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Liquid Oxygen

Liquid nitrogen in the teakettle causes liquid oxygen to condense from the air and drip into the suspended can.

The Big Chill

Scientific Disciplines — Physics and Chemistry

And you thought winters in Chicago were cold. Join us for a foray into the world of the really cold. We’re not talking about your bone-chilling cold — more along the lines of your interplanetary cold — like a balmy day on the planet Neptune. Yes, welcome to the world of liquid (and solid) nitrogen, a substance so cold that you’ll watch as a teakettle full of it boils and whistles violently when placed on a slab of dry ice. At a temperature of -89.2 °C (-128.6 °F), dry ice is comparatively hot next to liquid nitrogen, which is a truly frigid -196 °C (-323 °F).

In this program you’ll learn how some very ordinary materials behave in very extraordinary ways when subjected to these super-cold temperatures. See a rapidly spinning jet-propelled ping-pong ball! Thrill to the sight of a gas filled balloon completely flattening out in liquid nitrogen, only to re-inflate to its original diameter after warming to room temperature. Watch in amazement as Dr. Friedman nails together two pine boards! “What’s so amazing about that?” you ask. Well, for one thing he uses a banana frozen in liquid nitrogen as the hammer, and a piece of frozen blue tack as the nail.

We’ll make liquid oxygen, sky-blue in color, and show that a sphere of it can be suspended in a magnetic field until it evaporates. We’ll also see why it’s used as the oxidizer to send ships into space. You will have the opportunity to witness the phenomenon of superconductivity and see a rare earth magnet levitating in space. And if these temperatures are not cold enough for you, watch Dr. Friedman lower the bar by making solid nitrogen at a temperature of -211 °C (-348 °F), a mere 62 °C above absolute zero.

Banana Hammer

A nail was driven through a piece of wood, using a banana hammer, frozen with liquid nitrogen.

These are but a few of the amazing things you’ll witness in this extraordinary program that has been delighting viewers for many years.

Liquid Nitrogen Activates a Superconductor

child looking at something

What has captured the attention of this child?...

levitating magnet

...It’s a rare earth magnetic cube floating above a superconducting ceramic disk at -196 °C!