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article imageWatch red hot nickel ball burn a hole right through block of ice

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 9, 2013 in Science
A YouTube user conducts an experiment to find out what happens when you take a red hot nickel ball and place it on a block of ice. The ball burns a hole right through the center of the frozen block.
What is really remarkable about the video is not simply that the ball sinks into the block of ice. That is easily predictable. What is noteworthy is that it burns a hole straight through the entire center of the frozen block until it exits at the other end. Note also the speed at which it burns a hole through the block.
The video is essentially a demonstration of the low heat or thermal capacity of nickel indicated by the rapid rate at which the metal is able to lose temperature. The speed with which the ball falls through the ice block indicates the rate at which the ball is losing heat from its core to its ice environment. An object with a very high heat or thermal capacity will fall through the ice much slower and may even get stuck in it.
Red hot nickel ball on ice
Red hot nickel ball on ice
YouTube
Ordinarily, one would imagine that the ball should sink a little way through the ice and get stuck before it sinks entirely through the block, having lost its heat to the block rapidly.
Red hot nickel ball on ice
Red hot nickel ball on ice
YouTube
red hot nickel ball on ice
red hot nickel ball on ice
YouTube
But note that the ball is heated to a yellow glow, which is hotter than what you get with a reddish glow. In the ice experiment, the ball has a large reserve of heat at the core which conducts to the surface of the ball in contact with the ice very rapidly. Note how rapidly the ball gains temperature and acquires a yellowish glow on application of heat at the beginning of the video. This is a demonstration of the converse of what we observe when the ball sinks through the ice, that is, the ability of nickel to gain temperature very quickly on application of heat because of its low heat or thermal capacity, which is formally defined as the "amount of heat required to change the temperature of a substance by any given amount." You can easily appreciate that it would take longer to raise the temperature of a rock of similar size to yellow-hot temperature.
Red  hot nickel ball burns a hole right through block of ice
Red hot nickel ball burns a hole right through block of ice
YouTube
Note that when the ball exits the block at the other end, the melted ice flowing out is steaming hot, Indicating the ball is still very hot even at the moment it drops out of the block of ice.
YouTube user carsandwater posted the video online on February 8, 2013, and it has gone viral with over 350,000 views.
More about red hot nickel ball, Ice, Nickel, Block of ice
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