glass in really cold temperatures?

Materials used were an 8-ounce bottle of liquid bubble soap and a small bubble wand.

The time the experiment was conducted was six-thirty in the evening. The weather was cold, 10 degrees F with a wind chill of minus 18 degrees F with clear sunny clear skies. I conducted the experiments behind the school and blocked from the wind.


As per instructions I attempted to blow the bubbles and observe what happened. Immediately a problem occurred. The bubble mixture was freezing before a bubble could be blown. My solution to the problem was to keep breathing on the bubble solution in the wand to keep it warm then attempt to blow the bubble. It worked and I was able to get 1 to 2 bubbles each time.


Once the bubbles left the wand they quickly floated upward but after 3 to 5 seconds they began to fall rapidly. When they popped they broke into 2 to 3 threadlike pieces that fell to the ground. I repeated the experiment ten times. Eight out of the ten produced bubbles that popped with the threadlike pieces. The other two popped before they left the wand.

Good luck with your investigation and interpretations!

Fourth grade question

My mom always yells at me to dry my hair before I go outside in the winter because it will freeze and break off if I do not. Will your hair really freeze and break?

No materials were used other than wet hair for this experiment.


I soaked a four-inch section of hair that I had formed into a spike on my head then walked outside for about 30 seconds until the hair froze. I then tried to break the hair by bending and pulling on it. I repeated the test 10 times.


Although the hair seemed to freeze fairly stiff it would not break. (Sorry moms)

See if you can figure out why the hair would not break!

First grade bubble experiment

I am wild about this fourth grade science experiment!

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