As a free agent, days before spring training, Jared Hughes has some time on his hands. So, the 35-year-old pitcher, who had a 4.84 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 18 relief appearances for the Mets last year, is doing a little home science.
Or … make that car science.
Hughes tweeted a video of himself on Saturday morning in his parked car, where he took out a bottle of water that had been left in the vehicle overnight, then bopped it down, turning the whole bottle to ice.
As Hughes tweeted, this is supercooled liquid nucleation. But what the heck does that mean? Well, there’s a lot of science in it if that’s your thing, or a simpler explanation from a cryogenics lab that lays it out in much simpler terms: “pure water cooled below the freezing point can remain a supercooled liquid until it is disturbed.”
So, why doesn’t this happen in your freezer ice cube tray, but does happen in a sealed bottle in a car? Well, it also happens sometimes in a sealed bottle in a freezer, but it also has to do with whether there are impurities in the water. What we’ve learned from Hughes is that his particular bottled water is quite pure.
Meanwhile, in the freezer, air molecules pass over the ice cube tray, and ice starts to form on the surface of the water first. Once the ice starts to grow, it spreads throughout to form an entire cube, just as the water in the bottle turns to ice in Hughes’ bottle, not all at once, but spreading throughout as the molecules come together in nucleation.
There’s also a connection to how clouds form in the sky, as they are, after all, made out of water droplets. And in learning that, if Hughes wants to take it to the next level, he can pour out his bottle of water and have it turn to ice — it works!
In the meantime, somebody needs to sign Hughes, who has proven that he’s… supercool.