Friday, March 24, 2006

Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?

The average person can quote more untruths than truths about our physical world - a fact that disappoints me. My disappointment turns into irritation when I can't convince a misinformed person that their "belief" is only an "old wives’ tale". I’m a physicist and engineer, which means that I know a very little bit more than the non-physicist/engineer about the physical laws of our universe. Just enough to know that what fails the common sense test is often untrue. One such belief is that hot water freezes faster than cold water. You wouldn’t believe the number of times that I’ve been told this yet I have NEVER been able to convince one of the believers that the old wives’ tale is not true.

Today, I was searching the internet and one of the results was a paper titled “Can hot water freeze faster than cold water”? (Just my luck!) The author of the paper states that this tale is true but only if certain conditions are met. I find the paper believable but I still disagree with this tale. I can make an equivalent argument that “man can fly”. Under certain conditions. Let the man buy an airline ticket. Ensure that the man has in his possession all the necessary papers to satisfy the applicable security requirements. Let the man board the plane, take his seat and abide by all of the applicable rules of conduct for a passenger. Let the plane in which the man is seated take off successfully and fly (to move in the air with wings without support from the ground). Yep, hot water freezes faster than cold water and man can fly.

If you have the time and interest, I suggest that you read the paper titled “Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?”

If you are interested in checking out a few more “wives’ tales” for some that you like I may believe, take this link to Wikipedia.


Laura said...

gee, I always thought that was true... go figure...

Joe said...

Of course you did. Nan taught you that when you were just a wee young thing. Now, you can correct Nan. Good luck! (Don't tell her that I sent you!)

Karen said...

So, Joe....
as a physicist/engineer, what do you think about the conscious mind, or spirit, or soul suviving after the death of the brain?

Joe said...


I'm a physicist, not a metaphysicist. Religion and life after death weren't addressed in any of my physics classes. If you are asking whether an increased understanding of the physical world reduces a person's faith in God and an afterlife, my answer is that it has had the opposite effect on me. I suppose some people look at the near-infinite vastness of the universe and its equally great complexity and say this could not be created by a god. However, my response to the universe is "this complex yet perfect design could not have occurred randomly". I believe that lifeforms evolve - this is not a theory this is a fact. However, I don't believe that the evolutionary process effecting all liveforms gave rise to the human or the monkey. I see proof of God's design in every thing that I see and the more I understand what I see the stronger is my belief in God as the Creator.

One can believe in God and still question whether there is an afterlife of any kind, especially a Heaven. God's design might not have included an afterlife, therefore, whereas my study of the physical world is "proof" of God the Creator, it contributes nothing to my consideration of an afterlife. Jesus is my "proof" of an afterlife; a life everylasting with Him. As a person of science by my inate personality I require proof for all I believe. My designs are not faith-based; they are fact-based and demonstrated. So, many who know me say that I can not possibly believe in Jesus and an afterlife in Heaven. But, I respond that there is proof, satisfactory to me, that Jesus was resurrected. And this "fact" demonstrates a life after death.

Nature alone is proof of God. Jesus alone is proof of life after death and his life of loving and giving is the single and complete definition of the life I should strive to live. I agree with your friend Patchouli's opinion as stated in one of her recent posts, "It Got an "A"". I believe that the content of the Bible is devinely inspired but its translations, if not the original transcripts, are biased by the "men" that wrote these books. Therefore, Jesus is the only Standard for my life. I'm not claiming that I do live up to that Standard but it is all I ask of myself and all that I expect others to strive for.

Karen said...

Yes, Joe. I was asking if, as a person geared toward science, you had reasons to believe in an afterlife.
Nicely put answer!
Although I'm a degreed and working artist, my first love was science; I considered a medical career at first.
I, too, require proof in what I believe. And, with that said, my beliefs are in line with yours. I find, too, that the more I know specifically and scientifically, the more amazed I am with the order of the universe.
"If you are asking whether an increased understanding of the physical world reduces a person's faith in God and an afterlife, my answer is that it has had the opposite effect on me."
Me, too! Thanks for your thoughtful response.
I like your new pic, too!